Tech Re­views

Animation Magazine - - Opportunities -

I’m a fan of Dead­line. I don’t think that’s a se­cret. I use it for my own stu­dio, Tea­spoonVFX. I pro­mote it at the stu­dios that con­tract me. I’ve used it on big fea­ture films, on lit­tle mu­seum pieces and on per­sonal an­i­ma­tion projects. I’m us­ing it as I write this to ren­der out a sub­stan­tial Nuke com­pos­ite. But what is new in Dead­line 8.0?

Well, the game-changer for me is that Thinkbox has set up an e-com­merce site to man­age soft­ware li­cense ren­tals. You see, I only have a cou­ple ma­chines at home to ren­der on, so my Dead­line re­quire­ments are min­i­mal. But ev­ery so of­ten, I have to ren­der some­thing huge — by to­mor­row. Dead­line has had tools to quickly and eas­ily spin up cloud­based servers on Google, Ama­zon and Mi­crosoft — and 8.0 pro­vides even eas­ier step-by-step pro­ce­dures — but now you have 20 ren­der boxes! And there’s you (or me), with a mea­ger two-box li­cense (which is free, BTW ... you can use Dead­line for free if you only have two ma­chines). So how do you bring your new farm into the mix?

Thinkbox al­lows you to log in, and start your me­ter run­ning for the ex­tra Dead­line li­censes for the cloud slaves, billed out at a per-minute rate. You aren’t billed when the slaves aren’t ren­der­ing. They call this Us­age Based Li­cens­ing. This is great for small houses or free­lancers who don’t need a hun­dred ma­chines per month. They just need it now, for eight hours. But it’s also good for big stu­dios with thou­sands of slaves who need more! Yes, I’ve seen it hap­pen.

“Oh-ho!” you might say, “I don’t have enough Maxwell li­censes for my 20 new cloud ma­chines.”

Thinkbox has made some deals with third party providers to is­sue UBLs to go along with your Dead­line li­censes. Iray, Nuke, Katana, Maxwell, Men­tal Ray, RealFlow, Red­shift, V-Ray and Yeti are just a sam­pling of soft­ware avail­able now — more to come, I’m sure. And don’t for­get Thinkbox’s other soft­ware, like Kraka­toa and Se­quoia. Yeah, you can rent those, too. By the minute. You can es­sen­tially fill up your Nuke tank with Nuke gas, and when you use Nuke on the farm, you can keep com­posit­ing un­til the gas runs out. And then you re­fill it!

The other im­prove­ments are im­por­tant, but not quite as sexy. You can se­curely log in to re­mote farms without a VPN, or mount repos­i­to­ries lo­cally (repos­i­to­ries are the things that store all the jobs and are con­trolled by a Mongo Data­base). The Dead­line Mon­i­tor (where you watch your jobs) has had some re­cod­ing in C++ to speed up re­sponse time, and longer pro­cesses are pushed into the back­ground so the Mon­i­tor re­mains re­spon­sive. Just to name a cou­ple up­dates un­der the hood.

Any­way, I’ll be look­ing at some other farm man­agers soon. I’m sure they’re great. Dead­line just hap­pens to be my bi­ased fa­vorite.

To stay with a GPU-ac­cel­er­ated theme, we move over to the lat­est re­lease of Maxwell Ren­der (ver­sion 4.0), from Nex­tLimit, the peo­ple in Spain who brought us RealFlow!

Maxwell has been around for quite a while — a bit over a decade since its public re­lease. It just hasn’t been given the credit it de­serves among the bevy of ren­der en­gines. And maybe it got a slow start be­cause its foun­da­tion is all about phys­i­cal ac­cu­racy — and back in the early aughts, phys­i­cal ac­cu­racy came at a price. It was beau­ti­ful, but slow. And pro­duc­tions need beau­ti­ful, but fast, if not com­pletely ac­cu­rate. As it ma­tured, and CPUs got faster, and you could fit more of them into a ma­chine, Maxwell be­came more vi­able as a pro­duc­tion tool.

With Maxwell Ren­der 4.0, they leap over to the GPU to speed up pro­duc­tion and ren­der­ing dra­mat­i­cally, some­times by a fac­tor of ten. The pro­gres­sive ren­derer will be fa­mil­iar to V-Ray, Mantra, etc., users as the im­age starts rough and just con­tin­ues to get more and more re­fined. But now it’s be­ing helped by your NVidia Card — yeah, one downer for the Radeon and OSX guys, Maxwell is div­ing into the OpenCL code, so not as much ben­e­fit for y’all.

And GPU ren­der­ing isn’t the end-all/be-all. You don’t get a ben­e­fit with highly com­plex light trans­ports (in­di­rect light­ing, sub-sur­face scat­ter­ing, etc.), nei­ther does it work very well with larger scenes be­cause the RAM lim­i­ta­tion on graph­ics card doesn’t al­low you to store the scene on board for ren­der­ing. Also, GPU cur­rently only sup­ports a lim­ited num­ber of AOV, so ... if you want all the things, then CPU is the bet­ter op­tion.

That said, you def­i­nitely get a pay­off in speed while pro­to­typ­ing the light­ing and lookdev be­fore switch­ing to the CPU for fine-tun­ing be­fore fi­nal ren­ders. And speak­ing of fine-tun­ing, Nex­tLimit has re­leased a stand­alone ver­sion of Mul­ti­light for free! Mul­ti­light has pre­vi­ously been bun­dled into Maxwell Stu­dio. It reads .mxi ren­der files from Maxwell and stores the light from dis­crete light sources and com­bines them to­gether. With the use of slid­ers to con­trol the light con­tri­bu­tion as well as cam­era set­tings, you can au­di­tion tons of light set­ups to show clients — a boon for ar­chi­tec­ture, for sure. The in­ter­face for the stand­alone is sleek and clean and easy to pick up. It would be ter­rific to ex­port the set­tings of a client-cho­sen im­age back to Maxwell for fi­nal ren­ders (or maybe there is; I need to hunt around a bit more).

Nex­tLimit has re­vamped its on­line ma­te­ri­als brary with a cu­rated set of more than a thou­sand op­ti­mized Maxwell ma­te­ri­als for users to grab and down­load. Search­able and fil­ter­able, the li­brary should be able to get even the be­gin­ner­est of be­gin­ners a jump off point for mak­ing pretty pic­tures.

Over­all, it’s a good re­lease for a beau­ti­ful prod­uct. A lit­tle sad about some of the GPU lim­i­ta­tions, but a few so­lu­tions are on the roadmap, and some will just have to wait for larger ca­pac­ity GPUs. Todd Sheri­dan Perry is a visual-ef­fects su­per­vi­sor and dig­i­tal artist who has worked on fea­tures in­clud­ing The Lord of the Rings: The Two Tow­ers, Speed Racer, 2012, Fi­nal Des­ti­na­tion 5 and Avengers: Age of Ul­tron. You can reach him at todd@tea­spoonvfx.com.

some fetch­ing ex­tras: The Hu­mans That Brought You Pets, An­i­mals Can Talk: Meet the Ac­tors, All About the Pets, Hair­styl­ist to the Dogs, The Best of Snow­ball, “Lovely Day” lyric video, Hot Dog sing-along, Brian the Min­ion on Pets, Go-Pro: The Se­cret Life of Pets, Sing Trailer, and three mini-movies to get your tail wag­ging. Jor­dan Peele as show-steal­ing wolves. Spe­cial fea­tures for DVD, Dig­i­tal, Blu-ray ($35.99), Blu-ray 3D and 4K ($44.95) in­clude Storks: Guide to Your New Baby, The Mas­ter: A LEGO Nin­jago Short, mu­sic video for Ja­son Derulo’s “Kiss the Sky,” deleted scenes, out­takes and di­rec­tors’ com­men­tary. To quote Pi­geon Toady: Brah! ray ($49.99), which packs in worlds of ex­tras (you can find a full list on An­i­ma­tion­Magazine.net) as well as se­lec­tions from The Leg­end of Korra: The Art of the An­i­mated Se­ries in­cluded as a spe­cial gift while sup­plies last. For once, we’re telling you to “get bent” as a piece of friendly ad­vice.

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