Well, I have finished up the project I mentioned in my previous post. The programs used included Swift 3D, Flash and Photoshop. If you want to view an excerpt which contains just the effect I was talking about, you can download an avi from here. While it is half the actual size and compressed, it still weighs in at around 4mb. The original was 500mb.
For more information and some suggestions, read on.
The animation and modeling were not really difficult, although a little time consuming. The BIG time eater was rendering in Swift. For those of you that do not know, the Swift 3D EMO (raster) rendering engine, relies on a software based rendering and not hardware.
A few suggestions should you decide you want to try something like this.
1. I do not suggest trying something on this scale with Swift if your workstation is running less than a 2ghz processor and 1gig of ram. While you could still do it on less, the delay in moving objects on the stage and horrendous rendering times would make it frustrating. On a system with a 1.8ghz P4 and 524mb of ram, rendering crawled. When I say crawled, I am talking in the area of grinding through only 30 frames in 7 hours. (Time can increase/decrease depending on if there is a lot of transparency and/or reflections used). On a 3.04 ghz Xeon and 1.5ghz of ram, I managed 200 frames in about the same time.
2. Planning is crucial. The amount of objects being moved around the stage, coupled with Swifts rather unforgiving Undo system, can make fixing small animation errors a disaster. Storyboard your animation and while working, do a lot of test renders, which leads into my next point.
3.With the rendering times mentioned above, you DO NOT want to have to re-re-render due to problems that could have easily been caught in a test that takes a wee fraction of the time. When testing, do not rely on the scanline renderer within the Scene Editor for all comping. Switch over to the Rendering and Export editor to make sure you are getting a clear view of what things will REALLY look like.
4. If you are working against the clock, make sure you have figured in rendering time (and re-rendering time in case of error) into the project schedule. Setting up your production schedule so that you can render overnight helps.
5. Finally, if you do not have the option to render overnight, having an extra puter to play Halo (Multiplayer online) helps to waste ti….errr, helps you wait patiently, while anticipating seeing the final rendering of your masterpiece. (An ample supply of your favorite alcoholic (if you partake) beverage doesn’t hurt either.)
While working though this project, I came across an apparent rendering bug in Swift that had crossed my path once before. This was extremely frustrating, as it DID happen while rendering overnight and test renders had not shown it.
If you have a light source that is set so that it does not create shadows and are working with transparent materials, occasionally those objects with transparency will show up as black (or a lot darker) when exported in a raster format that does not support alpha transparency (JPG in my case). This DOES NOT show up during rendering, only after exporting and is not consistant. The first five frames could look fine and POW, the sixth has your beautiful transparent model looking like a lump of obsidian.
That said, make sure to check your exported files BEFORE closing the Render and Export editor, as Swift will allow you to change the raster export format without having to re-render.
If you have any question regarding this effect please feel free to email me or post a comment.