Stories from the Farm Ep. 2: Getting my shi(f)t done

Farming is serious business, but even with all the focus and alertness the job demands, there are the occasional light-hearted conversations that farmers and customers share together, that make it fun and entertaining.

This next yarn comes from our very own Piotr:
“Once, when I was turning the shift over to another farmer, I was ending a conversation with a customer. When I finished briefing the other farmer, I wrote to the customer to say I was going to end my shift, but I accidentally wrote “”My colleague will continue work with you as I’m going to finish my shit.”” Luckily, the customer had a sense of humor, so he corrected me, I apologized, and we laughed it off.”

Our team of dedicated and hardworking farmers works 6-8 hours a day all week, and after a long day of farming, a laugh does a lot to let out some steam, especially if it’s shared with a good-humored customer. It doesn’t mean that just because the work gets tough, a farmer can’t afford to shoot the shift.

Wait

June Software Updates

Hey there!

Our developers here at GarageFarm.NET work tirelessly to make our plugins address any possible need you might have for uploading your project to our render farm. We thought it would be nice to share with you the latest developments that have been accomplished in the month of June.


Maya

  • added support for multiple assets with the same filename but different path
  • added renderSetup and upAxisDirection checking
  • Yeti cache output path will be cleared if no cache was used
  • fixed colorSpace texture bug
  • fixed the issue with coping .tx files
  • disabled the Arnold option for ‘Skip license check’
  • enabled the Arnold option for ‘Auto-detect threads’
  • set “verbosity level” in Arnold to ‘Errors’
  • added Arnold prompt about the ‘Feature overrides’
  • added support for assets files in .ass, .ass.gz (Arnold stand-is ) and .mi, mi.gz (Mental Proxy)
  • YETI PRE/POST MEL Vray scripts are now removed in Arnold and Arnold scripts removed in Vray
  • handled invalid output image prefix in VRay
  • fixed the issue with copying xGen abc
  • disabled the optimizer prompt
  • other minor fixes and improvements
  • added an option for vrscene export


3ds Max

  • Anima full support
  • changed the prompt text for Corona GI
  • added support for Corona LUT files (ext .cube)
  • fixed disappearing Max Listener
  • set bucket size 16×16 for strips by default
  • added vrscene export option
  • fixed settings for store direct light

Lightwave

  • Extended support for special assets in sub-folders (like mdd caches/abc files/GI maps)
  • Improvements in plugin stability & speed
  • Fixes for IES assets links

There you have it! Stay tuned for even more updates, and feel free to test the mettle of our plugins with your scenes! New registrees get $25 dollars worth of bonus starting credit, which is more than enough to render out a short sequence or a series of stills. Happy rendering from the guys and gals at GarageFarm.NET!

Paperbone creates CG palaces and VFX for TV series


SOFTWARE 3ds Max | Maya | V-ray
SPECIALTY Film Production | TV Series | Animation | VFX
COUNTRY Poland | Egypt


Using GarageFarm.NET is advantageous in a way that it has a team of people on support 24/7 and it’s possible to have free plugins installed in a matter of hours. We also find GarageFarm’s low priority much cheaper than Rebus’s.
PAPERBONE

In this case study we sit down with VFX and film production studio, Paperbone. We were captivated by the amazing renders they did with us and absolutely had to know more about them. Their work consists mostly of massive scenes, set extensions and comps both on and off set, and showcases their ability to handle visually complex pieces with professionalism and style. Read on, and see what we’ve learned about these talented individuals, from the scope and nature of their work, to how we were able to play a part in one of their huge projects.

Can you tell us a little about Paperbone, the team, and its location?

Our studio, Paperbone, is located in Lodz, central Poland, in the city where film has a long history. We specialize in on-set supervision and creating VFX. The size of our team is quite flexible and often changes as we mainly hire freelancers from around the world on the project by project basis. Depending on the project complexity the team could be anything between 5 and 20 people. The Lodz based team is responsible for quality control, finishing shots, and compositing. When we work on larger productions, we fly to Cairo, Egypt, where we also have a studio. Since its beginnings, the core team of Paperbone has been composed of Tomek Rozycki and Adam Rybarski who are the founders.

What’s the most challenging project your team has worked on?

Definitely the hardest was a TV series Arabian Nights. We had to composite 2400 shots with greenscreen, mostly with shallow DOF and motion blur. We managed to get the job done in only 9 months and most of it was possible thanks to developing proprietary scripts which were used by 3 teams (each composed of 1 compositor and 1 rotoscoper).
It was an astronomical amount of work. You can check out some of the shots from this TV series in our most recent showreel. You can also check out our earlier work.

Paperbone Showreel 2016

What would you like to achieve moving forward?

We will continue doing VFX work. Also, we’re trying to develop new technology as well as better hardware and software solutions to enhance the quality and speed of work as this industry is very demanding.

Why did you decide to use a render farm to render your projects?

Definitely tight schedules and enormous scenes, some of which were 1000 frames with complex shaders and geometry. We would be fighting for long months if it weren’t for GarageFarm.NET.

Paperbones

How did you find GarageFarm.NET and what made you choose use among other render farms?

We’ve found GarageFarm.NET on Google 😉 about 7 years ago, in 2010, while we were working on a project with a large number of Napoleon ships. Using new software we could barely optimize the scene. Fortunately, it turned out that the guy on the other side of Skype chat was not Korean but Polish (the farm was located in Korea at the time). Tom, the founder, and CEO, helped us a lot with his expertise and optimism. Thanks to him and his support we rendered the scene before the deadline and spent (although a small fortune) 1/3 of the money other render farms asked for. Also, the farm had 64 GB render nodes 🙂


GarageFarm.NET helped us a lot with their expertise and optimism. Thanks to their support we rendered the scene before the deadline and spent (although a small fortune) 1/3 of the money other render farms asked for.

What was the recent project you rendered with us?

This time around it was a 300 frames long set extension of Turkish Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. Besides, that majority of the 3D work in our showreels was rendered at GarageFarm.NET.

Paperbones CG Palace

Any challenging aspects in this particular project?

Well, maybe it wasn’t a big challenge but we had to show the palace as it might have looked like in the XVI century. That means much fewer buildings and A LOT of trees. That was a killer for our in-house render farm. We managed to close the shot in just a few days thanks to using your render farm.

Can you tell us the tech specs and the typically used tools by you guys?

What we normally do is we choose software right for the given project. Because we work with numerous freelancers and different studios, we try to adapt to their software environment. Most often we use 3ds Max, Maya, and V-Ray. The Topkapi project was composed of 3 shots each 350 frames long and on average rendered 4h per frame.

Do you have your own in-house render farm and have you ever worked with other farms?

We have used Rebus a lot, which (although quite expensive) is fully automated and quite reliable. As for in-house rendering, it’s, of course, more convenient when adding additional plugins. We mostly use our computing power on small, fast renders and compositing jobs, though.
 Using GarageFarm.NET is advantageous in a way that it has a team of people on support 24/7 and it’s possible to have free plugins installed in a matter of hours. We also find GarageFarm.NET’s low priority much cheaper than Rebus’s.

What were your impressions when started working with us and has anything changed since?

As we wrote earlier – the support was great! What changed? Actually, support is still very helpful but not comparable to the help we received from Tom back in the day, which is obviously understandable. When using a new software coupled with tight deadlines and the use of an external render farm, certain software and hardware compatibility issues may arise – this is when human support is essential.

Do you have any stories over the years that are worth sharing with us?

Our calendar is synchronized with the Muslim holiday of Ramadan – and it’s not a joke! Mostly we work with clients from the Middle East and thus have to finish projects before the month of fasting. We do try to do most of the tasks in Poland, but it often happens that a small team has to fly out to Egypt or Lebanon to ad hoc close shots together with the director and DOP at the location. These trips can become quite dangerous at times so they’re absolutely voluntary. In Syria, for instance, we worked a few kilometers away from the battle zone. While in Cairo we were shooting scenes in the middle of the revolution. In Beirut, on the second day, we were greeted by a huge explosion few dozen meters away from our hotel: the car with a suicide bomber took lives of a dozen people who were watching the FIFA game at the cafe. We also worked in locations that have witnessed recent wars or, even worse, are close to active minefields.

Where can people find you online?

We use Vimeo to share and showcase our work so you check out our channel at https://vimeo.com/paperbone. This is also how we often stumble upon new people to work with.

What are you working on currently and what’s coming next for you guys?

Currently we’re working on shots for 3 productions:

  • Feature film about a group of young friends who go on a trip to hike the Mountains of Jordan to only find themselves traveled back in time to the 1st century AD when the historical city of Petra was full of life.
  • TV series called SUNset Oasis – we’re creating a sequence where Britain bombarded Alexandria in 1882.
  • Feature film about a bus driver where the vehicle will be shot in the studio in the green box and consequently all scenes will be shot on the green screen.

Film and TV Production Designer – Phil Shearer

SOFTWARE LightWave
PROJECTS Crayon Design Studio
SPECIALTY Design | Architecture | Concept Design | Film
COUNTRY Australia


I love the personal nature of GarageFarm.NET. I consider the GarageFarm.NET team an integral – if not vital – component of my work pipeline and couldn’t work without them. With the new Lightwave plugins the process has become a totally excellent experience – no bull.
PHIL SHEARER

Having conceptualized various designs for productions like The Matrix, Star Wars and Pitch Black, it’s safe to say that Phil Shearer has made a significant mark in the industry. His work consists of hand drawn sketches, physical models and of course, 3d renders. His experience and well rounded skill set put him at a calibre difficult to reach, and be it a drawing, scaled model or CG, his outputs are consistently remarkable. In this case study, we’ll learn about Phil’s background, his thoughts on the nature of concept design for films, and how CG plays a role in his process. Also, we talk about the importance of having a reliable render farm service and an approachable team behind it, and, last but not least, the less apparent benefits of GarageFarm.NET’s staff personal tastes in underwear.

What’s your name and where do you live?

Phil Shearer, Sydney Australia.

What do you do professionally and where do you work?

I am a Film and TV Production Designer and as an additional outlet, Architectural Concept Designer. I physically work in Sydney and Los Angeles but am contracted from all over the world.

What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?

Ha ha ha! Free time?! What’s that? One of my main hobbies is studying technical manuals and construction drawings (yawn!). I find this relaxing – weird but true. I also like restoring old things. Mechanisms are my favourite. I recently bought two 3D printers to make physical copies of some of the more interesting things I have designed. I’m currently printing my Lightsabers, Droids and from the films I have worked-on – and a 6.5 foot long model of a UBoat….. (oh, and there’s that 20” model of TIE Fighter)

The Cypher’s Big Gun was a design created for the first (and only) Matrix. It was built as a working prop and numerous soft copies, but I didn’t get an example so I’m building one.

Phil Shearer
Phil Shearer

The next image shows that pesky TIE Fighter. It’s a mess as I coated it in the wrong Epoxy but it’s BIG! And that’s fun. It will be finished by the time you get this.

Phil Shearer

I recently rebuilt the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the exhibition space it will be displayed-in. I love this kind of detail modeling.

Phil Shearer

I’m also building a rivet-detail (meaning small) aircraft for a film spot. This is a challenge as I will never finish it as I want.

Phil Shearer

I have a library of books about aircraft (mostly pre 1950), Industrial machinery and entertainment equipment, like Automatons and barrel organs. Geeky I know but any hand-built machine is cool.

How did you get involved in CG and when was it?

I got into the 3D world at the very beginning. I think Autocad was in release 1.2 or something – 28 years ago. My first real 3D work was building set designs and architectural models for illustrating over. This was in the glory days when everything was new and amazing.


My start in CG was based on necessity as many of the architectural models were simply too difficult to sketch from scratch. I applied 3D CAD to my set design process to enable the Directors the freedom to make their changes prior to illustration.

I first used Lightwave when I was designing sets and Props on Matrix (the first one and the most understandable). It was mainly used for visualising interiors and even then I was using only a fraction of its features. Most of the work was done in FormZ.

Why did you choose to work in CG?

Speed. Easier than sketching a hundred times. Not as satisfying however. A hand-drawn image still kills all CAD imagery (yeah, yeah, yeah. I know they look better – but try hanging a painting next to a CAD image and make a judgement between them). The simple reality is the virtual world helps sell ideas that other forms of imagery simply can’t approach.

Phil Shearer

This image was created for a project that didn’t quite develop. The reality was that the time-frame only allowed for a few hand-drawn images to be done but I could create several dozen CG-based sketches which were a hybrid of Cg and sketching. In the end the ability to shoot numerous views was a saviour – well for me anyway.

Phil Shearer

The hand sketch shown above is from Pitch Black. I created this in a day which would have been difficult to achieve in CG but the fact I could have used it for setting the dozen shots and the VFX department could have used the model would have been worth the extra time. Its one of my favourite drawings.

What was the most challenging or fun project you ever worked on?

There are two categories here: FUN and CHALLENGING. I always like designing vehicles and weaponry. These are fun. Challenging are those big architectural exteriors. Any person with a decent collection of “stuff” can render an interior these days, but a truly great realistic exterior…. These are a serious challenge.

Phil Shearer

FUN and CHALLENGE

This image was rendered as a set for James Cameron and his Challenger Deep project. This was a challenge (1) for the speed needed to create a set (this image was less than a day) (2) the extreme detail of the supplied CAD files (2.5 Gig for the submersible) and (3) working with the truly amazing James Cameron. I don’t say this about his history of achievement (amazing) but his ability to understand vast quantities of knowledge. He really does know everything, and the number of errors and omissions he noted in this image would stagger you…

Phil Shearer
Phil Shearer

REALLY GOOD FUN:

This Cathedral was modelled for I,Frankenstein (2014) and was planned to be a scale guide for the VFX Department. The whole scene was modelled in Lightwave using instancing (some additional comping work done for display). It was a huge and infinitely detailed full-scale model designed to be easily modified. It was used in the film as a basis for the shooting model. I am not a VFX designer but get used a lot to help steer the VFX design before the Art Departments are established. By then the VFX Departments have pretty-much done everything interesting.

Phil Shearer

CHALLENGING:

This was really difficult. Not for the finished product so much but for the size. This was used on an interactive display which used extreme zooming so the viewer could look at individual cars, people, buildings and the like. At 40,000 pixels wide it was the biggest physical render I have done. Some facts: 225,000 trees, 5,000+ high res vehicles, hundreds of high res buildings. Everything is 3D. Now the surprise: it took 6 hours on my Macbook Pro and a LOT less on GarageFarm.NET. It was going to be animated but the client balked at the price…

Phil Shearer

REALLY CHALLENGING:

Okay, so I never said I was a particularly good Architectural Illustrator. I had only been using Lightwave as a stand-alone renderer for about a year or two at this stage. Anyway, this is chosen as the Challenging artwork because it was the first set of images that I could actually use Global Illumination in Lightwave. It took many, many hours to render them and the results aren’t great – but! They worked. This image was created many years ago when Lightwave has not really a GI renderer. Now the nasty bit: the client decided on animating the whole site (aargh!). I could only do this with the help of a fledgeling renderfarm called GarageFarm.NET. I had to render the GI passes at one:eighth (⅛) resolution and composite the light areas into the HD resolution ambient lit renders (remember those spinning light rigs?). Excuse the bad comping.

I have not rendered a photo-real archvis image for a year now. The whole Archvis thing became too frustrating as the file requirements increased – and kept increasing – until my asset libraries were redundant, as were all my previous skills. The newer illustrators are doing a great job and generally for a fraction of what it costs to do the images in-house. Lightwave suffers from a crap online model presence (I’ll wait for the rebuke). I use 3D Studio Max and Maya modellers and renderers who can do the job far faster now as the amount of assets you can buy are huge, and very high quality.

The KRay guys are still a pinnacle of excellence and their work is always an inspiration to get back to archivis, if only to create a series of truly amazing images.

These are examples of my last set of Archivis images. I was struggling at this time to get a really captivating image. I was still trying to “illustrate” to help soften the CG look of the imagery but this ended-up being more of a trouble.

Phil Shearer
Phil Shearer
Phil Shearer
Phil Shearer

I would do things differently if I were to go back to Archivis. Primarily, I would focus on doing amazing work at higher prices than as much work as possible at lower prices. It’s not worth the stress. Archivis can be very fulfilling if you take your time to develop your own style.

What has been particularly challenging in getting to where you are now?

The film industry is a seriously fun but difficult industry. It’s also changing from requiring a true film design skill to the ability to produce pretty pictures. The design process is changing but still a viable source of income. For some reason I have found it extremely difficult to get work in the game-world. They are the same but soooooo different. I have no idea why. In Concept Design, it’s easy to get categorised. This can be good but it can also kill your career.

What would you say has changed the most since you began 28 years ago?

One of the truly frightening changes is the skill-level of the illustrators who are now working in the film world. I say frightening because the actual level of technical design has contracted whereas the technical ability to produce amazing imagery has gone crazy. This has seen a vast amount of copy-cat design. You only need to look at the recent blockbusters to see how the visualisation artists are sourcing their reference from each other… This is a bad development.


The actual level of technical design has contracted whereas the technical ability to produce amazing imagery has gone crazy

There are very few film designers who can draw with a pencil. This is still the biggest game-changer in the area of design and visualisation I work.

Which aspect of CG do you enjoy doing the most at the moment?

At the moment it’s the CAD modeling. I love building the concept into something tangible. I’m not a great modeller and I am spending more time learning how to use FormZ to its best abilities. The rendering is now second to this. I simply don’t have the time to do amazing renders anymore.

What’s ahead for you?

I will still be designing. I have no interest in doing anything else because I love my work. I would like to expand my business further and open opportunities to employees. Actually, I want to stay in the design field but manage more. A “Business” is different to a “Job” which is what most 3Ders have. My business would have a team of people developing a product as a supply-on-demand model…

What’s the reason behind using a render farm for your projects?

Easy. I need large renders done quickly, simply and with support.

How did it start for you with GarageFarm.NET?


The Newtek forums were raving about GarageFarm.NET when it started as you could (and still can) talk to someone who can offer excellent advice and help. It’s a very personal service.

Jeez. I have no idea how long it’s been. 12-15 years? I really can’t say but I do know you were there when I needed the help (refer to the job notes above). Regarding my development in this business, GarageFarm.NET has been there from the point I recognised I needed outside help. That’s a long partnership.

What’s the project you recently rendered on our farm?

This is a typical tale of last-minute-changes – we all know this one. So, I work with an excellent company out of Los Angeles providing Set Design for TV. We were given an excellent opportunity to pitch for the new Premiere League Studios in London, which we did and were successful at gaining of two last positions for consideration. Nice. However, just as my contact in Los Angeles was at the airport to travel to London to present we had a change of heart and decided a change was in order. It was VERY left-of-field and required a complete rebuild and a new set of HD animations completed in 8 hours. It took me six hours to rebuild, one hour to reset the scenes and 1 hour for GarageFarm.NET to deliver the 10 minutes of animation.

Phil Shearer

We got the job. How much better can it be?

What gave you the hardest time in this project?

The technical issues with keeping the Lightwave scene from “falling apart”. This happens on occasion when my discipline is lacking and the image files and models are all-over-the-place. (Talk about “No Spaces in the file names, Phil!”)

The job itself was fairly straight-forward. Only 6 final scenes at 2k resolution. It was my desire to put as many final “shop build” 3D items into the scene as possible to allow for easy changes that causes the most issues. With a very short time-frame and limited budget the results will normally be compromised, but the final results were great and did exactly what the client required.

Phil about his own render farm and using GarageFarm.NET:

I had a smaller farm of four fully-tricked out 8 core MacPro towers. They cost a fortune to keep working 24 hours a day and required a lot of time to ensure they were constantly busy. The asset investment was very high for their output so I retired them all – one by one. I now use a Macbook Pro. I also made a real attempt to use a competitor (Rebus) but found their interaction system to be so frustrating it caused me to break things…

I loved the personal nature of GarageFarm.NET. I really enjoyed discussing the day-to-day running and how the technology was developing with actual humans. I consider the GarageFarm.NET team an integral -if not vital- component of my work pipeline and couldn’t work without them. ith the new Lightwave plugins the process has become a totally excellent experience – no bull.

Do you have any stories that you remember from all those years working with us?

Er, How about the one time I was in a real bind with a render not working and Tomek (The Bossman) called me (yes me!) in his underpants, in the middle of his night to help solve the issue? Things have moved-on a bit when you have a choice of GarageFarm.NET staff and their personal tastes in underwear…

Where can people find you on social media?

I generally steer clear of social media (never done a single cent’s work for me), but am always on Skype: FILMDESIGNER and Instagram: CRAYON_STUDIOS. I am happy to take emails from people if they ask you nicely for my address.

www.crayon.net.au

Anything else you would like to add?

Please don’t get so popular you forget who we are! You guys are great.

Stories from the Farm Ep.1: Michael “Quick ‘n Dirty” Konopski

Render farming is hard work. It requires, patience, determination, and a willingness to roll up your sleeves and get down and dirty with technical issues and difficult customer relations scenarios that happen simultaneously, and to do it smiling. Every once in a while, though, a situation arises that takes a render-wrangling badass to put his aviators on, throw diligence to the wind and attack the issue with snake-like cunning.

Enter: Michael Konopski.

A customer sent a scene for a certain widely used 3d application that had a file structure that was not what the program was used to. Normally, our customers make use of our software specific plugins to upload scenes. These plugins automatically relink all paths to textures and caches, however as some programs rely on specific arrangements for a project’s various assets, we design our plugins to adhere to those arrangements. The usual workaround would have had Michael open the scene, check for broken links and reassign them, which would have taken an hour above the time it would take to run a test and make sure everything was working.

Michael had another plan. He checked the file folder, confirmed that the project was laid out as it was, and set the farm’s disk to mimic the client’s, and in less than half of the time, the tests were run and the go signal to render was given. Deadlines were met, and the customer walked off happily into the sunset with his renders, all thanks to Michael’s quick and unconventional thinking.

Resources worth checking out


Artist Spotlight: 3D Generalist and Concept Artist David Aguero


SOFTWARE LightWave
PORTFOLIO ArtStation – David Aguero
SPECIALTY 3D Generalist & Concept Artist
COUNTRY Argentina


I recommend GarageFarm.NET to all CG artist, freelancers, and studios. There is a great team of real humans behind it who are very supportive even with very unusual technical problems. Thanks and happy rendering!
DAVID AGUERO

David is a CG Generalist and concept designer from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Most of his works are rooted in Sci-Fi and Fantasy, and present imagined worlds with a believability that engages and awes. David has been into art since a very young age and spent many years mastering his craft. Having a traditional art background has helped him with creating realistic yet artistically stunning imagery. We are fortunate to have had a moment with him to talk about his beginnings and life as an artist.

What’s your name and where do you live?

My name is David Aguero and I live in Argentina, Buenos Aires

What do you do professionally and where do you work currently? Can you tell us a few words about your career experience so far?

I’m a 3d generalist and concept designer, doing (mostly) freelance job, and occasionally working on projects for publicity studios from Argentina. I’ve been working in CG for 12 years.

Besides work, what do you do in your free time?

I make sci-fi and fantasy CG art, I’m also a musician, I do traditional 2d drawing.

Here’s an oldie made with a Bic Biro pen:

David Aguero drawing using Bic Biro Pen

How did you get involved in CG initially and when was it?

I always was into art from very young age, I admire people like Ray Harryhausen and Phil Tippett, I wanted to do that, but very soon I saw Jurassic Park and was blown away. I tried to learn how it was made (I was 11 then, now 34 years old) it was very hard, no internet, no CG school. It took me some years till I got some info, first soft I tried was 3d studio r3 for D.O.S. that came in a tutorial magazine.

What was the most rewarding project you ever worked on? Tell us about it.

First direct client freelance job I made, pure sci fi, complete creative control, it was a blast. I did everything – 3d modelling, textures, light and shaders, animation, post, sound FX and music, 2 month work. All made in Lightwave 3d 11.6.3, textures made in Substance Painter. The client and I were both very happy. This is the video:

How did you get involved in CG initially and when was it?

I always was into art from very young age, I admire people like Ray Harryhausen and Phil Tippett, I wanted to do that, but very soon I saw Jurassic Park and was blown away. I tried to learn how it was made (I was 11 then, now 34 years old) it was very hard, no internet, no CG school. It took me some years till I got some info, first soft I tried was 3d studio r3 for D.O.S. that came in a tutorial magazine.

What was the most rewarding project you ever worked on? Tell us about it.

First direct client freelance job I made, pure sci fi, complete creative control, it was a blast. I did everything – 3d modelling, textures, light and shaders, animation, post, sound FX and music, 2 month work. All made in Lightwave 3d 11.6.3, textures made in Substance Painter. The client and I were both very happy. This is the video:

A TV commercial for OMBU (safety shoes for workers)

You’re mainly freelancing, what do you find is the most challenging aspect of being a freelance artist?

To find a good client, not only on the money side, I mean people who respect your work and your person. It is a tough world to be alone. I prefer a small budget but having fun along the project than a big budget from hell.

What are some of the things you always keep in mind about rendering when working on a project?

Radiosity flickering, depth of field (post or not) and how the character will interact with the background. I plan for those ahead of time before production.

What aspects influence your decision whether to go for post or not?

Deadline time. I can spend more time thinking on how to break down a 3d scene for motion blur, Zdepth, volumetric light and all kind of effects than setting it all in 3d and let the render network handle the heavy task.

David Aguero - 'Alien Valley'
‘Alien Valley’ by David Aguero

Is there anything an artist should keep in mind when working on a scene that will be rendered on a network or an external render farm?

Yes, avoid non native plugins, consolidate your project files and be organized. Make several local render test and then make some tests on the Render Farm to fine tune your renders times.

How do you deal with ever increasing demands for quality 3D and photo-realism? How does it influence your workflow?

Well, that is a hard to answer, I think most of softwares can produce photoreal CG for some time now, the problem is to know how! For that, one must understand how the real world works: reflection, light, shadow, scatter, color. I keep learning on this matter all the time. Also, having a decent hardware helps when the learning process collides with the render times 🙂

David Aguero - 'Crash Landing'
‘Crash landing’ by David Aguero

How do you learn the real world and how it works? What’s your usual practice?

Having a traditional artist background helps a lot. It is very common to focus your attention on the details, but if you need to build knowledge around the matter, watching tutorials of traditional painting is very informative, as usually painters explain how the light works, watching tutorials on PBR (physical base render) is a good source of info to learn how realistic shader works.

Do you normally use cloud render farms to do your renderings or render on your PC?

I usually render on 2 PC’s I have at home, but when the project needs techniques that require heavy computing, I choose a render farm. Cloud render farms are a great service and help for freelancers like myself.

What’s the project you recently rendered on our farm?

I needed to make a fotoreal frog for a futuristic pet habitat, the premise was to show the frog in the “real jungle” but then reveal that it was on the habitat, this is a frame from the clip:

David Aguero realistic frog

Can you tell us some more about the tech details and tools used?

I rendered like 600 frames, time were from 1.30 hours to 6 hours per frame, render was so long because I didn’t have too much time for the post work, so I used depth of field , volumetric lights, motion blur and some skin scattering directly in the Lightwave 3d engine, I also used substance painter and Zbrush for the frog.

What was the reason behind using a render farm for this project?

I needed the render done in a week at most. On my PC It would have taken like 100 days to render.

How did you find GarageFarm.NET initially?

The Lightwave community – Newtek forums, and lightwave facebook groups (facebook.com/groups/lightwiki/)


My experience was great. The plugin installs easily and the Web Manager is very easy to use. On top of that, the communication with the support is fantastic.

Any advice to a person new to CG who would like to become a concept artist?

Find an artist that you like to be your base of influence, try to learn all about his/her creative process. Don’t stick with only one, there are a lot of legends of concept design (Ralph McQuarrie, Syd Mead, Chris Foss, Doug Chiang, Joe Johnston, etc). Work hard to learn, and practice, make an online portfolio, post in related forums, accept criticism from others, and have fun!

Render Farms: The Ultimate Time-Saver

By Danny Rollings

Introduction

In this series we will be diving deeper into some of the individual benefits of render farms, as previously showcased within our post on The Benefits of Using a Render Farm. As we know, the true ultimate time-saver would be hopping in a time-travelling DeLorean armed with an external hard drive, ready to nab the finished renders off your new improved Goople-brand holo-computer. Since we can’t do that (yet!), render farms are the way to go if you’re tight on time. Either way, you can bet that futuristic holo-computer isn’t going to have a USB port.

A phrase that has been hashed and rehashed many, many times (over 181 million, according to a quick Google search) since it was first coined near 270 years ago by Benjamin Franklin, is “time is money”, and this could not be more true when it comes to rendering. For this reason, we will also be covering how paying to use a render farm is actually a cost-effective solution, since in business time and money is often so closely intertwined.

Beautiful imagery = extended render times

As creators, we naturally want to make our work look as good as it can be within the time that we have, and as with anything in life, you need light to see a darn thing. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself having Interstellar flashbacks while you stare into the blackhole of an unlit scene. The problem with light is those photons & digi-photons –one and the same if the Matrix-inspired belief that we’re all living inside an elaborate simulation is your jam– is that they sure love to bounce around in all directions, so thereby require a whole lot of behind the scenes calculations to figure out where each individual ray of light is coming from and where it is going. A common method of calculating these light bounces is known as ray tracing.

Banco De Chile Spot by Believe

Lighting quality & surface attributes

Hyundai by Solid VFX Lab

Light bounces are one thing but when you consider what exactly the light is bouncing off, it becomes frustratingly clear your computer’s not only having to deal with the object’s surface texture but also its reflectivity, translucency, and transparency, among various other attributes.

By the time you’ve put in those strategically placed lights, cranked up their settings to get rid of those nasty bright splotches that would make Mr. Blobby proud, smoothened those harshly aliased shadow edges reminiscent of a 90’s 3D videogame, and incorporated a carefully set-up ambient occlusion to brighten those darn horror movie-esque deep dark shadows, before you know it your render time has risen from what was perhaps just a few seconds per frame, to several minutes or worse, hours.

Render Wars: Episode I – The Polygon Menace

Polygonal earth (image source)

We’ve yet to touch upon the other unavoidable kicker that whacks up the render time, high polycounts. These are especially unavoidable when you’re trying to create photorealistic imagery, which is exactly why game developers fake highly detailed geometry using specially created transfer maps pulled from high-poly versions of the significantly lower poly geometry you see in-game. Thankfully as technology advances, this necessary gap in complexity between high poly geometry and its simpler counterpart is shrinking fast.

Human Head Geometry
Source: Quora Image Only: head.png

An individual computer’s hardware means it only has a limited amount of resources to dedicate to rendering, so if you want that render to complete as quickly as possible, it’s best to avoid using the computer during the rendering process. Long-winded render times are a problem for all 3D designers, whether it be hobbyists and students or multi-billion dollar companies such as Lucasfilm, Disney and Pixar, which have their own render farms.

2027 News: Disney & Google merge, overthrow world governments

Without all these render farms under their ownership Disney wouldn’t be able to pump out the same number of visually high quality movies on a yearly basis. In 2017 alone there’s at least 5 Disney-owned movies coming out, and you can bet each of their lengths will hover around the 2 hour mark.

Disney-Pixar Coco 2017 (image source)

The sheer amount of rendering that must be required for these films is quite breathtaking, especially in the case of live-action CGI where photorealism is key. Although according to Forbes, Disney is worth a whopping $169.3 billion —or £137.3 billion, but expect this conversion to fluctuate a whole bunch! ‘Yay’ thanks Brexit, first you take our Toblerones, and now you take my pointless Disney calculations— so it’s no wonder they can afford it! That’s enough to buy nearly 324,500 12.5kg gold bars at around £419K ($516K) each. Here’s a QI-worthy fact for you, a stack of these would be over 38 times heavier than a blue whale; now there’s a worthless (geddit?—I’ll grab my coat…) bit of knowledge I bet you didn’t expect to learn from a post about rendering.

Cost-effective rendering

Other than simply saving time, using a high quality render farm such as GarageFarm.NET saves you a whole lot of bother when it comes to paying out for expensive hardware, before having to look after that very same hardware for years to come, like a robot child you just know is going to break eventually.

This is all well and good if you’re a company with money to spare, but with render farms appealing to creatives of all income levels, paying out for better hardware isn’t always feasible. Moore’s Law isn’t on your side either; with the rate of technological development, your newfangled hardware will be pretty much out of date within 2 years, which is going to sting more than a little if you’ve just paid out for the best graphics card on the market.

The current front runner in this continuous High-End level battle for graphics card prowess is NVIDIA’s $666 (£545) GeForce GTX 1080, released 27th May 2016; already soon to be outmatched by its younger sister, the $699 (£572) GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, released in early March 2017. That’s a gap of only a few days over 9 months! Blooming heck, NVIDIA are clearly some very eager tech parents.

GeForce GTX 1080 Ti (image source)

A freelancer’s perspective: The problem of self-rendering

When you consider using a render farm, the first thing you naturally may think is “How much is it going to cost?”, and may be hesitant to part ways with your hard-earned money, however, what could be easily missed is the less immediately clear costs associated with rendering yourself, and not all of them are monetary.

An electricity bill large enough to send the DeLorean back to 1985

Okay maybe 1.21 gigawatts of electricity is a bit of an exaggeration, although if you did somehow consume 1.3 million horses worth of power in a single hour and you’re a UK citizen, it would cost you over £147K, or over £3.5M per day. Joking aside however, overwhelming energy consumption is a real problem, especially in the case of gaming PCs. The more powerful your computer, the more power it’s going to devour when you render. With any level of energy consumption inevitably comes an increase in heat, so your computer’s fan is going to have to work even harder to keep the system from overheating, leading to that loud whirring sound that’s bound to drive you slowly insane.

Sorry I can’t come out tonight, I’ve just got to check my render again

There can even be a social cost to dedicating your own computer’s power to the production of long-winded renders, since you have to keep checking in to make sure everything’s running smoothly, just in case there’s a rendering error that isn’t immediately visible; a possibility that grows exponentially the more complex your scene(s). Having to constantly check on your render means time lost that you could have spent with family or friends, working on other projects, or simply chilling out watching whatever else takes your fancy.

I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t render that.

Reaching the render stage should feel like a massive weight off your shoulders after spending months or even years designing, modelling, texturing and lighting your project, only to spend days or weeks rushing to your computer to make sure the render’s running smoothly. This completely defeats that temporary pre-post-production feeling of freedom and exhausts that elation of accomplishment until the darn thing actually finishes rendering. As if to hammer that final nail into the exhaustion coffin, if you don’t check up on your render(s) at regular intervals, there’s always that niggling possibility you may end up having to re-render large chunks all over again if even a small thing goes wrong, devouring even more of you and your computer’s time and energy.


The more complex your scene, the more chance something might go wrong with the render, leaving you scratching your head, or worse missing vital deadlines.

The cause of the issue could be something as simple as a broken link between texture data and the original files as a result of file transfer or a change of computer, such as in the case of working both from home and college/university. The more complex your scene, the more chance something might go wrong with the render, leaving you scratching your head, or worse missing vital deadlines; especially when you’re working alone, without anyone to advise you. When rendering with GarageFarm.NET they’ll keep an eye on your renders for you, and if you need help, their 24/7 live chat and tech support is just a click away. The company goes to great lengths to have experienced sysadmin experts, software developers, wranglers, and TD’s available 24 hours, 7 days a week, even during the biggest public holidays.


When rendering with GarageFarm.NET they’ll keep an eye on your renders for you, and if you need help, their 24/7 live chat and tech support is just a click away.

How using GarageFarm.NET saved my University FMP

I rendered my entire 3rd year major project with GarageFarm.NET, so in order to provide precise data on how much time using the render farm will save you, I’ve gone fishing through my emails for render receipts and done a bunch of calculations to give you a real life example of how time-saving using GarageFarm.NET will be, in comparison to how long it would have taken me to render alone. Below I’ll be using an example from 10 months ago, so keep in mind the software and hardware at your disposal has definitely grown even better since then, thereby saving you even more time.

Back in May 2016, I rendered a short scene featuring only my Iron character and a single tablet computer; this took place entirely within the void, while the background was rendered separately, and the floor wasn’t within frame at any point during this sequence. This was the only part of the primarily 3D rendered Elements Academy animation that took place outside of the story’s science classroom, so was by far the least hardware intensive scene in the animation, excluding a 20-second 2D infographic.

Rendering on my home computer

When rendered with the usual 1920 x 1080 aspect ratio on my home computer, a late-2013 iMac, the per-frame render time of this small scene averages out at 1 minute; a pretty good render time. This small portion of the footage is 9 seconds long, running at 25fps. On my home computer all 225 frames would’ve taken 3h 45 mins to render, so again pretty good. Well, on paper that is.

Turns out the 1 min, 18 secs of classroom footage takes around 4 mins 40 secs per frame to render at 25 fps, add the Iron tablet scene render time and that’s over 155 hours of non-stop rendering, barely under a week of rendering for just 78 seconds of animation, on my only computer. As a freelancer that is a heart-wrenching amount of render time for something so short and visually pretty simple, with the most complex aspect probably being that each character was textured like a merchandisable vinyl toy.

A number of things that could be done on that computer in 6 ½ days are ridiculous, especially with something as time-consuming and mentally intensive as working alone to create a 3D animated short from scratch. It’s no wonder that since graduating I much prefer sticking to doing 3D modelling and graphic design; although I would love to get back into creating infographics at some point.

Rendering with GarageFarm.NET

I rendered Iron’s tablet scene with GarageFarm.NET at High Priority on the 9th May 2016, gone midnight, and a day before my last ever University deadline. It took just 29 minutes and cost less than $6. As of March 2017, according to the Cost Calculator, in just 10 months this time has been reduced to an estimated maximum of 5 ½ minutes, costing just $2 at High Priority. Even for a short render like this, that’s already at least 41x faster than it would be to render the scene myself.

As to the total GarageFarm.NET render time for all 1950 frames of Elements Academy’s classroom scenes, we’ve got ourselves a minimum of 55 minutes (80 nodes), and a maximum of 3h 39mins (20 nodes). If I re-rendered all of this at High Priority right now it’d cost $113 (£90), however if I’m in no rush I could have it all rendered for only $28 (£22.27). For more specific details on the cost of rendering with GarageFarm.NET, check out the Pricing page here.

Considering it cost a discounted price of nearly £200 just to get a minute or so’s worth of voice acting for my characters, $113 is a blooming brilliant price. Even better, there is also the fact I would have the renders between 42–165x faster than if I’d rendered them myself, depending on my Priority level. Six days saved, just like that. It’s easy to see why GarageFarm.NET proudly displays cloud rendering has never been easier and cheaper on their snazzy new homepage!

 
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Danny Rollings
@drollingscaa

The Benefits of Using a Render Farm

By Danny Rollings

What is a render farm?

Down to its bare bones, a render farm is “a group of networked computers devoted to rendering images, used typically in the production of computer-animated films”. In the following text we will be assuming at least a basic knowledge of what rendering is and what it’s used for, however, if you are looking to learn more about what a render farm and rendering itself is, you can visit the following post once you’re done here.

3D rendered car
3D rendered car, wireframe to textured

Rendering, the inevitable headache

Rendering is that necessary time-consuming headache that one has to deal with at the end of the main pipeline if they want their hard work to look great. The problem with rendering is every little thing that is going to be visible in some form within the finalized image or render sequence – be it geometry, textures, lighting or shadows – adds precious milliseconds, seconds, minutes or hours to the rendering of even a single frame, depending on its complexity.

3D rendered fractal image
3D rendered fractal image


Reducing the headache rendering brings is where render farms come in; they are absolutely invaluable in the 3D animation industry, especially when trying to produce computer generated imagery that looks like it could exist within our world.

Now a few extra minutes might not seem that dramatic, but when you consider that, at the very least, modern film and TV footage runs at 24 frames per second, this can add up to pretty brutal render times. Of course part of this depends on the capabilities of your computer(s), renderer, or company as a whole; however if you want something that looks like candy for the eyes, you’re going to have to deal with extended render times, and time very often means money. Reducing the headache rendering brings is where render farms come in; they are absolutely invaluable in the 3D animation industry, especially when trying to produce computer generated imagery that looks like it could exist within our world.

justice image
Time = Money

Hyperion: large scale rendering & the issue of lighting

Big Hero 6 Baymax and team
Big Hero 6: Baymax and team (Image source Escapist Magazine)

On very large scale productions such as the likes of modern Disney movies, the sheer scale of the render farms they use can be absolutely mind boggling. Engadget states that in the case of Big Hero 6 (2014), Disney built a global illumination simulator known as Hyperion from the ground up. The Hyperion renderer is responsible for the all-important environmental effects; a feat requiring the use of a fifty-five thousand-core render farm spread across four geographic locations! Blooming ‘eck.

According to Disney’s CTO Andy Hendrickson, Hyperion is so powerful it could render 2010’s Tangled from scratch every 10 days; that’s an incredible amount of power, especially considering Tangled was only released 4 years prior to Big Hero 6. Thankfully, Disney themselves have provided a page dedicated solely to this mind-blowing renderer. Of course, you don’t need to be a multi-billion dollar company to know the impact of lighting on render time, after all a beginner modeller or animator soon finds out the huge difference even somewhat advanced lighting can make, especially when you’re trying to achieve smooth shadows and a well-lit scene.


You don’t need to be a multi-billion dollar company to know the impact of lighting on render time, after all a beginner modeller or animator soon finds out the huge difference even somewhat advanced lighting can make.

The visual beauty of Moana, thanks to Hyperion

Roll on just under 2 years to the recent release of Disney’s wonderful and at times tear-jerking Moana (2016), and the sheer power of the undoubtedly even more technologically refined Hyperion renderer is clearly visible in the film’s spectacular lighting enshrining the island landscapes, its obligatory sunset, and of course the glistening CGI water one just can’t help but want to dive into.

On second thoughts, we don’t recommend actually trying to jump into Moana’s water like Tai reaching into his computer screen in Digimon: The Movie (2000); of course, that is unless you’re lucky enough to have a paddling pool filled to the brim with glitter-laced water in your living room.

Disney’s Moana
Disney’s Moana (2016) (Image source Awardsdaily)

Okay, render farms are awesome, but why should I use one?

time is money
  1. Saves time

    If you’re a creator with a single computer to work with, rendering can eat up hours or days of your time, no matter how carefully you optimize your scene or watch your polycount; time that could have been spent refining other aspects of your work. Sending long-winded test renders or entire sequences off to a render farm frees up a large chunk of that time.

  2. Empowers further refinement

    It’s a sad experience to design a character or environment that you’re sure is going to be blooming awesome, only to realise later on that you simply do not have the time nor processing power to make the final render look as good as it deserves to. Using a render farm gives you more time to work on or improve upon any of the stages of the pipeline you and/or your client feel necessary.

  3. Expands lighting potential

    The process of multi-bounce lighting brings your scene closer and closer to how light acts within the real world. Because lighting requires a large number of complex calculations to simulate the interaction of photons with objects of varying textures, translucency and scale, this is very energy intensive on a single computer, whereas render farms bring power, speed and sheer scale to the table. Much like good and bad CGI, well-done lighting will likely go unnoticed by the average viewer, but bad use of lighting will quickly be noticeable to the human eye, and risks wrenching the viewer from the all-important suspension of disbelief.

Planning for a render farm

It’s best to plan from the very beginning if you’re going to need a render farm, or whether you have enough time to spare to dedicate to rendering, this way you can budget around it. If you are producing the work for a client, make them aware of this and work it into your payment plan, and if they’re not willing or able to up the compensation then if you feel it necessary see if you can gain more time. If neither of these things is possible you will have to take a more tactical approach toward the project, from the number of concept iterations, the level of detail within the scene including polycount and texture complexity, to the overall lighting quality and required amount of illumination.

checklist
Think and plan

What about costs & why should I render with GarageFarm.NET?

Like most things, render farms are not free, and for good reason! You can imagine the electricity bill we rack up thanks to the 20,800 CUDA core graphics cards and 3,600 CPU cores we have running 24/7 for your render satisfaction. Having said that we do provide you with the ability to perform test renders with us before jumping in at the deep end. You can even estimate the full price of your render(s) based upon your computer specs, average render time-per-frame, and the level of priority you need your project rendered with. Depending on the size of your project you may even be lucky enough to render the whole thing for free, thanks to our $25 free render credits on registration.

In the spirit of goodwill, we’ll render your entire project for free if it’s for a secular charity. It doesn’t matter where in the world you’re based for you to take advantage of our cloud-based render farm either, and we’re always on hand to aid you if you’re experiencing difficulty. Paying for the use of a render farm is paying for time, and time is a precious commodity, especially for businesses with set-in-stone deadlines, and students studying 3D animation and CGI who are working toward their own strict university deadlines; myself included, prior to my graduation in mid-2016. In fact the independent review that helped lead to me writing posts for GarageFarm.NET can be found here.

“Paying for the use of a render farm is paying for time, and time is a precious commodity”

If you’re still uncertain, to help you decide here’s our showreel of footage from some of the awesome projects rendered with us in the first half of 2016. Enjoy!


GarageFarm.NET 3D Rendering Showreel 2016 (First half)

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Danny Rollings

@drollingscaa

ZOA3D – Architectural Animation and Visualization

ZOA3D

SOFTWARE 3ds Max | Corona
PORTFOLIO http://zoa3d.com/portfolio/
SPECIALTY Architectural Visualization
COUNTRY Hungary


ZOA’s main focus is on creating stunning Architectural Animations along with the imagery which are not only top visual quality, but also tell a story and tend to touch people’s soul.
ANDRAS ONODI, FOUNDER OF ZOA3D

There are numerous companies and freelancers out there that do architectural visualizations. Many of them do an outstanding work creating quality imagery. It’s not easy to break out and distinguish yourself from the crowd. ZOA3D’s approach to creating stunning architectural work is focusing on both top quality design and art. Their secret lies in storytelling, and their ability to use creativity to convey the story in ways that please the eye, astonish, and leave you with a sense of wonder. Andras, one of the co-founders of ZOA3D, says that creating a work environment and team dynamics that allow creativity to flourish is key to their success. We talked with Andras about emerging technologies in ArchViz, ZOA’s future, and his advice to new CG artists among many other things.

ZOA rendered an 85 second animation on our render farm. It was a visualization of a luxurious apartment building that utilized a lot of vegetation and presented detailed interiors all rendered in 3ds Max and Corona.

What’s your name and where do you live?

My name is András Onodi, I am living in Budapest (Hungary)

What do you do professionally?

I am co-founder and co-owner of ZOA3D – an Architectural Animation & Visualization Company

Can you tell us about ZOA3D, your role in the company, and the team?

I am currently operating as the CEO of the company. Alongside with my partner – Máté Hámori – we manage everyday life: covering areas from overlooking offers, managing resources, planning office life up to making strategic decisions. My personal focus currently is marketing, sales and client relations.

What’s your typical market and type of work you do for you clients?

There are plenty of Viz companies and Freelancers out there doing great images. ZOAs main focus is on creating stunning Architectural Animations along with the imagery which are not only top visual quality, but also tell a story and tend to touch people’s soul. We feel that teamwork and cooperation empowers creativity and we encourage a great deal of communication inside the office to let that happen. We try to avoid having rigid workflows and keep our minds as open as possible, while dealing with new projects. We strongly believe, that this behaviour is one of the keys to creativity.

How did the journey in this field start for you? What drew you to it?

I first saw the DOS version of 3D Studio 4.0 in 1994 during secondary school at a friends place. This Friend – László Sebő – is and have been Employee Nr1. of a VFX Studio in Canada ever since then. He gave me lots of input during my University years at the Architectural Department of the Technical University here in Budapest. Using PCs as part of our curriculum was not so OK back then, everything had to be done by hand drawing, and if someone was using a Computer to show his design it usually happened with ArchiCAD. ArchiCAD was (still kind of is) stuck in using generic objects like walls, slabs columns etc. 3ds Max, on the other hand, is purely about form, and this freedom gave a lot of inspiration in the design courses I attended. It was this elementary sculptural freedom that kept me working days after days on my own design projects. Although showcasing the final result was secondary, it was a lot more eye-catching than anything else seen done in other software back then. It did not take too long until I found out that I could earn a living that way.

Can you talk about your initial experience with CG and the early stage of your career?

The first big project I participated in happened in 2000 – we had to showcase the gothical stage of a former Castle in a town called Esztergom. The video was created in a super-resolution of 720*576 with a pixel aspect ratio of 1.067. What? I still don’t get this pixel aspect ratio thing. Haha. The 4-minute video was produced in 2 months during the hottest summer and was mainly created by the former 4 founders of ZOA. It is funny to think that these 4 people were able to recreate that movie in about 2-3 weeks now. The core team of ZOA has worked together since 2000, and animation projects always used to be on top of the list when it came to enthusiasm.

Can you talk about the most meaningful or challenging project your team worked on?

We are always trying to be on the verge of our capabilities, and I believe that “challenge” and “meaning” are things that come from an inner motivation. The most challenging projects are the ones where you head into and keep yourself working 10-12 hours a day for weeks. There are always projects where the “architecture – budget – time” golden triangle feels just right, and we head into it without any doubts. I am really proud of the projects that we have created for the Nieuw Zuid development in Antwerpen:

SCHELDE 21 by Vincent Van Duysen Architects
Scheldezicht Animation | Residential Tower in Antwerpen
Zuiderzicht Tower @ Nieuw Zuid Antwerpen

Lately we have finished our first large scale animation for a developer in the US, which I think is a great breakthrough. Unfortunately, at this point, I can’t tell you more about it.

What’s next for ZOA? Where would you like to see it in the future?

In about 3-4 years we would like to double in size – meaning going from 16 people to 30-35. We have put a great deal of effort into creating a company structure that lets us deal with this number of individuals without having to fear that we’re creating something too rigid or too industrial. We are definitely keeping our eyes on Architectural Animations as this is our passion. Another thing is emerging technologies: we currently have a VR App under development and other cool online tool that we call “Flatchooser.” We are also thinking of undertaking complete marketing solutions from web pages to brochures.

Can we talk about the projects recently rendered with us?

Tripla – Building complex in Helsinki
One of the biggest real estate investment companies in Europe, YIT, asked us to create animations about their recent project in Helsinki. Our task was to show the different ways of possible transportation types and how you can manage to get to some important public areas inside the complex as well as showcasing the interior design of some offices there.

The most difficult part of the project was the size of the complex itself as the Tripla building is 50 times bigger than a football field. Working on scenes this heavy needs some proper optimization and management to keep render times reasonable.

Schelde 21 – Elderly home in Antwerp
For almost three years now we’ve been working with Triple Living, a Belgian Real Estate company, which is responsible for the biggest urban development in Antwerp called ‘New South’. Our most recent project was to create an animation of the elderly home called ‘Schelde 21 designed by VincentVan Duysen Architects‘, to showcase the mood and architecture of the building. Fortunately, the client was open to our ideas of creating a moody and slow paced imagery, introducing the atmosphere of the Schelde riverside and the building itself. The combination of slow camera movements and dynamic (timelapse) elements worked well together, and created a very decent effect that allowed us to approach this animation in a much more artistic way.

garden trees

Let’s talk tech details and typical tools you use.

The Tripla animations were like 70 seconds on average, including a 15 sec “infographic” introduction of the whole project. We’ve created a total number of 6 animations in 25 fps, so total frame count is around 10,000 frames. All in all, from the beginning of modeling to the delivery it took us around 4 months to finish everything.

Schelde 21 animation is 85 seconds long, so it’s ~2000 frames. Some of the shots were heavier than others mostly because of the vegetations. We always try to optimize our renders so it doesn’t take more than 60 minutes to render per frame (on our i7 machines), but it really depends on the scene. Our machines have 32GB of memory, and we always tend to consume all of that somehow.

We use 3ds Max for modeling and creating our scenes, and the animations mentioned above were rendered with Corona. A lot of additional plugins were used like Forest Pack / Corona Scatter (for vegetation), Populate (for timelapse people), FloorGenerator, etc. Nothing special, just the usual stuff.

Do you normally use cloud render farms to do your renderings or have one in-house?

The demand for rendering power is not constant in our office. It is derived from the overall workload and the upcoming milestones/deadlines. If we scaled our render farm up to our highest workload, I would be screaming about the money we have spent while it is not running at all time. Right now our own render-farm is utilized in about 80-90%. I think this is the right moment where the though of “whether to buy a new Xeon or whether to let it render on a cloud service” starts making sense.

Any observation on architectural visualization and how it has evolved over the recent years?

The exponential raise of quality in imagery is astounding. It is also amazing to see how both pure-Maxers and Photoshoppers find their own way to show extraordinary quality. There is no rules for a great image or animation, which again proves that this is pure art.

VR is a great thing. Right now, the whole industry is struggling with how to get it to the end consumer. Once this gets solved, the VR scene will be unstoppable. We are also working hard to stay on top of the trends. ZOA is developing an app that has multiple outputs: 1) on web, 2) on a mobile phone working as VRs on Facebook and 3) on a Samsung Gear VR. A beta demo can be seen here: http://zoa3d.com/vrezy.

Architectural Visualization, is it mere design or art? What comes first?

I don’t really get the question. I think design is a form of art. Visualization is art at its best. It is a very typical kind of applied art where you first have to understand all the given aspects: geometry, built- social- and cultural environment, sales strategy etc, and then try to forget about all of it and at the same time try to put all of it onto a pic/animation.

How did you find GarageFarm.NET initially?

You just sent an email and we tried your service. It is as simple as that 🙂 We regularly experiment with new providers to find the best, fastest, and the most reliable service out there – not only when rendering but also with some of the lower profile bits of 3d work we do.

What were your initial impressions when you first started working with us? Overall thoughts on the service?

You guys have a greatly competitive price compared to anything else on the market, and a well laid-out interface but on occasions we had the feeling that oversight and management of those machines should be improved so that you can deliver a 24/7 reliability every week of the year.

Tips to CG Artists out there who might be struggling finding their way?

  • Do one thing only and get the best at it.
  • Question everything. Be sceptical and understand the big picture of what you are doing.
  • Try to work in teams, or ask others opinion about your work. Think about their ideas and listen to criticism.
  • Be passionate about your work. Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress.
  • Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Making mistakes is the basis for learning.
  • ALWAYS save incrementally 🙂