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characters were rendered into as many as 40(+) layers, + lots and lots of background layers, FX layers etc etc...

I can't remember any render times...

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What were the approximate average render times / frame and what was the longest render time .. and for what scene(s) ?

When you say compositing, does that mean that some or all of the animation vs the backgrounds are rendered seperately, then composited ?

If I recall the scene that took longest to render was probably the one where the camera pulls pack from a Samson close up to a very wide shot revealing him to be standing on the edge of a cliff or enscarpment. Although there was only one character in the shot there was an enormous amount of complexity in the jungle trees and foliage. There were many many seperate layers of foliage and it had to look good in a close up and from a distance. We had an enormous render farm but we had to block out an entire weekend just to push this one shot through! Some of the water scenes were heavy to render also.

I can't remember exact render times either but luckily the big render farm meant render times were rarely the bottleneck. We also used plenty of inovative techniques to speed up workflow by cutting down on render cycles. As Ken mentions in his list we had a unique half-way stage between lighting and compositing that we used to rapidly tweak the lighting levels of characters. This was done inside Houdini's compositing package and we could automatically generate a starter shake script from this first-step Houdini comp that inherited all of the tweaked settings so nothing needed to be re-rendered and we saved time setting up the shake scripts too! We used a COPs digital asset to re-light each character which automated the process making it very quick to set up and publish.

Characters were rendered seperately to backgrounds. Note that the half-way process described above was for characters only. Characters where also rendered seperately from other characters. This is what allowed us to do the fine-level tweaking of character lighting set ups described above.


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