Amster-DAMN! We learned about some amazing new stuff at BlenderCon

Posted by: Danny Austin - 07.11.22

We’re always on the lookout for new ways to bring better, faster, more creative capabilities to the work we do for our clients. And it’s no exaggeration to say our recent trip to BlenderCon in Amsterdam delivered all that and more. 

BlenderCon 2022, is a gathering of artists, developers and contributors from all around the world, and this year’s was the largest BlenderCon to date. Danny Austin from the Ride Shotgun Technology team was there to bring you the inside track on the coolest, most exciting developments in creative technology and tools. 

Here’s just a few of Danny’s big highlights from the event.  

Real world, not Hollywood 

The keynote speech from Blender founder, Ton Roosendaal, began with a remarkably warm celebration of the news that he’s being given the all-clear of cancer. It was a real tribute to the man and his influence on this small creative community. Ton spoke about the ethos of Blender, restating its central principles of freedom, sharing, access to the code and making the tools normal creative people and smaller creative businesses need. Not the thousand-strong, big budget Hollywood production facilities. 


A glimpse of the future with Amazon Nimble Studio  

Amazon AWS has offered the ability for businesses and individuals to rent computers, storage and databases for some time. However, with the addition of Nimble Studio, they now have a group of tools that run on the cloud, essentially facilitating remote workstations and all the infrastructure that comes with them. We believe this offers a tantalising glimpse of the way things could potentially work in the future.  

Rather than needing an on-site bank of big, powerful computers for CGI rendering, as we do at our offices in Bradford, we could log in from anywhere and carry out the same tasks. The costs are currently quite high. However, we believe this is the way things will go in the future. Watch this space. 

Blender really can save the day 

Something we’re really interested in is how Blender can be used to not just visualise and show renders of set designs in film making but to actually solve post-production problems. We’ve all heard of the phrase ‘fix it in post’. 

Blender and other similarly capable tools can save time, hassle and expense when for example a prop, part of a set, location or even a shot is missing at the end of filming.  The rendering tools can recreate or even create those missing assets from scratch, in 3D, perfectly matching all the lighting, colour and details.  


Building our own custom tools in Blender 

As you might expect, the 2-hour beginning Blender development workshop was pretty heavy-duty programming stuff. But the upshot is that unlike most other types of software which equip you with a finite a suite of tools, Blender lets you develop and build the tools you need without software specific restrictions. 


Simpler, faster, better rendering 

Typically, large resource-hungry 3D scenes need rendering on the CPU (Central Processing Unit) of a computer because of the huge amount of memory it requires. Even then, it can be an overnight job. Most GPUs, or Graphics Processing Units, simply couldn’t handle it because of the relatively small memory capacity. 

The talented team at it4i aim to change all that. Using distributed rendering it harnesses clusters of GPUs so that their combined processing power can be used. The result is blindingly fast rendering. We asked the presenter if the same principle could be used to help the Ride Shotgun CGI team to dramatically speed up rendering using a single GPU rendering sequential sections one by one.  The answer was yes, we’re working on that. Again, another development we’ll be keeping an eagle eye on. 


Will AI put concept artists out of work? Not yet 

Alongside the Metaverse, AI is clearly one of the big buzzwords at the moment. Midjourney is an AI programme which allows users to create images from textual descriptions. Type in ‘Sparsely decorated room with light coming in through the window, in the style of Salvador Dali’ and after a short wait it’ll give you some image options.  

We don’t yet think concept artists need to worry about their collective futures but it’s certainly a useful tool for them. We’ve been playing around with this in our CGI team for a while and we think this could be a useful addition to our armoury.  


Watch this space 

There were more fascinating and inspiring developments at BlenderCon2022 than we can’t possibly do justice to in a single article.  

Rest assured, we’ll be returning to do a slightly deeper dive into some of these amazing developments in our blog in the coming weeks and months. Stay tuned for more.