Now that the dust has settled on the viability, feasibility, durability, and impact of the digital media platforms, we can safely say that we are living in the era of content. The extent and opportunities of dissemination of content have increased manifold and with this the impetus is on the rate of content creation.
The statistics on video growth are staggering. According to studies and forecast by Cisco, video will constitute more than 80 percent of all consumer internet traffic by 2021. This, supplemented with the availability and ease of access to global content, has created an extremely discerning consumer. With the audience hankering for a steady diet of well conceptualized, high quality content; no longer can quantity overshadow quality.
Even though content creation technology has matched the demand, in order to be able to sustain the quality, we need to outpace it. Bottlenecks do exist. They spread across the ability to access such technology to the challenges faced in adopting them. The animation industry specifically has been at the receiving end of this for some time now. Any upstream creative modification during a production process always creates a hitch in the delivery of the final product as almost all the later stages of that shot might have to be reworked on.
Computer graphics driven animation production has always been a game of patience. The modeling, rigging, setting, and animation is followed by rendering. The fruits of labor can only be visualized once the rendering of the frames is complete. The current rendering process also places restrictions on the creativity of the director, who has very limited flexibility and control over the scene. That has been the nature of animation. High-quality and detailing demand long hours of computing time. But in the wake of the content wave, we have to look beyond the conventional. I believe the convergence of gaming engines, such as Unity and Unreal, and animation holds the key to solving this conundrum and ushering in the next wave of animation.
The biggest strength in real-time rendering is interactivity. The images are rendered at speeds that are fast enough for a user to move around within the environment. Real-time rendering is capable of displaying an entire CS environment up to an optimal 60 frames per second. This environment consists of lighting, textures, and simulations. This is typically utilized in video games and augmented and virtual reality applications by gaming engines. A game engine has to render images in real-time as the entire premise is based on simultaneous interaction. Studios implementing real-time rendering on an experimental basis are already reporting 30 to 50 percent savings in time as it provides the flexibility of performing multiple iterations during the production and simplifies the workflow from a loop to a linear process. The ease of camera handling for the director at the stage of final colored version in the game engine makes it easier to take creative calls.
The added advantage of not having to rely on a large render farm to render the final color frames is a big saving from both time as well as cost point of view.
Expansion of these real-time renderers into animation or TV/film space will do wonders to break through the restriction that animation directors work with, allowing the creators to create and visualize the world without having to wait on the rendering.
Soon enough, entire animated universes and shows will be created within the gaming engines such as Unity, Unreal, among others. at a pace and quality that will far exceed the standards of today. There still are challenges of both adaptability and technical compatibility in existing CGI animation production pipelines when it comes to integrating real-time game engines. Although the day is still some time away, the way forward could not be clearer.