The tortoise and the hare: animation tricks to create videos faster

Once a video is in post-production, one of the processes that can put the schedule out of whack, if you’re not careful, is rendering — especially when a video has lots of CGI (computer-generated imagery). So it’s worth understanding what rendering is, and asking: What animation tricks can we use to help create videos faster?

To answer this question, we can borrow from the fable of The tortoise and the Hare. But first: some baking.

What is rendering?
Think of creating a video as like baking a cake. In baking, once you’ve assembled all your ingredients, you need to put them in the oven and leave them for an hour or so to turn the mess into a glorious cake. In video production, once you’ve assembled all of the elements of your video – the audio, filmed footage, 3D graphical objects, and so forth – the computer ‘renders’ it all to transform it into a video file.

OK, I hear you ask: so why would rendering put a schedule in danger? And what’s this got to do with tortoises and hares?

Slow hares, speedy tortoises
Rendering isn’t entirely like baking. Unlike baking, rendering takes longer when the ingredients are more complex — when the computer has more to do, such as crunching a more complex algorithm, to make the image appear on the screen. This is why rendering times can be a particular issue with CGI.

Now imagine you’re creating a video with an animated hare. The hare is, well, a hairy creature. And making hair look natural is quite a complex animation. So as speedy as the hare is in reality, in your video he’ll really slow down your render if you want him to be lifelike. If you swapped him for a smooth-shelled tortoise, on the other hand, the render would be much simpler and quicker — because shell behaviour isn’t complex at all.

Textures, in short, can have an impact on your video production time – so they’re worth considering when you’re making your creative decisions. If you’ve created a virtual studio (like this one), smooth textures will be easier and quicker to render than leathery textures. The smooth, slim, abstract animations so in-vogue in corporate videos right now aren’t just elegant, but faster to render.

Of course, if you want to go for complex textures and other ‘render-heavy’ elements (wide shots with lots of movement, for example, or lots of complex camera movements) there’s nothing stopping you – just build it into your schedule. As a rough guide, the video in the link above took around 36 hours to render. Your video production agency should be able to give you a steer on the elements that may affect deadlines vs. the ones that won’t.