Cycles for animation


I’ve been a hobbyist with blender for about the past year. I have no other experience with 3d software. Here is my noob issue/question. I’m happy with the modeling, texturing, lighting, etc. that I’m doing and have wanted to move forward with some animations. However, cycles takes so long to render on my computer that it seems there is no way I could ever produce an animation. My card isn’t terrible (550ti), but it’s not blazing fast. Not only that, but I’ve rendered some stuff on a render farm (a beta account at and the frames even take a long time there.

Let’s assume that I could get a frame render down to 3 minutes (unfortunately many of my frames take closer to 20 minutes). That is still 12 hours for a 10 second clip.

Since I don’t have much experience with BI (cycles came out shortly after I started), would BI be faster for animations? Is cycles unreasonable to use for animation for the hobbyist? Or, do people just suck it up and render animations over the course of a couple of months?


If your render per frame is 20 mins, look at reducing that time. Are you using too many samples, changing lighting can reduce time, have you turned off caustics, look at your materials, are they too complex, use render passes, use the compositor to post process rather than do everything in camera. Whatever your settings are, you can always reduce the render time even further.

BI may or may not be faster, it depends on the material settings you want to use.

I’ve taken really careful steps to reduce the time as much as possible. The 20 minute scenes are just really complex and I have a good idea of why they take so long. I’ve spent a lot of time reading about and learning why cycles takes a long time since I want to reduce the render time as much as possible.

But like I said, even getting down to 3-5 minutes a frame would still take a very long time to render something that is even 1 minute long.

Are other external renderers faster? Or is this just the reality of computer animation?

Part of it is the reality, 3-5 min is not very long, and longer can be expected.

Have you tried adding large plane emitters out of sight of the camera? Having really large light sources can make a huge difference.

Sometimes having good noise removal software can be important too.

I see your 550Ti has 192 cores, the 580 has 512. So that would be 2.6x faster.

What CPU do you have? You could open Blender twice, and for example, render frames 1-150 on GPU and 151-200 on CPU

That raises an interesting idea that maybe I should post in the tech forum. Let’s say I bought a 580. Could I keep both cards in my system (non-SLI) and run two instances of blender - each using a separate card? I’d probably burn down by case… haha.

Well, keep in mind that a frame on a Pixar production can take 8 hours+ to render (yes, just one frame) and suddenly 5-20 minutes looks pretty paltry. The fact of the matter is that rendering animations isn’t something everyone is going to be able to do. Unless you have a lot of time when you don’t mind not using your computer, it’s probably not going to happen for most people on their home PCs.

So you’re not happy with the lower quality output of Cycles?

Just do the math. Here is what I do. I look at my total length in frames, lets say 900 @ 30fps for 30 seconds of footage. Let’s say you start your render at 12:00 midnight and get up at 8:00 am. So you have 8 hours of render time to render 30 seconds of footage. 480 minutes. 28,800 seconds. Divided by 900 = 32 seconds per frame. If we drop down to 24fps we would divide by 720 and get 40 seconds a frame.

All you have to do now is make a single frame render within the window you have calculated or decided upon.

To achieve this we lobotomize Cycles and configure it for speed first.
Drop Samples to 1.
Set both tiles to 256.
Under Light Paths choose Direct Lighting and set all Max values to 1.
Issue test renders and observe the time it takes to render the final frame. At what size you say… Try to target for 1280x720 but if not lower down to 640x480.
Ignore the quality or look you are getting out of your render. Only focus on the time it takes to process the frame.
If you still are not within your time window for completion materials will need to be lobotmized as well.
For ease of adjustment select all objects and assign them all the same material. Make this material a simple Diffuse with a roughness of 0.0.
At this point if your renders are still too long (i.e. longer than 32 or 40 seconds) remove all lights from the scene.

We want to see a black frame returned to us in the amount of time that can actually lead to success.

At this point with the sampler bottomed out, a single material and no lights in the scene or world you will be faced with removing geometry from the scene. Remember, you can animate if an object is considered for rendering by animating the CAMERA icon in the outliner for each object. When an object passed behind a camera animate it off.

Otherwise your scene is just too complex for the time frame and you need more time.

Or use Blender Internal it is way faster and easier to use for most simple lighting setups. As Richard mentions, material types play an important part in the time it takes any render system to calculate the final pixel.

I’m assuming atom’s post is 99% sarcasm? Thanks for the help…

Regardless, I understand why it takes a long time. I was just wondering whether this is something all hobbyist face or perhaps cycles is just slower than other renderer choices.

Thanks to everyone for the input.

Well, less than 99% seems to be. You won’t get 30 second render times with Cycles. You probably could but the hardware you’d need for it, if it’s available to the general public, would require you and everyone who shares even a strand of your DNA to get a couple of full time jobs and toss the earnings your way before you could even afford to start putting that system together.

What he said can, however, help you determine what you need to optimize and animating the render flag of an off camera object is especially useful.

You won’t get 30 second render times with Cycles.
Sure you can and faster. I can render the default cube in Cycles on a dual laptop running in CPU mode in 3.4 seconds.

I apologize if my advice comes off as too sarcastic. I meant for it to be just general information. It is my workflow. That is how I determine if I can render an animation in a given amount of time. Sometimes you just need to deliver ‘something’, ‘anything’. Even a grainy tiny little thumbnail for the director or project manager to look at. At those times, that is when doing the math will get you through that deliverable.

I understood what you were saying. This is pretty much the same thing I’ve done, but with BI.

Ultimately as a hobbyist / someone who doesn’t want to pay lots for rendering, you will have to compromise on quality in some way if you want to reduce the render time.