BI Tests: Soup-Up the Old Classic for Animation

Hi gang;
I’ve seen a lot of great advice over my time here from the old hands concerning tricks that you can do to a scene in BI in order to render animation faster, and yet still have it look great. However, it gets dispersed into various threads, some of which are very old. That can make it pretty difficult to rapidly gain insight for the beginner or even intermediate animator who spends some time building an animated scene, then wonders: “My GOD! WHY is it taking SO LONG TO RENDER THIS ANIMATION?!?!”

That’s why I decided to start this thread. To have a single catalog of great tips, tricks (quick, dirty, insane, brilliant, counter-intuitive, or otherwise.)

Now, many of you are stuck in No Man’s Land in the debate about Cycles vs. BI, or Yafaray vs. whatever, etc. That’s fine. And yes, Cycles is brilliant. And it will get better and faster. And it will one day be the choice for Blender animation. And we should still have some patience. No one wants to see Brecht have a coronary. “We will make no wine before it’s time.”
So, why BI, and not Cycles?
There’s reasons, almost none of which I’m competent to wade into deeply at all. For me, even though I have a good GPU, I’ve still decided to stick with BI for now, do what I can to master it, and learn to be patient during the rendering of animation. As I’ve said elsewhere.
I wouldn’t mind some light debate about Cycles and what it can do. But there are already plenty of threads doing that. Especially The Cycles Tests New CPU/GPU Renderer of Awesomeness, populated by some really gorgeous renders and some very deep, clever, brilliant, and often unexpected new techniques and tricks for making Cycles do things that make mortals weep. So check that out.

And so this thread is in the Testing section, hopefully to be the sister thread to Cycles Tests.
I hope that this thread will wade into several different areas of BI besides just simple “rendering.” Which is why I didn’t post it in another section, like “rendering.” My hope is that the more experienced will delve into topics like lighting, compositing, modelling, the BGE, animating and the graphing editor, etc. Again, my point was to have a thread that will serve as a catalog of great tips and ideas for getting BI to do things you didn’t think it could do. For animation.
And the main point of all of this is to focus on speed. The developers have done some brilliant, heroic work, and BI is reaching it’s Golden Age. It has reached a level of feature completeness that I never imagined it could. It’s time to work with what we’ve got. Not what hardware or the various Graphicall revisions can do for speed-boosting. But what THE ARTIST can do.

Okay, so you’re going “What about stillshots?!” Go ahead and post them. This is a test thread, and your picture is worth my thousand (or more) words. But people who are more interested in stillshots are (usually) going to use Cycles, or Lux, or Yafaray, or any of the million other externals.
But BI can do something none of those can (yet): produce beautiful animation, on your desktop, within a “reasonable” amount of time.
And the way you can do that (hopefully) will be to scour this thread…

Now, recently I’ve heard from several of the more experienced Blenderheads that one way of making good time in BI animation rendering is to make heavy use of the Compositor. The Makers are bringing the compositor into the GPU for a speed bonus. That’s as much as I know about it. So I’m hoping that clever compositor tricks will become a mainstay of this thread. In Cycles Tests, the usual method is to post a screenshot of your nodes setup, so when dealing with the compositor, and with nodes in general, I think that’s the best way of doing things.

Well, I’ve rattled long enough. If there’s any confusion left about my intentions for this thread, fire away and I’ll duck and then man up and try to clarify as best I can.
I guess the main points I’m making are these:

  1. This should be a thread geared toward the beginner. You know the beginner. You once were one. So let’s always just be nice, let our hair down, and not try to be impressive with technical prowess. Be simple. This stuff gets complex and deep real fast. So let’s all pretend that we’re in kindergarten doing Show’n’Tell. Try not to get a spanking. Try hard. Goes for me too. Especially.
  2. I don’t see anything wrong with getting philosophical. There’s room for it here. Again, this is complex stuff, and has gotten more-so with all the new updates, tweaks, fixes, and the misty future of BI and Cycles…
    But there’s other threads that focus on that. And this is a learning thread. So focus. And I’ll focus on focusing and not writing an editorial with every post. I’m just posting “Is this better?”-type shots and clips in here from now on. Seriously. I mean it… :yes:
  3. This is a TESTS thread. If you have a question, and you’re relatively new to Blender, ask away. There is no such thing as a “stupid question”; except for that one question that no one has the balls to ask. That’s usually the one everyone gets killed by.
    If you have a great new idea on speeding up rendering, a new technique to do something, whatever, EXPLAIN it; don’t just post a shot of a node group, and a “descriptive” title. Yes, if you invent something new, YOU’RE CLEVER. We’re deeply impressed. No, we aren’t on your level enough to understand it. In fact, you’re probably the reincarnation of Einstein.
    Still, if you’re doing something that no one else seems to be doing, and you think it’s a big help to you, then why keep it a Big Secret? Go into some detail, keeping in mind that this is a thread for beginners. If english isn’t your first language, that’s okay, don’t be shy. We won’t make fun of you. We just want to know how you did that Crazy Awesome Thing, but we’re all too shy and scared and confused to ask. And we’ve been playing with it for the last five hours and still can’t replicate your snapshot…
  4. And, no “grammar nazis” and flamewars here, please. My intention on this thread is sincere. I have a lot to learn about getting the most out of BI I can, and I know everyone else feels that way. Just gear it toward animation, speed, and optimization. Those are the main topics. But remember, that’s a giant basket. So I hope a little leeway can be afforded as far as “topic” goes. I often feel that everything’s related anyway. And this thread doesn’t have a thousand posts yet…

At any rate, that’s about it. Good luck, I hope this thread sparks some new ideas, a lot of learning, some gorgeous art and animation, and new friends made.
It’s about experimentation, tinkering, having fun being smart and creative and clever, and giving the old girl new tires a new glosscoat.

Lastly: a thousand frame animation is still going to take a Very Long Time to render. That’s just how the universe works. I don’t care what GPU you have. I don’t care if you marry CRAYs together in ungodly LAN wedlock.
Read a book. Go for a hike. Take a nap. Make your sweetie scream. Take up zen buddhist chanting. Learn PATIENCE.
Hopefully, though, many experienced Blenderheads will post some truly great and insightful tips on how to boost the speed of animation rendering, while still creating some truly gorgeous shorts. And hopefully, some of the new Blenderheads will find that, yes, it is possible to create a truly stunning animated film, in Blender, before you get too old to enjoy the screening party…

I think it’s a great idea for a thread.

Here’s a quick fluid test I made:

Unfortunately, I selected “volume” when setting up the bowl as an obstacle, and as a result, no fluid is actuallly in it. I’ll revise the test so the fluid goes in the bowl.

Well I’m not doubting the capabilities that BI has today (it can do a lot of things and I have achieved fairly good results with it in the past), but once I was exposed to GI and seeing what it can do for an image I didn’t really want to go back to my old methods that faked it.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you get quite a few examples of tricks that might not be seen that much in the average BI render, though your first post is quite a lot of reading for a thread that mainly says… While it is true that Cycles is a really good, flexible engine and can do many effects. The BI engine, even though it is based on a legacy shading-system that doesn’t use true GI, also allows for methods to give a realistic appearance to images and effects even though it might take a little more work to set up, show off your tests, tricks, and techniques in BI here.

Ace: Yeah, sorry for my wordiness. However, I’ve found that it’s more important to be clear than succinct, especially with this site on which people take a single sentence and proceed to a WWIII-level freakout.
My major points were that, personally, I’m more interested in doing animation. Cycles is fantastic, but I’ve noticed that an animated clip can take a while to render with it. Furthermore, it’s still learning how to walk. BI, on the other hand, is fairly quick at animation, although it probably isn’t the first choice for most people who want to do the most breathtaking single frame ever seen. BI has also come a long way in terms of development lately, and I’d like to see what the very experienced old hands can do with the new tools. I’d also like to have a clearing house for the greatest tricks and tips and discussions in view of animation rendering times/realism.
This thread was birthed out of the recent “Biased GPU Rendering” thread. I just didn’t want to clog that one up with more applied technique discussions and tests. It seems a more philosophical discussion than that.
Thanks for having a look, though, Ace. You’re one of the people I had in mind when I spoke of “old hands” who might have a lot of very great tips for speeding up an animation render, and things that tend to confuse the less experienced after they’ve let their machine cook an animation overnight and then throw a book at the screen when they watch it the first time…

Animaniac888: Thanks. I’m glad you like the idea. I like your fluid sim, but yeah, after you mentioned the “volume” flub I couldn’t stop staring at the cup. :slight_smile: It will be much better next time. This is one of those things that would look great in Cycles, but would take a reaaaalllly long time to render. What was the bake time, btw?

This Andrew thing was posted by someone else last night (sorry, can’t remember who…) on another thread as an intro tip. I had a look and realized I’d somehow never seen it. I’ve been thinking about the compositor a lot lately, using more than one render mixed together into a single image. I know very little about that, and want to learn more. Tomato seems like another way of doing that, as well, although possibly somewhat complicated. I’ve heard that the plans for the future of the compositor are that some of it’s work might be funneled into the GPU. If so, that would be a very nice speed bonus. At any rate, here’s this for beginning reference on compositing.

I left it baking overnight, it was about 8 hours, and I started rendering before school today.

Very cool AO setup. Yes, that’s exactly the sort of “trick” I’m talking about. So, a more nuanced AO. 56 seconds a couple of years ago. Would that give a speedup on a newer machine these days, compared to just clicking the AO button in the panel? But yeah, it does look cleaner. Very nice, Ace.
And yes, I despise Twit for it’s “little box for gagged masochists” approach to communication. Although it is a neat way for posting links to more elaborated things…

Animaniac: with that flub, you just proved the point of this thread. It isn’t fun to realize that something’s been goofed. But, posting it in public, and then explaining the reason it’s goofed, is the best way to learn, and to teach others.
And that’s what this thread is about. This is something that would have been very difficult to spot if you were just going for a stillshot. Probably use a whole different technique to model the water.
But as an animation, you end up going into the theory and a discussion of the best way to render animated water, and maybe eventually developing tips to simplify it or speed the render. Sort of like what happens in Cycles Tests, people like Negativa developing different types of “Fast lights.”
I’m convinced that similar ideas can come out of a thread like this, if people are open about their ideas, and share their information.
So, keep science-ing it.

Excellent idea for a thread. I’ve often seen people posting about how easy it is to fake it all, but nobody explains HOW to fake it all!!!

a good tut on faking reflections here by Max Hammond:

nice falloff effect lots of nice vids

if you can find Venoms Lab on youtube or elsewhere its a wealth of info

@Teamonster and Jay:
THANK YOU guys for the great links and wealth of information you both bring to a thread like this (and every other one…)
I’m very excited to have you aboard. Hope you’ll both post here regularly. :smiley:

You could always OpenGL it, which is what Endi did with his ‘A Very Little Warrior’. You have to take a ‘game’ approach to texturing, but it’s not very difficult, and you get real-time renders!

His blog is here, where he gives some how-to advice:

Good stuff, TeaMonster. Thank you. I’ve often used it for making quick and dirty animatics to check speed and timing.
Getting a bit off topic, but what would be nice is the ability to cache the viewport playback in the camera. When you openGL it, no matter how simple the scene, it takes a second or two to render it, which doesn’t sound like much, but considering that the Blender viewport can sometimes OpenGL render twenty-four times per second, and usually 10-12 times per second, this sounds like a feature we’re sorely lacking.

I wonder if something like that, or other GL improvements, are in the pipeline for a remake…
(I think in america we are too busy inventing new words to ever learn to speak english properly. Of course, really I just blame television. For everything.)

I wonder if something like that, or other GL improvements, are in the pipeline for a remake…

Hm. Any way to submit a feature request that the devs will actually read?

No idea. But with Cycles preview-style philosophy, I wouldn’t be surprised if something happened to give us faster animatic-type renders for filmmaking reference. Seems a logical start when turning to souping up Cycles for animation next year…

(sorry for being so off-topic everyone. Gotta get some “topic” meds…)
I just want to say, I’ve never really posted a thread before that was meant to be something like a class. However, as OP, I sort of feel some responsibility to be a “good host” (I grew up in the south. Down here, there is nothing worse than a bad host.) At any rate, in the interests of “topic,” brevity, and thread length, I hope you’ll all forgive me if I take a break from posting “Thank you, welcome aboard” messages if you post. Everyone’s welcome to the thread. I hope that posting a great tip, test, or idea, and then having people trying it and learning from it is thanks enough.
I said in OP that I’d refrain from editorializing but just post tests and tips, so I hope no one feels like I dropped my baby off on the corner if I try to be quieter and just listen. I just get tired of hearing myself talk, especially on my own thread. Especially one that’s supposed to be for everyone else.
You’re all welcome here, and I just hope people find this thread useful. So, “Y’all come back now, y’hear?”

How To Composite a BICycles Scene

1) Select the background objects that are best rendered in BI, and move them to Layer 2 with M.

2) Set the render layer to layer 2, and render the animation to a set of PNGs.

3) In Cycles, set the rendered layers to Layer 1, and turn on Transparent.

4) In the compositor, Alpha Over. (Found under Color, Image node is found under Input)
For sequences, use A to select all the images, and change the source type to Image Sequence.
Then, simply render out the animation in Cycles, and the background will be automatically added in.

@OL +50Billion BlenderPoints!

Thanks! :slight_smile:

My Failed attempt to recreate the Cycles Volume/Glass ice material in BI. I’m starting to think that the arguements that Cycles is too slow are without merit. In the time it takes for this to render, Cycles would have it done with 10 times less noise.

I set up the melting Europe render in 15 minutes. This one took an entire morning of tweaking solidify modifiers, waiting 10 min for preview renders, and trying to make out blurry 200p renders.

That’s why I think that we should all learn how to use both of them very well. If we can develop a deep gut instinct about what is best done in BI and what is best done in Cycles, then at some point the painful tinkering on a shot may be reduced to quick work. Then, using your BICylces composite setup (previous), the elements best done in one or the other can be combined into a single shot. It’s this adolescent stage of endless tweaking, revisions, and no “standard tutorials” that is painful. It’s like the Wild West, or the invention of the airplane. Difficult, time consuming, and even dangerous. However, it is also exciting.
(It’s also why I’ve been constantly advising “patience” while rendering lately.)