A friend of mine runs a Sikh helpline which provides help and support for young Sikhs facing various problems. It’s a great service and a lot of young people have benefited from its anonymous support. My friend was producing a video promo to raise awareness of the main issues faced by people who call the support line and he wanted a higher resolution version of the logo and a logo animation ident that could be used on all video promos and marketing materials.

I first recreated the logo in Photoshop and exported some paths to 3DS Max as splines, these were then extruded and rounded off to give a smooth finish, I added basic textures and two Vray area lights. I set key-frames for final position and then set individual key-frames for each piece of the logo moving in. It was pretty easy and quick.

The rendering did take around 7 hours because I was rendering in hd resolution. If I had used motion blur and depth of field in the render then it would have taken even longer. Instead I used some cool tricks to fake it. When rendering from 3DS Max I added some extra layers to the render which were a zdepth pass and  a velocity map.

The Z pass is a grayscale map which grades all 3D objects in the render from white to black according to its distance from the camera. This was then used as a mask to blur out objects that were out of the focus range creating the depth of field effect. You can see from the following screenshots that the lighter objects in the Zdepth pass are out of focus while the phone number in the background always remains in focus.

The velocity map was used in the same way but it is a colour coded map which colours objects in the 3d scene according the speed of movement. This was used to blur only the objects that were moving and increase the intensity of the blur based in relation to the colour change in the pass.

Both these techniques have saved an immense amount of time. Imagine realising that the focus wasn’t right once renderign was complete and having to re-render 7 hours worth of animation again (that’s how we used to do it in the old days).  This new post processing method the focus and motion blur can be adjusted in pretty much real-time.

Another thing I realised is the need for rendering power, a render farm is essential for animation work as frames can be distributed to a network of computers sharing the load. I have two machines at home so will try and setup a small render farm.  It could halve the render time so its definitely worth a try. At my place of work we have seven Boxx rendering units with a total of 48 cpu cores which can rip through rendering jobs.