advice on purchasing for project

Started by titopte, December 25, 2013, 11:12:47 am

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Hi and greetings!
I am looking for some advice on the capabilities and pertinence of Terragen 3 for an upcoming project. I am doing some research before closing numbers and sending the proposal.

The project involves about 4 minutes of environment animation. Featuring three landscape setups, and each one is kind of a timelapse transfoming radically the environment. From prairie to desert, from sunny to a very thick storm and a flood, and an antartic like glaciar melting and with icebergs cracking. All of them to be projected on a 360° setup.

Having just know about Terragen capabilities, i have some questions regarding the pipeline and pros and cons of the software. Specifically:
.expected rendering times for 2k frames. Or its relation with Vues rendering times al list
.recomended hardware setup for a small farm. Also if there is gpu rendering for production
.animation capabilities regarding drastic changing weather conditions (it is posible to transition from say sunny to stormy, or are the different models setups that cant be transitionned?)
.cameras setup flexibility or exporting (to Nuke for instance) the camera setup workflow. Also if there is some environmental camera setup (kind of spherical, box, or lat-long rendering format)
.importing custom buildings and animated assets (we have mainly a 3dsmax and vray background)

I have seen some of this items on the galeries, but would be glad to hear on them related to the workflow i have mentioned.
We are open to any suggestion and looking to learn the Terragen pipeline.
Thanks in advance for any insight on this topic.


December 26, 2013, 03:53:04 pm #1 Last Edit: December 26, 2013, 04:02:11 pm by Oshyan
Hello and welcome to the community!

Render times vary quite a lot depending on what's in your scene and of course your rendering hardware. For a couple of examples:
Frames of this animation rendered in about an hour and 15 minutes at 1080p on a 4 core i7 machine:
These were about 1.5hrs each on the same machine:
This spherical panorama took about 1.5hrs as well (2000x1000):

Those examples are all in a similar range of time, but they're just the examples I had at that resolution with render times noted. For more complex volumetrics (clouds), you would probably need to expect higher render times. Lower times would be possible with simpler, terrain-only scenes. I rendered the attached image of one of the Preset scenes in Terragen 3 in about 15 minutes on the same 4-core i7. Detail would probably need to be increased a bit for production, but it would probably still be under 30 minutes.

Render times *for comparable render quality* are generally similar for Terragen and Vue. Vue does "degrade" to much lower quality results in a way that gives you potentially very quick rendering for a rough result. But this can be deceptive as it's not usable in production at that level. For production-quality results, the render times seem to be similar (though the capabilities of the different packages also come into play here, i.e. which one has better volumetric rendering, etc.). For both applications fine-tuning render settings can take some time for ideal results and the best balance of render time vs. quality. We are always happy to help with specific render setting recommendations when you get to that stage.

For hardware, rendering in Terragen 3 is currently CPU-only (which answers the 2nd part of that question too). So you would basically want the fastest CPU you could get at reasonable cost, with a good amount of RAM (RAM is mostly consumed by assets used in your scene, e.g. objects, textures, not as much by the rendering process). If you're buying new hardware for a farm and you're looking for the best price/performance ratio, I would suggest bare-bones 6 core i7 machines with 16-32GB of RAM. You ought to be able to build each one for $1000 or less (CPU is $580USD or so).

Animating weather is very possible and fairly easy to achieve once you understand the basic principles. There is a new 4D noise option in Terragen 3 that can help in particular with cloud "evolution". See here for recent commercial example:
Animating cloud density, position, amount of cloud, etc. is all very easy. The same is true for surface maps, even terrain shape. You can animate nearly any setting in Terragen, and the animation controls are all basically the same - you can create a keyframe on most node settings then edit timing, etc. in the timeline. Here's another example of animating cloud settings:

Terragen has been interoperable with Nuke for quite some time through import of CHAN format. We also now support CHAN export, so it can be bi-directional. FBX is also supported and that can handle lighting information in addition to camera(s).

We do have a new Spherical Camera option in Terragen 3 and it works quite well as you can see from the above example. There is a bug that occurs with the rendering output in some cases where there will be small areas missing at the edges, but we'll be addressing this in a free update some time early in 2014.

You can import objects in OBJ format, fully textured. Not all material properties are supported (i.e. translucency), but basic material properties and textures are handled well, and most of the rest can be setup within Terragen's own materials system if not directly supported (e.g. reflectivity/specular). We support only OBJ sequences for animated objects at this time. More complex object animations should probably be rendered in another application and composited with Terragen environments.

I hope that helps.

- Oshyan


Hello Oshyan, and thanks for your extended answer.

I can see some of the features i was looking for at the specs at your site and in the examples you provided.
I have downloaded the free version of T3 but couldn´t make the time to run some tests yet.

Nevertheless, i think those rendering times would be preety high for our little farm setup and for the time given to develop the project. We have to render a full inmersive environment for projecting, and yet not sure if we are allowed to outsource the rendering.

I am going to try some test to cut some time off and would ask again for advice.
I understand that atmospherics are expensive to render, but are there within Terragen some options to get some ´fake´ results a little bit faster.
Have to get my hands on the free version though.


There are some techniques you can use with clouds to reduce render time, but all depend heavily on your scene requirements. Using Localized clouds can reduce render times a good amount, especially if you use Voxelization or 2D Shadow Maps, however if you need clouds all the way to the horizon this approach may not work well. You can also render with "2.5D" clouds if volumetric clouds are not required. They are shaded as if 3d, but are not truly volumetric, so they're appropriate for higher-altitude clouds where you would not see significant height/dimension. Those would certainly be faster. You can also mix these techniques to reduce overall render time, while using "expensive" elements only where needed. For example you could have high-altitude 2D clouds, then use localized cloud layers at lower altitude using full 3D volumetric clouds to fill out your cloudscape, taking advantage of the localization and acceleration options to improve speed there.

Frankly there is also cost to consider. With TG3 currently on sale (though only for a couple more days), it's worth evaluating your overall project budget and the cost of licensing software (assuming you don't already have an environment modeling/rendering application like Terragen). You might be able to save enough on licensing TG3 vs. other solutions that you could afford to hire a render farm - there are several that support TG3 at very reasonable prices. There's a list here:

Render times are likely to be similar for equivalent production quality and scene type, regardless of your solution. Faster baseline results can be had from a number of other applications, but as I mentioned, once you increase to production quality levels render times tend to be in a similar range for similar effects. Your particular project may be able to go with lower detail or simpler (e.g. 2D) clouds or a less realistic atmosphere model, in which case you might be able to achieve results faster with other methods, but I'm assuming you need the complexity and realism that TG3 provides, in which case there are few real alternatives, and none that render significantly faster at high quality.

- Oshyan


QuoteYou can also render with "2.5D" clouds if volumetric clouds are not required.

What's this 2.5D, Oshyan? Nothing in my tabs. Can you explain what you mean?


They're called "2D" in the UI. "2.5D" just basically means they're shaded as if they're 3D, but they don't actually have volume to them. Technical accuracy would be "2D", but "2.5D" is a useful functional descriptor.

- Oshyan



Hey, thanks again for your answer Oshyan. I have been on and off these days due to the year ending.
I was indeed looking for the consistent environment and rich lighting i have seen T3 can produce.
For the project we are looking for close interaction between sky covering and earth lighting and shadowing.
I am taking a look at the farm list you provided.
I have to get deeper into the free version though to explore these new 2D clouds you mentioned.
Thanks again and will ask again in a couple of days