Octane vs Thea?

I’m looking into switching to a GPU based renderer and these seem to be the top dogs for Rhino. I’m pretty familiar with Thea already and like it’s workflow, but Octane seems to have a much bigger community. Learning something new isn’t an issue, I just want something that will have continued development and support for the foreseeable future. Does anyone out there with experience on these two packages have any opinions?

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Ocz thea render, thea is gpu+cpu, octane is gpu only. Thea render is more nice on rhino interface

Maybe also try Maxwell Render 4.1 which is also GPU based and really flies with good Nvidia cards.

Hi CountryGolden,

I have quite a bit of experience with Thea, Octane, Maxwell, and Vray (older version of Vray, not the latest).

Bottom line is what you probably already know – each has it’s on strengths and weakness of course and I think it depends on the type of work you are primarily doing. Below are my thoughts, and like everyone I have a favorite too and it’s Octane.

Maxwell – I think it’s the highest quality output, most photorealistic. The others are not far behind though to be honest and with a hair of post work the quality differences start to disappear between all of these engines. However, it’s still quite slow compared to the rest, even with GPU integration in the latest version. If you are primarily doing work that requires the utmost in photorealism and you are not wanting to do much postwork AND you have the time to allow for long render times, then Maxwell is a good choice. It’s integrated fairly well into Rhino and it’s very easy to understand and learn. If you have any kind of background in photography (I did) then you’ll pick up Maxwell quickly.

Pros: Photorealism, easy to learn
Cons: Slow, Slow, Slow render times

Vray – I’ve only had experience with V1 and V2 of Vray, but V3 has a LOT of improvements. From what I can tell and from talking with other users, Vray isn’t as hard to learn as it used to be. There used to be a long learning curve, but I think the latest version has solved that. Vray’s quality is outstanding and it’s highly customizable. It’s a very mature render engine with a lot of features. I think the strong points of this render engine are it’s ability for large output renders (CPU capability), Tweakable settings, Clipping Planes, and Vray Fur/Grass. Since it has a biased mode you’ll (usually but not always) get a faster final result on interiors.

Pros: highly customizable, great quality, CPU renders for large format output, Fur/Grass
Cons: to get into the highly customizable settings there’s still along learning curve, if you stick with basics it’s easier

Thea – Terrific Quality with this engine and it’s various modes (CPU and GPU) are great, same as Vray. Learning curve wise I’d say it’s easier than Vray, not quite as easy as Maxwell, but close. Render times are much faster than Maxwell, not quite as fast as Vray. You said you’re familiar with Thea so I won’t go on about it, but I do think it’s a great engine. The reason it’s NOT my primary go to however, is because the support has been very poor and the development of the Rhino plugin has been at a snails pace, REALLY slow. This engine doesn’t really offer anything that the others don’t right now and since support for the Rhino plugin has been so lacking, I’ve pretty much dropped Thea from my daily use.

Octane – as I’ve already mentioned, this is my favorite engine. Octane, to me, was as easy to learn as Maxwell. It’s settings are clear and straightforward and there aren’t many to deal with. Material creation in this engine is very flexible as you can mix materials quite easily. Has a great dirt texture for mixing materials as well as a nice amount of procedurals for flexibility. Has an Unbiased mode (Pathtracing) and a Biased mode (Diffuse and AO). For just about everything but complex interiors, the render times with Octane are super quick. Complex interios aren’t a problem to do, you’ll just notice a slow down compared to the other types of renders with Octane. However, I do think this is a Con to any unbiased engine. There are some improvements with the latest version of Octane that are making more scenes with indirect lighting faster though. At least with my system, I can achieve much faster final renders with Octane than the others. My system however, is a GPU oriented system, not a CPU heavy system, but all the renders on this list have GPU modes. The main con to Octane is that it’s GPU only. This really only matters if you are doing an enormous renders that can’t fit on your GPU though. I haven’t had any issues with this, but some users do. Again, depends on what type of work you do and of course what kind of hardware you have. I have 8gig GPUS and don’t even come close to tapping them out. Development is very fast with Octane and the developer for the Rhino Plugin, Paul, is simply amazing. He listens to the users and does his best to accommodate requests. Support is outstanding. Another Pro for Octane is that the next Main version will be integrating Brigade (a near real time render technology). This should make Octane render insanely fast. Check out Brigade on the Otoy website if you want a sneak peak. Quality is outstanding with this engine. I do quite a bit of animation work and Octane is well integrated into both Rhino and Bongo – that, along with it’s super fast render times and outstanding quality, are why I use Octane 90% of the time.

Pros: Amazing Support, Great Integration, FAST render times
Cons: slower than Vray on interiors, GPU only

Anyway, I know this was long winded, but I hope it helps. I could keep going on about each engine, but I’ll stop. I honestly think these are all strong render engines, but I think it ultimately depends on what type of work you do. If I were you, I’d download and try out the ones your interested in, give them a spin, and see what fits you and your work type the best.



@Ryan4 you haven’t seen Thea plugin for a while as i see. Go and check it :wink:

@CountryGolden I worked with each of them and as Ryan pointed out Maxwell is slow, vray needs lots of config stuff to get highend results, octane is ok but gpu only and i stayed with thea. I didnt experienced poor support from them - never - afaik devs from thea are prepering something big - not sure what yet.

What i love in thea that it is superbly straight forward - plug for rhino also have support similar to vray proxies so handling lots of instanced objects in rhino viewport isnt anymore clunky. But im using thea for stills and i think thea plug dont support bongo well. I think you should try each and compare what is best for you. Here are some of my works made 95% in rhino and rendered with thea - https://www.behance.net/doliwaworkshop

Oh and Thea has also studio standalone which can merge files from different softs for eg. SU or max - i dont know how octane licences are held but when your buying thea ~400 eur u get - standalone + plugin + 2 render nodes for network.

Hope i helped somehow :wink:

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Holy cow thanks for the in depth replies everyone :star_struck:.
It sounds like I probably need to spend some more time with the trials, I’m leaning towards Thea right now, but the stuff Otoy is working on for Octane looking downright amazing. @Ryan4 do you know of any free material libraries and tutorials for Octane, I’m a little overwhelmed at all the settings right now.

@D-W Thea’s interface has always impressed me, and the value of getting the standalone + nodes is great. My needs are fairly modest, so the simplicity of Thea is very attractive. Those are some fantastic renders. iirc I’ve seen a couple of them on the Thea website.

One last thing since you all have some V-ray knowledge, I’ve used the 3.0 trial a little bit and it seems awfully buggy. is this a known issue with the full version?

Hi D-W,

I’ll check out the Thea Plugin again, sounds like it’s improved quite a bit from what you said. In all honestly, I think my experience with Thea was a result of poor timing – I discovered Thea when the original developer of the Rhino Plugin was on the way out, and the plugin wasn’t given any attention for a long time, as it took them a while to get a new developer on board. At that time there were a lot of features missing and for production work it wasn’t quite adequate at the time. Once development started back on it and a lot the features it was missing were added, I read that there wasn’t much support for Bongo, and since animation if part of my job, it pretty much put Thea on the back burner for me, which is shame because it’s a really great engine. But i’ll dig into it again and check it out. I always keep an open mind about software. Nice work on your site, btw.

Hi CountryGolden,

Yes, there a lot of free materials for Octane, but it works a little differently to get them. There is a live material database that you can view through the Rhino Plugin. when you see a material you want, you can download it directly through the plugin in Rhino.

As far as Rhino specific tutorials, there aren’t that many. I don’t know where on earth you reside, but if you are in the US or are able to dial a US number Toll Free, i’d be happy to set up a Join Me meeting with you and share my screen – that way I can create a file from scratch in front of you and answer any questions you have. It’s a good way to get new users up and running fast. Just let me know if you want to do this.

Also, the point D-W brought up is an important one regarding instancing. Just for the record, the Octane Rhino Plugin in has this feature as well. You can check out some of the images in the architectural section on my website and see the instancing capabilities as well. www.bendboxdesign.com My website is really out of date, I haven’t uploaded anything in a year or so, but everything on there is Octane and Rhino.

Honestly, I don’t think you can go wrong with either of these engines for still images. If you do animation, i’d lean towards Octane. Also, it never hurts to have more than one render engine on board since they all have strength and weaknesses.

Regarding your question on Vray, I haven’t used V3 but reading through forums I do get the feeling there are some bugs.

Also, not to throw too much at you at once, however the upcoming Rhino V6 is going to have the Cycles render engine embedded in it – it will be part of Rhino, aka raytraced viewport. Cycles is the same render engine that power Blender if you aren’t familiar with it, and the blender website has a good gallery. I think since Cycles for Rhino is so new, it will take a while before it’s as feature rich as these other render engines we’ve been discussing, however the quality of the rendered output is definitely there, so eventually it will be quite a nice addition to Rhino.


Working hard to get it all done! Most of the features are already accesible one way or another. Saving render passes to an EXR would be my own wish, so one could do some good post-pro (in i.e.Blender or other compositing tool). But indeed still enough to do (:

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I have been using Octane for a couple of years. Speed is great, although the UI is pretty poor… Took me a while to understand it.

Have just been trialing latest V-Ray, and although not as fast to render, the UI is far more intuitive. Not too buggy in my experience so far.

Biggest let-down to Octane is its material library, which conversely I am finding is V-Ray’s greatest strength!

i am seriously looking forward seeing cycles on the mac side, i hope you will get to it this year still :smiley: as you had promised :wink:

Wow Nathan, you’ve been very busy!!! I checked your youtube site a week or so ago looking for any new videos of Cycles progress, but if you’ve already got so many features ported to Rhino I guess you haven’t had time to make any videos – hopefully you are able to get some sleep at least :grinning:

One of my biggest hopes for Cycles for Rhino is that it plays well with Bongo. I have a lot of opinions and desires in this area, but I haven’t bombarded you with those yet as you have enough on your plate now.

Thanks for the update Nathan!

I think I should be able to test a Bongo version soon enough. I most definitely will be making videos on progress regarding that when the time is right.

I was a big Octane fan but ended getting Thea for its better handling of Rhino clipping planes. Not sure if that is still an issue with Octane. Here is an old project done in Octane, I should try Thea on it for comparison.

I had totally forgotten about Cycles in Rhino, that’ll go on the testing list too. @nathanletwory is the plan that Cycles will be more or less feature complete whenever Rhino 6 comes out? i always find open source stuff to be a hard sell to others but having it as a part of something like Rhino could make that much easier.

Awesome! I’m looking forward to seeing those when they are ready!

@CountryGolden Thanks. Yes couple of those were featured images.

@Ryan4 I remember that time exporter for rhino was awful and most of work had to be done in thea studio. Now it is fully integrated but as you pointed out Octane supports well bongo i havent tested that but i think thea isnt working well with it. I also think that way - it is just better to choose right tool to get job done.

@nathanletwory Will cycles support latest principled shader? IMHO it is the best thing so far introduced by cycles - pbr metalness workflow will dominate render world very soon if it didn’t yet. And yes full ranged EXR files with passes are crucial and should be one of primary features of serious render engine.

@CountryGolden as much as is necessary for v6.

@D-W, the principled shader is already in use behind the scenes (: (yes, also pun intended) https://github.com/mcneel/RhinoCycles/blob/bfbf721549bb69bded52fdfd876b6b68cc13232f/Shaders/RhinoFullNxt.cs#L312

EXR, post-pro… you are talking a completely foreign language to most Rhino users. If you want to be relevant to a lot more people I recommend you consider writing out a .PSD file with all the passes writer to layers. This is what KeyShot does (and they all do it) :

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Don’t worry. The user - you - will be just saving out an image file. That is it. No talk about render passes or whatever. Just save and it is all magically there. AFAIK Photoshop can open the fileformat I mentioned. Assuming you have file extensions hidden and thumbnails in windows explorer open you’ll be none the wiser.