The process of rendering the short film was a drawn out, difficult and often troublesome process, that seemed at times to rely more on luck than any effort of planning.
As Anna finished the animation in shots, I took them, set up the environment scene references and textures – and began the process of lighting and test rendering.
Most test renders turned out something like this however, until eventually I hit the jackpot.
Generally the animation process took some time, which afforded me the opportunity to work more on lighting and set up.
As can be seen in the plan below, some scenes required a constant shifting of assets and the occasionally keyed set of lighting. This was particularly prevalent in the shots with lightning, which had to not only be created, but rendered on a separate layer whilst still having it’s accompanying lights timed to work in tandem with it.
Zync was a blessing and a curse when it came to this, we had to use multiple accounts, amassing approximately £3000 worth of rendering, if this had been something we paid for out of pocket, this film would never have gotten completed. Fortunately, utilizing the free trials available to us and rendering layers on efficient settings, we were able to cut down dramatically the cost and time needed to render.
Shots frequently errored out during the rendering process, or came back with problems that seemed to be temperamental in the fixing. Often, simply closing and opening a scene and re-starting the render fixed it, or simply hiding a cube somewhere in the scene.
This has convinced me that Cloud Renderers, while vital, clearly have some anger issues.
Renders often came out like this, with the light not casting as defined shadows or appearing too dark, whilst this could be corrected in post, it was much easier to compensate for it directly through lighting.
This meant having some layers ‘overlit’ whilst others had to be underlit. This is mostly down to how Zync dealt with the colour output management.
Most of the testing was sporadic frames or short play-outs of how the lighting moved in the scenes.
Generally it worked out without problems once we got it set up, though occasionally we had some issues.
- Floating Geometry
- Non-rendering environment pieces
- No loaded Animation
Generally, these were all easily fixed using alembic caching and baking the animation before exporting.
Most rendered shots needed minor colour correction, basically ensuring they all had similar tones and palettes per scene.
You can see in this pre-correction set of renders, that each character, whilst rendered with the same set of lights, came out with clear outlines and slight pops.
The Wolf had to be rendered brighter, with a purple texture to allow him to be more easily comped and have the effects that drift with him added.
In addition to the Zync system of rendering, we also set up a number of Mac’s rendering independently, and thanks to the referencing system established, this went by fairly quickly, as a scene could be loaded instantly on any mac, with the render setting presets imported directly.
However, the Mac rendered out noticeably lighter than Zync with the same settings, which resulted in an interesting battle when it came to color correction.