Aqsis 1.8.0

Project Widow started during the upgrade from 1.4.0 to 1.6.0, during which the team was testing out the renderer and also making requests to the development team. Two such requests made it into the upgrade, one is the Piqsl display layout and the other was the MultiLayer OpenEXR display driver.
Now as the Aqsis team is busy working on the next major advance, Project Widow will again be a test bed for performance and bug testing, specifically with the new Point Based Global Illumination work that will be seen in the 1.8.0 release.


Aqsis 1.6.0 update list is HERE

Whats New

Aqsis Links

Since we are using the Aqsis renderer for this we should do as much testing as possible to fully record the strengths and weaknesses of Aqsis itself. From shader development to final renders Aqsis should be used, though depending on the work needed some people might no even need to have Aqsis installed.

Uses for Aqsis in pipeline :

  • Modeling (make sure topology is correct, creases and seams)
  • Shader Development
  • Texture creation (make sure the texture is correctly applied to object)
  • Scene Previews
  • Animation tests (No cloth animation test)

In order to fully test the Aqsis builds, the idea of updating once a week has come to mind, if not twice a week. With Windows this is easier as all one needs to do is download the installer. On Linux it is much harder, requires building from the source.

On my end I will do updates each Monday night, on both Windows and Linux to ensure that I would get consistent renders from both. Though there is far more importance that the Linux build of Aqsis is stable, fast and fully operational by the time final frame render stage starts.
As such I am using the Animux distro for my work, using the Linux source built weekly. Once the final frame stage begins I will work with the Animux devs to completely replace the builds of Aqsis 1.4.2 on the renderfarm.


Also do note that a new directory in the project folder has been made. It is a "TEST" Piqsl directory. The idea is that certain imagery, be it beauty shots or bug shots, can be placed here instead of uploading to an image server and linking them to a post. Since there is quite a bit of room left in DropBox this can serve as a more immediate purpose, also the images can be deleted or moved to another location over time, in fact it is recommended that we follow a weekly "clean up" routine for this purpose (upload images to FTP perhaps?). I want to take advantage of Piqsl, since it is quite a neat tool to use for such purposes, plus it would seem to serve the Aqsis team better having a direct connection to a buggy image along side the buggy RIB archive.


Project Widow had at one time support from the Animux Linux developers to use a custom renderfarm, in fact for several months a lot of work went into fine tuning the Dr.Queue based farm so that it could smoothly run a RIBMosiac exported Aqsis job. However in the time since, that part of the project fell through.

Currently there is a small ad-hoc renderfarm being developed privately, which consist of only 3-4 systems. While this is small compared to a normal farm of at least 100 nodes in the professional field, this can work for our needs and since it is small there will be less hassle in finding out what is broken and how to fix it. On the other hand this also means the rendering will take much longer than previously assumed.

The same type of farm will be created though, using Dr.Queue for the manager and Linux as the operating systems, as well as the most up to date builds of Aqsis.


It has been decided as the final frame image format for this short. The main reason is that it is a very versatile image format that can be worked with later in post. Aqsis can export this image format and Blender can use this format later on in the composite stage, thus making it possible to use Blender later as a compositing tool. With OpenEXR we can also save AOV information that can be linked automatically in Blender without too much trouble.
The second reason is that it is a file format developed by ILM, so it has quickly become an industry standard and has been inserted into most CG and VFX apps in recent years. This second point is more of a bragging right than practicality but for a giant like ILM to provide such a powerfull image format to the masses is something that we should take advantage of.

Mosaic has also undergone some major improvements directly related to this project and the Aqsis EXR display driver. Now it is possible to use a single EXR image that has multiple layers in them that contain the data needed to do post composite work in Blender.

The list of layers supported by Mosaic Surface Shader :

  • _color = This is the solid base color (including textures) of the surfaces.
  • _diffuse = This is the diffuse lighting of the surfaces (this layer is multiplied by the shadow layer therefore they effect one another).
  • _specular = This is the specular highlights of the surfaces.
  • _ambient = This is the ambient lighting of the surfaces, in particular this can be float ambient color or occlusion lighting.
  • _radiosity = This is the radiosity of the surfaces, this includes all forms of GI indirect diffusion lighting.
  • _reflect = This is the reflections of the surfaces.
  • _refract = This is the refractions of the surfaces.
  • _shadow = This is the shadows and light color of the surfaces (this layer is multiplied by the diffuse layer therefore they effect one another).
  • _caustic = This is the caustic lighting of the surfaces, this includes all forms of caustics such as depth and photons.
  • _diffshad = This is the already combined diffuse*shadow, this provides an alternative when DOF or blur make combining them in post impossible.
  • _mistcolor = This is the mist color for volumes and includes mist color, halo color with noise and haze color bleeding.
  • _mistalpha = This is the mist alpha and is used to mix the mist color over the other combined layers to overlay mist.
  • _alpha = This is the output alpha which in RenderMan is usually any pixel that does not hit an object.
  • _z = This is the z depth from the camera to any objects in the scene.
  • _index = This is the object index number set in Blender, this can be used for composting tricks.
  • _uv = This is the UV texture coordinates of the surfaces, this can be used for composting tricks.
  • _normal = This is the surface normals for the surfaces, this can be used for composting tricks.

OpenEXR website

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