Hi all 🙂
In order that viewers do not get lost, and following Dennis’ advices (thank for the idea! 🙂 ), qualitative progress bars have been added. Aside from a lack of documentation, the volumetric renderer seems to be mature enough for an inclusion in an official blender release (stability, rational UI, flexibility..caution: these are not Ton’s words, only strong assumptions based on objective facts!). Please notice that these bars only deal with blender, so even if there’s already a Navier-Stokes simulator for realistic Smoke/fire, it’s nonetheless in the TODO state (Daniel?) because it’s not integrated inside blender. For volumetric optimizations, adaptative step size still has to be implemented (in progress because first builds had this feature so the code is available, but the new, more robust renderer is implemented in a way which causes its addition less straightforward) . For external shadows, the proposal has been postponed in order to design (= in agreement with Broken/Ton) a more general system, which can deal with buffered shadows instead of raytraced ones only. Photon Mapping is a joint project with Matt Ebb, so work will be resumed as soon as he will have a stable core to share with, avoiding thus rewrites. In the meantime, writing an unbiased renderer allows better understanding of the fundamental algorithms (see last posts for more reasons) and also will allow to have a tool for calibration inside blender.
As previously said, do not fear dilution of the work because we have to wait for the volumetric inclusion in a next blender version before doing more radical changes caused by optimization/better integrations. (see last posts). In the mean time, keep learning the existing features (cf. download the manual) whose interface won’t change for an official release and do VFX experiments by using the particle system.
p.s: remember, volumetrics uses the raytracer which is cpu-intensive, so if you use it in a scene, DO use layer rendering: render only the smoke/clouds with ray activated, then the rest of the scene without it, then composite all the layers through blender powerful nodal system. For shadows from the volumetrics, you can fake it through dummy objects whose shape/alpha cast shadows similar to the volumetrics ones…
Hope this will help and have fun! 🙂