It's official: I have a date for my final review: November 27th. The day before Thanksgiving. This means that I'm either going to have a spectacular or a really bad holiday (hopefully the former). This also means that I have until the 13th of November to finish my thesis and presentation. This isn't the greatest news since I discovered this week that my gallery takes 40-45 minutes per frame to render, but it's also fantastic news given that it provides me with the extra week that I knew I'd need past the earliest possible deadline that I could have had.
The first thing that I worked on this week was my gallery, and thank goodness for that! I started work on it first because I figured that I'd get it out of the way - get it off of my plate while I finished up my Warrior and started work on my presentation materials. Then I discovered how long it took to render a finished frame and I think that I died a little...
Ok, so that kind of statement may be a bit over-dramatic, but it feels right. I only got my date on Friday, so as far as I knew for most of the week I had the potential for having to turn my entire thesis and presentation in on Monday, November 4th (the day that I'm writing this, as it happens) and there was no way that I could finish everything by then with the renders taking that long. I did the math and discovered that I would need over four straight days and nights of rendering to finish just the essential frames that I needed for my thesis. And I still needed to finish sculpting, normal-mapping, and rendering my Warrior. Not to mention compositing my whole reel and finishing all of my presentation materials - which would require additional beauty shot renders. Thankfully, I have two computers that I can work on (which is how I'm currently rendering gallery frames while typing up this journal entry), but only one has enough RAM to render from Modo in a manageable time-frame (the 45 minute renders on my PC took over 3 hours each on my much older Mac laptop) or handle models with over 10 million polygons in ZBrush. I can work on my presentation materials and directed study journals on my laptop, but the most crucial and time-consuming elements of my thesis all require the same computer to function efficiently, and 4 straight days of rendering did not fit the schedule.
Thus, this past week was incredibly stressful as I waited to find out my date - all the while hoping against hope that I would get a presentation date at least a week later than the earliest one so that I could fit my newly-expanded gallery render time into the schedule. Any time that I haven't been working directly on my PC I've been rendering on it, and I got a pleasant surprise last night when I discovered that the second half of the gallery turntable frames have dropped in render time from 45 to 40 minutes per frame. (That extra 5 minutes makes quite the difference in the long run!)
The first thing that I did in my gallery was finish laying out those newly UVed logs that I mentioned in my last post, then I brought everything into Modo. It was there that I discovered that my couch normal maps looked terrible. I ended up using a slightly higher resolution version of the sculpted couches (one subdivision level up from the lowest level which is pictured in the image above) and re-baking the normal maps to get a much more pleasing result:
I spent a full day adjusting the render settings of the scene to account for odd graininess and scattered light beams and harsh-edged shadows and highlights in the initial images that I was rendering, and I'm pretty happy with where I ended up. The only trouble that I'm having now (aside from astronomical render times) is trying to decide which final color pass I want to use for my turntable:
I really like the contrast of the darker view,
but I worry that the lighter frame might just show off the model better...
I'm waiting for opinions from this week's critique to make my decision fully. I'm rendering both passes with each frame (it doesn't seem to change the render time to have two passes instead of just one) so I have until I finish all of the renders and start compositing my fly-through to make my decision.
In addition to my gallery, I also finished posing and sculpting my Warrior character this week:
I'm quite happy with him. I think that the pose came out really well and I think that the surface texture really looks like it could be chiseled wood. I'm especially happy with the rake-tool details; they're the kind of marks that I noticed all over the real wood sculptures that I was using as reference. Now I'm just hoping that the normal maps that I need to bake in the next day or two capture the detail on him properly.
The last things that I worked on this week were compositing the completed turntable renders of my Juggler and Addict characters. I think that my Juggler still needs some work on the timing, but I'm pretty happy with where my Addict's at. I'll fix my Juggler's issues when I composite my whole thesis reel together this coming weekend, but, for now, enjoy: