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Rendering With A LOT of lights (Best Practices Guide)


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I work at a company that sells and distributes Stage and Architectural lighting equipment and solutions. We use Vectorworks to visualize to the client what they are paying for - and sometimes, that involves using A LOT of light sources:

The Usual Scene:

- Imported DWG model

- Night Scene outdoor

- 1 Directional light source for moon light

- a few point sources to simulate light from inside the building or from the street

- 10's or 100's of IES light sources based on our products

Current Limitations:

- OpenGL can only handle 8 light sources, so I need to render out before I can see whats happening in my scene.

- I'm using glow textures emitting light (instead of area / line lights), so I need to turn on indirect lighting - increasing render time exponentially.

This severely impairs my workflow: adjusting > 5-10 min render > adjusting > 5-10 min render all day long

Custom Renderworks Style:

- Type: Realistic

- Options: Anti-Aliasing off; Blurriness off;

- Quality: All low; Indirect lighting medium; 1 bounce

- Environment & Ambient lighting off;

- Plain image background

Techniques I'm already using to shorten rendering times:

- Keeping poly's as low as possible.

- Using glow textures instead of line / area lights to simulate neon / LED strip lighting

- Reducing document & non-final viewport resolutions down to 50 DPI

- Rather using the Render Bitmap Tool to preview only part of the model

- Absolutely no displacement mapping!

- All layers and classes I don't need is turned off.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated =)

Is there any hope for network rendering in the near future? How come that's standard with C4D but not with Renderworks? Isn't it the same render engine?

Edited by psyCAD
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Using self illuminated Materials instead of many light-, or even area light sources

is a good idea.

Keeping polygon count low also.

Cinema won't be faster (same render engine), Cinema's Team Render is included

in the more expensive Visualization or Studio Packages only.

For setting times, I have not much luck with C4D's Interactive Render Preview.

I do it in a small sized normal render window.

You can do the same in VW -> Visualization Toolbox > Render Bitmap Tool

You can exclude unnecessary geometry by materials from GI calculation,

like Glass, Chrome, Black Colors, Trees, .... to speed things up.

I would not renounce of AA or at least 2 GI bounces though.

Edited by zoomer
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In addition to zoomer's excellent tips, are you importing the DWG directly into your file or are you using a "shuttle" file and referencing it into your .vwx file? VwKB : Speeding up Vectorworks - File Specifics

Are you using as many symbols as you can of all of those light fixtures?

I would not expect any network rendering from Vectorworks; If that's something you need, you would need to step up to a full-time dedicated 3D rendering package like Cinema4D Studio as zoomer noted.

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Yes I import DWG(s) directly into my VW file

Yes I use symbols when ever I can where there are multiples of the same light, although it is not always possible where a lot of lights need unique properties.

I'm looking at the UnReal Engine 4.9.2 for future renders because of their real-time rendering quality, better material configurations, and best of all it supports an unlimited nr of light sources. All which can be rendered in realtime, as opposed to VW's 8 sources in realtime openGL. Oh and it's free =D

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Yes I import DWG(s) directly into my VW file

I believe that Vw KnowledgeBase article was recommending to not directly import the DWG file into your .vwx file, but instead to reference in the DWG via a "shuttle" file.

I'm looking at the UnReal Engine 4.9.2 for future renders because of their real-time rendering quality, better material configurations, and best of all it supports an unlimited nr of light sources. All which can be rendered in realtime, as opposed to VW's 8 sources in realtime openGL. Oh and it's free =D

I'll be curious to hear how well UE4 works with Vectorworks. I've read several articles about using UE4 for archviz and got the impression that since Vw doesn't do UV mapping, you would need to run it through 3D modeling software that can properly create UV maps (Cinema4D, 3ds Max, Modo, Blender, etc.) before bringing the assets into UE4. But I could be wrong.

Quote from Unreal Engine for Archviz Tutorial - Evermotion.org:

(italics added by me for clarity).

Texturing in 3ds Max

After modeling you should start the texturing process. All assets that will be prepared for UE4 should have open meshes and no overlapping faces. Then an extra UV channel should be created. The reason for this extra UV channel is because UE4 will use channel 1 as diffuse object texturing and channel 2 to bake the lighting map. If the faces are overlapping the lightmap will cause artifacts and will fail. In 3dsMax we can use the flatten-mapping method to open the mesh in primitive objects. This method works very well and is fast for this case. For more complex objects such as furniture, you should use other methods such as pelt mapping.

Can i use materials on meshes without a UV : UE4 Answerhub

Problems on UVs and After Importing Architecture Model : unrealengine.com Forums

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The company I work at is also a distributor for ESP Vision & MA Lighting products - so when I need to simulate/control all of these lights (especially pixel-mapping effects from a media server say like Avolites AI) then I will use ESP for that. MA-3D also works very good, sometimes better at light, ambient & atmosphere control. And it's FREE!

These programs work very good if it's real-time visualization you are after, providing you have the graphics hardware to make it happen. The main problem with these solutions is the lack of indirect lighting - resulting in a VERY flat rendered image. BUT, it's by far the best solution to demonstrate pixel-mapped concepts.

Usually we will do realistic pre-rendered images , even short videos in VW, and then show the client the lighting FX (in lower quality but in real-time) in MA 3D.

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  • 1 month later...

You mentioned view ports in your initial post. I have found that any rendering of view ports takes quite a bit longer than rendering on design layers or at least up through VW2015. My assumption is that you are using view ports to create the client presentations which makes sense. I opt to not do that simply due to that issue. Instead I render directly in the design layer, use an application called Precise Screen Shot to create pixel accurate images of the render and then drop those renders in pre-formatted documents to create presentations. It's another step but I find it much, much quicker than rendering in viewports. Just a thought.

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  • 3 years later...
On 4/24/2019 at 11:58 PM, Luis M Ruiz said:

I am going to take a guess here. Are you using Image Effects on top of that viewport? (v2019) is that box checked when you hit update?


On 4/24/2019 at 5:35 PM, frozenwaffles said:


Hi, have you done a rebuild of your computer?

What are you running? Mac or PC? if windows, what version?

I'm not using image effects.  

Computer is new as of last spring, if I recall correctly.  iMac 18,3 model

iMac Retina 5K 27", 2017. . . 4.2 GHz Intel Core i7. . . 32 GB 2400 MHz DDR4 RAM. . . . Radeon Pro 580 8192 MB Graphics Card. . . 

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