2012 – 2013
I haven’t had enough opportunities in my past to do large, high quality illustrations, where every detail is carefully crafted. I did a few DVD and book covers while working with the documentation team, but only a few were using my own models and renderings. Often I was just improving materials, lighting, and composition of existing content created by the book or DVD author.
More recently, I did a couple of poster-size images, and really enjoyed it. Since they were not related to any work project, I had the time and freedom to try new techniques, different renderers, and create efficient workflows for very large images.
My California Lotto Strategy
My California Lotto winnings were way below the promised average. I did some number crunching of all the past draws in the attempt to come up with a strategy based on the least frequent pair of numbers.
The original analysis was a simple Excel spreadsheet running a VBA script. Efficient, quick, but the output was uninspiring grid of numbers.
To give the results a more dramatic visual appearance, I re-wrote the analysis algorithm in Maxscript and associated larger glowing Lotto balls to the least frequent number pairs I was looking for.
The resulting scene needed to be rendered quite large to allow all details to be seen, and that posed some challenges as the glowing spheres needed a lot of time to render the surrounding area without noise.
Using Amazon EC2 Instances
To render this image, and any future one that requires lots of processing, I created a render farm on Amazon using cluster instances. Each running EC2 instance receives the scene from my home desktop, and renders using Backburner.
Interaction with the running EC2 instances is minimal, but I’m not really done with this as I want to automate a couple of more steps. But even as it is now, the render farm is a huge help, as the EC2 cluster instances have 16 cores and 64Gb of memory, and running a few of them allows me to render very large images or animations with confidence and within predictable schedules.
Our Solar System to Scale
At the Chabot Space and Science Center there were some old, poor quality images, probably downloaded from internet and printed on office paper, showing the Sun and the planets to scale.
I found the images content to be extremely interesting, but the design and quality was definitely something that could have been improved.
I decided to give it a try, and create a brand new, more artistic view of our solar system, poster size (36″x36″), and donate it to the Center to replace those old prints.
The 3D geometry was not too complex, but there was a lot of lighting experimentation to get the scene illuminated only by the Sun itself, and some time consuming multi-layer composition in Photoshop.
The image is available in high resolution by clicking the thumbnail on the right. You can print it and use it as you like as long as you keep the credits intact and readable.
3D Studio Max Snakes