Farming it out
Back in my flat-media days I have often collaborated with Noble Rot. Located in beautiful Napa Valley, just North of San Francisco, this nimble motion design studio was always happy to facilitate my wild needs – be it motion tracking mirrors, pre-visualizing impossible single-take shots or simply producing beautiful renders of latest gadgets.
In Autumn 2016, Noble Rot’s founder, Chris McCard, invited me to test-drive their new Octane based GPU render farm. Reserved for studio’s internal use, the farm had an opening in its schedule, and I knew just the project to throw at it. I wanted to re-master Freefall, giving it a proper art direction pass.
One of the first changes I made was fixing the orientation of Earth, making the viewer fly above more interesting terrain. In the original most of time you end up floating above ocean with not much other than clouds to see.
Due to this change, any direct before/after comparison is rather difficult, but even then one can see a dramatic difference between the two versions.
Improved lighting lets us see more detail and color on the surface of the planet. With new shaders, the water no longer feels dull and murky. Increased render sample size eliminates dithering on the clouds, while an array of Mettle Skybox 360 Post FX blurs creates beautiful atmospheric effects and glows.
Finally, the increase from retimed 30fps to native 60fps doubles the framerate, while the render size of 4096x4096px quadruples the amount of pixels on each frame. It’s quite useful, since this time I am also pushing new maps, using textures 4x the size of the original ones.
The difference is striking.