Imagine what you could do with a $1,000 dollars a day? Montreal-based animation studio SHED was asked to do just that for Sid Lee Montreal for The Daily Grand Lottery.

SHED’s first concept was built around a 30-day calendar, where each day represents one of the lottery winner’s exciting experiences. To tell the story, the team had to find a way to condense those 30 days into an action-packed 30 seconds.

SHED had been using Redshift for a couple of years across a wide range of projects from animation to VFX. When the Daily Grand landed on the studio’s desk in September 2016, it only had a couple of months to turn the project around. SHED knew that Redshift would be up to the task to deliver two visually rich and complex animations on time and on budget.

KEEPING THE CLIENT HAPPY

All of the elements for The Daily Grand were created by SHED from character design to animation style and Redshift was used throughout the creative process from look-dev through to final render.

“Before a project starts, [Redshift] allows us to make demo and look-dev scenes which gives confidence to the agency about how it’s going to look.” explains Sylvain Lebeau, SHED co-owner and VFX supervisor “Even at that part of the process, since [Redshift] is so fast. We are able to iterate a lot, and reach a point where we really liked the image and could send it to the agency.”

Once the work had been commissioned. SHED dove into the technical development process. Redshift’s speed and pipeline integration capability was vital to creating the rolling transitional effect which is a big part of the animation’s charm.

This was generated by Hakim Harrouche, SHED’s Houdini FX TD. The effect Hakim created was exported as vertex map information from Houdini into Maya. Redshift’s vertex colour node was then able to process the vertex map information, to give the desired displacement effect in the render.

“While Hakim was developing this transitional effect, we could send many versions of these sequences to the farm, just to see how it looked,” Sylvain says.

As SHED had made the move to Redshift prior to producing these spots, it already had a robust GPU farm consisting of 10 render nodes, each running three to four NVIDIA GTX Titans. This meant that the existing CPU farm was freed up and meant that SHED could utilise this newly won capacity to benefit the compositing team by dedicating it to NUKE.

REDUCING NOISE


SHED made good use of Redshift’s troubleshooting tools to avoid issues such as splotches or flickering during animations.

“I really like the global sampling override that helps to pinpoint where the noise is. This is an amazing feature, and really helps you to figure out where to add more samples compared to other render solutions,” Sylvain explains.

It was functionality like this within Redshift which made The Daily Grand a satisfying design challenge for SHED rather than a technical one. The multitude of concept work which was produced is testament to SHED’s innate creativity and Redshift’s power to enable design iteration.

Naturally though, with any CG production, efficiency is still key. “We used a lot of the Redshift baking tools on The Daily Grand,” reveals Maxime Roz, the look-dev and lighting artist for the show. “This was on the environments especially. When we got a scene from our modeller, it would have 1,000 objects. We would pack this down to around 50 objects. Then we would bake diffuse maps, and repack the UVs so that it would take less memory.”

With these best-practice workflows, SHED was able to keep all of the renders for The Daily Grand within the GPU memory. This meant that the project was rendered in the quickest render time available, which would prove invaluable just before the deadline.

“I had the vertigo effect when I was one day away from delivery and we had to re-render the whole 30 sec commercial. We were confident that it would succeed for the many iterations we made during production”. confesses Philippe Sylvain, SHED’s senior lighting artist and compositor”.

If the team had been using a CPU-based renderer, it would not have been possible to deliver the show: It took only 14 hours to render with Redshift.

“If we were using a CPU-based solution, to render the whole 30-second spot would take five days, but Phil was able to re-render everything and deliver the next day for the deadline,” explains Sylvain.

FOCUS ON CREATIVITY


Looking to the future, SHED intends to use Redshift as its only render solution.

SHED is already testing the alpha version of the Cinema 4D plugin. Hakim was also keen to talk about the recently released Redshift plugin for Houdini.

“The keyword is fast,” says Hakim, when talking about the Houdini plugin. “Look-dev in Houdini is a real pleasure. You can focus on the artistic side rather than optimising your scene.”

While one of the key reasons that entices artists to Redshift is the speed, Sylvain was keen to stress another benefit of using Redshift in projects with tight turnarounds: “One of the cool things about the guys at Redshift is how they offer support. They were responding to everything that we asked about really quickly…. I think those guys just don’t sleep!”

To discover more about SHED and its work, visit http://shedmtl.com/en/.