Where Things Are At Right Now

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Zauber Paracelsus

Zauber Paracelsus

Since december, I have been working on the art upgrade more or less daily. However, I am continually finding new difficulties or problems. Some of them are a simple case of shattered expectations. Some of them are bugs in blender.

The latest problem I have addressing is one with Cycles. Cycles is a rendering engine in blender, which uses physically-accurate unbiased raytracing. While it provided the kind of lighting that I wanted, the "unbiased" bit is the killer. Unbiased means "does not apply any filtering or correction to the render". The result is noisy images. And in order to correct the noise, you must increase the amount of raytracing samples.

As scene complexity increased, I saw an exponential increase in the amount of noise, which in turn translated to much greater rendering time requirements. So, I decided to partially ditch Cycles: I would use the default "Blender Internal" renderer for scenes, use cycles for the characters, and then composite the two together.

But then I ran into another problem. Using more than five characters in one scene together causes Cycles to crash, or worse, potentially causes my graphics card to crash. Three solutions for that problem:

  1. Only render one or two characters at time, and then composite them together (tedious).
  2. Set Cycles to use CPU for rendering (slower)
  3. Use Blender Internal for everything (faster and simpler)

I've decided to go with option 3. I had to convert the materials of all the characters from Cycles back to Blender Internal, but it was worth the effort. I won't need to fight the insane issues with noise and render times in cycles, so I can focus more on getting things done instead than spending hours fine-tuning a simple scene. Use of blender internal also comes with a few other advantages, such as the possibility of using freestyle and *hair rendering.

Right now, I have enough characters created that I can make about 3 episodes before I would need to make any more characters. These characters include Falcata, Atlantis, Ianos, Akayoo, Hassad, Valvadine, Fulton, Larson, Calvin, and two new characters: Cyrus and Lester.

However, I'd like to have a much larger margin than that, so I'll be working on making a few more characters before resuming updates. Out of the needed characters on my short list, some of the familiar ones will include Captain Otto, Captain Langley, Melvin, Margaret, and Rodney the Liar.

Updates to the main comic will resume on February 28th at the latest, though between now and then there may be some updates to Farce of Maelstrom, and possibly something new. But for now, I'll leave you with this:

The Spell Breakers in 3D

*I am aware that hair rendering is available in cycles. However, it comes with a substantial memory cost that can easily bankrupt a video card with 2gb of memory (such as mine). Attempting to put simulated fur on a beastfolk character was enough to crash Cycles mid-render.

UPDATE: Well, it would appear that for nested comments, intenseDebate is total crap and makes reading difficult. So, I've switched back to Disqus. Also, a bug has been exposed in the comics and blogging plugin that causes new pages to disappear behind a 404 error. So, that's obviously something that'll need fixing before updates can resume.

UPDATE: The bug has been fixed, and possibly a few others by collateral.

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