C4D – Testing Top Denoisers for Cinema 4D Renders

Can the built-in 3D denoisers in Redshift and Arnold beat out my favorite 2D denoisers when it comes to 3D animation? We test out Optix AI, Noice, Altus, Red Giant Denoiser III, and Neat Video.

Before we get started, I have to get one thing out of the way. This little experiment entirely ignores denoising as it relates to still images. This is a motion design site, right? No one can argue the usefulness of denoising still images, but the tall order here is cleaning up moving images.

Denoising images is nothing new, artists and filmmakers have been using plugins for After Effects, Nuke, and Fusion for years. But now that denoising is showing up in Cinema 4D with artificial intelligence behind it, maybe it’s time to take a closer look.

Denoisers being put to the test:

  • NVIDIA Optix AI
    • Free with Arnold
    • Free with Redshift
    • NVIDIA GPU Only
    • Requires no extra AOVs
    • Denoises in the IPR
  • SolidAngle Noice (Autodesk)
    • Free with Arnold (Built-in)
    • Very slow (9 hours for this render)
    • CPU Only
    • Requires specific AOVs
  • Innobright Altus
    • $149.90 annually for Redshift
    • AOV setups done automatically
    • Limited Controls
    • Dual pass looks better but takes longer
    • Denoises in the IPR
  • Red Giant Denoiser III
    • $199 for After Effects, Adobe CC
    • Quick to process
    • No OFX
  • Neat Video
    • $74.90 for After Effects, Premiere, Final Cut Pro
    • $99.90 for Avid
    • $249.90 for OFX (Nuke, Fusion, etc)
    • Relatively quick to process
    • Tons of control

Denoising grainy GI renders is a convenient way to push fewer samples into your scene and save time by denoising the images after the fact. There are a ton of players out there that are either built-in to 3D renderers, have standalone apps, or that you can access in your favorite compositing application.

The newer denoisers vary in technique from accessing unique AOVs that the renderer provides (Altus and Noice), using machine learning AI (Nvidia Optix), and the 2D denoisers use temporal and spatial magic to predict and remove noise in your footage.

Algorithms and machine learning all working to denoise that killer render your client is clamoring for. Mathematics YAY!

If you’ve seen any of my recent tutorials, you’ve probably guessed that my primary renderers are Arnold, Redshift, and Octane. At the time of writing this both Arnold and Redshift ship with two built-in denoising options and Octane has one on the way.

As a long time user of denoising plugins in After Effects and Fusion, I set out to see if any of these built-in denoisers could dethrone my go-to 2D denoisers. Would there be a new denoising champion in this battle royale?

Enough of this noise, let’s get to the results.


Denoising Arnold Renders

Up first, I’ll show the results of denoising Arnold renders. Here is a look at a RAW render without any denoisers applied.

Download Arnold Scene Files

Get the Arnold scene files by clicking on the button below.

GET ARNOLD SCENE FILES
 

Now let’s look at the Arnold denoiser results.


Nvidia Optix AI with Arnold:

Nvidia’s Optix AI denoiser is popping up everywhere lately. It seems like they are relatively good about providing access to renderers to their “Ultron-like” system. The problem is, most companies are using a version of Optix that was trained on iRay. I think we will see many renderers training the robots on their own style of grain and we’ll see better results soon.

For now though, Optix should be used strictly for stills. It has a difficult time with motion and often gets blotchy while the machine tries to predict what is noise and what is texture.


Autodesk Noice with Arnold:

Noice certainly has the best name of all these denoisers, so hat’s off Autodesk! Noice is one of those denoisers that require specific AOVs to function and it also needs to be run after your render has completed using a command line function or through the Denoising GUI in C4DtoA. So you won’t see just how far you can push it until you’ve fed it your EXR sequence.

It’s also EXTREMELY slow. This 300fm 1024×1024 sequence took 9 hours to compute in Noice. It also soaked up 99% of my CPU resources turning my machine into simmering brick of uselessness for an entire day. Not noice. However, the results were very noice (ok last one).

It did a great job recognizing texture detail while eliminating GI noise. However, it did struggle with glossy refraction noise where the AOVs could not help.


Red Giant Denoiser III (After Effects) with Arnold:

What I love about Red Giant Denoiser III is its simplicity. Very few knobs to twist and reasonably good results on a wide variety of footage.

Red Giant’s Denoiser III performed well with the Arnold footage cleaning up a majority of the noise with no sweat. I did notice it struggled a bit in the shadows and that seemed to be a recurring issue.


Neat Video Denoiser with Arnold:

Don’t be fooled by the website, this plugin is pretty much magic. I love how the fact you can use it in both AE and as an OFX plugin in Nuke or Fusion.

In this test, Neat Video did a fantastic job smoothing out the noise while maintaining texture detail.

Overall, Neat Video outperformed the competition and remains my go-to denoiser.


Arnold Denoiser Ranking:
  1. Neat Video
  2. Red Giant Denoiser III
  3. Noice
  4. NVIDIA Optix

Denoising Redshift Renders

Before using a denoiser, here is a RAW render straight out of Redshift.

Download Redshift Scene Files

Get the Redshift scene files by clicking on the button below.

GET REDSHIFT SCENE FILES
 

Now let’s dive into the Redshift denoising results.


Nvidia Optix Denoiser with Redshift:

It’s not easy to get a grainy/noisy render in Redshift, so that was a challenge unto itself. You can quite effortlessly get clean results with this renderer, but hey, we had to give the denoisers something to work with.

Optix in Redshift is pretty much the same Optix as everywhere else. Trained on iRay renders in a secret lab and pushed out into the world. Great for stills, not so much for animation. Splotchy, unpredictable results and still quite noisy. Not great.


Altus Denoiser with Redshift:

So Altus has a standalone app that I’m sure has more bells and whistles to get more control, but for this test, I used the current Redshift version which has fewer controls than the stand alone but enough to work with. This denoiser also has the option of using “dual pass” which is sort of like doing twice the samples (according to the folks at Redshift).

I was assured that the single pass would be sufficient, but the dual pass would most likely produce better results. I tried both and saw little difference in my test, so I opted for the faster single pass method.

Given that Altus uses Redshift AOVs to hone its results I expected similar results as Autodesk’s Noice. Boy, I was wrong. Not sure what was happening with Altus, but nearly all of the detail in the statue’s shoulder and leg were completely obliterated.

It did a slightly better job at removing noise than Optix, but it’s inability to hang on to subtle texture detail makes this one a definite pass for me.


Red Giant Denoiser III with Redshift:

I’d say that Red Giant Denoiser performed slightly better in this test than during the Arnold run. I think this might be because the Redshift version of this scene ended up being marginally brighter and it’s the shadows that Denoiser III struggled with in previous tests.

Here Red Giant Denoiser III did well in both denoising and texture preservation. Nicely done Red Giant!


Neat Video Denoiser with Redshift:

Neat Video once again clobbered the built-in denoisers by effortlessly eliminating all the noise AND holding onto all the subtle texture details. All without AI, AOV’s, or CPU burning render times, and Neat Video is much cheaper than Red Giant Denoiser.

That’s another win for Neat Video.


Redshift Denoiser Ranking:
  1. Neat Video
  2. Red Giant Denoiser III
  3. NVIDIA Optix
  4. Altus

Summary:

I think it’s safe to say that the built-in denoisers, in spite of their robotic intelligence and use of AOVs, are no match for the tried and true 2D denoisers.

Optix AI has the most ground to make up here followed by Altus. I think Noice has potential if they can speed it up, and perhaps get it working in the IPR. Until then, I’ll stick with rendering out my undersampled GI and letting Neat Video repeatedly save the day.

Thanks to Pixel Plow‘s render farm for helping us get these results! Stay tuned for a follow-up with the Octane denoiser upon its release.



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