CGA: Please introduce yourself and tell us about your company and your background in the industry.
Victor Gonzalez - CEO & founder and Ignacio Vargas - CTO & founder
Next Limit Technologies, a Spanish company with branches in Washington and Los Angeles, was founded in 1997 by Victor Gonzalez and Ignacio Vargas. Next Limit has been always involved in the development of simulation software for the CG industry through the awarded software RealFlow (fluid simulation & dynamics). RealFlow has been involved in many important productions like the most recent Lord of the Rings or The Incredibles, and it is in use by many CG companies around the world that want to add physical-world behavior in their productions.
CGA: Many people know Next Limit Technologies for their CG simulations software. What prompted you to start development on the Maxwell renderer?
Next Limit's aim is innovation. We have always considered CG like a medium to explore and bring new ideas. We have been interested in rendering technology from the beginning. Our first steps in physical simulation involved fluids and other kind of dynamical simulation algorithms. We decided to jump into the rendering market with a different solution from the available ones. Getting the 'real thing' was always our main goal, and the rendering technology was waiting...
Jonatan Catalan | Sytron
CGA: Can you tell us about the team working on the Maxwell renderer? How many people are working on it and from what backgrounds does everyone comes?
A team composed of software engineers and scientists. Sorry we cannot provide detailed information due to confidential purposes.
CGA: Can you give us a high level overview of the core technology being used in Maxwell? Most renderers today are Photon Map GI and it appears that Maxwell is the same. How is your solution different from these exiting renderers and how will your solution be different?
Sorry I can’t give you a high level overview of our core technology. I only can tell you that we have been working on it for 3 years and it is not using photon maps, irradiance maps or radiosity.
CGA: Your technical specs indicate that you are a physically accurate renderer. Can you elaborate on that? How do you handle the physically accurate lights in MAX, in comparison with the non-physically accurate ones (Photometric Lights x Standard Lights)?
Our engine is physically accurate in terms of energy calculation and convergence to the right solution with enough amount of time. Other renders are biased and they never converge to the right solution even giving them enormous calculation time. Maxwell supports spectral emission from emitters and BRDF analytical and tabulated models. We are working with universities and laboratories to validate all the photometric and radiometric results.
CGA: With renderers like XSI and Maya will you be able to also offer physically accurate solutions?
We are working on a very simple and easy to use SDK to port our technology to all the platforms that require it. At the moment we support MAX 6/7, Maya 6 and we are working internally in the Cinema 4D and LW versions.
CGA: Will Maxwell be able to be used for lighting analysis? Are you planning to provide pseudo color renderings, or tools to query lighting levels?
Yes, Maxwell exports an internal format called MXI (Maxwell Image format) this format keeps high dynamic range energy information per pixel, also in a spectral way if the user needs this information. We are working in a MXI Viewer that will allow to see this format and check irradiance values in the scene etc.
CGA: Many are speculating that Maxwell will be the replacement for Lightscape. Are there any similarities between the two or the direction you are taking the Maxwell renderer?
I don’t know very well LightScape, I think it uses a radiosity solution and it’s very powerful for architecture. Maxwell will allow in the near future to make lighting analysis and try to give a correct solution of the problem. We don’t pretend to replace any render in the market, just be one new one that uses parameters and concepts of the new generation renders.
At the moment most of the gallery images are architectural as you say. We haven’t focused the render for a vertical market, but it seems that the users have gone more to this area in a natural way. We are a bit more balanced to the technology and visualization sectors (including architectural and engineering renders), but we don’t discard the CG production industry. We want to do a powerful and stable render that can be used for users from all the areas.CGA: Your technical specs make it very clear that you are aiming to be a very accurate renderer. Typically accurate is synonymous with slower render times. Will this be a consideration for people wanting to use the renderer, or will users be able to compromise between speed, accuracy and quality?
It depends of many factors. For example we are having high times is some scenes, but these scenes are impossible to test with another render engine because it can not give any result. We are using accurate and real physics calculations so the render needs more time to compute all these calculus than others. Anyway we are now in an alpha phase and a lot of optimization still needs to be done.
CGA: With effect like DOF and Motion blur being accurately calculated, will they be useable in production? Other renderers require a great deal of computational power and time to do this correctly; will Maxwell be able to overcome this limitation?
Maxwell uses a real lens set to simulate the camera, so the DOF or motion blur doesn’t require extra calculation time. It only depends of the complexity of the scene and the illumination.
CGA: What do you view as your challenges in bringing a new renderer to the market?
Definitively there is a claim for new rendering technology that simulates the light propagation without tricks. Most of the current render engines do nice light simulation jobs, but they usually require a lot of trial-error tests and they provide too many parameters which are not intuitive, since the techniques used are not strictly based on physics. Maxwell guarantees the calculation of light propagation as in the real life with a few parameters, so it's more like touch-and-go. This is the main feature of this engine and I think people perceives it as a tool that can be easy to use and profitable for their developments.
CGA: What is the story behind the name “Maxwell”?
Maxwell remembers to James Clerk Maxwell, one of the most important scientists from the XIX century, who discovered the equations of electromagnetism. He helped to understand the nature of light as an electromagnetic wave and we wanted to make him a tribute .
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