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hi-res environment

- 3ds Max
- Brazil
- After Effects


Sometimes interesting, sometimes banal, stage set visualisation was until recently a regular fixture my working week, as other pages will testify. Fast turnaround jobs: client gets pretty picture; end of story.

I deliberately avoided compositing in real auditoria in many of the stage scenarios I worked on. The reasons were partly political, partly aesthetic: I was never let loose at an actual event with camera to get some definitive shots for post-work, so what was demanded of me, I delivered according to given resources. I also wanted to see how
far I could go on pure synthesis alone.

Here, I decided to try and take things a little further. I adopted one particular environment, which contained more interesting than average features, and used it to experiment with Splutterfish's 'Brazil' freebie public release. The camera dimensions had to be recalculated to account for the cropping / watermarking which the demo adds to the frame buffer - a Babbageian task in its own right.

The central wall screen was adorned with some animated maps courtesy of Trapcode's '3d Stroke; with, of course, a little help from its frighteningly ubiquitous sibling; 'Shine'
Working between 3d and 2d, you gradually learn how to play two distinct, complementary process environments off each other, and accordingly I've evolved production strategies to keep projects as optimal as I can. After Effects is 3D (ok, it's taken 3D on board, in a fashion) - and it walks over MAX in certain situations. The inverse likewise applies. One of my current favourites is rendering out Z-depth info to to add depth of field blur in post, opposed to triple the render time with MAXs' DOF.

Brazil's the kind of product I'd love to use professionally. This naiively non-optimised scene must have sorely tested its patience, even without using GI - which is glaringly omitted here. To keep times down, I yo-yo'd various of the elements in this sequence back and forth between 3d and 2d. Image sequences were fed back into Max as scene maps, rather than re-bake my CPU's.
Along with countless mattes, I generated a fair number of tracking objects for AE to get its teeth into, to lay lens fx on, like the flares on the spotlights here. As I recall, trying to track even very easy objects with this project had me under the desk gnawing on a handy table leg, but the latest incarnation of AE - 6.5 - seems to have nailed the process down.

Brazil might face stiffer competition now Discreet's bundled mental ray in with MAX 6, mortgages for the standalone bucket servers notwithstanding. Then there's Cebas, V-Ray, the imminent Maxwell, and hardware-based solutions like PURE to consider - not to mention the mysteries of the Renderman solution.

With finite funds, if I'm going to invest, I want full product confidence first - I've made that mistake before - never again. That, or someone else's budget to play with.
None of the 3rd-party render solutions, to my mind, leaps out as the definitive choice.
All the solutions are worthy, but one's too costly, another's demo is erratic, another requires you to speculatively invest in a beta and do their dev for them. So it goes. Research continues...