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Gelato 2.1 Review: A Flavor for Everyone

Taylor Jessen chats with Bill Plympton about the making of and theatrical release of his genre-busting 1950s throwback feature, Hair High.

Gelato is back with version 2.1 and many new features and improvements have been introduced. All images courtesy of NVIDIA.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any better, NVIDIA's Gelato is back, with version 2.1 introducing many new features and improvements. The Amaretto plug-in for 3ds Max now supports version 9, and the Sorbetto relighting engine is also now supported in Max. On the Maya side of things, NVIDIA has added support for version 8.5, more Maya shading nodes and Joe Alter's Shave and a Haircut plug-in. In addition to new features, many improvements have been made under the hood. Raytracing speeds have been increased up to 30%. Stereo rendering has also been sped up and new off-axis and parallel projection modes have been added. In my own testing, rendering did indeed seem peppier, with an obvious decrease in thumb twiddles per frame. The 64-bit version of Gelato also boasts exclusive improvements such as dynamic shadow updates and interactive depth of field and stereo effects for cameras. Currently, Gelato is only available in a 64-bit version for Linux, with a Windows version on the way. This kind of Gelato comes in two flavors: Free and Pro. To find out what features are included in both, read on!

Free is Fine

The free version of Gelato goes a long way in satisfying most of your rendering cravings. "I think Gelato's fantastic, really unbelievable that it's free -- the Shave integration couldn't be much simpler to use once you have everything in the right place," says Joe Alter, creator of Shave.

Shave and a Haircut under Gelato.

In addition to Shave and a Haircut support, the free version includes ambient occlusion, sub-surface scattering and unlimited output resolutions. While free versions of most renderers are neutered at 512 x 384 maximum resolutions, you can use Gelato to render any size image you want.

The Pros of Pro

With everything that's included in the free version of Gelato, you may be wondering what's missing. Many of the differences between Free and Pro can be seen in scalability and workflow. Only the Pro version supports multi-threading, network parallel rendering and DSO shadeops. Linux (and soon Windows) 64-bit OS support is exclusive to Pro, as is the Sorbetto relighting engine. Other Gelato Pro exclusives include stereo rendering, access to new features through the Beta program and world-class technical support. When contacting NVIDIA for Gelato support, I actually received assistance from Larry Gritz, author of Blue Moon Rendering Tools and Entropy, the predecessor of Gelato.

Ambient occlusion with Gelato (left). Sorbetto makes Gelato Pro appealing (right). Sorbetto credit: Timothy Heath, NVIDIA.

Buy One, Get One Free

With each new version, Gelato continues to grow and evolve as a renderer. Version 2.1 introduces increased Maya shader support and unprecedented access to many of Gelato's features for free. Of course support for NVIDIA's GeForce and Quadro cards doesn't hurt either.

Whether you're a one-man shop, a sprawling studio or somewhere in between, Gelato 2.1 Free has something to offer everyone. As I mentioned, network rendering requires the Pro version of Gelato, and if your studio already has a render farm, you may as well put it to good use. Throw in Sorbetto, 64-bit OS support and technical support that's second to none and Gelato Pro is extremely appealing at $1,500 per license. If you've got a recent version of Maya or 3ds Max, why not head over to NVIDIA's website and check it out for free?

Bryan Hoff is a multifaceted artist and writer. A web designer, digital artist and animator, his credits include television effects, 3D corporate animation, Flash and traditional web site design. His writing credits include articles for LinuxWorld, Element K Journals and InformIT, covering topics like Photoshop effects, Linux 3D graphics applications, Web and HTML design, RSS feeds and painting with a graphics tablet. He's co-author of the book Moving from Windows to Linux.