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Will 3D Reach Exceed Its Grasp? Rendering Times Reach Record Highs

Posted by on Monday, April 8th, 2013

Hourglass

Image source: Techcrunch.com

I’m a little bit concerned about the future of 3D design. Why? Well, it’s not because there aren’t enough jobs (there are plenty) or because there won’t be much demand (digital entertainment is constantly growing) — it’s that 3D artists are too good.

Basically, the skill of 3D artists appears to be advancing faster than technology can catch up. As an example, I point to DreamWorks’ new movie, The Croods. The movie grossed an impressive $44.7 million on opening weekend, but this number is insignificant compared to really important statistic here. The movie took 80 million hours to render. To put that into perspective, there are slightly more than 8,765 hours in a year. If you had one computer render The Croods from start to finish, it would take 9,127 years for it to finish.

Holy moley.

Belt from the Croods

Image source: Suchmovingpictures.blogspot.com

More than 300 animators worked on The Croods over the past three years, soaking up 250TB of storage with render after render of prehistoric adventures. Each character, which has up to 2,000 control points, can take six months to create. A finished film can easily top 250 billion pixels. DreamWorks also runs a massive processing center made up of about 20,000 processors to speed up those hefty rendering times.

In a nutshell, 3D artists are giving their computers a metaphorical beating as they push current technology to its absolute limit. The problem is that 3D artists are way more adaptable than the computers. As soon as a company introduces a new computer gizmo or piece of software, 3D artists tear into it like a ravenous wolf ripping apart a carcass and before long they’ve consumed everything there is to know. Within months, 3D artists master this new technology and begin maxing it out with highly demanding pieces of art.

As fast as computers are, they can’t keep up with the boundless imagination of the human mind. As powerful as computers are, they can barely handle mankind’s incessant drive to improve and push boundaries.

Flaming Computer

Image source: Toastedpc.com

I’m curious to see how technology will shape 3D design over the next couple of years. We’ve already reached the point where artists can create truly lifelike models, so it looks like the next big hurdle will be developing machinery that doesn’t need a freakin’ millennium to render a two hour movie.

Theoretically, this demand for faster computers will completely revolutionize how 3D artists operate. Can you imagine how great it would be if artists could watch a movie, pause the movie, make a few tweaks to the control points and colors, and then hit play to resume the movie? Artists fantasize that the day will come when machines can render models faster than we can build them, but movies like The Croods suggest that that goal is getting farther away, not closer.

You might find this news disheartening, but I can’t help but feel proud. No matter how strong computers are, they can’t hold a candle to the raw creative genius of 3D artists. You will be able to work with some of the most advanced processors on Earth as a 3D artist, but that technology will groan under the weight of your unbridled creativity. I love it! If that doesn’t make you want to be a 3D artist, what will?

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