The benefits of using 3D range from widening your skills base to being able to offer clients better choice – the investment is always worth it. If you want to make integration into your workflow smoother, here are some simple steps that you can take.
1. Look for solutions that work natively with your current creative software
No doubt you’ll have your favourite software already for editing and compositing. So, take time to ensure that the 3D software you’re looking at integrates well with your current software. The tighter that integration, the quicker you’ll be able to bring 3D imagery into your workflow. For example, if you use Adobe After Effects, then see if you can save out After Effects Project files from your 3D software, rather than plain movie formats. Not only will this create faster workflow, but you’ll probably find it offers further compositing options such as point 2 below.
2. Create separate passes
If you’re using 3D software, then you’ll have much more flexibility if you separate render features in passes. Several 3D software solutions offer multi-pass rendering, which is where you can select certain render features to be on separate passes or layers. For example, in Cinema 4D, you can have lights, shadows, reflections, object buffers and many more features on separate layers. The huge benefit passes gives is total control over your final composite and the ability to tweak imagery in post as opposed to having to go back and re-render. For example, if the shadows are too dark or hard, you can tweak the shadow layer without affecting any other image information.
3. Auto save your work
This might sound like an *eye roll* kind of tip but the reality is that lost work is the one problem that you can’t recover from quickly. Pretty much every artist has experienced a total loss of work product at some point so remember that sick, pit of the stomach feeling you had last time and make sure that everything you do is getting auto saved. If your software offers it, incremental saving is even better. Whilst still creating backups, incremental saves also ensure that you can go back to a previous point of the project, if you’ve made a mistake that needs rectifying. For example, you may have accidentally deleted an animation track on an object and hadn’t realised it until several hours later. If you have a previous file saved you can merge the data with your current scene to recover your lost work.
4. Use a template
If you’re often going through the same set up process, then it makes a lot of sense to shortcut this with a template. With templates you can pre-save a wide range of different features and then come back to them for later use. In 3D software, templates can include lighting, materials, objects and render settings. Not only do templates help when it comes to timesaving, but they also improve consistency too. Also, remember that you can - and should - tweak a template, if you think of things that can improve output or speed things up.
5. Optimise your scenes
3D software offers a massive amount of control for your scenes. But sometimes that control can mean that you have to wait longer for renders than you really need to. Take time to learn your 3D software’s optimisation options. Lowering the likes of polygon counts, texture sizes, global illumination bounces, etc. can massively speed up rendering and workflow.
On the subject of optimisation, it’s also worth considering if adjusting any of your hardware may speed up your rendering or scene creation. For example, if you spend a lot of time waiting for renders, then consider adding more hardware to speed up the job or allocate it to another machine so you can carry on creating scenes. Lots of 3D software offers network rendering options that let you farm out renders to other machines enabling you to carry on working on your computer if you so wish.
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