Discover how to render in your browser! We put the world's first web-based 3D photorealistic renderer to the test in this in-depth review by Jahirul Amin
* Requires no installation or plug-ins
* Proprietary Multi-Optics path-tracing render engine
* Interactive cloud rendering
* Physically accurate lights, cameras and shaders
* Allows for real-time collaboration
* Supports plenty of file formats
Star Rating: 4
Founded in 2012 by Thiago Costa, Arno Zinke and Dov Amihod, Lagoa Multi-Optics allows you to take rendering to the cloud. Not only that, by taking advantage of an internet browser and WebGL, Lagoa creates an environment in which you can truly collaborate with others at the same time, on the same scene, from anywhere in the world – provided you have access to the World Wide Web, of course. Read on to find out how and whether Lagoa could change my working practices.
"Simply, create an account and log in. There is no software to download or plug-in to install. In a matter of minutes, you can be bringing assets into Lagoa"
Bringing assets into Lagoa for rendering using the Multi-Optics render engine is quick and simple
The instantaneous results you get from Lagoa are pretty amazing, especially when you take a step back and consider the fact that this is all happening on remote servers which then stream the results back to your screen. The Multi-Optics renderer, an advanced path-tracer, uses real-world measured materials that have been scanned in a lab to allow you to create photorealistic images.
There is a good set of materials to get you going such as metals, ceramics and a very sweet skin shader. You can plug texture maps into their channels and also add Bump or Normal maps (Displacement maps are yet to be supported). You can also create custom materials very easily by blending together multiple materials using a range of nodes from the Modifier menu. The lights and the cameras have also been accurately replicated allowing you to take your knowledge of the real world and effortlessly apply it to the digital.
Using the default light rig in Lagoa can give fantastic results from the offset
On top of all this, it's all interactive. There is no hit-render-button-wait-see-render-make-changes-hit-render-button-wait (and so on) scenario to contend with. You just hit render and keep it on while making changes to your scene. You can update materials, lights and camera settings all on the fly during the rendering.
Using the Sphere light and a custom object to light the scene is also a breeze
Speaking of lights, Lagoa works very, very
well with HDRI and EXR files, as well as supporting Sun and Sky and Sphere lights. Any object can also be used as a light emitter allowing for custom light types.
It's intuitive to add an HDR image into Lagoa to light the model
To keep track of the geometry, lights, materials and cameras in your scene, the Lagoa Schematic View comes in very handy or if you prefer, you can simply drag-and-drop one node onto another in the viewport using the Explorer.
If you're familiar with one of the major 3D applications, getting used to the interface should only take a few minutes, as should navigation. At first, I relied on using the toolbar for panning or orbiting around the scene and also to move, rotate and scale objects. Out of habit, I kept on using the keyboard shortcuts that I use in my regular 3D package and found that they pretty much work here. A combination of the QWERTY keys for the tools and the Alt + mouse buttons for navigation and you're away! This makes the experience of going from one package to Lagoa, that much more user friendly and seamless.
Applying the Lagoa materials to the assets for rendering is no problem at all
As mentioned at the beginning of this review, Lagoa has a fantastic render engine, but on top of that, it allows for real-time collaboration. You can invite multiple people into the same scene file and have multiple hands make changes together. Surely this will allow for artists to work more frequently and conveniently with clients? Being able to get a group of people from around the world together and have them interact and collaborate in one 3D space is most welcome.
"A single 1.4-million poly model didn't do any damage, and neither did a 500,000-poly model that I duplicated in Lagoa around 71 times, giving me around 35-million faces!"
As Lagoa is up there in the cloud, you may think that you'll need some pretty fast internet speed requirements to use it. Luckily, it actually handles fine on very low bandwidth too; I'm running on around 15MB, but it's actually supposed to be able to run at bandwidths of around 1-2MB.
It's easy to upload and import new assets into Lagoa for rendering
You may also think that it can't handle very large scenes, but on the contrary it does that just fine too. I started off small but kept popping higher numbers of polys into Lagoa and did not find too much - if any - slowdown. A single 1.4-million poly model didn't do any damage, and neither did a 500,000-poly model that I then duplicated in Lagoa around 71 times, giving me a whopping polycount of around 35-million faces!
Lagoa offers a range of accounts for its customers: Community
(free forever), Professional
($50 US per month), and Enterprise and API options
. The Community account is actually a free account so anyone can start rendering in the cloud. There are some limitations such as cloud storage space and rendering time, but for something that is totally free, how could I complain?
An example of what can be achieved using Lagoa (image courtesy of http://home.lagoa.com/features)
Overall, Lagoa has opened my eyes to what can be done away from a desktop and the possibilities of building a more collaborative relationship with artists and clients. You could be on the sofa with a touchpad, on a plane with your laptop or in deepest, darkest Peru with nothing but your smartphone, and as long as you have access to the internet, you're good to go.
The shoe configurator uses the Lagoa API for more than just rendering: in this case, to dynamically
change the material of the shoe in a browser
Being new to the market, there are some areas that could be further developed; introducing render passes for example, and I personally would love to see animation integrated into Lagoa in some shape or form (both of which seem on the cards from listening to recent Lagoa webinars). And with 3DTin (3D modeling in the cloud) being recently acquired by Lagoa too, I'm looking forward to seeing how the workflows of working in the cloud environment will evolve.
Minimum System requirements:
* Internet browser supporting WebGL (Chrome, Firefox and Safari)
Visit the Lagoa website
Check out the Lagoa Shoe Configurator
Watch the Lagoa webinar from November 2013
Discover featured videos from the Lagoa team
See what the free 3DTin is all about