Bella Render

Bella Render

Postby JD Hill » Tue May 05, 2020 2:59 pm

Hi all, this is just to let anyone who may be interested know about our new renderer, Bella.

Bella is a state of the art physically-based spectral render which focuses on realism, predictability, and ease of use. We are a small company (Diffuse Logic) out of Barcelona -- I used to write (among others) the Maxwell plugin for SketchUp, and my colleagues were the original creators of Maxwell. So that gives some idea of where we are coming from. :)

We are not yet targeting the SketchUp market much, since there has not yet been time to create a full-featured plugin for SketchUp. But that said, some people requested, and I have written, a very simple plugin, to use for the time being.

So I am posting here for anyone who would like to give it a try and get involved in steering the direction -- that plugin is available here (for Windows & MacOS, tested so far on SU2017 Make, and SU2020 Pro).

I want to mention that our licensing is deliberately customer-oriented: a license covers all Bella software & plugins, and is floating & perpetual (supporting updates for 1 year from purchase), using a trouble-free text file. Unlicensed, Bella will run indefinitely in "demo" mode (720p resolution limit, small watermark, no resume render).

Our gallery is not yet very extensive, with most images still having been made personally by me -- here's a model I made (well, I grabbed the benches from 3D Warehouse) and rendered using this plugin (it is lit purely using sun & sky):



So please feel free to take a look and let us know your thoughts. :)
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Re: Bella Render

Postby pilou » Tue May 05, 2020 4:10 pm

Welcome and good luck! :enlight:
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Re: Bella Render

Postby pbacot » Tue May 05, 2020 6:46 pm

Thanks for the post. Good luck. Nice render.
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Re: Bella Render

Postby ntxdave » Tue May 05, 2020 10:23 pm

The software looks really interesting so I downloaded the zip file for Windows but when I try to run the rhi file I get a message that says I need to find an app in the Microsoft Store. Is that what is supposed to happen?

Oooooops - I downloaded the wrong file. I downloaded the Rhino version instead of the SketchUp version. Will report back after doing the right thing..... :oops:

OK - I got it installed and I can access it from within SketchUp and I opened up a model to test the rendering. I will come back and post later, once I figure out how to do some things. :)
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Re: Bella Render

Postby JD Hill » Tue May 05, 2020 10:39 pm

It sounds like you have inadvertently downloaded the plugin for Rhino instead of SketchUp. The SketchUp zip will have an .RBZ file inside, which can be installed from inside SketchUp, using Window > Extension Manager.

So please check that and let me know if it gets things sorted.

[edit: ah, I see now you got it :)]
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Re: Bella Render

Postby pilou » Tue May 05, 2020 10:58 pm

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Re: Bella Render

Postby ntxdave » Wed May 06, 2020 12:16 am

[edit: ah, I see now you got it :)][/quote]

Now have some very basic things to figure out. As an example, I have some objects that I want to make the material "metal". How the heck do I do it?

Also, is there a way to change the background in Bella versus the background in SketchUp?

I do not think I am going to get that much accomplished in the 3 day trial. :?
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Re: Bella Render

Postby JD Hill » Wed May 06, 2020 12:46 am

The trial mode is not time limited, what you are seeing now will continue to work indefinitely. Adding a license will remove resolution restriction, remove watermark, and allow resuming a render after stopping it (resume render also enables combining results of rendering a given scene on multiple machines).

For setting materials, just open the Bella Settings dialog and you will see all materials listed -- for each, you can choose a type of material from a dropdown, and set parameters related to that type.

You can also change the environment there; by default it is using a color dome with colors derived from SketchUp, but you can switch to a physical sky, or an image-based environment. In all cases, sun will be activated/deactivated according to SketchUp shadows.

Let me see about cleaning up some of my scenes and posting them on our sample scenes page.
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Re: Bella Render

Postby ntxdave » Wed May 06, 2020 1:05 am

Oh - I thought there was a limit on the time of the trial version.

OK - Here is my first render.
Equip Layout - Test 1.png


I have some changes to make and I have not found the setting you were talking about. In this case, I set the material (metal) setting in SketchUp using the Settings on the SketchUp Bella toolbar. I need to change the floor and background coloring. But at least it is a start. Is there a way to make the background transparent?
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Re: Bella Render

Postby JD Hill » Wed May 06, 2020 1:17 am

We have not yet added a combined beauty/alpha, so the way of doing it would be to set up an alpha pass in the GUI and use it in photoshop or similar. In the attached image I have added an alpha pass (you can read more here), and also added the beauty pass after it, so that they render in that order.

alpha-pass.png
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Re: Bella Render

Postby ntxdave » Wed May 06, 2020 2:26 am

Ooh - now I get it. Set the type of material in the SketchUp drop down and then do any necessary adjustments in Bella renderer. Hopefully I can do some more exploring tomorrow.

I understand about the transparency.

Another curious one: does Bella support (or is there any plan to) animation?
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Re: Bella Render

Postby JD Hill » Wed May 06, 2020 3:28 am

It is definitely planned, when the time comes to replace this rudimentary plugin with a full-featured one (rendering inside the plugin, with interactivity, etc). Our first plugin was for Maya (naturally we support animation there), and I am now in the midst of fleshing-out our Rhino plugin -- after that, SketchUp is next on the list.

Though, we have had requests for Blender, so I may take a short detour and do something similar to this simple plugin, for Blender, beforehand. I have also had it on my list to do a simple one for Moi3D for awhile, based on OBJ export, and the GUI's import capability.
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Re: Bella Render

Postby ntxdave » Wed May 06, 2020 9:24 pm

OK - I hope you see some improvements in this version:
Equip Laout Test 1c.png


Still a bunch of stuff to learn:
  • Would like to have some tutorials about how all of the features work. I looked at the documentation and watched the "intro" tutorial but still have many question.
  • Is there a way to view the "ball" when changing the attributes of colors?
  • How do I change the layout of the UI (sometimes I cannot see all of the render).
  • How long should I let a render go? Are there any controls for this?
  • Is there a way to specify the file type (i.e. png, svg, etc.)?
  • Is there a way to open a saved .bsa file? Maybe the limitation here is because I have the trial version.
  • I saw somewhere that the tool supports multiple SketchUp scenes (do not remember where). How does it do that.
  • Are there any plans for ways to display the rendered scene? (i.e. a viewer or some other tool that would allow a viewer to go from one scene to another)

I realize some of these issues are because I am brand new to the tool and need to do a lot more exploring but some of these items would surely assist others as well. Now I need to try some interior renders to see how that works. :)
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Re: Bella Render

Postby JD Hill » Wed May 06, 2020 10:30 pm

Looking good so far, I'd say. :)

To go item-by-item on your list:

  1. Definitely we need more in the way of tutorials. We are all programmers, so we have no marketing-type people to work on this, and we probably tend to focus too much on code. If you have any specific requests, please feel free to make suggestions.
  2. For SketchUp it is necessary to use the Bella GUI to preview materials interactively. As I mentioned in a previous post, this will change once we come to making the full SketchUp plugin.
  3. You can just drag panels around to stack/dock them, or close some that you don't need (you can always get them back via the File > Layout menu). You can temporarily hide all panels by clicking in the image area and hitting the D key, or you can hit F to make Bella full-screen.
  4. Bella will happily render forever, continually refining the image more and more, so it is up to you to decide. When licensed, you can resume after having stopped, so it is not a problem if you initially set too little time. You tell it when to stop in the Beauty Pass settings (section A in the below image).
  5. You tell Bella the file to save before rendering, using section B in the image below. This is because a main use case would be generating files to be sent to a farm. However, you can also save images while & after rendering, using the drop-down for the pass (section C in the below image).
  6. There is no limitation about opening BSA files, you can open them using File > Open in the Bella GUI. However, due to SketchUp's method of installing plugins via RBZ, I do not have opportunity to put a link to the GUI on your desktop, so I recommend starting Bella from SketchUp, then right-clicking on its icon in the Windows task bar, and choosing "pin to taskbar", so you can easily open it when you like.
  7. This plugin does not support multiple SketchUp Scenes, it only exports the current one. You may be thinking of a question I recently answered on this forum, about the Maxwell plugin, where someone was asking about batch-exporting multiple scenes. A similar thing could be done here, if desired. We have a command-line interface that can be used to automate rendering of multiple files.

beautypass.png


Lastly, speaking of interiors it occurs to me to mention a limitation that can easily cause issues in SketchUp: Bella does not currently support emitter materials at the per-face level. So when making lights, you should not assign anything to faces, and instead group some faces, and apply your emitter material to the group.
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Re: Bella Render

Postby ntxdave » Thu May 07, 2020 12:56 am

Thanks very much for your reply.

Yes, most of the documentation is very developer oriented. I have been there and fully understand. Before I retired, I worked for a software company and had to write user oriented documentation. What I learned from that was that you should take nothing for granted and you must provide very detailed instructions and in most cases the "why" factor.

I will give this some thought and will consider giving you some suggestions. ;)
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Re: Bella Render

Postby JD Hill » Thu May 07, 2020 3:35 am

Any feedback will be welcome. If you like, I invite you to put any questions or suggestions on the SU plugin section of our forum, just to try and keep knowledge in a common place.

I suppose it may explain a bit if I mention that though the Bella GUI has quite a bit of scene-editing functionality, the main purpose for its existence is just to allow getting the rendering process out of host applications, so you can render in the background while you keep working in the host app.

So that's why the GUI is a bit fiddly & low-level -- our focus is on providing capable plugins, not building yet another 3D editing application.
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Re: Bella Render

Postby pilou » Thu May 07, 2020 10:50 am

Only CPU or not ?
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Re: Bella Render

Postby JD Hill » Thu May 07, 2020 1:47 pm

Yes, CPU-only at this point, but we are working on GPU.
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Re: Bella Render

Postby pilou » Thu May 07, 2020 2:44 pm

Thanks for the precision! :thumb:
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Re: Bella Render

Postby ntxdave » Thu May 07, 2020 7:00 pm

JD Hill wrote:Any feedback will be welcome. If you like, I invite you to put any questions or suggestions on the SU plugin section of our forum, just to try and keep knowledge in a common place.


Dumb question: Where do I go to create an account? I went to the forum and clicked on the link to Log In but could not find a link to create an account so I can participate. I do have some ideas for the documentation we discussed above.
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Re: Bella Render

Postby JD Hill » Thu May 07, 2020 7:36 pm

You should be able to do it here. Just to say, I have to step out of the office for a couple of hours. Also I am polishing a couple of scenes to put on our sample scenes page, should be ready later tonight.
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Re: Bella Render

Postby ntxdave » Fri May 08, 2020 12:26 am

As I mentioned earlier in this thread, I would like to see some documentation or tutorials about how to use Bella Render a little better with SketchUp. I decided to try to develop something and have a long way to go. I was going to post in on the Bella SketchUp Plugin forum but did not see a way to add an attachment to a post. So I am attaching it here to see if I can get some feedback from others as to whether this has any value. Would appreciate feedback but as I said, it is only a starting point.

Bella SketchUp Plugin.pdf
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Re: Bella Render

Postby JD Hill » Fri May 08, 2020 1:05 am

Looking good so far! I see you already discovered that the plugin is listening for material selection by eye-dropper (and vice-versa -- it will also select a material in sketchup, when you click on it in the bella settings window).

Apologies that we do not support hosting user content directly on our site, but the various developing laws pertaining to this have caused us to choose, at least for the time being, to simply not do so. So to post things there, you must host the content somewhere else (I use imgur for images) and link to it.
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Re: Bella Render

Postby ntxdave » Fri May 08, 2020 1:37 am

Thank you sir. I was trying to do an explanation of The materials I had seen somewhere on your site but the I could not find it again. Hope I can do some more tomorrow.

Any suggestions or would you guys like to take over. What the heck time is in Barcelona or are you located somewhere else? : :?:
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Re: Bella Render

Postby JD Hill » Fri May 08, 2020 3:59 am

I'm in the minneapolis area, and the others are (and the company is set up) in barcelona, which is 7 hours ahead of me. On the help, it is actually most interesting to me to see how you are perceiving things, and how you are presenting them.

I am right in the middle of some things now so will not likely work on docs for this plugin for a week or so, so if you wish to continue I am sure it will be useful, and I can talk to the others about working something out, license-wise, to make sure you are not just donating your valuable time.
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Re: Bella Render

Postby JD Hill » Fri May 08, 2020 4:58 am

I have now uploaded the example scenes I mentioned earlier, here and here.

They are made available in both SKP and BSZ format, which is a bella format that embeds resources along with the BSX file that uses them (BSX is the binary bella format, as opposed to the ascii BSA format written by this pure ruby plugin).
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Re: Bella Render

Postby jenujacob » Fri May 08, 2020 11:34 pm

Hi Jeremy!
I posted in the Bella forums but cannot seem to see the post for some reason...

anyways...


I downloaded the plugin and this happened :
vIEW1.jpg

vIEW2.jpg

I gotta be honest here... i did struggle a bit with navigation to get the right view and there were a few other things like saving the image (without entering the name it would overwrite the old image etc), and finding all the options in menus and submenus was kind of a pain.. i know this is not the final plugin but getting it to work for us common folk requires some extra patience!
BUT.. i love the quality of light i am getting from the render. The image resolutions does not do justice to the renders here.
i am looking forward to the updates and will definitely give this another spin in the future!
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Re: Bella Render

Postby ntxdave » Sat May 09, 2020 12:26 am

Hi jenujacod, take a look at the document (PDF) I posted earlier In the thread and see if it is headed in a direction that is/would be helpful to you. It still has a long way to go but it was something I had suggested to Jeremy/Bella.

BTW: Your render looks good to me. Especially given where the plugin is in its early development stage. :thumb:
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Re: Bella Render

Postby JD Hill » Sat May 09, 2020 12:34 am

Hey jenu nice to see you. :) That is really strange about the forum -- it's not just you, I can see that your post is listed as most recent, but the post doesn't appear in the thread .. I'll have to check if I need to update or fix the forum software somehow.

Nice to see some images, looks like you're getting the hang of it already. :) True it may not be the easiest thing to use once you get to the GUI (though, that is a bit of a fooler, since it is hiding a full nodal model underneath, while not forcing people to deal with big node graphs), but I made no secret that this is basically an internal script I wrote early on just so the other guys could generate their own geometry during Bella's early development. So it's a bit of a geek toy for sure at this point.

However, still worth noting that much of the code that's in there will remain even in the eventual full plugin, so it's good for it to see some use, so we catch any issues early, which will speed up development of the full plugin when the time comes.

And meanwhile, just keep in mind that we have here basically a blank slate for that development. I created the early SketchUp plugin forum, and then this plugin, mainly so that anyone who wishes, can get involved early, to help shape how the full plugin ends up looking.
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Re: Bella Render

Postby jenujacob » Sat May 09, 2020 8:18 pm

View3.png

view4.jpg


A few more with some trees from the skatter plugin... i couldnt get the grass in (sketchup couldnt handle the raw geometry)

I love the quality of renders coming out of Bella and i am really excited to see where you take the plugin next! hopefully we can get an integrated plugin in the near future!

Jeremy, In the bella forum, i have posted a few points for your consideration.

@ NTXDave : Your PDf seems to be heading in the right direction. Maybe a few step by step points would be helpful for the plugin in its current state? Many folks wouldnt have the time on their hands to find out where certain things are right now in the Bella interface.
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