Best notebooks for 3D rendering. Part 1: Technical considerations

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For me, choosing the right notebook is always more difficult than building (or buying) a desktop. The customization options are often restrictive, and similar configurations from different manufacturers can be priced very differently. Plus, the prices are always higher than a similarly spec’ed desktop and the upgrade possibilities are in some cases almost nonexistent. All this means that a lot of research is needed before taking out the wallet, and a lot of people might find this difficult.

Because lately I’ve heard the question ‘what laptop should I buy for Blender?’ a lot, I decided to look a bit into the matter. Read on to hear my take on this.

Note: This applies to all rendering engines that work with NVidia GPUs. Also, I won’t be talking about Macs here, as they don’t have any configuration with a decent NVidia GPU at this point.

NVIDIA_GeForce_GTX_980M_3Qtr

NVidia GTX 980m official image and source.

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New render feature: live preview for animations in progress

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video-preview
Since launching RenderStreet, we knew the render previews are an essential part of what we want to offer. At first, the solution we found was a thumbnail of the rendered image in the job view page which shows the last frame that was fully rendered. After implementing the thumbnail, we added real-time previews that work well for still images. They show a preview of the rendered image, as shown by Blender, while rendering. Now we’re taking it to the next level.

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RenderStreet interviews: Attila Balogh, architectural visualiser

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Architecture is one of the main fields in which professionals use Blender 3D for showcasing their work to their clients. There are thousands of visualisation tutorials and online classes, and hundreds of amateurs that make a living from 3D architecture. But there are just a few that distinguish themselves as skilled masters in this industry. We wanted to find out what it takes to become such an expert.

Attila Balogh portrait

Attila Balogh has more that 10 years of experience in residential building architecture, interior design and 3D visualization. His complex work speaks for itself, and his answers shed light on how he creates his projects.

Marius Iatan: How did you start working in the 3D architectural visualization field? What would you say it’s the most challenging aspect of 3D visualization for you?
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Slush conference review

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The 2014 edition of Europe’s largest startup event Slush took place this November in Finland’s cold capital. A huge venue with 4 stages and lots of showcase space for guest companies (including RenderStreet) hosted an audience of 10,000 people, in just 2 days.

Slush 2014 conference

 

 

 

 

Slush was surrounded by over 20 side events, usually addressed to specialised communities. I chose to go to an IGDA Finland event, was invited to pitch at EBAN (European Business Angels Conference) and went to cheer for the startups that graduated the fall batch of Startup Sauna accelerator.
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The Butterfly Effect open movie, rendered with RenderStreet

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We finished rendering another Blender animation short, just in time for submitance to this year’s Suzanne Awards. The Butterfly Effect was part of our RenderStreet for Artists Program, that provided independent artists with free rendering, on our servers.

Creator of the movie, Patrice Bertrand explains the coming of the story, as well as the technical lessons he learned from this exercise.

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Newest Blender makes CPU faster than GPU rendering

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It’s been a few weeks since Blender 2.72a was released, so it was about time to test it out and see how CPU and GPU rendering speed perform in the latest Blender version.

As in the last tests, we are using for benchmarking the Pabellon Barcelona Cycles scene, that Hamza Cheggour published  on his eMirage site. As soon as the rendering was finished, I was amazed by the results. In this version, CPU rendering is faster than GPU. I repeated the test, to make sure there was no mistake, and tried to understand why this happens.

blender-272-cpu-gpu-render-speed-thumb

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RenderStreet interviews: Jeff Mininger, interior/exterior designer

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We’re back today with an interview featuring another Blender professional. Jeff Mininger has a successful business in the architectural field, and you’ll learn about how he does that and what is his history with Blender. But more importantly, Jeff has found a way to balance work, family life and healthy living something most of us are striving to do. 

Enjoy the interview and let us know what you think in the comments section!

Marius Iatan: Hello Jeff, could you please tell us a bit about yourself?Jeff Miniger and his younger daughter

Jeff Mininger: I’m a dad, play bass, ride skateboards and renovate houses. In my daily work I design and draft construction plans for new homes and renovations. I began working as a carpenter about 15 yrs. ago and learned a lot about building. Enough that I didn’t want to make a career out of it. So, along the way, I took the time to learn architectural software and brought the two sets of skills together to build my own design business. I like what I do, but for me work is a support system to the life I want to live and that means spending time with my wife and two girls.

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Guest post: Optimize Freestyle for fast rendering

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In the quest to make the process of rendering more appealing and help artists get better, faster renders, we are launching the guest post series on the RenderStreet blog.

NPR (Freestyle) is a feature that gets more and more attention from the Blender users. We invited Bong Wee Kwong aka Light BWK – who is a NPR pro – to write about optimising Freestyle and explain it all to pieces.

Overview 

Freestyle is an awesome post process line art renderer. With Freestyle lines drawing alone, you can make a lot of cool artworks. If you have been following the twitter tag #b3d the past few months, you’ll notice many cool artworks are done with it. Freestyle is available for Blender Internal and (good news) will be available in Cycles for the next release, Blender 2.72. In essence, Freestyle is its own renderer, meaning it has its own way of handling line rendering.

Here is the overview of what Freestyle does when you press F12. First, Freestyle loads the mesh in view into RAM (each frame), creates a view map from selected edge types, then stylize the selected lines. In reality the processes for Freestyle to render lines is more than that, but for this article I think it is best to just show the simplified version.

Screenshot

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The lookout for talent: Graphic/UX Designer @RenderStreet

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Summertime is the best time for making plans. While everyone is out of town (as we can easily see in our Facebook feeds), we take the time for thinking over what we’d like to do next. It’s a time for fresh ideas to come to life. And because we’re part of a creative community with a strong appetite for innovation, we’d like to bring some of it into Render.st.

We’re planning of creating a richer experience for the people using our service. For this, we need a graphic designer with a strong understanding of the web, which is essentially an interactive space. There are things we want to change when communicating the RenderStreet story, but we also need to get the user flow right in the account dashboard. We’d love to work with someone who’ s used the #b3d hashtag at least once, knows the result to the meaning of life is and gets excited about animation releases.

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Sebastian König, on his Blender tutoring passion

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We recently started the RenderStreet interviews section on our blog, setting out to find unique stories inside the Blender community. Many already know Sebastian König from his work at Blender Foundation’s Tears of Steel open movie and his Blender training activities. He is one of the first Blender Foundation Certified Trainers (BFTC) in Germany, with a solid experience in teaching Blender.

I wanted to know more about what’s it like to teach Blender, and find the secret to becoming a well recognised expert. Besides his practical advice and insights, Sebastian’s authenticity and openness show he’s a man with a true calling for his work.

Marius Iatan: You have a long experience Image of Sebastian König both with online tutorials and live training all over the world. What was the most inspiring training you did, and why?

Sebastian König: I would say personal training is always the most inspiring. Online training or DVDs are great to reach a lot of people, but recording tutorials can be, at least for me, rather tedious. When doing recordings it’s just too tempting to try to fix mistakes and do another take. I often find myself recording the same sentence over and over again until I get it “right”. Mostly that doesn’t even improve the first take.

That’s also why I enjoy personal teaching so much. It’s all live and it doesn’t matter if everything is perfectly pronounced, or if you do a mistake now and then. Live training has this special something. It’s exciting and that usually makes my brain work faster. Which then results in better training. :)
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Cycles versions speed comparison. CPU and GPU

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Blender’s fast-paced release cycle is a unique differentiator in the 3D modeling world. Its purpose is to come up with new features, updates and bug fixes fast. Among the trade-offs stands a continuous learning process and the fact that there are bugs that need to be fixed. But this is part of Blender’s charm, and I think it’s well worth it.

During the last few releases, the ‘Cycles improvements’ section in the release notes has been constantly populated. And almost all recent releases come with the promise of speed improvement.

At RenderStreet, we probably have the widest array of Blender versions available for rendering from all render farms (2.63 and upwards). So we put on our scientist lab coats in an attempt to test them out, see how they perform on server-grade hardware and identify the best version available for our users. The model of choice was the Pabellon Barcelona Cycles scene that Hamza Cheggour published on his eMirage site. This file is on its way to replace the famous BMW as the ‘standard’ benchmark for Cycles, so we decided to use it for this purpose.

The tests started with a̶ ̶b̶e̶e̶r̶  Blender 2.66 and went through the newest version, Blender 2.71. Server configurations used were 2 x Tesla M2090 for GPU, and 2 x Xeon E5-2670 for CPU. RenderStreet render times for Blender Cycles are revealed in the chart below:

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RenderStreet interviews: William Reynish, director of Whole

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Recently graduated from The National Film School of Denmark, William Reynish released his bachelor film Whole, that took one year to produce. Marius Iatan got William to reveal the project’s spicy moments that were put together in the amazing interview below. This, and some of William’s views on animation, 3D and creativity.

Marius Iatan: How did your professional skills evolve up to directing animation films? What would you choose instead, if you had to pick a different path?

William ReynishWilliam Reynish: I was always into animation. I grew up drawing a lot, and I liked to act. Animation is the natural combination of those two things. I worked as a character animator on other Blender projects such as Big Buck Bunny and Sintel.

An alternate career would be in software. I am passionate about software design.

There’s a huge opportunity to be the first really well-designed 3D app, and I think Blender should be it.

Marius: What were the turning points in your career – who or what inspired your life and where you are today? Read more …

Francesco Siddi, at the center of the Blender world

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F.SiddiI first met Francesco last year at YABC, in Gdansk. It was my first Blender-related conference, and my first in-person contact  with the community. The second meeting was in Amsterdam at BConf, where he hosted the visit at the Blender Institute. It was then when we agreed to contribute at Caminandes, which resulted in RenderStreet’s servers crunching the Gran Dillama episode.

Francesco joined the Blender Institute in 2012 and is now one of the deepest involved people in the Blender world. He was involved in the Gooseberry campaign and also in the previous open movies done by the Institute. I asked him to answer a few questions for us, and he agreed, so read on for the good part.

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RenderStreet supports Architecture Academy

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Besides the continuous development of the software, Blender community’s performance depends on all individual artists continuously perfecting their skills. Books, video tutorials and courses are constantly providing education materials and are making Blender accessible for more and more people all around the world. Our own records show that last year we rendered jobs from 95 countries. This level of adoption was reached through personal involvement and devotion of the Blender users and trainers.

For 5 years, Andrew Price, running the known BlenderGuru website has been making tutorials, taking interviews, organizing contests, podcasting weekly and being an active Blender evangelist. His course focused on 3D architecture is soon rolling out its second edition. With the help of Anderson Alves Baptist and Reynante Martinez on the furniture modeling side and Rob Garlington keen on plant modeling, they prepared more than 100 new models for this edition of Architecture Academy.

The recent teaser rendered with RenderStreet illustrates how close to perfection 3D may accede:


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FMX 2014 — the lowdown

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20140424_122814-2FMX, the well-known European conference themed on film industry, animation and transmedia has reached its 20th edition. I was in Stuttgart for the entire period – almost a week – and got an interesting insight in what’s trending and the future of the industry.
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