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Rendering. This word can conjure up many different kinds of emotions for any professional working with computers. Whether you’re an animator, film editor, audio technician or something in between; you will inevitably have to deal with rendering.

For the uninitiated, rendering refers to the process of generating the final product of whatever it is you are working on I.E animation, music, or film. I will be referring mainly to animation in this article.

Depending on the scale and scope of your project; the process can be long, slow and to put it bluntly, boring. The computer has to compile all the information given to it and create the polished piece of art that you have been laboring over.

The time to which the computer takes to present the final version of a single shot depends on many factors. Such as the actual hardware you are using, the complexity of the work, and the length of the shot. But there are steps you can take to optimize the process and reduce the time that it takes to accomplish this.

Depending on the complexity of the shot it is almost always worthwhile to separate it into multiple render passes. Think of them like Photoshop layers. They allow the machine to process each pass more quickly and efficiently then it would if it were to try to manage the shot as a whole. Generally I like to look at my scene in terms of foreground, mid-ground, and background; and separate each into their own pass accordingly. You can further break them down as required. Particle effects are resource intensive so it would be wise to move them to their own pass. Characters might want to be on their own pass as well as their own effects. A big budget Hollywood CG film might have hundreds of individual render passes in a single shot simply because there is so much happening that no single machine on Earth could feasibly render it in a reasonable amount of time, sans Watson.

For example it took on average 11.5 hours to render a single frame in Cars 2.  To put it into perspective Cars 2 was 106 minutes long. That’s a total of 6360 seconds, at 24 frames per second that’s 152640 individual frames and 1,755,360 hours to render it all. Not considering that some of those shots took upwards to 80 hours to render.

The computer processes the shot frame by frame; in the end you will have a folder with a collection of images. Or likely multiple folders, one for each of your render passes.  It’s then easy to compile these afterwards and create the final beautiful image.

If you are lucky you will have access to multiple computers to which you can use to process your film, a render farm. When you start managing multiple machines, each processing their own shots/passes/scenes, organization becomes extremely important. Continuity should be at the forefront of your mind at this point. Each shot has to match; nothing can be forgotten or left out. It is extremely upsetting to wait ten hours for a couple of shots to render only to find out you missed one check-box and now you have to go through the process all over again.

There are pieces of soft-ware out there designed especially for this, which can automate this process and make your life a hell of a lot easier. Or if you don’t have access to your own horde of computers then there are companies out there that can help you with this as well.

Most of this only really becomes an intense issue when working on a giant feature length project. In which case there is still so much more that have to be considered to have a truly efficient rendering process. Such as optimizing your computer hardware, file types, rendering soft-ware and so on.

This is only the tip of the ice berg.


Zachary Green

Zachary Green is an award winning 3D artist currently working in Simulation Design and Development for the Oil and Gas Industry.

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1 Comment

  1. Geek Brain July 3, 2014 at 7:42 am

    Darn… I complain about 4 hour encode times for 2 hour videos…

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