I took the time to read about the new render engine that is now available with Blender, called Cycles, and I spent a lot of time over the last couple of days working on it, and I think I got it figured out. I am impressed with this rendering engine as it makes the scene by far more life like than the regular blender render engine in terms of light and material texturing. I have only started seriously playing with it today, but the eye candy I can create so far is stunning. A great long weekend project.
One hitch with the Cycles Render is that is requires a lot of CPU, or better yet, GPU power. On my machine using the GPU does speed up my rendering by about half the time as compared to leaving it set using just my CPU. Eventually the image does get rendered, and I could not find any difference with either processes in the final rendering.
Managing the light sources is the main difference that I found so far besides the material interface and settings panel. You do not get a lamp like you do in the regular Blender Rendering process, but instead you have to create objects, and then add a “emit” material to them so that they cast the light that you need. In these scenes I used three planes as light sources.
It did not take long to find the limits to what I can do with light source values and getting noise in the final render. This is another lesson that I will have to chip at over the next while before I am ready to do some large scene creations with. This is great stuff for those rainy days!
I am currently using Blender 2.65a, on Ubuntu 12.04, with a AMD Radeon HD 6700 Series graphics card.