What could real time rendering mean for the future of digital visualisation?

A fundamental part of life in the digital and emerging technology sectors is the ability to adapt and react to new technologies. Constantly scanning the horizon and assessing new techniques – our team is focussed on ensuring clients stay ahead of the curve in a constantly developing industry.

One of these technologies is real time rendering, now becoming increasingly utilised across the industry due to large advancements in recent years. This enables us to move around buildings and see the hidden mechanics of objects in action, all without having to wait for long digital image production times.

This ability to render in real time is a game-changer. By reducing output time, it has a real impact on complex and changing projects, or projects with fast deadlines. Until now however, it’s mainly been big business in the games industry – but as the digital environment becomes more important, and even a necessity, we’re investing in making the technique more accessible and affordable across all sectors.

So what is real time rendering? And what could it mean for wider industry?

What is real time rendering?

Rendering is the process of producing an image based on 3D data. 3D wireframe models are converted into 2D images with 3D photorealistic effects. This can take anywhere from seconds to minutes to days, depending on the project.

In real time rendering, 3D images are calculated at a very high speed and a multitude of images combine to create what looks like scenes. In video games, for example, the images or scenes would be generated in real time as players interact with the game.

Over the last few years real time rendering has become far more powerful and, with the addition of real time ray tracing, the workflow is starting to become a viable alternative rendering method for high quality animation.

An example of the real time rendering process. Dale Ward, 3D artist.

What could real time rendering mean for wider industry?

Unlike traditional rendering software such as Vray or Corona, by definition the frames are rendered out in real time. Not only does this mean that final rendering times are vastly reduced, giving a much faster output time, but it also means that the artist has instant visual feedback when working on a scene. Visual styles can be tweaked on the fly and feedback can be received much quicker.

It’s also possible for multiple people to work in the same file at the same time, making collaboration easy, and there’s an innate ability to repurpose work in interactive applications with some tweaks. The ability to collaborate in real time, and remotely, has never been more important as organisations look to new working practices and a future post COVID-19.

As with any technique, there are considerations to this workflow:

  • Asset set up requires more work and more time
  • The visual quality of the final piece is not yet at the level of traditional rendering
  • Some features are still not supported, meaning some workarounds are required
  • A different mindset is needed to typical techniques, so it can be a harsh learning curve for some.

But as we all know, the technology industry is fast-paced. Improvements are constantly being made – and that’s much the same for real time rendering.

Environment creation using real time rendering techniques. Ed O’Murphy, 3D artist.

Real time rendering at Bloc

As well as looking at the technique as a whole, our team has been looking into real time rendering workflows for multiple mediums such as interactive applications, realistic environment creation and high quality cinematics.

That is a real bonus in our multi-discipline studio – where animation, modelling and motion graphics immersive services combine to create layered interactive and engaging digital visualisations.

Depending on the style of animation required the visual results are almost identical, meaning animations can be delivered far quicker than usual. With real time rendering knowledge, a bonus is the ability of our modelling team to support the animation team if required.

This technology is also becoming increasingly popular in the architectural world, enabling Bloc Arch Viz as well as Bloc Digital and Bloc Media to benefit from the new process.

Our modelling team have already been using this technology to create animations including the BMW cinematics below. During this project we used real time raytracing, allowing us to render this short, 10 second cinematic in 1 minute 10 seconds compared to traditional methods where this would have taken around 30 minutes for a single frame (or a week to complete)!

With increased output speed giving way to reduced costs for clients and the ability to repurpose work lending itself to our ‘create once, maximise use’ ethos, this technology will become increasingly integral to life at Bloc and our services to clients.