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FMX 2012

Hey everyone,

this week (8-11 May 2012) I was at the FMX conference, the 17th Conference on Animation, Effects, Games and Transmedia in Stuttgart. It was a great conference again and I want to share some information and images of the event. Andy Goralczyk and I also held a Blender workshop there of which I will report as well of course! :)

FMX 2012 - Haus der Wirtschaft

On the first day at FMX, I watched two great presentations, starting with a presentation by Daniel McCoy, Pixar about “La Luna”. La Luna is a new short film by Pixar, which will be screened before their upcoming feature “Brave”. The film is about 7 minutes long and I liked it a lot. After the screening he talked about the creation process, storyboards, texrturing and showed some funny behind the scenes video about the dialogue recordings. The language in La Luna is Gibberish which makes it even more funny.

The second presentation I saw that day, was about The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. The guys from “Platige Image” talked about some technical challenges while producing the cinematic introduction.

The Witcher 2 Cinematic Introduction

During the week, there were some more great presentations, for example by Unexpected, who showcased some of their latest commercial spots and Crytek talked about “The Long Road to Film/Game Convergence”.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Dylan Sisson from Pixar again (I met him at FMX 2009 already). He showed the latest Renderman developments. It was also very interesting when he said, that although the machines are becoming faster and faster, render time always stays the same. Recently they re-rendered the first Toy Story movie, 1 frame took 5 hours in 1995, today it only took 1 minute. They re-submitted the render job to the farm, because they thought something must be wrong.

Dylan Sisson from Pixar

Alex & Steffen from Unexpected

Talk by Christopher Evans of Crytek

One of the most interesting presentations (artistically) was by Mario Janelle and Alex McDowell. They showcased “Upside Down” – Worldbuilding for Independent Cinema. Upside Down is a feature film which will be in cinema this year. Definitely on my “Must see in cinema” list for this year!

"Upside Down" - Worldbuilding for Independent Cinema

For the technically interested people, Upside Down used the Arnold Renderer to render the VFX. And that brings me to my favourite technical presentation, held by Marcos Fajardo, Solid Angle. For those of you who don’t know, Arnold is a pathtracer and basically the fastest one available.

Marcos showcased some of their latest improvements and some commercials done with the Arnold engine. One commercial I really laughed a lot is “The Bear“. Check it out!

Mass Effect 3 Trailer "Take Earth Back", rendered with Arnold

New features in Arnold 4.0

The Raytracing Engine of Arnold

Smoke and GI in a Cornell Box - Arnold

Arnold is a very impressive Renderer and very fast. Arnold and Cycles have a lot in common. Michael Heberlein, Filmakademie demoed Arnold in Softimage. It has Light Paths as well, it uses OpenImageIO and both are pathtracers. Basically the same technology, but Arnold is a lot faster, highly optimized. But it’s amazing to see this technology being used in more and more professional productions.

I talked a bit with Marcos after his presentation, he was aware of Brecht and myself even (and Cycles) and he was very friendly. I wish him and his company a lot of success!

On Thursday Andy and I had our presentation “Blender Inside Out” in Raum Karlsruhe (11.00 – 12.00 am). The room was full, about 150 people listened to our Blender presentation. In the first part I talked a bit about what Blender is and what features we have at the moment. I also stressed the rapid development and gave an overview of things to come in the next few weeks. If you want to check my part of the presentation, here are the slides (ThomasDinges-FMX2012.pdf). Andy demoed Blender by using a character from his Stop Motion film “OMEGA” from which he showed an excerpts too. The audience had a lot of questions at the end and it was great to see so many people at the talk. Thanks!! Also thanks to Ton Roosendaal and FMX who made it possible for us to do this presentation!

Andy and myself at the presentation (Image by Julian Herzog)

The audience (Image by Julian Herzog)

Andy talking about OMEGA (Image by Julian Herzog)

The audience (Image by Julian Herzog)

After the presentation we went to the Trade Floor where we demoed Blender and especially Cycles on one of the awesome fast workstations by CADnetwork. Huge thanks to them for allowing us to demo Blender at their booth!

Blender Demo at the CADnetwork booth (Image by Julian Herzog)

Entrance to the Trade Floor

On Thursday evening all speakers of FMX were invited to a Speakers Dinner at Hotel Maritim in Stuttgart, it was a nice opportunity, I talked with some great people from studios and universities.

Speaker Dinner at Hotel Maritim

On Friday, I played an awesome Augmented Reality game, done by students of Filmakademie. They used…guess what, right…the Blender game engine!They used it because they searched for a good game engine for Linux which is capable of a video input stream without issues. You can check it out on the internet: http://total-ar.com/

Augmented reality game done with Blender

FMX 2012 was amazing, I met a lot of interesting people and I had great conversations. The VFX industry is moving for sure and Blender is becoming more and more popular and gets attention. See you next year again, at FMX 2013!

Festival Of Animated Film in Stuttgart

BVH Build Hyperspeed

Cycles is already a fast engine, but a lot of improvements are still possible and Brecht committed one today.
It does not affect the render time, but the BVH building time at the beginning of a render.

The changes can be tested in the soc-2011-tomato branch for now and you need svn revision 45917 or above.

The BVH  stores all the geometry of your scene, so the engine can render it. Depending on the amount of geometry and the scenes complexity, the BVH build can take a second or a few minutes. If you render an animation where you only move the camera or only the shaders are changing, it does not need to rebuild the cache for each frame. There is already an option “BVH Cache” option for that in the Performance panel. But if actual geometry is changing or moving around, Cycles must rebuild the BVH on each frame. And this can take time. If you have a fast GPU, it might even take longer than the actual ray-tracing time.

Well this is over now. BVH building time is now multi threaded and heavy optimizations have been done. Let’s compare some times between Blender 2.63 RC1 and the Tomato Branch with the improved code. I tested a few scenes and measured the time from pressing F12 to seeing the first rendered sample. Note: “Spatial Split” was disabled. (Test system: Core i7 2630QM, 8GB Ram, Geforce 540M)

Scene 1: Audi-R8 from Blendswap

Blender 2.63 RC1: 43 seconds
Blender Tomato: 11 seconds

Scene 2: BMPS Material Preview Scene

Blender 2.63 RC1: 44 seconds
Blender Tomato: 8 seconds

Scene 3: 19 Billion Poly Scene (Instancing)

Blender 2.63 RC1: 11 seconds
Blender Tomato: 6 seconds

Scene 4: Subdivided Cube

1.5 Million Polygons:
Blender 2.63 RC1: 84 seconds
Blender Tomato: 12 seconds

6.3 Million Polygons:
Blender 2.63 RC1: 371 seconds
Blender Tomato: 51 seconds

The conclusion is clear I think. This has a real production value and in very heavy scenes it’s an improvement you don’t want to miss any longer. If you don’t have the Tomato branch, the improvements should be in Trunk next week, so it will be included in Blender 2.64. Have fun! :)