Victor Gonzalez is the CEO of Next Limit Technologies, a Spanish company known for the the famous Maxwell Render, a sophisticated rendering software based strictly on physical equations of light transport. After a long phase of beta testing, Maxwell Render enjoyed instant success upon its recent release. In order to know more about the company and the people behind this success, I invited Victor to participate in the following interview:
Victor, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your company?
I was fascinated with the fantastic CG scenes in those old movies like Tron
I am 35 years old, and I am a graduate in Naval Engineering at the Polytechnic University of Madrid (Spain). From when I was very young, Computer Graphics was my main hobby, and I spent most of my time learning about programming rather then playing games (well I did that too!). I was always fascinated with the fantastic CG scenes in all those old movies like ‘Tron’. In 1997 I met my business partner, Ignacio Vargas, while working in a fluid simulation project in the university, and we soon decided to found Next Limit with the objective to create innovative simulation tools for the CG industry. Today, after 10 years of intensive work, we are proud to manage an excellent team of engineers and creatives that are continuously working on cutting-edge technologies.
How much do Spain and Europe influence your company and your products? How would Maxwell Render be different if it were made in the Silicon Valley?
Considering the global market today, there are no big differences. Nowadays a company can be located anywhere, and they can still do serious business using the networking resources and clever marketing strategies. Usually the problems are focused in recruitment (it is more difficult to find skilled programmers in Spain than in Silicon Valley) and finding investors for the “strange” concepts that we develop. We are still a non-typical company in Spain, mostly focused on R&D, and that’s not very attractive for traditional investment. However, in terms of pure technology, our people only need a computer and time. From this point of view, being outside the main, crowded street helps them to focus on the serious work.
The gallery of images generated with Maxwell Render is very impressive. There are other rendering systems on the market but none with quite an impressive collection of beautiful pictures. Is it because of better algorithms or because of a better user interface that makes the render engine fully accessible to the users?
we decided to slowly cook a very powerful unbiased render without adding any artificial tricks
The key is the rendering algorithm and how all the pieces fit together. Throwing all the ingredients together in one big soup, like other rendering systems like to do, would not be enough. We decided, from the very beginning, to slowly cook a very powerful unbiased render without adding any artificial tricks that could reduce its correctness. The algorithm is able to track efficiently all the light paths, interact with the physical materials and combine them in the optical sensor. This whole process has been developed through the years by very rigorous people that would not restrict such scientific development in favor of a fast trick. The results are definitive, the quality of the render is amazing even for us still today. Keeping the maximum quality is our goal and we will keep on working on improvements without losing this vision.
In a market where companies are charging for every bit of software your company is giving away all the plug-ins included with Maxwell Render (plug-ins are used to connect Maxwell with several modeling systems such as Rhino 4.0, form-Z, 3ds Max, Maya, solidThinking, LightWave, Cinema 4D, etc.). How do you find this beneficial?
The marketing strategy that we developed at the beginning consisted of a free release of plug-ins, keeping a licensing scheme only for the rendering engine. This has been a good strategy keeping in mind that many people use different 3D platforms in their working pipeline, especially in the CAD sector where they use a CAD platform for designing and a 3D platform for rendering. A render that can be shared across platforms is beneficial in these areas and this remains one of the main strategies of Maxwell Render. Therefore we decided to let the users play with Maxwell Render in all the different ways (either connected to different 3D applications or as a standalone through Maxwell Studio).
What is the future of rendering? Will it ever become a fully interactive real-time technology?
people want to interact with a rendering system in a more straightforward human way.
As I said before, our main goal is to maintain quality leadership. Reaching a fully interactive real-time technology will happen sooner or later, but we will not take shortcuts here. Trying to reach real-time very soon is a mistake, in our opinion. It will happen when it happens. On the other hand there are features that are strongly demanded, and these are mostly related to the human interface. People want to interact with a rendering system in a more straightforward ‘human’ way. However, today it is still a place for experts. Providing ways to capture real existing materials and send them to the rendering system is still an unexplored area too. We are watching all these areas for current and future researching trends.
Are you planning to release more products to serve the community of digital artists and 3D producers?
Of course. The goal of Next Limit is to keep a constant innovation profile. We will continue to explore new ideas and algorithms in the simulation area for various fields and markets. Today we provide several physical simulation products for the film industry and other AEC sectors. These are only a subset of all the ideas that we are actively researching and that we will hopefully bring to light in a near future.
I would like to thank Victor Gonzalez for taking the time to speak with me today. If you have any questions for Victor or for Novedge, please leave a comment below and we will be glad to answer.