Claim New Worlds

Claim New Worlds

The first new one for 2014 and right at first I want to apologize for this novel of a description. This one has just a too special history to leave it to rott in the back of my brain waiting to be forgotten. So where do I start…? Let’s start with some numbers.

298 hours – 33 minutes – 22 seconds. Originally planned as a ‘less is more’ side project, just to play around with a couple of ideas, it turned out to be the longest render I’ve ever had. Not having a renderfarm, that would help getting it done much faster, I had to rely on my 4 year old machine to get the job done. I must also admit that it was not planned at all, to create a scene that would take ages to render. But yeah, in the end it turned out to be an almost 300 hours render. Let’s just say that again I learned a lot!

My initial intention was to play around with a couple of fractal 3d objects I created with Xenodream. I wanted to try myself in some abstract 3d stuff and did a couple of render tests. I wasn’t really happy. What I saw instead was a possible Scifi scene that would be perfect to incorporate both elements… the Scifi component I always love to do… and the fractal component I was initially going for. I started to look at the project differently and treated it more like a scene instead of a 3d fractal experiment. Soon I found a nice lighting setup. After extending the fractals and optimizing the composition, I still needed a striking atmosphere. Now here is where it became tricky. Crazy like I am, I was aiming for a larger size image (as usual), to get a nice print quality from it. Larger picture equals longer render times. Of course! Now while looking for an atmosphere I started thinking about adding clouds to the whole setup. The scene itself rendered pretty fast up to that point. I thought there would be some room for volumetric clouds to spice it up a bit.

Dear Lord I did not expect what came next. After adding some clouds and doing some testrenders (which took forever and should have been a warning sign!) I found the clouds bring the whole thing together and create a tighter feel. I prepared the render and started it with my usual quality settings. I killed it after 8 hours when for 30 minutes nothing happened anymore and the render stopped to make progress. Damn! Eight hours wasted. I hate it when that happens. Again… the testrenders should have been the perfect warning indicator. I reduced my quality settings and concentrated purely on rendering out the clouds in an acceptable quality, along with a mask for easy editing later in Photoshop. After restarting the render it all did move a little faster than previously. But nothing prepared me for the odyssey I had to go through for the next two weeks! I must laugh just thinking about it.

I admit I’m not the most experienced guy when it comes to clouds and Vue. What I know is that it’s not uncommon that rendering of volumetric materials (like clouds) can take a lot lot lot of time. In Vue you can turn down the quality quite a bit with the clouds still looking perfectly fine. But the rest of the scene will suffer. So it’s best to render the clouds in a separate pass and combine scene and clouds later in Photoshop. The thing that drove me crazy was that you could not predict how long the render would probably take. Some areas of the picture are not influenced by the clouds and render much faster. Then later the render is working through cloud influenced areas again and massively slows down. Really painful to watch.

Up to a certain point I was able to pause the render process and save the scene to render again later. It must have been after 60% of the render was done when I wasn’t able to use the so called ‘resume’ option anymore and had to keep my machine running until the render finished. Reminding you that I don’t have a second machine to outsource my rendering to. So I sat there and tried not to do things that would cause the render to crash. Luckily four years ago I really invested some time into getting the right parts for this pc. So it never disappointed me when it came to rendering. It may take time but it gets the job done. So I moved over to my even older laptop – leaving the big machine alone to get the render through.

Eventually it got done… after almost 300 hours. Holy crap. Seriously. I was so happy when the picture was saved properly and was something I could work with. Then I became a little crazed out, because now I really had the pressure to do something cool with it! I mean, just imagine having a picture that took 300hrs to render and you wouldn’t be able to make use of it! A nightmare! And honestly, after a couple of days looking at the render, it started to look boring. MORE PRESSURE! =D

Yes, the infamous cloud render does look bland and boring but it was just one component of a bigger idea. After having that monster out of the way I was able to create and render the actual scene. The big cruiser hanging in the middle of these weird rock structures along with the smaller ships zipping about. Luckily the Photoshop work was a blast and I managed to get something done with help of the cloud render. Of course there was a lot of overpainting and refining. Especially when it came to the couds. The render gave me a good starting point to move on from.

If you ask me what we’re seeing in the scene I couldn’t give you a direct answer. From my point of view it’s a deep space exploration (hence the ship name DSE Scynthia) endeavour having fun exploring this weird planet. But is it a planet? Maybe it’s a giant asteroid field hanging in some sort of very dense nebula cloud thing? It could also be a secret pirate operation and the big ship is a sort of mobile base/hiding place. A friend of mine even said the rock formations could be molecules or DNA string like stuff. I leave it to your imagination and really hope you enjoy the view. Seriously! I really hope you enjoy it!

Thanks out to some friends and Nick, Michael Magin, David Luong for some finishing advice.

6000×2739 – Xenodream – Vue – Photoshop


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