MAXWELL RENDER / PRODUCTION WORKFLOW

The process of rendering within computer graphics has a long history of attempting to simulate real world objects. For this to occur interactions of light and object have been at the center of generating believable imagery that adhere to the physical laws of electromagnetic radiation. My whole area of study has been consistently focused around this process. Therefore when I discovered an advanced lighting renderer for Maya, it felt only natural to focus my attention on it.

Maxwell Render is a rendering engine based on the mathematical equations governing light transport, meaning that all elements, such as emitters, materials and cameras, are derived from physically accurate models. Maxwell Render is unbiased, so no tricks are used to calculate the lighting solution in every pixel of a scene; the result will always be a correct solution, as it would be in the real world. Maxwell Render can fully capture all light interactions between all elements in a scene, and all lighting calculations are performed using spectral information and high dynamic range data.

I found when using Mental Ray to create photo realistic materials I was spending an extensive amount of time building complex shaders through extensive node trees in Maya. Even after hours of testing and tweaking, the results were varied and generally left me feeling a little unsatisfied. With Maxwell, the results are far easier to achieve and in my opinion appear more perceptually real. This can be put down to many things including linear gamma correction, physical camera distortions and real global illumination effects. However with all these positive points comes a variety of performance downsides. The render times are considerably longer than Mental Ray which is a major factor, especially in the world of animation. Even the 2:30min film I am currently working on will need a considerable length of time to render, here’s my breakdown;

– Approximated length of short film; 2:30mins, therefore 180 seconds.
– 180s with 24 frames per second = 4,320 frames in all.
– Averaging 30 minutes per frame render time (720p) at 2 frames p/hr = 48 frames p/day.
– 4320 / 48 = 90 days of render time.

Realistically I have under 60 days to finish this film, so already I’ve overshot the mark. If I bring this down to say 2 minutes, and shorten the render time to 20 minutes per frame, I think this could be done in around 40 days of constant rendering on one machine. So to break this down further, I already have one i7 quad core mac at home which will do the majority of these batch renders. Luckily the guys at work have offered a machine or two if they are not being used over the weekends to help finish the job, excellent news that may save my life.

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