WIP – ‘Ascension’ – Diary 03 – V I C I N U S

Ascension: V I C I N U S

So, part three of the milestones. Building up to this point I ran into a lot of realizations regarding process and tools. My goal for this milestone was to create an awesome animation with the main asset for the final animation: ‘The Space Station’. To complete the picture I also added a planet.

Some issues I figured out are confined to either tools or workflow/knowledge. So I will discuss them in that order, separately.



Octane is awesome. Seriously, it renders with the speed of lightning about to crap its pants, looking for the closest toilet. The lighting looks amazing, but for some reason everything has to either be a mesh light or a sun.

Especially the sun part is kind of annoying, since Octane simulates sunrise and sunset beautifully. I would see almost perfect for anything that requires your feet on the ground. A space scene, not so much though. If you try to light a scene you would, ideally, rotate your light rig around your objects. The thing is, now I cant, because at some angles the sun starts being affected by the Rayleigh effect, resulting in dimmer, red light.

Now, instead of rotating my light, I have to rotate my entire scene, except for the light. Which means also rotating the camera along with everything else. Octane being a plugin that doesn’t always update the viewport correctly without reloading the entire scene means it becomes quite a chore aligning everything correctly. So you have to reload the scene often.

Which ties in with the next problem. For this project I have been using both Octane override materials and On the fly materials. Which was working fine for a while, until Octane wanted to reload all textures every time I made a change at any point. Even a numerical value prompted a 10 second reload of the scene.

Lastly, because of these weird solutions I had to use to rotate the light, combined with some windows 10 forced resets (which are the fucking worst), the scene rotation had a mind of its own. You can see this clearly in the last scene of the animation, it looks like the light is going haywire. This is because of several resets of the system, where I just pressed render again, but the rotation reset too. Well, lesson learned… check -everything- before you rerender after a crash.

How do I solve these issues? For the light I will have to figure out how I can replace the sun with a mesh light or if I can somehow solve the way the sun works. The Rayleigh effect could be used to great effect to simulate different kinds of stars. I don’t have a full solution yet for the texture reloading aside from making all the materials either override or on the fly.


I tried to do everything in one go. Render the entire animation in one go, instead of layered. This resulted in complex lighting situation where nobody would see the difference if I had simplified it. Not only is it not noticeable, but the renders take much longer as well. I tried to keep compositing to a minimum because I kept worrying about camera angles and complex camera pans and how to combine loose components.

Another issue concerning render time are the way I set up the materials. There are many unique objects in the scene. And instead of normal mapping some elements, I modelled most of the panels. Something you would see in closeup shots, but not in 3/4 of the shots currently in the animation. In principle, this should be ok though. The strain on my system, which I specifically built for 3D, isn’t that high with just the meshes. Instead, the strain comes from the materials.

Imagine a PBR workflow with 4K textures. Now imagine that with at least 40 sets of textures. That’s easily 200 4K textures that my system has to precess. My assumption that ‘I can get away with higher res textures, because it’s not for a game’ was the biggest mistake I could have made. So I kept down ressing them, to 2k and down to 1k. And even converting some to grayscale and 16 bit or even 8 bit. And even now, looking back at the animation and the amount of detail visible in the shots, I think I could have gotten away with 512×512 textures for most shots. This would have resulted in faster render times, and less noise/grain in the shadowy areas. For close-up scenes I could still swap in the specific high res textures I need for the scene without too much trouble.

How do I solve these issues? Don’t be a bitch. There, it’s easy. Plan the shot better, if possible opt for a more simplified approach in camera movement and add elements through layers in compositing to make it more visually engaging. From now on I will make at least 3 individual passes for these shots: foreground, midground and background. More if necessary. Gleb and Aidy’s  Space VFX Elements tutorial I can get started on better and more interesting backgrounds and foreground elements. Aim for the coolest shot and solve problems along the way, with good editing minor mistakes will disappear anyway.

As I already said I can reduce the size of the textures, but I could go even further and use normal octane materials to replace several image based textures in the station itself for big wide view shots, swapping in high res images for close ups. For the closeups themselves I could even turn of the materials for some elements to increase the render speed and quality.


In closing, I am very happy with the way this project is going so far. With deliverables at every milestone it gives me clear goals and motivation to finish something. Something you don’t normally get when you work in a studio or for a client, you generally just work towards one final product instead of several small ones leading up to one big one.

Octane is amazing and eve though it seems it pisses me off, it really doesn’t. It’s annoying sometimes, but that mostly due to myself. And that’s why I am doing these projects, to learn new techniques, find the limits of software and find limits of myself. If you stayed up till the end, thank you! You’re awesome!

Stay tuned for the next dump of material. As it is right now, I’m still not sure whether or not I will post milestone 4 seperate or together with milestone 5, just to keep the final product a surprise.



Ascension Project

The ascension project is a personal project to test my limits and challenge myself. I make everything myself, every asset is modelled and textured by me. Over the years I have built a huge library of tutorials and tools that I can use.

Part one <HERE>, part two <HERE>.

Computer Specs

  • i7 6800K
  • MSI X99A SLI
  • 32GB RAM
  • 2x MSI Geforce GTX 1070