Working alongside the marketing and communications agency Proctor + Stevenson our task was to generate the 3D animated content to be used within a promotional video for the Panasonic Toughpad FZ-E1 as part of the Toughpad product range.
This is our third product animation for Panasonic of which they require ultra-realistic renders that clearly displays the functions and features of their Toughpad product range. In order for us to deliver that we used Chaos Group’s V-Ray 3 inside Autodesk 3ds Max. Watch the animation below:
Generating complex materials
The FZ-E1 is seen from all angles as well as close up and distance shots across various scenes. We needed to make sure the materials were suitable for all scenarios, particularly on the main casing there is a strong bumpy effect.
The FZ-E1 was made up of 25 or so unique materials of which some at first glance look similar but we made subtle differences in the reflections and diffuse to make the FZ-E1 look even more realistic. We used the VRayEdgesTex in the bump slot to simulate edge highlights, it is a quick method for generating highlights that would normally only be possible by chamfering the geometry.
The FZ-E1 sits on a clean light background so we rendered the animation using matte shadow to later add the background in post. In V-Ray it is simple to set up by adding a VRayMtl to a VRayMtlWrapper and turning on matte surface, shadows and affect alpha with contribution set to -1.0.
360 degree HDRI lighting
To generate realism we used HDRI lighting that created a soft environment for the FZ-E1. With V-Ray RT GPU running in the background we were able to see the results in real time to check where the shadows and highlights would fall.
As the FZ-E1 would be seen from all angles across various scenes that then seamlessly follow on from one another. Therefore we required a seamless lighting system that would work across the entire animation and to make sure there were no unwanted highlights at certain angles.
The V-Ray dome light is a great tool for simulating HDRI lighting that uses importance sampling, this allows for light and shadow to be calculated more accurately resulting in detailed global illumination with better contrast compared to using just the 3ds Max environment.
Universal render settings
We used the universal settings set out by Vlado from Chaos Group. Since the introduction of the min shading rate parameter in V-Ray 3 the sampling between primary anti-aliasing and secondary rays can be easily adjusted. With this workflow all subdivisions can be left at the default 8 which means the only settings to adjust are the min shading rate and the noise threshold. This was certainly useful with the materials that had fine noise details, from a distance the noise would be more apparent and cause flickering so we just decreased the noise threshold in scenes where the camera was far away.
The animation has a lot of very fine textures as well as motion blur so it was important to find the right balance in quality and keep noise to a minimum. Like any project we had deadlines and with rendering time allocated we could easily predict how long each scene would take to render, adjusting the min shading rate and noise threshold accordingly.
Also in V-Ray 3 there is a noticeable speed increase when using Brute Force compared to V-Ray 2. Because of this we were able to use Brute Force for generating the primary GI instead of Irradiance map. It allowed us to make changes to the animation at any point without having to worry about pre-calculating the GI to avoid flickering. As there were 12 different 3ds Max scenes to manage, it saved a lot of time.
The improvements in V-Ray 3 for us mean better time management and allow tweaks where necessary without a large impact on the rest of the project. James Cutler – Creative Director
3D motion blur
We wanted to reduce the post production work and we knew adding 3D motion blur would increase rendering times, but what we actually discovered is that the results were quite fast using the universal rendering method. We decided motion blur was easier to set up using the controls in the render settings rather than through a V-Ray Physical camera. We could easily adjust the amount of blur via the duration (frames) parameter instead of having to adjust the physical camera settings that would affect the overall exposure. Since it was important that all scenes shared a common lighting setup this method worked best for us.
Rendering patches and variations
Previously rendering patches meant rendering large drawn out areas and overlaying them in post. This is very time consuming especially when there are unwanted objects within the drawn out area. The render selected feature in V-Ray 3 saves a lot of time and we could easily select the objects we wanted to re-render and get the results back in no time at all. We could have a slight variation in a single material for a particular shot for example. Using Autodesk Backburner to manage our render tasks, we used render layers.
Post Production using Autodesk Compositor Link
The screen content for the FZ-E1 was added in post on top of our renders and depending on the scene this was to be a simple static image or a movie. We proposed that we use the new Autodesk Compositor link that seamlessly links Autodesk 3ds Max to Adobe After Effects. By using this technique we were able to render out the entire animation and then add the screen content over the top. in the past it would prove tricky to add screen content over the top that exactly lined up with the rendered footage due to a lot of product movement and motion blur.
The Compositor link brings in both camera and object information straight into After Effects that lines up exactly with the existing rendered footage as well as the ability to apply object motion blur. This allowed the freedom and flexibility to change screen content easily without affecting our rendering schedule and it also meant we didn’t have to wait for the content to be added in 3ds Max before being able to render.