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How to set up and use Nox renderer for Blender

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introduction

Nox is a render-engine that just went open source some days ago. It’s name might come from a unit to measure light intensity. Just like Cycles Nox is unbiased. It was developed by the Polish studio Evermotion. The team at Evermotion has realeased beside the Nox standalone plus exporters for Blender, Cinema 4D and 3ds Max. Today I only wanna focus on how to get started with the Blender exporter.

header

How to install Nox

Installing Nox and the Blender export addon is quite straight forward.

Download of Nox renderer

  • Navigate to the Evermotion page. Click here.
  • Download the latest available builds

By the way it makes no difference whether you wanna use Nox in conjunction with 3ds Max or Blender. The standalone version includes both exporters.

Installing Nox renderer under Windows

  • Install the Nox renderer as follows

After double clicking the Executable you will be asked wheter you really want to run this application due to an invalid digital signature. Accept the warning by clicking run.

installing nox

After accepting the lisence agreement you will be asked what you want to install. Depending on your needs turn the 3ds Max Plugin on or of. If Visual C++ is not installed on your PC, then make the Nox installer install it for you.

install nox  2 install nox 3

Once the programme installation is finished, head to your software directory, search for nox, open the subfolder “Blender”, extract the Zip-compressed folder you’ll find inside the blender folder and copy its content to the script directory of Blender.

Under windows your scripts and addons are usualy saved under C:/Program Files/ Blender Foundation/Blender/Version/scripts/addons.

install nox 4 install nox 5

A folder called render_nox should now appear in your scripts folder.

install nox 6  

In the next step we have to install the activate the script inside Blender. Navigate to the Blender preferences (Ctrl Alt U) and search for Nox. A search result should appear. Check the little box on the left and click “save user settings”.

install nox 7

In oder to switch between Blender internal, Cycles and other render or game engine(s) click the field left from your version properties and choose Nox-Renderer. The layout will change slightly. Esspecially the options in the render, world and material properties do change. All the options you will find in these tabs can also be found in the Nox Standalone but I will talk about that later.

install nox 8

Setting up some Hdr Lighting

In order to understand better how Nox works you first need to know the fundamentals. First Nox renderer needs two things in your scene: a camera and a lamp. If you were to render the default scene by pressing F12 the following error message would occur:

set up hdri lighting

The problem is that the standard blender lamp objects can’t be used by Nox, ergo we either need a setup  of planes, spheres or other objects acting as our emitters or some environment lighting. I want ot start with explaining the hdr lighting and the other environment options.

set up hdri lighting2

The options that can be found in the environment tab in Nox are pretty similar to the ones that can be found in the world properties. I personally find the Nox renderer Environment settings more comfortable to use. That’s why all my explanations will concentrate on these properties. At the top of the editor you find a projection of the earth with two dots. The yellow dot marks the position of the sun, while the purple dot marks your current position. You can freely grap the purple dot around. Further more you can set the date and the time. Why should you do this? If you plan to use the Hosek-Wilkie or the Preetham sky model you need to know that the date of time and and the current date will change the appearance of the sky. When using a sky model, make sure “sky” is enabled.

Here I’ve set up a quick demo scene. What we can see is that Nox wil try to fake sunsets and sunrises. Furthermore the sun is most powerfull at midday. One more world about the skymodels: Preetham is a bit older than Hosek-Wilkie, while the Hosek Wilkie skymodel is aimed to be more accurate. If you need to brighten up your scene even more you can enable “sun”.

render two render2

Let’s focus on the lighting with environment textures next. Nox allows you to load different image types including .hdr and .jpg files. The most commonly used images for setting up environment lighting. Please notice: That you can only use hdrs forming a complete sphere. There are also .hdr files out there which like like a skydome but unfortunatelly they won’t work properly with the Nox renderengine.

set up hdri lighting3

Once again make sure sky is unchecked while the map is enabled. One cool option I want to make you aware of is the rotate option. If you type in e. g. 45 your environment map will be rotated 45 degrees clock wise. With this little trick you can for example “set or tweak the sun’s position” in your hdr file as needed.

set up hdri lighting4

render three

Setting up some proper 3 point Lighting in Blender

 Setting up a proper 3 point lighting in Nox isn’t much different from a lighting setup in Cycles except the fact that we can’t use area or sunlights. We’ll have to use emission planes acting as our fill, rim and key light. I definitely recommend you to check out this Wikipedia article and this blog post written by Ben Simonds.

emission3

Go to the material tab as you would do in Cycles or Blender Internal. Add a new material. Until here you won’t be able to spot a difference compared to your Cycles workflow. In the next step you’ll have to add a new layer. You can have muli-layered materials but I will write more about this in the paragraph “Creating a Nox Material with the material editor in Nox and Blender

emissionemission2

Next make sure to check the box next to emission and set the colour as wanted. For my three point lighting. I used two different colours one white with a tint of yellow and one with bluish tint. For the key, rim and fill light I used different emission powers. I’ve chosen “W” standing for Watt but you can also use other units. You might have to adjust the strength then. You might want to visit this site to learn about the units.

One tip: make sure that the normals of the planes are pointing the right direction otherwise you won’t see any lightrays hitting the surface of your object. You can do this by going into edit-mode, pressing “n”,  normals of faces. If needed rotate your emission plane by 180 degrees or flip the normals by pressing “w” -“flip normals”.

   emission4 emission6

Creating a Nox Material with the material editor in Nox and Blender

In this next exercise we’ll create a wood shader. Nox renderer is perfect for creating multi-layered materials.But there’s one thing you should keep in mind: When using textures you need to have an unwrapped object. There’s no option to use generated coordinates like in Cycles. This is quite common among thrived party rendering software. Furthermore you can’t use procedural textures like Perlin noise, voronoi etc. EDIT: To use noise textures etc. you would have to set up an BI or cycles shader, bake the texture and plug it into your Nox material.

I start my texturing work in Blender by unwrapping the cube. After unwrapping I decided to bevel my edges. You can do this by pressing Ctrl+B.

material1

Next I have created a new material and a new layer. Scroll all down until you reach “Nox textures”. Choose “reflection 0” for the texture slot and select “Enabled”. Scroll back upwards and hit the button “Start material editor”.

 material2

 In the Nox Material Editor then, link “Reflection 0” and “Reflection 90”. As we have a 100% rough/ diffuse surface you won’t spot any highlights. Hit render and admire your result.

diffuse

Next we want to create the specular part of this shader. To do so, create a new layer.

specualr

 Set the Roughness to a much lower number. In my example “5” was just fine. Plug into the roughness texture slot our initial wood texture but desaturate the texture this time. You might want to tweak the brightness as well. It can be trial and error…

roughness

  Finally mix the diffuse and the specular layer together. To do so set the layer weight of the specular to a number smaller then 100 and use the wood texture for the the map input. You might want to tweak the brightness and the contrast again.

layer weight

You should finally come up with something like this:D Please note that I haven’t used a bump map in this example, as I just wanted to focus on mixing two shaders.

cube

nox torus

Other cool features that will get you hooked

One cool feature is the “draw region brush”. It’s not just an ordinary border selection render, it’s more than that. It allows you to create only spefic parts of the image. The renderer will then only increase the samples within the selection. The cool thing is that you can select and deselect areas during rendering. The way how you select special areas that need more some time to be noise free is very natural. If you don’t go overboard the ordinary viewer won’t be able to notice that you used this big timesaver. Thank you Evermotion for developing this feature. 😀

other cool feature

My second favourite feature is the bokeh and depth of field feature. Bokeh and depth of field actually go hand in hand with each other. This two effects can be the icing of the cake for your image. The nox renderer gives you a few options to tweak the bokeh and depth of field. Furthermore there is an option to fake depth of field. You find this under “fake DOF”.

other cool feature2

bokeh effect nox render

By William Brawley [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Another cool feature is the colour correction tool. It allows you to tweak the colours while you are rendering. You don’t have to pause the render either, how cool is this?

other cool feature3

resume

The evermotion developers definitely put a lot of effort into this software. I esspecially like concept of operations. When I first started the software it feeled familiar and comfortable for me. Its interface is not overload with different settings like 3ds Max. This doesn’t mean that any important features at all. By the way if you want to find out about other features click here. Also the way how you set up things e. g. materials is quite straight forward.

Despite of the overall postive impression I don’t want to leave two things unmentioned. Firstly the exporter interface in Blender looks here and there quite unpolished, esspecially the process of applying textures is in my opinion just a bit to confusing. That’s why I recommended using the Nox Standalone for setting up materials and environment textures etc.

Secondly I experienced some issues with tweaking materials in Blender, then changing to Nox and switching back to Blender. Nox sometimes behaved quite strange due to that esspecially when creating emission shaders.

Overall I’d recommend every user to test this piece of software to get an idea of Nox and to decide whether you want to use it for your Blender projects.

Please tell us how you used Nox in your Blender projects down in the comments! 😀

Cheers Markus 😀

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22 thoughts on “How to set up and use Nox renderer for Blender

  1. Pingback: Getting started with NOX Renderer in Blender | BlenderNation

  2. Looks great. Can’t wait for a Mac OS version!

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  3. Markus, you are my Angel!

    Indeed it’s the fiirst time I see a clear tutorial about Nox and Blender. I follow Nox since the first day…but I havn’t use it for my render because I didn’t understand easy….but your explanation are clear and now I can play with it…Thanks a lot.
    Bye bye
    Spirou4D

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    • Thank you very much. It you come up with issues feel free to ask! Cheers Markus

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    • Hi Markus, you must add here:
      >>>Furthermore you can’t use procedural textures like Perlin noise, voronoi etc.
      so you must bake your procedural textures from Blender to an unwrapped texture simply and use it in NOX afterwards in UV mode.

      At my next comment, bye bye.

      Like

    • Thank you for your comment. I did a little edit.

      Like

    • Hi 2x Markus,

      I have an other idea: could you make a tuto about one or two complete material with spec, mirror, translucence, bump normal or displacement and emitter, please?

      And a second about global use of layers if you know it?

      Like

    • Thanks for your fast reply. It might be a good idea to write a separate article about shaders. Maybe I find some time at the weekend to do so. 😀 In the meantime you could experiment with materials provided by Evermotion. By the way the emission material and the material setup for objects with a reflecting surface is covered in the article above. I will also think about a short summary for the layers. Thank you for sharing your ideas. I try the best I can. Kind regards Markus

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  4. Not for Linux? Hmmmm! I’d better wait until a Linux version be available. It looks a great render option. Regards.

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  5. nice nox tutorial.

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  6. Hi! Thanks for this article, it helped me a lot!
    And this “draw region brush” is simply amazing! I wish Cycles had something like that…
    One question: NOX doesn’t support Blender modifiers yet, right? I tried to render a model with subsurf modifier and shapekeys, and it was rendered in it’s original shape. Am I missing something?

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    • Hi Mateus, we are glad that you like our article. But let’s talk about your question. Nox does support modifiers. When using a subdivision surface modifier make sure that you set the render subdivisions to an appropriate number. In my tests it also supported edgesplit, bevel and solidfy. (I will attach a screenshot) I did a little test and I will attach two screenshot. Nox obviously doesn’t support shape keys by default, that’s right. Inside the object data panel you won’t find any options to even edit them when Nox is enabled. But I figured out a work around. Open Blender and edit your shape keys when Blender Internal or Cycles is enabled. Create a new shape key from mix. Then delete the other shapekeys first, but keep your mixed shapekey. Now change to Nox. It should work quite well. 😀 One thing that doesn’t work are group instances, but this obviously wasn’t your question. We hope that we could help you. Thank you for comment. Kind regards Markus
      nox modifiers

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    • You are right, I made it.
      Thank you very much for this explanation.
      This shure helped a lot, again!

      Like

  7. Thks Markus for this explanations…Great!

    Like

  8. Thanks for the mention. 🙂

    Like

  9. Pingback: Markus Bilz

  10. Pingback: Attractors created with Blender | Quaintproject

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