How do you pick content to fit in 7 hours that you have experienced over the course of 15,000 hours?
That is the question I’ve been grappling with for the past few weeks since we announced the Master Class. The overall list of items to cover has been ready for several months and keeps on increasing. It is clear that everything cannot be covered, so what should be kept and what should be saved for another class?
Good Vue training is not that hard to find. (In fact, we have some good training videos if you want a head start before the class.) The problem is that large scale animation needed for film and television is vastly different than creating still images. The latter is where most Vue training products excel, but unfortunately the pros can become cons when applied to an animation project. What makes our Master Class different from any other training seminar is that it is built specifically for such large scale animation projects.
My basic formula for the content became:
realism + superior creative control + cost-effective implementation + fast render output
The following is a list of aspects and specific items that are the central pillars of the content of the Class.
That is almost a given. First and foremost, everything in the class must count towards the end-goal of excellent visual realism. This thread is richly interwoven throughout the entire presentation.
Interpreting Nature in Vue’s terms
This became the first segment of the class. The majority of attendees are familiar with Vue or at least the general concepts of the software. The core fractal nature of Vue is similar to the hypothesized Higgs boson particle – understanding that most basic element can open you up to all the possibilities of Vue.
The harder part is translating something you see out in nature in Vue terms. This is where all the Vue expeditions come in.
Hundreds of hours spent in the field, interpreting natural patterns into Vue fractal space are merged with an understanding of integrating artistic/creative flexibility. The resulting set of design principles are explained in the primer part of the class and then spread throughout the rest of the content in context-sensitive blocks.
The end-goal being that if you follow these principles, even the most outlandish, alien environments can be made to look real and believable.
This is a huge, huge deal! So many people have expressed interest in better terrain design. This is where the Vue-World Machine pipeline comes in. One entire segment of the class is dedicated to integrating World Machine into Vue.
By using complex graphs on top of imported Vue procedural terrains (below), or designed from scratch (above) we redefine the entire process of terrain design.
Great terrains are at the heart of just about any environment you create. The unique techniques presented in the terrain segment of the class are geared towards broader usage of the terrains, and not just simply having the terrain be the goal itself. In other words: material, texture, ecosystem, and other aspects of the scene are taken into consideration when crafting the terrain and then special excerpts and outputs of the terrain are used to achieve both superior realism and incredible creative control.
The procedural nature of this pipeline allows for instant and vastly powerful editing. Allowing for creative direction to alter the design without rupturing the delicately balanced procedural graphs was a key aspect when this pipeline was being built.
Atmosphere + Light
Lighting a scene in Vue often becomes quite different – if you are intent on realism – than in any other 3D package. Lighting is the de facto key element for any environment, and the entire segment on Atmosphere and Lighting in the Master Class focuses on how a 3D artist needs to realign their thinking for Vue.
This is perhaps the hallmark of this class. A whole segment at the end of the class is called ‘The Economy of Natural Design’ – roughly translated to ‘what you can get away with’.
The entire content of this segment focuses on maintaining a balance between pushing the software for better visuals, while pushing it for faster output.
The most basic result of this is speed in terms of rendering. But at the same time, it also talks about minimizing the effort needed to be applied, cutting corners in crafting the scene, and creating massive scenes without a massive budget.
Clicking the image above will bring up a 4000px version. We ran many tests on an i7 laptop, i7 980 Extreme workstation, and thanks to my friend Marek Mihok, a dual Xeon (24 cores, gazillion GBs of RAM, etc.). The Xeon config is roughly equal to 3 or 4 typical render nodes found in any modern render farm.
On the i7 machines we could easily get 720p frames between 10 to 30 minutes per frame. On the Xeon, again equivalent to a very small render farm, we could get it to under 10 minutes.
As one of our focuses in the class is about large scale production, we decided to test frames from the trailer at 4000 pixels wide output. The render times are significantly low for 4k frames, and can still be optimized further.
If the requirement is matte painting where you need an image base as opposed to a full animation, then this opens up the avenue for rendering several thousand pixel tall images.
Matte + Compositing Considerations
Speaking of matte paintings, spread throughout the class is special content for matte painting and compositing considerations. This can be as simple as a set of filtered output techniques, to complex multipass renders where layers and layers of visual data are separated from the overall render for further enhancement and compositing.
Layered output in matte paintings is nothing new, but the class also focuses on structuring scenes specifically for layered output so that if the direction changes or something new needs to be tried, the amount of work is minimized.
I will continue to write more about the class and share some visuals from the content, so stay tuned.
If you still haven’t signed up for the Master Class, I recommend you register before we run out of seats.