Creating virtual 3D environments for animation or games is an amazing process that has been developed in the recent decades. It involves building a 3D environment inside of dedicated software for the task. The results can be spectacular, and these techniques have brought us masterpieces in film and animation such as Toy Story or Frozen. Pixar had pioneered this method with the creation of the first Toy Story, and since then it has become more accessible in television, games and online video animation. Until recently, there has been a huge barrier to entry for a small studio or single person to create this sort of video work.
It can be very time intensive to create this amazing digital imagery- companies like Pixar will have dedicated teams assigned to just the lighting of the scene, or just the material creation for example. One of the largest hurdles to overcome is the computer processing time it takes to render each picture in the production. For example, on a typical Pixar production using a single high-end PC, it would take on average 24 hours to render 1 frame of video. It typically requires 24 images in a single second of video, which means it would take 400 years to produce a 100 minute movie using just one computer.
Luckily for Pixar, they use what’s called a render farm, or a network of computers connected together for the purpose of rendering. They use 2000 machines connected together to output their images, which helps significantly with render times. Even with that kind of power, rendering can still be hard to manage.
Within the last few years, specialized companies have developed software that is compatible with high-end graphics cards that ship with common PC builds to help out with the rendering process. The market for graphics cards, or GPUs, has skyrocketed with the growth of PC gaming amongst youth and young adults, which means their power is increasing and their cost is coming down. Otoy is one of those companies that has developed a new engine for rendering 3D images that utilizes the GPU as well as the traditional CPU processing.
Otoy writes, “OctaneRender® is the world’s first and fastest GPU-accelerated, unbiased, physically correct renderer.”
There are a few different products that are leading the charge on GPU based render engines- others include Redshift, Arnold, and V-Ray. All have their pros and cons, but the main advantage is increasing render speeds both for preview while working and for final output.
Another advantage to using a GPU based render engine is that a GPU is much more easily upgraded in a system. Instead of having to upgrade many different components, a new graphics card can be inserted right into the old build. Additionally, you can link multiple graphics cards together and continue to increase render speeds even on a home system.
This is exciting technology for freelancers and smaller studios, and will open the door for creating amazing 3D imagery in a reasonable amount of time, with reasonably priced hardware.