Improve Rendering Quality and Save Time, Too

15 Dec, 2004 By: Tod Stephens Cadalyst

Follow these steps for better results using Architectural Desktop VIZ Render

Rendering high-quality animations in Autodesk's Architectural Desktop VIZ Render can take a great deal of time. Choosing the best form of video compression to achieve a high-quality animation can be a time-consuming task involving much trial and error. Rendering an animation directly to an AVI or MOV format from VIZ Render can take hours or days. If the video codec or the quality setting are not well-suited to the requirements of your animation, you might have to render an animation file several times, testing out different settings and codecs.

One solution to this problem is to initially render your animation file as a sequence of high-resolution TGA (Targa) images, then use the VIZ Render RAM Player to load the TGA files and export the final animation file (AVI or MOV format) from the RAM Player.

The RAM Player exports animation files very quickly, which allows you to render several files with different video codecs or different quality settings until you find the best choice of compression settings. As an example, it took 8 hours to render a 100-frame TGA sequence from VIZ Render, and only 3 minutes to export the AVI file from the RAM Player. In a little more than 15 minutes, I was able to render five different 100-frame AVI files using different video codecs and quality settings.

Step One: Render a TARGA Sequence
When you have completed your animation and are ready to render, choose Targa Image File as the file format type in the Render Output File dialog box (figure 1). This will render each frame of the animation as an individual Targa file.

Figure 1. Choose Targa Image File as the file format type in the Render Output File dialog box.

Step Two: Load the TGA Sequence into the RAM Player
From the Render menu, choose RAM Player (figure 2).

Figure 2. The Render menu.

Load the TGA sequence into the RAM Player (figure 3). To do this, select Open Channel A, navigate to the TGA files, and select the first TGA image in the sequence (usually filename0000.tga). Be sure to check Sequence in the lower left corner of the Open File dialog box. Click Open.

Figure 3. Loading the TGA sequence into the RAM Player.

After a few minutes, the TGA sequence is loaded. You can preview the animation by selecting the Playback Forward button (figure 4).

Figure 4. Preview the animation.

Step Three: Export the Animation File from RAM Player
Select Save Channel A, change the file format to AVI (or MOV) and click Save (figure 5).

Figure 5. Exporting the animation file.

Select a video codec (figure 6). Change the setting of the codec by clicking on Setup, then click OK. The animation file will be exported. Repeat as necessary with different video codecs and compression settings.

Figure 6. You can export the animation file several times, selecting a different video codec each time so you can test different results.

An additional benefit of rendering a TGA sequence is that each frame of the animation can be edited in Adobe PhotoShop (or another paint program) to add text or special effects to individual frames. Also, if you have multiple licenses of Architectural Desktop, you can achieve the productivity benefit of sharing the rendering of the TGA images across several machines on your network.

To set this up, have several machines render a small number of frames of the animation to their local hard drives. Once all the frames are rendered, save the TGA files from each machine to one network folder, load the TGA sequence into the VIZ Render RAM Player, and export the final animation. This process gives you the productivity benefits of a render farm because you can share the rendering of the frames on different machines -- as long as you have multiple licenses of Architectural Desktop and you have copied the DRF file and all necessary mapping files locally to each machine.

About the Author: Tod Stephens

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