To wrap up 2018 in style, Bryan was requested to create a 3D rendering and ball-drop animation on top of Palisades Center, a four-level shopping, dining, and entertainment destination within the Lower Hudson Valley. With a short deadline and a new software program to learn, Bryan pulled through to create one of his best works to date!
Welcome, to Palisades Center
Palisades Center is among the most visited shopping centers in America and is the premier shopping, dining and entertainment destination in Southern New York. Located 30 minutes north of New York City, Palisades Center is a four-level shopping center offering over 225 brands, 16 sit-down restaurants, a bowling alley, ice rink, the world’s tallest indoor ropes course, comedy club, and more. With its unique and diverse merchant mix, Palisades Center is the go-to place for local shoppers and tourists alike.
The center was looking to host a special, New Year's Eve event to wrap-up their 20th anniversary year of celebrations and decided to outsource 35 media marketing. for a custom ball-drop animation. The news reached to local media sources and many guests were inquiring about the event.
When I first started the New Year’s Eve animation for Palisades Center, I had a pretty clear idea in my head and plenty of experience with Adobe After Effects. It was a 3D rendering of the building itself, with the New Year's Eve ball placed on top of it against a night sky. However, I ran into a big problem from the beginning; After Effects cannot animate in a 3D space by itself. While you’re able to create simple 3D objects and perform simple movements, AE cannot handle different textures and more complex 3D physics and shapes.
While I had always wanted to get into 3D animation, this was a pretty daunting challenge, being faced with no 3D program available, a fast approaching deadline, and no money to purchase a new program as high-profile programs, like Maya or Nuke, can run you upwards of $1,000.00 for a monthly subscription.
Enter Blender. After some hasty searching online, I was lucky to come across this program. Blender is a free, community-based 3D program that is incredibly powerful and constantly evolving. Blender can tackle every stage of the animation process, taking you from modeling all the way to final compositing. This program was my miracle.
After watching a few YouTube tutorials, with great thanks to Blender Guru, I got to work on creating my model of Palisades Center. Starting with basic geometric shapes, I made the basic shape of the building. As I went through the modeling process, I really started to get the hang of Blender. At first it really can be a hard nut to crack as the UI (or user interface) is not that intuitive. However, the more you involve yourself into the program, Blender is incredibly customizable.
As I went through the modeling process, the center really started coming together and I eventually got the finished project. As things took shape. I added the final bells and whistles, the project seemed like it was smooth sailing. Until I attempted to render my final animation. Anyone who’s done any kind of video editing or animation will be familiar with rendering. For those who aren’t, think of it as the computer taking all the information you’ve given it and putting it all together into a polished final package.
Now rendering video and animations are two totally different beasts, and unfortunately, I wasn’t fully prepared for this. Animation and compositing programs of any kind require a lot of CPU (or central processing unit) or GPU (or graphics processing unit) power from the computer you’re using. Now while my GPU is good for things such as gaming, it wasn’t prepared for this. Even after testing certain settings, I was still looking at a render time of 7+ minutes per frame, and the deadline was about 3 days away. At over 2,800 frames for a 2-minute animation, I was looking at a render time of close to two weeks.
Strapped for time and pushing my computer to its limit, I took to the internet and came upon a render farm website called RenderStreet. RenderStreet is a render farm service located in Romania, and for those unfamiliar, a render farm is a company that specializes in rendering projects from various programs. RenderStreet was able to take my project that was going to take 2 weeks to render on my computer and knocked it out in an hour and a half. Their pricing was also inexpensive as its dependent upon the processing power needed for your project, no flat rate fees.
Finally having my animation rendered, I was able to complete the finishing touches in After Effects and ultimately got the animation to the client in time and enjoyed it on the big screen at midnight on January 1st myself.
What I learned from this job is if you’re ever at an impasse for a job, whether its personal or for a client, don’t be afraid to try a new process or go to another person or service if you’re stuck. This project was painstaking and took an immense amount of time from my week, but after seeing all my hard work on the big screen, I’m incredibly proud of what I accomplished and I can’t wait for more challenges in the future.
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