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Convert camera to lighter position keyframes?

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Jeroen Rommelaars
Convert camera to lighter position keyframes?
on Mar 1, 2016 at 2:44:53 pm

Hey guys,

I work in a field where one animation is automatically rendered with adjusted parameters several times (from like....50 to 750.000 times). As this volume is quite high, saving a bit on the 'lightness' of the render can save us hours overall.

One of the remaining things I'm struggling with is trying to convert a camera in AE to something lighter, like baked in position keyframes for all layers affected by the camera. Things like depth of field etc are already removed from the camera, so in essence it is only controlling the 'movement' of the underlying layers. We notice that this effect is quite heavy on our machines and would rather just give all underlying layers their own position/scale keyframes.

Does anyone know a method to accomplish this?

That would be great!


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Dave LaRonde
Re: Convert camera to lighter position keyframes?
on Mar 1, 2016 at 3:43:08 pm

Can we ask how you currently generate these many variants?
Is After Effects a new ingredient in your animation mix?

Dave LaRonde
Promotion Producer
KGAN (CBS) & KFXA (Fox) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Walter Soyka
Re: Convert camera to lighter position keyframes?
on Mar 1, 2016 at 3:48:57 pm

[Jeroen Rommelaars] "One of the remaining things I'm struggling with is trying to convert a camera in AE to something lighter, like baked in position keyframes for all layers affected by the camera. Things like depth of field etc are already removed from the camera, so in essence it is only controlling the 'movement' of the underlying layers."

I question whether this would actually be lighter.

I'd advise you to pre-render as much as possible, especially if you have something heavy in the mix like motion blur.

I'd also advise you to change the disk cache settings (in Render Settings in the render queue) to "Current Settings" instead of "Read Only" for at least the first render so that Ae can cache as much of the render as possible as it writes.

Walter Soyka
Designer & Mad Scientist at Keen Live [link]
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
@keenlive [twitter]   |   RenderBreak [blog]   |   Profile [LinkedIn]


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Jeroen Rommelaars
Re: Convert camera to lighter position keyframes?
on Mar 2, 2016 at 9:35:49 am

Basically we feed database information into AE, where every line consists of several parameters, like personal information and images. For every line a new render is queued on our renderfarm where these parameters are replaced by the ones from the database.

We have been doing this through AE from day one, and have made big steps in increasing the renderspeed of our projects.

Almost everything is pre-rendered, except for those newly added values/images. Since these items have to move along with the animation, we kept the existing camera from the original animation (before we pre-rendered the background). This works perfectly, but I have the feeling using a camera for these simple movements is much heavier than just keyframing postition/scale.

I could manually try to recreate the movement the camera creates, but that will A: probably not be perfect and B: cost me a lot of time.
Therefore im looking for another solution. It may very well be there is none at this time, but it never hurts to ask around :)

and indeed, as Walter stated, it may not even be faster in the end. Still worth a shot though, especially since scenes without cameras render a lot faster in our current projects.


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Dave LaRonde
Re: Convert camera to lighter position keyframes?
on Mar 2, 2016 at 5:37:29 pm

From your description, I have to ask why you use 3D layers and a camera at all. It doesn't seem as if you would need to go that extra step.

Dave LaRonde
Promotion Producer
KGAN (CBS) & KFXA (Fox) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Jeroen Rommelaars
Re: Convert camera to lighter position keyframes?
on Mar 3, 2016 at 2:17:16 pm

Ah, good question. Although we make our own animations as well, in which we try to reduce the need for those effects as much as possible, we get a lot of 3rd party or 'existing animation' as well that we need to adapt to our machines. Our partners are instructed to not use those effects whenever possible, but existing animation usually already have cameras in them.

Also, for some more complex animation using a camera would cut down on the work needed when compared to animating all objects with position/scale. This results in less money spent on creating the animation oppossed to a bit heavier rendertime. Depending on the job this may be the best choice.

However, if there would be a 'simple' workflow to convert the use of camera to said position/scale keyframes we could have the benefit of using camera inside an animation with a (possibly) short rendertime.


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Walter Soyka
Re: Convert camera to lighter position keyframes?
on Mar 3, 2016 at 4:47:30 pm

[Jeroen Rommelaars] "However, if there would be a 'simple' workflow to convert the use of camera to said position/scale keyframes we could have the benefit of using camera inside an animation with a (possibly) short rendertime."

I did some testing, and I must say the results surprised me. Baking simple 3D to 2D does save appreciable render time.

I created a 3D animation of a camera drifting through a field of 200 layers distributed randomly in 3D space over 3600 frames, and I baked that same animation out to transforms of 200 2D layers. I made the animation long and heavy enough to make any render time differences noticeable.

The 3D camera animation took 16 minutes and 17 seconds to render. The equivalent 2D baked animation took 10 minutes and 22 seconds to render -- a significant 36.3% improvement.

I cut those animations down to 25 layers and repeated. The 3D camera animation took 04:02, and the 2D baked animation took 3:30 to render. That's a smaller improvement of 13.2%, but still noticeable.

Quick video:
https://vimeo.com/keenlive/review/157603287/bfcb2e24cc

And some keyframes:


I wouldn't call the baking workflow simple, and I made a lot of assumptions that will not be valid in all cases (default camera, camera and all layers share common orientation, layers don't move and thus require only a single z-sort, etc.). If you're interested in this workflow, I'd be happy to connect with you offline about your specific needs.

Walter Soyka
Designer & Mad Scientist at Keen Live [link]
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
@keenlive [twitter]   |   RenderBreak [blog]   |   Profile [LinkedIn]


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Jeroen Rommelaars
Re: Convert camera to lighter position keyframes?
on Mar 3, 2016 at 6:40:15 pm

Great test! Thats exactly what I am talking about. Although, as you said, in most animations this may not hold up I'm still very much interested in your workflow on converting cameramovements to baked in position/scale frames.
Im not based in the USA (Netherlands) so offline contact may be a bit tricky :P Any suggestions?


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