By the time we reach the rendering stage in our blender-based projects, we all have to choose between one of two rendering engines. Either the Eevee render engine or the cycles render engine. So what is the difference between these two and the engines? And what kind of renderer is cycles?
The cycles render engine, now known as Cycles X, is classed as an offline render engine. It uses path tracing techniques to calculate the positioning of the objects using the light paths generated from the scene camera. As a result, the primary purpose of Cycles x is to create realistic scenes and high-quality animations.
Before you can decide which render engines you once used for your project, you’re going to need to understand how each render engine works and why these cycles render engine is the better choice in some cases.
The Cycles Render Engine Is An Offline Renderer
We can categorize our rendering engines into one of two categories. They can either be classed as an online renderer or an offline renderer. The critical difference between the two is the ability to produce scenes in real-time, which is the primary trait of an online render engine.
Offline winter engines like cycles are typically not built to produce the visual image of a scene in real-time and then be able to navigate or select and edit geometry within that scene.
What you will typically find with an offline render at such as cycles is whenever you change within your 3D viewport, the viewport itself will become incredibly noisy.
You won’t be able to distinguish any of the objects in your scene initially and will have to wait a few seconds for the noise to clear as Blender recalculates the light paths projected off of each object.
By contrast, an online renderer would allow you to orbit your view, zoom, pan, select objects, and even edit objects in real-time while always viewing your scene with clarity.
The essential advantage that the cycles render engine and all offline renderers have is producing more accurate results using the path-tracing method.
Online vendors will use a form of rasterization where the render will draw out the polygons of every object and how they interact together to project that object within the scene camera.
Offline renderers will use the actual light paths as they bounce off every object. All light paths eventually find the scene camera, so this is how the accuracy of the scene is determined using an offline renderer.
How Do I Enable Cycles In Blender?
Blender uses the Eevee render engine for all of its projects, but it’s effortless to turn on cycles.
All you need to do is go to the render tab in the properties panel, and the very first option you will see is the ability to change your render engine. Left-click where it says Eevee, and then you will see a small menu that should have free render engines, Eevee, workbench, and cycles.
Choose cycles from this list, and then the cycles render engine will be enabled whenever you use the rendered viewports shading method and when you click on that render button.
An additional step that you may be required to take is to enable your GPU for rendering. This is unnecessary for the Eevee render engine, which uses the CPU anyway for its calculations.
To enable the ability to use your GPU with cycles, go to the edit menu in the blender interface, and from this menu, select the preferences option at the bottom.
The preferences window will open up, so you will need to go to the System tab located on the side of the preference panel.
One of the first options that you will see within this tab is the ability to use your cycles compute device.
Choose the method of rendering that is appropriate for your graphics card. For example, if you use an NVIDIA RTX 3080, you will want to choose the Optix method from this list.
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Is Cycles A Good Renderer?
In a recent update, Cycles was upgraded to the Cycles X version. This was to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Cycles render engine within Blender.
It was also introduced to make the cycles render engine more modern and improve the overall performance to the extent where Cycles X comes closer than ever to the real-time performance in online render engines like Eevee.
The cycles render engine is built from the ground up for use in blender 3D and Blender 3D alone, but many other render engines like Cycles X can be used in Blender and even in other applications?
All render engines calculate their scenes slightly differently, but cycles have always offered solid performance for Blender users.
The only exception to this is when call sticks are used. Reflective and refractive caustics are defined when light passes through a transparent object.
Some render engines do this very well, but Cycles X does struggle with caustics even though it has caustic settings. The calculations are typically not that accurate.
Beyond this, though, cycles is an excellent render engine. So in the vast majority of cases, you will be able to use the Cycles render engine instead of looking for any external engines to use instead.
What Are The Other Offline Renderers Out There?
If you do not want to use the Cycles render engine and have the money to invest in an alternative, then other options are available to you.
Octane render is an expensive but powerful option for realistic rendering of scenes and animations. In some ways, octane provides the baseline for path tracing performance, and there is even a metric used by render farms called octane bench to define the capabilities of a machine for rendering.
Octane render has many fantastic features. Perhaps the most noticeable of these is its material system, which uses a layered approach rather than the ability to mix your shaders, which is used in cycles and Eevee.
Where octane render is most robust is in its RTX performance. It is outstanding when it comes to creating scenes using ray tracing. It also has a free version that offers a few restrictions, such as the ability to only assign a single graphics card to rendering.
However, if you are looking for a purely free alternative, you can try Lux Core render instead. Like Blender itself, Lux Core is an open-source project, so it’s so accessible for Blender artists.
Lux Core is perhaps the most commonly used external render engine for Blender users of all the alternatives.
LuxCore is perhaps best known because it goes for full-on realism in its scenes and does not compromise in a lot of areas. As a result, it’s far superior to cycles in refractive caustics, for example. However, its most significant downside is rendering times.
Compared to many of the other alternatives, Lux Core will typically have the slowest render times of all. It, therefore, may not be the most incredible option if you are working with time constraints for rendering.
If you are looking for the best of the best built by the best, you’re going to want to try out Renderman.
The first question we will answer here is who created the Renderman engine? And the answer is Pixar.
That will perk up the years of any 3D artist looking for a powerful rendering solution. This is the render engine used by Disney Pixar themselves for their high-level animation box office hits.
Like Octane Bench, it is expensive and can cost in excess of $500. However, if you are looking for a long-term solution, this can be an excellent investment for your rendering or animation business.
The only downside here is that integration has been a little more complex over the years than Luxcore or Octane render.
Render Man has an incredible array of tools and is even compatible with areas of Blender, such as the grease pencil for rendering.
One tip from us is to use the Blender Bridge tool to connect this render engine to your blender software instead of the now-defunct Renderman plug-in.
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Is Cycles Better Than The Other Offline Renderers?
So is the Cycles render engine better than these alternatives, or is it worth looking at other render engines?
In most cases, the cycles render engine, especially the new cycles X version, will be more than sufficient for 99% of projects that you are likely to do.
We would only really recommend using other rendering engines if your project was a commercial-based project where you had specific targets to meet that could not be achieved using cycles.
In these cases, we would then need to look at investing in something like Renderman or Octane render, which can provide us with the best results.
Thanks For Reading The Article
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