A rapid animation production renderer balancing quality and speed to save studios money
Designed for high volume animated series production, RenderDigimania exploits advances in rapid real time technology by applying it to the 3D animation pipeline. With RenderDigimania, artists work in real time with their animated objects and characters, light and shoot them dynamically with fast previews, quick iterations and immediate creative control. Preliminary results indicate that RenderDigimania renders up to 1000 times faster than conventional CPU ray tracers.
Broadcasters are increasingly looking for more for less, forcing production budgets down. On average between 10-30% of a production budget is dedicated to rendering. This is inevitably seen as a major area for cost efficiencies. RenderDigimania dramatically reduces render times, as seen in our case study, the pilot episode of pre-school series 'Bradley and Bee'.
Harness the power of a render farm on your desktop with the software RenderDigimania
Up to 1000x faster
Using the power and immediacy of real-time technology to radically reduce the render times achieved by CPU ray tracing methods RenderDigimania is a revolutionary, rapid animation production renderer balancing quality and speed to save studios money.
Fast render time
RenderDigimania takes full advantage of the PC's GPU power to drive a real-time pipeline that yields lightning-fast results. Using RenderDigimania, your studio will produce more scenes on fewer PCs and with fewer overheads.
See results in real time
Designed for high volume animated series production, RenderDigimania exploits advances in rapid real-time technology by applying it to the 3D animation pipeline. Artists work in real time with their animated objects and characters.
Cost effective rendering
RenderDigimania has been designed particularly with the production of large volume animated series in mind. During our production of the pilot episode of 'Bradley and Bee' for Red Kite Animation our render artists, empowered by RenderDigimania's flexibility with layers and passes and project-based workflow, were able to see the results of their changes in real-time as they worked and ultimately to deliver a quality finished episode both faster and cheaper.
We averaged an incredible final frame render speed of 5 frames a second, on just a single desktop PC.
Traditionally, to render a series you'd need:
- On average 17,500 CPU hours per episode
- A render farm of around 30 rack-mounted PCs with software
- A render farm manager or supervisor to support it
- An IT infrastructure of air-conditioned rooms, fast ethernets and huge backups
By contrast RenderDigimania requires:
- 8 CPU hours per episode
- No render farm, just a few desktop PCs
- No render farm manager
- Modest infrastructure
Fast render time
RenderDigimania uses game engine technology. It takes full advantage of the PC's GPU power to drive a real-time pipeline that yields lightning-fast results.
Using RenderDigimania your studio will produce more scenes on fewer PCs and with fewer overheads.
Your projects are delivered quicker and at a lower cost. Rendering iteration becomes quick and painless; your artists are free to render and polish as many times as they need.
RenderDigimania uses a platform-agnostic FBX pipeline that makes integration with current workflow quick and easy.
Cameras, objects, characters and lights can all be transferred between 3D app and RenderDigimania. Animation and morph targets are fully supported.
Flexible render layers
Your scenes can be split and arranged with render layers for full control of the image and compositing stage.
Industry standard output
One of RenderDigimania's biggest innovations is that the real-time engine can output beauty, diffuse, specular, shadow and z-depth passes.
Renders are available as movies or full frames.
RenderDigimania's dynamic lighting system permits real-time illumination and review.
RenderDigimania is backed up with a solid network rendering feature. Your render jobs can be queued and distributed to networked PCs.
Keyframe animation system
RenderDigimania offers a keyframe animation system for the quick manipulation of objects and cameras.
The entire RenderDigimania pipeline is project-based. Meshes, textures, materials, settings and animation are all handled by a central content management system.
Make changes and see results in real time
The frustrating render-polish-render iteration cycle is no more. RenderDigimania's viewports allow you to make changes in real time. You now have the power to arrive at your vision quicker or spend more time polishing. Make changes and see results in real time
Balancing quality with speed
RenderDigimania utilises a classic game engine pipeline. All models and meshes must be optimised with this in mind.
A rock star is born
We wanted to demonstrate the ease with which existing high-quality 3D assets could be imported to RenderDigimania.
Our aims were to:
- Make a high-end cartoon-style animation to show off RenderDigimania's rendering ability
- Import assets not tailor-made for game engine/RenderDigimania use
- Further push RenderDigimania’s handling of poly count, textures and rich, expansive environments
- Use our findings to improve the software
The team was formed from within Digimania’s own team of artists and animators.
In total, eight artists worked on the imported assets to shape them into a cohesive, polished animation.
We got our assets from the popular 3D model site, TurboSquid. We fell for the dinosaur character at first sight.
Our Director, drawing inspiration from the awesome-ness of ‘The Croods’, mocked up some images with a range of the available assets and varying degrees of success!
With the main concept images in hand and with the focus purely on the visuals, the animators came up with a very simple animation idea which was based on the original modeller's concept of his dinosaur acting like a dog.
Our character would appear in shot at first all scary, stomping and roaring. An eruption would then throw a rock ‘ball’ onto screen.
Our dinosaur would become inquisitive and start to act like a dog; he’d play with the ball before getting a bit carried away and, to his horror, would lose it over the side of the cliff.
The success of the piece hinged on shoehorning together the 3D assets from TurboSquid. We matched our star with a range of assets that let us really push the software’s visual quality levels. We identified rocks and environment objects that sat well alongside our prehistoric star.
TurboSquid artist credits:
T-Rex by CG Creator, Terrain Canyon with River by 3D_Multimedia, Stones 3 by Raa Yaar, Stone Rock Debris Junk Rubbish by Litarvan, Rock 3D Scan 08 by ibl3d, Desert Rock Collection by Dzejsi Models, 6foot_boulders by 3D Concepts and Design
Models were cleaned, prepared and rigged in Maya. Where necessary, UVs were unwrapped for normal maps. Render-ready objects and actors were exported as FBX files and stored in RenderDigimania’s project library where they were given materials.
In the meantime our animators were working with the actors in Maya. Animation data was exported as FBX files to RenderDigimania. Inside RenderDigimania the animated actors were illuminated and shot by real-time lights cameras. Renders were produced in bespoke layers and passes, and the whole things was composited in After Effects.
When models were imported it was important to consider what role each asset had. An environment asset was best imported as a rigid mesh. A character model, which required animation, was imported as a skeletal mesh. Skeletal meshes could have as many materials assigned to them as needed.
Each material could support 65 thousand vertices which in turn allowed artists to create incredibly high-detail models. Rigid meshes lacked a skeleton hierarchy so their role in the production pipeline was different. Rigid meshes could have up to 65 thousand vertices and were generally used as environment building blocks.
It is important to understand which mesh type is best suited to your modelling needs.
- Rigid – maximum of 65 thousand vertices
- Skeletal – each material applied to the mesh can support 65 thousand vertices
Some of the other steps we worked through to get the best from the TurboSquid assets in RenderDigimania were:
- Some objects were ported from 3DS Max to Maya
- UV sets were cleaned to remove overlaps
- Surface normals were conformed
- Holes or gaps in the geometry were fixed
- The background models were sometime retopologised to lower the polycounts. Detail was retained in normal maps.
- Some material nodes were converted to phong.
Cleaning the imported assets and working around the poly limits were the only deviations from the conventional RenderDigimania processes.
The dinosaur from TurboSquid was already rigged in 3DS Max, so we had to re-rig it in Maya to fit with the rest of the pipeline. RenderDigimania required game engine style rigging. The main differences from rigging for Maya are:
- RenderDigimania required only joints, skinClusters and blendShapes. Scale or Maya-specific deformers were not supported
- The dinosaur’s render rig (which was exported as a FBX file) had to be one skeletal hierarchy
The scale or deformers point listed above is a big issue as most advanced rigs would make extensive use of these features, so there may need to be some workarounds or compromises depending on the project needs.
The animation followed a conventional production process:
3. First Pass
4. Final Pass
The animators worked with a dinosaur ‘actor’ which also existed inside RenderDigimania’s project library. After two weeks of animation the dinosaur’s animation data was exported to RenderDigimania. It was applied to the stored actor and the dinosaur came to life.
RenderDigimania’s real-time lighting made it extremely easy to compose and light scenes without the need to wait for numerous test renders.
To achieve the desired lighting for our dinosaur project was relatively straightforward.
The light rig consisted of a single directional key light and another directional fill light with a subtle purple hue.
Only slight tweaks were required for some of the environment objects which looked better under different illumination angles.
We simply lit these parts in isolation using Light Channels and duplicate lights angled to suit each object.
Every 3D project needs a little post production tweak to polish it off. Our animation was no exception.
Here’s what we worked on in After Effects:
- Added motion blur
- Improved and added soft shadows
- Added dust and other FX Work
We also applied some colour correction and experimented with graded effects.
The render results
We were extremely pleased with our Dinosaur animation.
The process to bring someone else’s Turbosquid models into RenderDigimania was relatively smooth; only a little tinkering was required.
The current version of the software was improved by lessons that were learned from this project.
Traditional rendering takes time. It’s painful. It’s expensive. It eats budget. We think it’s time to bite back.
You can import several types of external file into RenderDigimania. These files can be imported either into the Project Library or directly into the 3D workspace, depending on their type. Assets such as meshes or textures are imported into a Package in the Project Library. This allows you to share assets with other people working on the same project. Some types of file, such as sound files or FBX files containing animation, can only be imported directly into the 3D workspace.
RenderDigimania's Favourite system lets you export and re-use scene elements such as lights, cameras and meshes. The position, orientation and properties of the exported element will all be saved in a *.fav file. Animation is not supported. See the Exporting Files section for more details.
To import a previously saved Favourite, go to File>Import>Import Favourite… and browse for a previously saved *.fav file.
RenderDigimania imports all meshes and animation using the FBX format. FBX files can be exported from any third party 3D modelling and animation application that supports the format. There are several limitations to the FBX format which mean that you may get unexpected results when you import your mesh. If you usually create assets for games then you should know how to avoid many of the potential problems listed here.
- Only FBX 2012 is supported.
- Rigid meshes cannot have more than 65,000 triangles. If you try to import a mesh with more than this number then RenderDm may crash. Aim for 40,000 or less to prevent any slow-down in performance.
- Rigid meshes can have a maximum of 4 UV sets.
- There is no upper limit for triangles in a skeletal mesh, but RenderDm has a limit of 65,000 triangles per material assignment. If your skeletal mesh is more than 65,000 triangles then you will need to assign more than one material. As with the rigid mesh, this 65,000 triangle limit should be reduced to 40,000 for production purposes to prevent any performance degradation or instability.
- Manifold geometry will import the most successfully. If several vertices are in the same position but not welded together, then some of them might get deleted as duplicates. This can result in missing geometry and large spikes where edges are drawn between the wrong points. Non-manifold geometry may cause a reduction in the maximum number of triangles that can be successfully imported.
- RenderDm groups everything into a single object when it imports a FBX file. If your model is made up of several objects grouped together then they will become one object on import. For this reason it is important to make sure that all of the objects in a group have unique names. Duplicate names can result in parts of the mesh getting overwritten. Maya's Duplicate Special>Assign unique name to child node option allows you to avoid duplicating names when duplicating groups.
- It is very important to use RenderDigimania's ‘real world’ scale when creating assets. If a mesh is too small then you may get artefacts in your renders, especially in areas with many vertices. 1cm in Maya is the equivalent of 0.75 inches (1.9cm) in RenderDm.
- Always freeze transformations before exporting your mesh from a 3D modelling application. Any transformations on the mesh (especially scaling) when you export it may be ignored when it is imported into RenderDm, resulting in ‘exploded’ and incorrectly-placed geometry. In Maya, Modify>Freeze Transformations with prevent this problem. In 3ds Max, use Hierarchy panel>Pivot>Adjust Transform>Reset:Transform & Reset:Scale.
Texture Format Requirements
The following list covers the format requirements for texture images.
- Texture images must be in .jpg, .png, .gif, or .tga format.
- Uncompressed, true-colour images are supported.
- RLE true-colour images are supported.
- Uncompressed colour-mapped image (8bits /pixel only) are supported.
- 24-bit and 32-bit images are supported.
- Greyscale images are not supported.
- Textures must have pixel dimensions that are “powers of two” with a maximum of 4096 x 4096.
Sound files can be imported into RenderDigimania and added to your animation timeline. You can only import them using File>Import>Import Sound… and they are not stored in the Project Library.
The supported formats are .wav, .mp3 or .avi format. Bit-depths higher than 16-bit are not supported.
You can specify an export file format in the Windows Save As dialog. Expand the drop-down list next to the Save as type: field and select either FBX files (*.fbx) or OBJ files (*.obj).
Minimum System Requirements
RenderDigimania is a 64-bit Windows-only real-time rendering app. We recommend the following minimum PC specification for running RenderDm:
- Quad Core Intel i5/i7 or AMD Athlon II X4
- 8 GB RAM
- 1GB hard drive
- Windows 7 64bit or above
- Graphics card with 1GB GPU memory. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 or ATI Radeon HD 5850 are both suitable
- .Net Framework Version 4
- Shader Model 3.0
- DirectX 11
- 3D animation software with FBX 2012 export (only the 2012 version is supported). RenderDm has been tested extensively using Maya 2014