We love getting a behind the scenes look at productions and we're quite excited to chat to Delapost Paris about their recent ‘Penguins in Heaven’ project. Here we catch up with Emmanuel Koltès who gives us an insight into the making of the commercial, and specifically how Pixar’s RenderMan was used.
How many people did it take to make this project happen?
There were 18 people working on this commercial, including 5 artists dedicated just to rendering and pre-compositing.
How long has it taken?
The film took six weeks to complete, from the initial concept to final compositing. As we had no time for a proper pre-production, all steps in the production had to run simultaneously: shaders were being written during the animation process, rendering and compositing workflow was being built while the fur was being created, and so on. It really was a tight schedule!
We started using RenderMan a year and a half ago, when we were working on our first project involving a furry animal, a cat. We had a large amount of fur to render and RenderMan had a reputation for doing this exceptionally well, so you could say we first adopted it out of necessity. By the end of the production, we had discovered so many other benefits of using RenderMan that it became evident we had to update our rendering pipeline and adopt it for upcoming projects as well.
RenderMan has many great features, two that I like in particular are AOVs, and point-based rendering, both of which I couldn't live without!
Today, nearly all of our projects are being rendered using RenderMan and we wouldn’t consider going back!
How did RenderMan help?
The project required us to render quite a lot of fur, and it simply wouldn't have been possible to render this so fast in another package, if at all. Point clouds have also been tremendously useful, especially for the interior of the plane: we baked the radiance contribution of the sun and sky shining through the windows, and we generated an organised point cloud of multi-bounce colour bleeding using ptfilter, which gave us a soft global illumination from relatively small light impacts. And we could use this point cloud throughout the film!
Also, our rendering pipeline for this project was based on a combination of 3d lighting and 2d tweaking in pre-compositing, which was done in Nuke. Only custom shaders have been used for every single material, and it allowed us to very easily output the AOVs we needed for this pre-comp phase in multi-layers exr files. We could then tweak every light's intensity and colour, as well as environment contribution and many other parameters directly in Nuke, thanks to RenderMan's shading language extreme flexibility for arbitrary outputs.
In terms of learning RenderMan, did you find it difficult, what was your experience?
RenderMan Studio is very well integrated into Maya so the learning curve hasn't been very difficult at all. You have to get rid of old habits like you would for every new software, but it quickly becomes second nature. Even advanced features are easy with the UI, once you decide to go deeper and start writing shaders, there's no real limit to what you can achieve!