Rendering the Animation

The final stage of the production is rendering the animation to a suitable format.

The example project for practicing this part of the tutorial is 'tutorprojects/harry/animated.r3d'

The animation will be rendered directly to an .avi file. Because the images are not stored from a view window, we must define the camera view for each frame by adding a camera object to the scene. First we define the camera setup for the first frame. Navigate the view window so that you see the animated character for example from the side. Open the view property window, go to the Camera tab and make sure that the settings are OK. For example, you can set the focal length now to 50 mm. Turn also perspective projection on. If the character does not fit into the 50 mm view, just increase the Distance value in the Orientation section of this view property sheet. When the camera setup appears suitable (don't worry too much at this point, you can change every detail later), close the view property window. Go to the Creation tab of the toolbar, activate the Camera tool and select Accept from the view's popup menu. This creates a camera object and records the camera settings of the view window into it.

Double click the camera object in the select window to open the property window. Go to the spec tab. View window most likely has an unusual aspect ratio, which depends on the opened GUI elements, monitor resolution etc. The ratio was stored to the camera object, too. Change the image aspect ratio to some sensible value. In this tutorial, we will use the image aspect of the PAL and NTSC standards. You can select it (height/width = 0.75) from the predefined ratios of the Image Aspect/Type gadget.

Remember to define the aspect ratio

You can adjust other camera settings, too, using the property window. For example, if the image was too dark, you can either make the flashlight color brighter, or increase the film sensitivity value. To preview the result, just drag and drop the camera object from the select window into the view window and render the view. Close the property window.

We can animate the camera easily using a couple of key frames. Move the time slider to the end of the animation. Then rotate the view so that you see Harry from the front. Decrease the distance to the character (5th view control from the top in the view control bar) and center the view to show Harry's face. The animation will end to a close-up of a smiling face. Turn animation recording on (use the red button on the animation window). Then select Camera/View to Object from the view popup. This tool records the view camera to the camera object. Because animation recording is on, this added a new key frame for the camera. Turn the animation recording off.

Note: View to Object operation does not assign the image aspect value, because view windows, which are attached to the main window, rarely have a useful image aspect ratio. Therefore, the key frame creation method above did not change the selected aspect ratio (0.75 for PAL) of the camera. If you zoom out slightly, you will see the rectangular wireframe of the camera on the view window. Most likely it does not match the proportions of the view window.

Play the animation to check the camera motion. If the view window does not follow the camera motion, make sure that View property window/Camera tab/Track animation play is enabled.

Most likely two key frames are not enough. Stop the playback in the middle of the animation. Navigate the view window so that the main actor is again properly in the picture. Then turn the recording on, apply again the View to object tool and turn recording off. Now the camera motion is ready. Rewind the animation back to beginning.

Select File/Render from the pull down menu. Enter a suitable file name and hit Enter. The default configuration has Windows BMP in the Active Formats list, which defines the outputted file formats. Use the popup menu of the list to remove it. Then select avi from the Available Formats list and hit the Add button. Now the output target is an avi file.

File render window

In the rendering settings field, there is an item Quality over speed selected. It is almost suitable for our project. However, thin hair objects require very careful antialiasing. The best way to antialiase such objects is using sufficient stochastic antialiasing. The important point is that stochastic antialiasing can be obtained as a free side effect of motion blur. On the select window, go to the render settings tab and select the item Quality over speed. Open the property window and go to the leftmost Ray Tracing tab. Set Antialiasing/Level to zero and Mode to Stochastic.

Antialiasing settings for use with motion blur

Close the property window. Select Windows/Animation Settings from the pull down menu. Turn Motion Blur on and set the number of samples to for example 9. Close the Animation Settings window.

Go back to the file render window. We did not define any resolution yet. The official PAL and NTSC resolutions are included in the Presets box. Both PAL and NTSC use non-square pixels, and playing animations rendered to those standards on a computer screen shows the images stretched, because all usual screen resolutions have a pixel aspect ratio, which is quite close to one.

Motion blur enabled

So, let's use a lower, computer-oriented resolution. Enter for example Width=640, Height=480. Note that the aspect field shows a ratio 480/640 = 0.75, which is exactly the aspect ratio we defined for the camera object. This means that the pixels will be exactly square-like (pixel aspect = 1.0).

Save the finished project. Then start rendering by clicking the Render Animation button. Note, that you can safely cancel the rendering, save the project to a temp file, reload it later and continue rendering. When the rendering is done, play the created .avi file with your favorite media player.