Earlier this month, the Isotropix Team attended Siggraph Asia, where we had the opportunity to have Eric Vezinet, Rendering Supervisor at Double Negative, among our speaker lineup. In addition to his presentation, Eric took some time to answer our questions and kindly shared with us his experience with Clarisse in production at Double Negative Singapore.
Today at Double Negative Singapore office, Eric is operating as Lighting & Rendering Supervisor which, according to Eric,“involves early-on rendering decisions, training crew to Dneg's latest & greatest rendering tools, shading work, optimizing scenes, last minute debugging, etc!” His recent works include Ant Man, Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1&2 and Steven Spielberg's latest film, Bridge of Spies.
When we asked Eric to tell us about one of DNeg's projects where Clarisse was used, he replied,“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 has just been completed few weeks ago”. Following conclusive tests on the Part 1 movie, “mainly on background buildings”, Eric’s team decided to go full Clarisse for the second part of the movie. “Clarisse is an intuitive tool, and it's easy for the artist to pick it up quickly. That’s why we realized rapidly that we could use Clarisse more and more and be confident about it [...] As the crew from Part 1 remained unchanged for most of it, and so already had a play with Clarisse, it felt like the right time to fully transition”.
Clarisse’s ability to easily handle insane amounts of geometry combined with its impressive rendering capabilities has made it the tool of choice for many studios like Double Negative. “The movie was presented as a project involving massive environment, as well as some crowd work, thus large amounts of geo.” Eric explains. “It was a pretty big show!” Indeed the project was very challenging considering there were about 60 to 70 AOVs per renders, all at 3K resolution including some stereo renders.
Clarisse has become a real game-changer for artists working on massive environments. Not surprisingly, Eric was emphatic that "Interactivity is the main benefit for us, as artists can really focus on the look, and not technicalities.” He added: “Time to first pixel we had on past projects could lead sometimes to a lot of frustration.” Clarisse's unique workflow allowed artists to work and consistently interact with full effects applied to their scene. “The amount of geo it's possible to handle, or not, has also always been an issue.” adds Eric. Thanks to Clarisse, artists can now interactively work on their final images displaying an unprecedented level of detail.
At the time Eric’s team was working on the project, Dneg’s proprietary crowd simulation engine was not yet integrated to Clarisse. Eric explained that "we had a shot with more than 100,000 actors and props on top of the entire city environment, and no geometry LOD for background buildings." While this seems like a daunting issue, Eric explained "We had to deal with brute force, huge Alembic caches loaded into Clarisse", but "the nice surprise was that once loaded and live in the project, Clarisse was able to handle very easily the amount of geo. [...] It was pretty easy for the artist to navigate into the entire city, replace their lights, do their layouts etc...Clarisse was still very interactive despite the fact that there were more than 220 billion polys in this environment! It was rather easy to navigate into both the raytraced views, and do proper artistic work on the crowd, like moving and removing actors, quickly testing different look alternates, etc, all interactively, with the real CG around.” Since Clarisse’s 3D view is powered by its rendering engine users can work interactively on actual scenes without the need of using proxies.
Moreover, the fast feedback from the renderer makes artistic changes very painless. Artists are no longer forced to work blindly. “It's very easy to add / move / remove geo (ie actors) and have a very quick idea of how it's going to look integrated into the environment.” highlights Eric. “It’s really powerful for artists especially when we have a last minute change request from client!”.
The workflow of Eric's team became smoother and more efficient, as Clarisse dramatically simplifies artist's work by making rapid iteration possible. “Once the layout is set in Clarisse, artists can really focus on the look, with a faster turnover allowing more look iterations than before.” says Eric, adding that Clarisse allows for “changing a shader attribute and immediately realizing it does not look as good as you thought.” When asked how it benefits Dneg's workflow, Eric replied “We’re now able to entirely focus on the look and do not have to deal with approximations”.
In addition, Clarisse’s workflow scales perfectly with heavy complexity and, with its powerful referencing features, keeps things really easy to manage. “Every single building used more than once was using the referencing built-in system, where the crowd caches were all separate in single entities” Eric explains. Instead of splitting the scene into multiple layers due to the high complexity, artists using Clarisse can visualize and work directly on the whole shot. There is no need to switch between the compositing application and the rendering tool, so the artist can completely focus on their artistic and creative work. Eric confirms: “We did not have to split all the scene into several layers, and thus could focus directly on the final look when needed.”
When asked about the significant role played by Clarisse during the entire production, Eric replied “The robustness of the application and its memory management really made the difference on Hunger Games considering it was massive environments and crowds.” Indeed, thanks to Clarisse’s unique memory manager which automatically detects and eliminates redundant data, artists save a lot of time avoiding the frustrating manual memory optimizations required by other software package. “Clarisse brings a lot of flexibility for artists and enables us to do a lot things we couldn't do before”.
Questioned about what he appreciated the most in Clarisse, Eric answered “the responsiveness of the rendering, and the fact that you can move objects and perform 2D assignments directly in the internal display (Image View).” Finally, he adds “I find the rules based workflow (Groups, Shading Layer) very powerful as well."
As an early-adopter, Eric has been using Clarisse for a long time! First shown Clarisse in 2012, Eric explains “Since then we've been benchmarking it against other renderers, and then chose it at the primary render of the company." Clarisse's customization and API have been employed by Dneg as well, with Eric explaining that "We’re using native features of Clarisse but we also built in some tools of our own, to make the best out of the software” adding that “Dneg’s most recent works have been fully rendered with Clarisse”.
Eric Vezinet is the Lighting & Rendering Supervisor at Double Negative Singapore. After a heavily Maths & Physics focused B.Sc. in France (Ecole des Mines d’Alès), he oriented his studies to fulfill his long passion for cinema. He completed a M.S. centered around Computer Graphics at Boğaziçi University, which hosted such great artists as Istanbul director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, previously winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival. Following an internship at the studio Action Synthèse in Marseille, his first steps in the industry occurred in an Animation & VFX Studio in Paris, Machine Molle. That’s where he discovered some industry specific technologies, such as 2D/3D Packages & Rendering Engines. Eric started at Double Negative London as part of VES Award winner Philippe Leprince’s core shading team. He worked there as a Shader writer, and was involved in the V4/V5 plausible shading framework used at Double Negative on such challenging films as Total Recall, The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall, Man of Steel and Godzilla. This work, accomplished with Philippe Leprince, Marc Bannister and Soren Ragsdale, was pre-nominated for The Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards in the Technical Achievement category in 2013. Willing to learn more about “how we do movies”, he then jumped into the production side, being credited as the Shading Supervisor for Double Negative’s work on Hercules (2014). He moved to Singapore almost two years ago, to face new challenges. His recent work as a Rendering Supervisor includes Hunger Games 3 & 4, Ant-Man, and Bridge Of Spies.