The feeling of going viral or: why I wish I had a render-farm in the cloud

By Jedimaster Soda

In the last few weeks my friends Paranickfilmz, Adviceversas and I (Jedimastersoda) have experienced the excitement of having a viral video on YouTube.

The three of us are Grade 12 students at Victoria School of the Arts in Edmonton, Alberta, and are in Mr. Debourcier's Animation 35 class.  Although we get to do some very interesting projects in class, the three of us decided to collaborate on a high-quality Lego version of The Dark Knight Rises Trailer 2 in our spare time. After about three months, we finally uploaded The Dark Knight Rises Trailer 2: IN LEGO to YouTube on March 16, 2012. It's just like the official trailer, with the actual soundtrack, but our version is all in Lego. This has been our most successful video yet, gathering more than 400,000 views in less than three weeks and getting really positive coverage in dozens of news sources, including the Huffington Post, Perez Hilton, and CNET. Most of the video consists of stop-motion animation carried out by ParanickFilmz using an HD camera and a lot of Lego. Adviceversas did the mouth-animation. My contribution was the CGI, including the football stadium scene and the ending sequence. 

I used a student version of Cinema 4D, a 3D modeling and rendering package we learned in class. I did the rendering at home on my Mom's computer, which is a pretty powerful Mac, but it still took forever. (If it had been a school project, and I had used one of the computers there, I wouldn't have been able to render it to nearly the same level of detail.) The total duration of these CGI scenes is about 20 seconds in the trailer. Each time I rendered them it took nearly two days to complete, and I had to do this many times.  When my Mom left her computer, I'd quickly run over and start a job running. It slowed my Mom's computer down to a snail's pace, which drove her crazy. Even given this amount of time to render, I was sacrificing better lighting and motion blur, which gives a smoother feel to the movement. If I had used the settings I really wanted, it would have taken almost a month to fully render! 

The end result looks great, together with Paranickfilmz's stop-motion animation and Adviceversas' mouth animation. As I said, it's been a very exciting experience. But it got me thinking: if I had used a cloud-based render farm, the render time would have been cut dramatically, and I would have been able to push the limits even further.