Updated: September 4, 2013
Several months back, I was contacted by the BrainDistrict people, asking me to review their new product, RaySupreme, a 3D modeling and rendering software. I said, okay. The default list of features and technique is quite long and impressive, but what really caught my eye is the so called Text-to-3D approach, where you create objects using natural language. Sounds fun.
Indeed, I have been playing with 3D software for a better part of the decade now, and have come across many different solutions, but none that would translate your words into art. Anyhow, let me show you how my testing went, with version 1.1 installed on top of Linux Mint Maya, running on an HP Pavilion laptop, mildly fortified with 4GB RAM and Nvidia 320M GT card.
RaySupreme comes as a 130MB download, in the form of a .run file, which you need to make executable and then run. The install itself is quick and simple, and defaults to your home directory. This worked well, to a degree, because on the first launch, the program complained about a missing shared library:
RaySupreme: error while loading shared libraries: libglut.so.3: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory
This can be solved by installing the freeglut package, after which, you should be fine, and RaySupreme should launch without any problems.
RaySupreme comes with a dark, somewhat Blenderish interface that can be truly intimidating at first. You have no less than four views for your model, including the three dimensions plus iso, you have lots of tiny buttons left and top and bottom, and then a handful of categories on the right side, which are needed for the model setup. For example, you can choose the camera lighting and angle, set the world, configure animations, objects, and materials, and a bit more.
Speaking of materials, the program comes naked, so you will need to fire up the download manager, which hides under the gray globe icon, and then pull all your materials, objects and extensions.
Once this step is complete, you can start playing around. It was not a simple thing, even for me, a supposedly skilled veteran, and I was forced to consult the user guide to get the hang of some of the basic. After a while, it became fairly natural, but don't expect miracles. Moreover, like Blender or Kerkythea, RaySupreme is first and foremost a rendering program. If you want to draw freely and efficiently without playing with primitives, then you will prefer something like SketchUp. Still, if you must have some kind of analogy, then RaySupreme is mostly similar to Daz Studio in some way.
Object placement is not difficult, but it can be tricky. You will need to figure out how to move the objects about, how to place them on the ground, and how to apply materials, which is done by drag & dropping textures. Fine-tuning is similar to other software of this type, like Kerkythea, and you really need to know what you're doing.
Rendering is a simply affair. Hit the cinema like button, and it starts. You can then change the image size and the output quality. At the highest setting, a simple render of a ground plane textured as water, with Berlin sky in the background and a flattened ball clad in shiny plastic took about eight minutes, so it's not the fastest around. Again, the final render quality was not astounding, but then, maybe I need a lot more time figuring out how to use the software properly.
This is the highlight of RaySupreme. The idea is, you type car or dragon or whatever, and it instantly shows up, so you just need to render it. Well, not so fast, fellas. The function only works for an existing preset of materials, because, let's face it, the software cannot just invent anything anywhere anytime.
Under View > Natural Language Editor, you can fire up this amazing new tech. capability, and then start typing. You need to use articles, so for example, writing just dog is not good enough, it has to be a dog.
The software comes with a small array of examples, including a living room and a table with some chairs. Both scenes are defined by a bunch of sentences, which look something like this:
# Create the Room and Windows
An 8 meter long and 6 meter wide and 3.0 meter high room.
a 2.80 meter wide and 1.4 meter high simple window on the middle of the left wall of the room. move the window 10 cm up. the same 2.80 meter wide and 1.4 meter high window on the middle of the back wall of the room. move the window 60 cm left and 10 cm up.
a curtain on the middle of the left wall of the room. move the curtain 20 cm up.
a curtain on the middle of the back wall of the room. move the curtain 20 cm up and 60 cm left.
When you hit the render button, which looks like letter A pointing with an arrow toward three cubes, right above the text prompt area, you will see the scene rendered to the left, and depending on the rendering settings, this can take a few seconds or minutes.
I was able to render the table without any problems, but not the living room. The scene just came blank. Then, the overall render quality of the selected model was not really stellar. It felt like a drawing rather than a real, raytraced object.
Anyhow, the Language Editor comes with a limited vocabulary. If you hit the Available Language tab, you will get the complete list, explaining the sentence construct, the rules, and in general, highlighting all the geometry and reality options you have before you. It's a jolly list, but it only comes with a lot of household items, really. You don't get any animals, cars, guns, or anything juicy and fancy.
Not all was peachy. Some things were melony and others positively durian. For example, RaySupreme uses its own graphical interface that does not align well with the Cinnamon framework. Understandable, for a cross-platform solution, but a caveat was that the maximize button did not work the first few times the software was launched.
Then, it has a minimal height of about 800px, which means the bottom of the interface might get cropped or hidden below the bottom panel, and that means some problem resizing it properly. The GUI is also fairly cluttered, with a lot of panes, which can be undocked and shuffled about, creating a bit of a visual chaos. One thing is sure, you definitely want a very large screen with a good resolution to use RaySupreme efficiently.
The biggest problem was the fact the program crashed with a segfault once. Just during routine art work. Not nice, and I hope the developers will be able to look into this and fix the problem.
(process:4604): GLib-CRITICAL **: g_slice_set_config:
assertion `sys_page_size == 0' failed
Now, my own success has been limited so far, but that does not mean RaySupreme cannot deliver some pretty nifty results. Indeed, if you consult the official gallery, you will find a handful of solid, beautiful renders. This means that I have a new standard to try to match.
Speaking of professional work, RaySupreme can import OBJ files, but not other formats, which means my own 3D models are pretty much useless at this stage, unless I try the payware version of SketchUp or use one of the online conversion tools we have discussed in the past. Well, Blender is an option, too.
For those of you who appreciate art:
A whole bunch of awesome art galleries
I apologize for too many links!
RaySupreme is an interesting program, with such a great promise, yet it does not deliver the promised results. The interface is not easy to master, the render quality is good but not breathtaking, you are limited in what you can achieve by converting text to 3D, and finally, there were some actual usage niggles and crashes.
Now, this does not mean you should toss RaySupreme away. For the first version, it does a pretty good job, and the idea of using natural language for model creation and rendering is spectacular. However, the overall integration needs more polish. I would like to see a more robust and streamlined interface, with extra rendering freedom, and additional file format support. With all that said, at the moment, and the full price of USD39.99, RaySupreme deserves something like 6/10. Let's see how it evolves. Well, a hopefully much improved version 1.5 is coming in October, so maybe. Meanwhile, I will keep on trying to master it to the max. See ya.