|Wednesday 30 September 2009 - Review by howlettn|
If you're looking for ways to produce top quality renders, there are many options to choose from, most with a baffling array of options to play with and a difficult user interface to get the hang of. Enter Kerkythea, a rendering engine that whilst is still very versatile, can also be fairly simple to use, has a much more intuative user interface and best of all, is free to download!
Although Kerkythea is a stand-alone rendering program, it offers full compatability with all the major modelling programs via the XML format, including Sketchup, 3DSMax and Blender. I have found it particularly good with linking from Sketchup, since all materials, lights, the sun etc can be set up in Sketchup and imported easily across. The user interface (screenshot below) is a lot more exciting to look at than your standard rendering program, and to me is laid out very sensibly.
Kerkythea works in quite an intuitive way, splittng your model up by material (listed down the left hand side of the screen) - the properties of each material can then be altered to produce different rendering effects. There is a wide variety of pre-made materials available via the internet, which can produce some quite stunning results. The box in the top-right of the screenshot above shows a downloaded library of flooring textures. At this stage it is possible to produce half-decent renders by leaving all the more complicated settings alone and just hitting render - here you are provided with a selection of preset modes, however again I've found I can get satisfactory results just by leaving it set to default. If exporting from Sketchup, all the materials can be defined there and brought across - excluding transparent materials which require a little fiddling, you can almost just hit render straight away.
If you want to go deeper however, there are just as many options available as you get on software that costs hundreds of pounds, although most of it I haven't got a clue what it does, and is really only necessary if you really want to tweak what is going on, or if you want to create your own materials from scratch. Below is a screenshot of the materials editor:
For added realism, Kerkythea allows you to add 'globals' - essentially images that wrap all the way round your model to provide, for example, a treeline on the horizon and realistic sky. In addition, the instancing brush can be used to populate your scene with scattered items, best used to create grass and trees.
Below is a quick render I did from the model shown in the first screenshot above:
Kerkythea is definately my favourite rendering software, and it's amazing that you can get hold of such a complicated piece of software absolutely free. Integration with Sketchup (also free!) is very good, and with a little practice (and a well-built model) it is possible to produce some excellent results.
Kerkythea website - you can download the program, as well as materials/models/globals etc from here
Sketchup and Kerkythea basics tutorial on Detail Design Online