Realtime Render Engines 2013

Realtime Render Engines 2013


Hi everyone, modelling a virtual 3D-world has become very easy these days for the programs have become more and more handy. Though the variety of 3D-Render-engines has grown as well and we see some awesome products on the market for rendering. There are two main categories of renderer: CPU based and GPU based. A few years ago there we´re the first announcements of rendering-engines in REALTIME. ever since there´s quite an evolution showing up that brings more features, better details, faster engines to the software. The industrie has come from game engines (like Unreal Engine or Quest 3D) to the needs for visualisation -especially in architecture and product design.
Here´s a list and short reviews of the most common and practicable 3D render programs on the planet today (Februar 2013)

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GPU-Based Render

GPU+CPU Renderer

Under developement:


Lumion 3

1499 EUR to 2999 EUR 

GPU only, based on Quest 3D, Stand-Alone

Lumion already has done a bit of evolution since the first version came out in Dec 2010. Lumion now is one of the GPU-based programs that are fun to handle.. It´s like a game placing all those included models and fill your dead model with life. If you wanna do lots of movies/animations within no time you seriously should take a closer look at it. If you´ve got an up-to-date computer with a decent graphic adapter (gtx 680) the movies are rendered in HD in realtime -or even faster!


  • Free version availabel
  • REALLY fast engine (depends on your graphic adapter.. a GTX 460 is a good start)
  • really easy to use / import-export with SU
  • big additional model collection
  • animatin camera and assets is really really easy
  • adjustable sky, clouds, effects, GI, AO and heaps of other stuff
  • big community, lots of tutorials available
  • doesn´t look that real (compared to movies done with vray). It still has got this “video-game-look”

Promo-video for Lumion:

TwinMotion 2

2.420 EUR 

GPU only, Stand-alone

TwinMotion comes up with a HUGE Program. It´s a lot more complicated than Lumion and similar to Unity 3D. You can really loose yourself into detail and get an awesome movie as an result. But you need a lot more time to digg into the software.


  • professional users welcome! more time to learn required
  • goes along with all common file-formats (dwg, 3ds, fbx..)
  • educational version available
  • includes model collection
  • not as easy to use for an architect who´s has got other things to do…
  • community is pretty small

short Twinmotion overview:

Cryengine 3/Sandbox 3

FREE for non-commercial

GPU only, Stand-alone

The german company CryTek first came up with FarCry in 2007. The virtual island without any pre-loading and destroyable surroundings was a breakthrough in gameplay. Now the cryengine 3 is the latest version  of it´s developement. The SDK is free to download for everyone. It´s a game-engine to build a whole new video game and so it comes with parts for scripting, modeling, materials, gravity, physics, audio and everything else where you´ll need to turn some nobs. -that´s the difficult part. Once you´ve got the hang of it, you´ll be able to really enjoy walking through your virtual modell.


  • Great experience in finished model, I personally like the “grungy look” of the cryengine
  • completely FREE -until you´ve developing a commercial game..
  • big community, lots of tutorials and samples
  • great looking vegetation included
  • …finally: make a video game out of your architectural draft 😉
  • very complex
  • not as easy to use for an architect who´s has got other things to do… very complicated to import your own models in CFG-format. you need a “collada to cfg-translator” unless you come strait from 3DS Max.

Cryengine 3 Techdemo:

Unreal Engine 4

FREE for non-commercial

GPU only, Stand-alone

The first Unreal ego shooter was published in 2000. So these guys are on game developement for over 14 years now. There are numerous game titles that are based on the UE4. For example Gears of War, Devil may Cry, Bioshok and Mass Effekt… It seemes to be the most advanced engine today. BUT: you can´t use it just pressing the “render button”.. Like with all game engines you have to put some effort in learning your tools. but then you´ll might be able to create such stunning surroundings like this one: UDK – Family House in Realtime 3D


  • State-of-the-art-engine in 2013
  • completely FREE -until you´ve developing a commercial game..
  • big community, lots of tutorials and samples
  • …finally: make a video game out of your architectural draft 😉
  • very complex
  • kinda complicated for importing the model

UDK4  Techdemo:

Unity 3D

Free evaluation / $ 1.500 (about 1.140 EUR)

GPU only, Stand-alone game engine

For the sake of completeness I have to mention another 3D game engine that´s been on the market for a while. Unity Pro is a full multi-platform game engine (additional platforms cost extra) with quite good compatibility to other programs such as SketchUp, Blender, Max.. You can even export it straight to an HTML-Browser an explore your world within the browser!


  • relativley easy-to-use complex engine/editor
  • good compatibility with sketchup, modo, blender, max… (via .fbx) keeping your material-setup each import.
  • export to self-running .exe-file, html (with unity-plugin for browser/flash), android,  iOS
  • more comic-look-like / not suitable for architectural renders
  • .. can´t think of another good contra..

How it looks like (unofficial):


2.999 EUR

GPU only, Stand-Alone

I think Quest 3D mainly focuses on visualsations within the industry (medicine, transport, ..) and won´t be your first choice for architectural renders. It´s a very customizable engine and if you´ve got someone who´s programming the thing to fullfill your needs it´s the one to pick. Lumion is the direct decendent from Quest 3D. companie´s name is Act-3D. The´ve also got quite the same looking website.


  • advanced graphic engine to suit specific needs in the industry sector
  • “to professional” for use as end user / visualisation

Quick overview:


??? EUR

GPU based professional game engine. Obviously not firstly for architecture projects… But there´s at least one Australian Company using it for their project:

Octane Render

199 EUR

GPU (cuda) based, stand alone

Since CUDA-Technology was invented by NVIDIA the current mid-range graphic adapters are alread packed with hundreds of CUDA cores. They can calculate physics as well as raytraycing. (They even can be put in a cluster and used for decrypting).
In Octane Render CUDA cores are used for calculing physical lighting and reflections. The results are impressiv and can bear comparison to VRay. The renderer isn´t very common though there is only a small community. Some of the plugins are supposed to be build by contributers from the community (such as for 3DSMax?!?, C4D, modo, SU, XSI, blender and Maya)


  • impressive results
  • low costs (199 EUR)
  • fast, intractive GUI with instant results in rendering
  • NODE-based GUI… might be a “con” for some..
  • SU-pipeline
  • a little overwhelming for first-time-users / visualisation
  • workflow

Quick overview:

Arion 2.0 (continuing fryrender)

Arion Standalone: 195 / Inside 3DS Max: 595 EUR

CPU AND GPU based, stand alone OR Live-View Plugin for 3DS Max

Arion 2.0 is the result of merging Arion 1 and Fryrender.  Arion is the first true hybrid renderer in the world. It can render using your GPUs, your CPUs, or all of them at once.


  • HQ renders
  • intractive GUI with instant results in rendering
  • good GUI to use –
  • NODE-based GUI… might be a “con” for some..
  • truely professional still low cost (from 195 EUR)
  • only plugins for 3DS Max & XSI

Quick workflow-sample:

Indigo Render

Standalone: 145 / IndigoRT: 595 EUR

CPU AND GPU based, stand alone

Similar to Arion  indigo makes use of CPU and GPU as well. Indigo is an unbiased, physically based and photorealistic renderer with very high quality-output. It´s viewport is interactive and renders your scene in brute-force manner. It´s pretty easy to use and also got plugins to use with all common 3D-apps like SU,C4D,3DSMax, Maya, blender and Revit. The IndigoRT is the more professional alternative for better PP and extra-fun. Lining up with the Version 3.4 Indigo has reached a stage where it´s useful and reliable.. The earlier versions really needed to envolve.


  • Lovely renders, great for architecture!
  • intractive GUI with instant results in rendering
  • good connectivity with sketchup / material handling
  • truely professional still low cost
  • still small but growing community
  • no instancing in Sketchup .. 😉 …can´t think of a real con.

Indigo 3 Overview:

KeyShot 4

995 / 1.995 EUR Standard /Pro

CPU AND GPU based, stand alone

Keyshot works similar to the above mentioned renderer Octane/Arion and Indigo. It´s a great tool especially for Product Designers. It comes with a whole lot materials and preset lighting enviroments to place your object in. Then you can easily paste materials onto it and start “shooting pictures”.


  • Fast, easy
  • intractive GUI with instant results in rendering
  • easy 3D-model import
  • good tutorials available (youtube)
  • KeyShot VR brings your Models to the web (without additional browser plugins)  using vrml
  • for a very specific task. genuinely not for architectural purposes… actually I haven´t seen ANY vegetation done with Keyshot yet.

Keyshot 4 Overview (german)



CPU and GPU based, stand alone / pluged-in

“LuxRender is a free and unbiased renderer. The program is the result of the dedication of a loosely nit team of passionate people around the world. Licensed under the GPL and free for both personal or commercial use.”  For it´s free nature it´s often used with blender.


  • free
  • results are quite good
  • early stage of developement… not for serious daily-business

– Sorry there are no really useful videos showing luxrender in action –


246 to 330 EUR (depends on package)

CPU and GPU based, SketchUP plugin,

LumenRT comes from E-ON -the makers of VUE. It translates the Sketchup-scene including all materials straight into 3D without much of a hassle. Dependig on polygon-count and desired level of quality the exporting takes a few seconds to hours. Ambient Occlusion will be “baked” into the 3D-model. When done you´ll able to walk easily through your model with a beautiful sky. You can also put the 3D  in selfcontaining exe-files and send it off to your client.


  • really easy to use
  • fast, fun
  • no HQ-Render output.. looks like “the sims” …not as good as lumion.
  • very limited options and settings.. nothing to tweak

Promtion-Video LumenRT


$ 299 / 250 EUR (pro)

CPU and GPU based, SketchUP plugin,

Interactive Renderer for SU. It´s easy ta use. Applying materials is real fun for you get instant results. Would be my choice if you pull out lots and lots of images in a short time.


  • reasonable results in NO TIME!
  • fast, fun, relialable
  • Quality .. it´s still a little behin arion/vray/iray

Full demonstration/tutorial of Shaderlight

LigtUp 2.7 for SketchUp

149/199 EUR

Another lowcost-plugin for Sketchup is LightUP. It´s the only renderer that actually turns your SU-viewport in a 3D-World in Realtime! Haven´t tried it for years…. but the beta was great!


  • low cost, easy to use
  • fast, fun


  • Quality
LightUp 2.2 Demo:

VRay 2 (with RT)

970 Eur

VRay by ChaosGroup has been THE state-of-the-art renderer for years and is still enjoys great popularity. It is the most commom renderer used (at least I feel like) and has got a huge community supporting 3DS Max with plugins (for use with vray) and materials. The latest release comes with newly added GPU usage. Means you can now use Active Shade within Max (F10!) for rendering.

ChaosGroup bought VRay for Sketchup/Rhino from ASGVis in 2012. Doesn´t look like the SU-Plugin will be developed any longer.. :-(. Anyway.. The material-system is similar and the results are like the ones from 3DSMax. Bute there are quite a few limits. eg.: no fur, no instances, no GPU-support, only one camera-setting,…


  • cheap student license available
  • biggest community
  • lots of tutorials, materials and stuff all over the net
  • best render results possible
  • VRay-materials need a good understanding of the material-editor and physical basics of materials.
  • Not the easiest tool for viz -but still worth a try
Demo VRayRT in 3DSMax 2010:

Autodesk Showcase

1.100 EUR

CPU & GPU based

Showcase is ment for comunicating your ideas with others.. It is great in showing “optional” ideas and variants of shapes. Therefor it´s ment to be “on top” of AutoCAD® Architecture or Revit®.


  • High-End for draft discussing
  • ought to be extremly compatible with Revit/AutoCad
  • ONLY useful if you´re already working with Autodesk products
  • No quality-renderings for “selling your project”

Bunkspeed Shot/Pro

$ 795 (shot) / $ 3.495 (pro)

CPU AND GPU powered!

Bunkspeed is supposed to be the easy-to-use-engine and bringing out the best possible render quality. It uses NVIDIAs iRay 2 Engine and lacks only a few things to highly-realistic renderers like Maxwell Render and VRay (such as lens effects. You can´t and don´t have to change any settings -just press the render-button and get HQ-Results. There´s also a downloadable demo to try out.

I found a pretty good discussion between one guy from Bunkspeed and a customer. Here´s the excerpt from the original  forum text:

“Keyshot which is built on the same technology as HyperShot, is an extremely fast renderer but the compromise is lack of lighting control and quality (mostly GI artifacts). You will find lighting solution that it simply cannot calculate (like most of the images on our homepage). It is also only CPU accellerated. All our products reduce compromises because of the additional control you have in terms of lighting but more importantly, the iray render engine is designed to help you achieve the best quality possible regardless of the lighting complexity without any setting at all. This consistency is necessary especially when animating. It is also GPU or CPU accellerated, meaning that with the right hardware, you can not only achieve higher quality and more consistent results, but you can get those results faster than any CPU could ever offer.”

Video showing the basics: