Massive environments in Clarisse iFX at Tippett Studio

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Customer Stories
September 28th, 2015

When it comes to dress and render environments for 180 degree dome rides, Clarisse's ability to handle massive amounts of geometry has made it a central tool for the entire production process at Tippett Studio.

Alex Hessler, CG Supervisor at Tippett Studio, has kindly shared with us his experience with Clarisse on this immersive project.

 

 

Alex has been working in visual effects and animation for more than 10 years, with credits on films such as Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Avatar, and Pixar's recently released Inside Out. Alex, as a self-taught, cut his teeth in the industry at Framestore fixing Linux workstations. From there, he grabbed opportunities and worked his way up as a TD (Technical Director), primarily focusing on lighting and look development. 

Today at Tippett Studio, Alex is focused on VR projects and is, at the moment, supervising  an ambitious 180 degree dome ride with photorealistic CGI panoramas.
 

“The ride is going into a park in China and will feature the famous sites of Anhui Provence”, he explains. This immersive dome ride is a massive environment project with unique challenges to solve: a 180 degree field of view and a fully computer generated 6K renders.“The screen wraps around the audience, who will be sitting on moving seats”, he adds.

To overcome such incredible challenges, Tippett Studio decided to rely on Clarisse iFX to create all of the environments. When we asked Alex what prompt the use of Clarisse on such a complex project, his answer brought a special light on Clarisse as a powerful and easy to use tool. He points out the fact that “Clarisse offers distinct advantages over other options in the industry. It sets itself apart primarily by its ability to handle insane amounts of geometry, its fast render times, and it's artist friendly interface”.

 

After a quick evaluation period, Clarisse turned out to be not only the tool of choice fitting their production needs but also a real game changer at Tippett Studio!

The CG Supervisor explains that “When doing large environments, the most common technical issue is how to get all of the stuff in the environment to be both interactive and render-able. This is a problem in terms of render times, render memory, and interactive construction of the environment”. Traditional approaches require heavy R&D to develop render time procedurals and design a robust instancing and referencing pipeline. Thanks to Clarisse workflow which scales nicely with massive complexity, Alex’s team is able to solve all of these challenges right out of the box.

Clarisse is a very intuitive tool and, very quickly, helped out the team to dress environments without even the need of ever worrying about memory overhead!

“From a rendering standpoint, it natively instances without the artist needing worry about it”, adds Alex.

Furthermore , Clarisse’s scatterers allow Alex’s team to quickly build up forests and endless fields of vegetation. But the biggest issue for his team was to smoothly transition their traditional multi shot character pipeline into an environment pipeline that could generate thousands of assets over quite a few unique environments.

From a technical perspective, Clarisse played a critical role during the whole process. Alex’s team developed an asset management system dedicated to organize, version control and reference hundreds of assets. Thanks to Clarisse’s flexibility, artists at Tippett directly browse and reference assets from within the software.

Clarisse not only streamlines the production pipeline but it also helps to simplify environment artists daily works. Clarisse simply allows rapid iterations while keeping everything really easy to manage! Thanks to Clarisse’s powerful and intuitive file referencing system, the entire workflow becomes more efficient, which leads Alex to say:  “Updating assets was as simple as changing out a symbolic link on disk, or a file path. It's allowed dozens of people to work on one environment at a time”.

 

 

Thanks to Clarisse's non-linear workflow which lets artists work non-sequentially, multiple artists were able to dress environments at the same time. As Clarisse supports nested references, the team was able to break each environment into geographic sections. This way, multiple artists could work at the same time. For example, one can work on the hills when the other works on the city or on the farms. “These sections can include hundreds of referenced assets, lights, look development, etc. Each of these sections is referenced into a master scene to be rendered”, says Alex before adding, “an environment artist can dress in an incomplete model before a modeler has finished it. As the model is improved, we simply refresh the shot, and all of the days work shows up in the nightly render.”

Unlike in any other application that makes the iterative process slow and painful, Clarisse makes the whole layout and rendering process much easier. Indeed, while their former solution would have forced the environment artists to work in multiple passes, Clarisse allows the same artists to work in parallel interactively with billions of polygons. As a result, Clarisse is now an essential tool in Tippett’s production pipeline and drastically helps to improve team productivity. According to the supervisor,

“Without Clarisse, we'd need more people and more time to complete the project. In today’s market, it's essential to produce higher quality work with less time and less people. Clarisse allowed us to do this”.

Another huge benefit Alex sees is Clarisse rendering speed and memory optimization. Those massive improvements on Tippett’s general workflow, allowed the team to greatly increase their daily amount of renders. In a 40 GB ram footprint, the team was able to render shots that were so complex and so massive that they would have taken “at least 400 GB of ram using another software packages”, comments Alex. Thanks to Clarisse, they took up their challenge and could create immersive environments without any restriction on the scene complexity or memory. In addition, Clarisse opens up new horizons and offers environment artists the possibility to reach a new level of details whatever the scene complexity. "Some of our shots are pushing 1 trillion polys", says Alex!

 

 

When we asked him how it went at Tippett Studio transitioning to Clarisse, Alex barely hesitated before answering: “There are some unique “Clarissims” that are unique to the software."

"However, as 3d software goes, Clarisse is very easy to use. Our artists are picking up it up in a day or two”.

Questionned on what he liked the most about Clarisse, his answer was: “the possibility to quickly set up a scene while handling massive complexity”. But what really impressed the CG Supervisor is the new powerful workflow that Clarisse brings, and he concluded with: “It's a tool I'd choose for both my quick and dirty render tests and also massive shot construction. It's rare to use software that can handle both scenarios with the same workflow.”

Throughout the project, Tippett Studio received a strong and dedicated support from Isotropix team and has thus been able to solve many issues in a very short time. “Isotropix has been incredibly responsive at fixing bugs and responding to support requests. We almost always hear back within a day. It’s been great!” says Alex!

Impressed by Clarisse shining performances, Tippett Studio has made it a tool of choice for upcoming projects. Alex concludes : “We've got an incredibly strong environment team at Tippett. The speed and quality of work that they're able to produce with Clarisse makes it a no-brainer to use it for future shows. There are also compelling reasons to use it for character and fx work, which we're looking forward to exploring in the near future.” 

 

If you want to learn more about Clarisse's use at Tippett Studio, watch the recording of Alex's presentation @Siggraph 2015!