How to meet deadlines and staying creative when doing animations

When working on comissioned projects, creativity often gets shoved into the closet. We all know this. We´re artists, and we need our freedom to stay creative. But that´s not always the case. Sometimes, especially when dealing with tight deadlines – you need to come up with strategies to stay creative while meeting the deadlines.

When working on the music video “Love”, I only had three weeks. That´s 21 days out of which most of the time was pure rendering time. Here´s the final video:

I had two PC´s literary frying their CPU´s off. One poor older 32 bit PC with dual 3.4 Ghz processors and a fast 64 bit Vista PC with 2 quad 2.67 Ghz processors (8 cores) with at that time 8 Gb of RAM. DAZ Studio, the software I used, was still in version 2.3 at that time, so it wasn´t utilizing the 64 bit structure – and was only running in 32 bit mode.

It´s one thing to have unlimited time for a project. You can then just use whatever you want to. You throw in radiosity, complex effects, large scenes and so on – and it looks cool 127 minutes later of pure rendering time – per frame. But when the clock is ticking – you need to find shortcuts. Especially when working on longer animations, where each second is 25 or 30 frames. The question you need to ask yourself is this: How can I make this look almost as cool, but render in below 2 minutes per frame? Or even below 1 minute?

When working with video filming and editing for a decade and a half, I discovered something called cutting corners. That´s a creative way of cutting down what you need to do, and still make it look the best you can. For instance, let´s say you need eight camera angles to tell the story. If you only have one camera, that means filmning the same stuff eight times. This adds filmning time. And it adds editing time. So, what if you could make it happen with just a single camera angle? Maybe running with the camera and making it look handheld? You know where I´m going with this – cutting corners. Making something almost as good, but with less time.

Same applies in 3D graphics. How can you make things simpler? One very useful trick I used when making the music video “Love”, was to fake a lot of the graphics seen. For instance, for several shots, I rendered a high rez background, and used that instead of the full scenery. DAZ Studio then only needed to calculate the lighting on the figure, rather than the entire scene and it cut down the render time 10 times. For some of the shots, I even turned off the lighting and used the pre-rendered background and rendered using the much faster Open GL render engine. Without lights, nobody could tell it had lower quality. That way, I could use the older PC to produce a lot of material, while the fast machine was dealing with the more complex scenes.

So, creativity doesn´t only mean what you produce on the screen. It can also mean HOW you do it. To find creative ways of cutting down production time and render time, you need to play and experiment quite a lot. Simply run tests. Does this look good? Can this be taken for real? It doesn´t have to be real, as long as it looks real!

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