Blender has finally leveled up. On December 3, 2021, the Blender Foundation released Blender 3.0 – the first total version change for the incredibly powerful and widespread open-source visual software in over 21 years. There’s a lot of good new stuff in this release, so in the article today, iRender put together a list of standout facets and features – the biggest and most notable changes – in Blender 3.0 here and find out the best way to speed up the new Cycles.
Improvements to shadows came up a couple of times in the release notes, both in the renewed Shadow Catcher and Shadow Terminator.
The shadow catcher now includes indirect and environment light support, and a pass that can maintain an object’s color when cast. The Blender Foundation says this makes it easier to blend images with real footage.
On the other side of things, the shadow terminator is making clearly digital designs seem just a touch more natural. Blender 3.0 has a new option to eliminate shadow artifacts in low poly models by offsetting rays to act on rigid designs as they would smooth surfaces.
The developers have put some serious effort into simplifying workflows for Blender 3.0 and, aside from fields, that shines brightly in the new and improved Asset Browser.
The new asset browser is a drag-and-drop system that organizes objects, textures, lighting, and poses into catalogs with the ability to add metadata like authors and tags for further simplicity. The assets can be accessed across project files, so users can build up large personal repositories – more features are planned for future updates. The Blender Foundation has said this is simply the “first milestone” for the asset browser and that we can expect a series of “Blender Bundles” soon.
Poses received special attention in the release notes as a time-saving function for animators, too. They can be accessed via the asset browser or the animation panel in 3D view where users can “add, blend, flip, apply, and save different poses.”
Blender 3.0 marks the beginning of a new era for 3D content creation, with new features including a more responsive viewport, reduced shadow artifacts, an asset library to access owned and borrowed assets quickly, and additional customization options. Speaking of Cycles, changes to GPU kernels and scheduling have resulted in “rendering between 2x and 8x faster in real-world scenes”, the Blender Foundation says. Cycles renderer has been completely overhauled, maximizing NVIDIA RTX GPU RT Cores for OptiX ray tracing and Tensor Cores for OptiX AI denoising. This enables rendering nearly 12x and 15x faster than with a MacBook Pro M1 Max or CPU alone, respectively, with the GeForce RTX 3080 laptop GPU.
Now, let’s check out the comparison between the render speed of Blender versions, with the BMW project. Here’s a look at CUDA and HIP performance in 3.0.0 vs. CUDA and OpenCL in 2.93.7:
It’s interesting to see that AMD appears to benefit more from this Cycles upgrade than NVIDIA, as its before and after deltas are much starker. The new Cycles especially breathes more life into AMD’s lower-end stack, where GPUs like the RX 6600 and RX 6600 XT effectively see doubled performance! Fortunately, these Cycles improvements extend beyond CUDA and HIP. The CPU also sees some improvement, just not to the extent that we see from the GPUs. And, because GPUs are clearly the most important focus for Blender rendering, CPU gains won’t ultimately matter that much for most people.
The new Cycles even benefits OptiX, not just CUDA. The performance delivered with the new Cycles X is simply staggering. In 3.0, some NVIDIA GPUs become as fast when rendering with CUDA as they were in 2.93 using OptiX (for example RTX 3090, RTX 3080). It takes things one step further again, giving us some seriously impressive performance.
For this article, we’re benchmarking with the BMW, Classroom, as well as the brand-new Blender 3.0 official project, Sprite Fright. “Sprite Fright” is no doubt the beefiest project to be found on Blender’s demo files page, requiring upwards of 20GB of system memory after it’s opened. Since projects like BMW and Classroom are pretty simple in the grand scheme, we’re happy to be able to now include a comprehensive project like this to test with.
All of the benchmarking conducted for this article was completed using updated software, including the graphics driver. An exception to the “updated software” rule is that for the time-being, we’re choosing to stick to using Windows 10 as the OS, as Windows 11 has so far felt like a chore to use and benchmark with.
Sprite Fright scene
These three sets of results all show similar scaling, with NVIDIA’s GeForces ultimately leading in performance vs. each model’s respective Radeon competitor. Of these four projects, it’s the Sprite Fright one we were keen to analyze most; not just because it’s brand-new, but also because it’s the most complex Blender project we’ve ever tested. As mentioned above, merely opening the project will use upwards of 20GB of system memory.
Sprite Fright‘s resulting render is effectively three renders in one, with each being layered on top of the others in the final composition stage. Due to this design, there’s a slight delay in GPU work in between each of those renders, so we opted to retain default sample and resolution values to make sure the CPU wouldn’t interfere too much with our scaling. That leads to a super-fast GPU like the RTX 3090 taking 10 minutes to render a single frame, and a lower-end RX 6600 taking over 40 minutes.
Conclusion: In NVIDIA’s current-gen lineup, we’d have to say that the GeForce RTX 3090 and the video memory of 24 GB VRAM are the best bang-for-the-buck, given its pricing and performance delivered. Try it here.
iRender is a Professional GPU-Acceleration Cloud Rendering Service provider in HPC optimization for rendering tasks, CGI, VFX with over 20.000 customers and being appreciated in many global rankings (e.g. CGDirector, Lumion Official, Radarrender, InspirationTuts CAD, All3DP). Moreover, iRender officially joins the Blender Foundation’s Development Fund as a corporate Diamond member. Contributions from corporate members directly support core Blender development, for generally approved projects on blender.org.
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Blender 3.0 project with GPU rendering:
+ Image size: 2000p x 1000p
+ Total render time: 8m20m
This test is done on iRender GPU server 3A (3.8 USD/h):
+ CPU: Intel Xeon W-2245 @ 3.90GHz
+ GPU: 1x RTX 3090, 24GB VRAM
+ GPU Architecture: Ampere, GA102
+ RAM: 128GB
+ Storage: 512GB
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