Welcome to our V-Ray 5.1 review. This is the latest update to Chaos Group's rendering software and it's certainly one for 3D artists to be excited about. Taking a look at the 5.1.1 update since V-Ray 5 shipped last summer, it seems Chaos Group have taken several pages out of the Corona Renderer book and focused V-Ray's 5.x release series on creativity and ease of work more than anything else.
As a 3D artist makes you feel old to realise that artists are just starting out who are younger than V-Ray. Since its humble beginnings in Sofia, Bulgaria in the late nineties, Chaos Group's V-Ray has become a multi-application industry staple. Let's find out if Cirstyn Bech-Yagher believes V-Ray 5.1 lives up to the name and delivers on the excitement.
Why not get some inspiration for your next render with these incredible 3D art examples?
V-Ray 5.1 review: Workflow improvements
V-Ray's 5.0 release started with a new look and feel to the frame buffer window (VFB). It included the release's key element for many: the new LightMix. This lets you relight a scene in the VFB by adding the VRayLightMix Render Element. Render your scene, and then you can adjust the lighting in the VFB. This is a significant quality-of-life workflow improvement for many, as the manual Light Select Render Element way of working was tinker-intensive for many. The 5.1 release builds on this and introduces multiple additive dome lights, of which you can render multiple at the same time and can be tweaked or turned on and off to your heart's content with LightMix.
I do much of my Rizom-Lab promo work in V-Ray or Corona, and I have to say I love how this feature set is developing.
V-Ray 5.1 review: New capabilities
Another step in making compositing easier is 5.1's new ability to use any of V-Ray's Render Elements for masking. You can now use the Crypto and Multimatte as well as Material IDs and similar elements for masking in the VFB. This is easily one of my new favourite features. The masks can be applied to materials, layers and folders, turning the VFB into a mini-compositing app, reducing your time spent in Photoshop for final tweaks and looks.
The Camera Lister is new in 5.1 and does what it says: it lists all the cameras in your scene and lets you edit them from there. V-Ray 5.1 now also lets you submit multiple cameras into the cloud rather than one by one, again easing and speeding up workflow.
V-Ray 5.1 review: Cloud library
Building on the materials and assets made available before 5.0's release, 5.1 has finalised V-Ray's vision of a cloud library and ships with access to the new Chaos Cosmos asset collection, which works on all platforms (having worked with asset conversion, I can attest to this being no mean feat). Chaos Cosmos offers models, materials and HDRs in various shapes and sizes, which can all be seamlessly added into your scene. The HDRs available also tie in with 5.1's new multiple dome lights: they can be dragged and dropped into your scene, thereby giving you the option of exploring several HDRs for your scene via LightMix in the VFB. Mixed with 5.1's new, improved material rendering in the viewport, it all – again – boils down to big wins in the time and speed departments.
V-Ray 5.1 review: Advanced features
Corona Renderer becoming part of Chaos Group seems to have had a good effect on some of V-Ray's features. The overhauled translucency is an excellent example, as it now works pretty similar to how it’s done in Corona Renderer.
The last but not least win in the update department is V-Ray's new ability to ditch the often time-consuming photon map build-up when you turn on caustics. Instead, V-Ray can now build up caustics during render time. You do this by choosing progressive (caustics) in the image and bucket samplers as calculation method(s). Needless to say, your render needs to be running as an IPR one for the caustics to materialise, and the longer it runs, the better.
V-Ray 5.1 review: Should I buy it?
I genuinely like 5.0 and its subsequent releases, as it seems to be very focused on ease of workflow, down to render setups and times. I even liked the bug fixes, especially the ForestPack crasher, as it's now fixed and I have few niggles. The Substance popup still appears, despite following Autodesk’s fix advice, and for some odd reason, Render Elements need two clicks, not one, to get added into the Render Element list.
I've always liked applications that invite you to dig in and get your hands dirty, and I never thought V-Ray would excel at that. But now, it does, and very well at that.
- Get V-Ray for a variety of applications, with licenses starting at £45 per month or £270 per year, from the Chaos Group website.
Read more: The best 3D modelling software around right now