Veteran physically based open-source renderer now supports Blender 2.80.
The LuxCoreRender team has released version 2.2 of the open-source physically based renderer, adding a new PhotonGI cache system to speed up global illumination rendering, a new Disney BRDF material, and integrating Open Image Denoise, Intel's AI-driven render denoising system.
The update also makes LuxCoreRender compatible with the current version of Blender again: BlendLuxCore, its Blender integration plugin, now supports Blender 2.80, and work has begun on supporting all of the materials, lights and camera settings from Cycles inside the renderer.
So what is LuxCoreRender?
Before Cycles, it was one of the key solutions for rendering photorealistic images in Blender, and even now, it has its own strengths and unique features: for example, a hybrid OpenCL/C++ rendering system that makes rendering much faster when using both CPUs and GPUs.
New in LuxCoreRender 2.2: PhotonGI cache, Open Image Denoise
In LuxCoreRender 2.2, rendering with global illumination should also be much faster, thanks to the new PhotonGI Cache. Described as a “V-Ray-like solution”, but based on photon mapping rather than the approach taken in V-Ray’s Light Cache GI engine, it gives a rapid approximation of brute force GI.
It consists of separate caches for direct lighting, indirect lighting and caustics, which can be be enabled in different combinations to render fast but noisy animation previews, or noise-free final images.
The caustics cache also renders caustic effects “nearly for free” with path tracing. The complex patterns of illumination that result when light strikes a curved surface – they are often seen when light passes through transparent materials like glass or water – caustics can be tricky to render in other renderers: in the past, they have been described as the "one weak point" of Cycles.
Other major features in LuxCoreRender 2.2 include a new Disney BRDF material. Based on the same Disney research paper as Blender's own Principled BSDF shader, it is designed to mimic a wide range of real-world materials using as few shading parameters as possible.
It is also now possible to set the transparency of the front and back faces of an object independently, which can be used to make objects in a scene ‘invisible’ to certain lights, as discussed in this forum post.
New in BlendLuxCore 2.2: support for Blender 2.80
But for many Blender users, the big change in LuxCoreRender 2.2 will simply be that it is compatible with Blender 2.80. BlendLuxCore, its integration plugin, has now been ported to Blender 2.8x.
In addition, the LuxCoreRender team have begun work on the Cycles scene reader, a development project to make all of Cycles' materials, lights and camera settings compatible with LuxCoreRender. You can see a detailed list of Cycles features currently supported, plus those in progress and those that are unlikely ever to be available, in this overview of the project on GitHub.
LuxCoreRender 2.2 is currently available for Windows and Linux: the Mac version hasn't yet been updated from version 2.1 BlendLuxCore 2.2 is compatible with Blender 2.79b and 2.80.