What is RenderDigimania?
RenderDigimania is a clever PC app for rendering 3D animations. Unlike traditional rendering software, RenderDigimania uses the Unreal game engine to provide a real-time experience and lightning-fast rendering. Imagine being able to render an entire cartoon series on a single PC without an expensive render farm or data pipeline headaches.
The making of RenderDigimania
We’d just commercialised Muvizu:Play and were looking for our next project. With Muvizu we’d taken a game engine-based animation product to the amateur market; it made sense to examine whether our game engine technology could help the professionals.
Rendering is the process of turning 3D geometry, lights and cameras into footage. Rendering is an incredibly slow, expensive and computationally-heavy process. If you consider that an animated feature film has roughly 130,000 frames of animation, and that each frames can take 48 hours to emerge from a “farm” of hundreds of computers, then you’ll see that the time, money and hardware requirements of traditional rendering are huge.
Game engines, on the other hand, render their frames in real time. When you play Tomb Raider or Halo the engine is calculating the entire state of the game and drawing the graphics up to 60 times a second.
My idea was simple - use the speed of a game engine to render animation.
Alpha version and "Bradley and Bee"
I wrote a Design Summary document - a concept for an Unreal-based animation renderer. At the same time we were approached by Red Kite Animation and asked to help with the “Bradley and Bee” pilot - an 11-minute kids’ cartoon show due at MIPCOM in a few months. To deliver “Bradley and Bee” we quickly created a prototype of RenderDigimania and worked with SuperUmami on the project. This was our Alpha software.
The “Bradley and Bee” project gave us a lot of product insight. It vindicated our suspicions that game engines could render animation. It showed that our prototype renderer was very fast - the software could render HD frames at the rate of five per second. Finally, it allowed us to refine the tool based on an actual live project.
Soft launch of Beta version
Armed with all this insight we added several important features to RenderDigimania: Project Library, Material Editor, Static Lighting, professional UI. We also redesigned the software’s architecture with a couple of abstraction layers and APIs between them. Alongside the development we tested the software with assets donated by partner animation studios, and from the episodic libraries of “Bradley and Bee”.
We launched the public version of RenderDigimania in June 2014. Our commercial team found global resellers and began to promote the software.
RenderDigimania was officially launched at SIGGRAPH in August 2014. After its debut we restructured our studio practises to enable us to react to customer feedback and release new versions quickly. Our entire development approach and QA system was overhauled so that we could release iterations on a monthly(ish) basis. This is as close to “Agile” as we come. Customer feedback comes in, gets evaluated, placed in a Backlog and tackled by developers based on the criticality to our business.