Thursday, July 07, 2005

Hard drive night

Last night - I'm mid render and all of the sudden I hear unsettling quiet, the fan stopped - my screen is black. I think, "well that's inconvenient - but I can start the render over". So I boot up, or at least try to. I get past bios and I see the Windows splash screen, for a second. It's back to quiet, it's back to the black screen. I try again, and this time it is even less rewarding, I don't even make it through the Bios screen. This continues, my machine is revving each time like an over heated car, "I'm done for." You know the feeling, it wells up from your middle until you feel it's weight in your head, pulling your face down into your hands. Keep trying. I can't get into safe mode. Keep trying, perhaps I can try my fingers quick keyboard stroke and manage to get into Bios, but it probably wont help me. Earlier in the day I had been burning duel layer DVD's, not your normal average DVD's no, because the renders for my current project couldn't possibly fit on a normal average DVD. I've been creating materials (2500X2500) and rendering them from Combustion and then applying them to my model in Max, and then rendering my animation from there. Some of these materials have been snowballing themselves into 8 Gig, yes Gig, sized files. The project folder where I have been storing these materials had risen to an uncomprehendable 30 gigs, half of my hard drive. I knew that my hard drive space was getting lower and lower as each render passed, so after I saved my data to DVD, I was forced to remove them, even the ones that I would rather not remove. But, you hold your breathe, squint a little, close your eyes and hit delete, because you know it's worth the energy of pulling it off of the disk rather than the potential alternative. So, my hard drive had been vacillating between 11 something gigs up to 13 gigs, depending on where I was in this shedding process. So, here I am hours later, after I minded my p's and q's, trying to be quick on the draw and get into BIOS because well I had no where else to go. Resetting my Bios crossed my mind, but then I thought if this is a RAm problem it might only complicate things - so I opted to exit without saving and wouldn't you know I crept back into Windows through the back door straight from my Bios screen. Whew. My render icon was corrupt (named an unknown file tag of REF - reference perhaps? Never herard of it) and my hard drive was at 5 gigs remaining. This is my last shot, I needed to do something drastic and this might be my only window (no pun intended) of opportunity. I hooked up a 300Gig hard drive that had been sitting back in the office unused for quite some time via usb to my computer. It came stock formatted as FAT32, which means you can't move anything more than 4Gigs over, well this would defeat the purpose, so I had to reformat it. Done. So the external drive is now F, my main operating drive is of course C and I also have a secondary drive that I use to back up my data - E. I moved all of my data from my back up hard drive E, over to the new F drive, as well as my 30 gig project file from my main C drive and then deleted it (38 gigs free now!). Once I had E completely emptied I changed my virtual memory from my C drive to my E drive. My finger hovered over the power button, "I'm not nervous, did I do everything that I wanted to do, the moment of truth, don't think about it, just hit it." Boot up success, render success, I've been alive ever since. Now if I could only get my morpher material to start at the right place.........


Anonymous Tex3D said...

AHHH!! Anyone that has had to deliver a project has probably been in a similar (if not exact ) situation.

I can recall MANY times that Max crashed with only 4 or 5 more frames to go. Even better is when everything is running hunky dorey one day and the next day your hard drive with every picture, texture, mesh, mp3 and doc you have ever created or downloaded dies WHILE you are running backups.


Anyways... Im glad that you got everything up and running. I hope it stays nice and stable for ya.

*grumbles* goddamn hard drive piece of crap..

10:52 AM  
Blogger Gina said...

Right, it seems like when you're trying to do the right thing that things tend to go wrong. Some time ago on another system that had previously crashed and subsequently lost data, I chalked up to a learning experience. "I will have more self discipline! I will be more patient and take the time to back up more frequently". So I hooked up an external Iomega hard drive to make copies of my files. Blamo, right in the middle of the backup I hit the infamous blue screen of death. I had Goback on my system so I tried to revert my system, which actually made things worse because the issue was partition confusion, so now my system was even more confused. It didn't know the C drive, from the external drive, from the Goback partition. That's also a heads up about Goback, I don't have it installed on this system. At the time I was wishing that I hadn't installed Goback or at least utilized it. But these things are all 20/20 hindsight, if you were trying to backup, you wish you had just left well enough alone, but if you crashed and lost data during a period that you didn't have back up copies, you're hitting your head against the wall wishing you did. Either way, anything can happen!
I did have some "Windows delayed write failed" errors last night when I was rendering my Max file from my new external drive - I had to go and turn off the disk cache for every hard drive. I did a test render last night and I did not get the message, but I'm not putting all my eggs in one basket yet. You are right though, computers today are still in their infancy and I am definitely looking forward to them advancing to the point where they are at least as intelligent as we are! Where are you AI?

2:36 PM  
Blogger faridz7 said...

oh yeah, i think for my recent test short film, my combustion files took like 6 gb for a 3 minute short.

7:54 AM  
Blogger Gina said...

Isn't it amazing how so little creates so much in the background. My problem is the size of my original material is so large - the pay off for realism I suppose. Then I take this super large jpg and work out animations on it for somewhere between 600 to 900 frames per scene (out of ten). Next thing you know, you're in gigsville It certainly adds up!

2:46 PM  
Anonymous Essen S. said...

Yes it does add up, so designing your composites from a storage point-of-view, can have a significant impact. There are some codec's that also do lossless compression over time. However, (you may have already done this ) just setting up your project so you have files saved as separate layers, based on which aspects remain static and which are changing, can greatly help. So you'd have a large HQ background stored for only 1 frame and not all 900, while all the other animated elements are stored separately on different layers and brought into Max as cws composite. You can keep it this way throughout the pipeline while using a lossy codec ( like mjpeg) for fast previews (or proxies) till your final mpeg output.

8:48 PM  
Blogger Gina said...

You know what's funny - I have Microcosm and it is supposed to deliver lossless QuickTime compression - but it only worked properly one time. After that it hasn't seemed to be compressing at all? It exports it as full quality and full size, and get this - sometimes it's even bigger than the original?!
About Combustion - let me get this straight, are you saying that I should have the background image and/or footage in one composite by itself and then add another composite for the rest of the animated work? Are you saying that this separate composite for the background makes it so that I don't have to pull the background image across the entire timeline in the timeline window? This certainly would help considering that my current project requires a 2500x2500 background. But you are saying that for the final render I can't do this?

10:36 PM  
Anonymous Essen S. said...

hehe, that's interesting, try rendering some clips from Vegas? I don't use Microcosm - There are lot of variations of PNG like MNG and superPNG around that support temporal compression.

I'm saying that try to spread your project to multiple Footages and assemble them as multiple Layers under a Composite (so multiple layers but not necessarily multiple composites). Each layer saved separately on disk, based on how it changes over time (you'd rather not have all the animation on 1 layer, which is also the HQ background). Although, I don't really know how/what you're animating to elaborate on how exactly it can be broken it into multiple layers.

I was also wondering if you imported your animated texture in Max as CWS or a separate file sequence? Because when you import a single frame as footage in Combustion,stretch it across multiple frames in the timeline, animate some distortions on it, etc... your animation at this stage is, implicit -in that every frame refers to the same bitmap file stored on the disk (not 100 copies of it). So, now you can use this animation in Max as a CWS file (Combustion map). However, if you decide to take your animation to VegasVideo and export a PNG sequence from combustion, then it will no longer be implicit and you'll get a larger file because now every frame is stored without any relation to original bitmap. So try to come up with a workflow/strategy to animate implicitly, its easier with Combustion because of the node-based (non-linear) interface and its integration with Max.

11:14 AM  
Blogger Gina said...

Yes, I can recall spending many a night trying to export using different compression methods. In this case compression comes into play at the end of each finished material as I have been zipping the file to send off via email for approval. Not that my files are not huge before that, but I'm sort of stuck with it.

I do have Vegas which I use a lot for clipping, but I don't compress from it. I usually use the Export option in QuickTime Pro to make a duplicate copy of lower quality.

With this current project - I'm rendering the materials out of Combustion as .movs and sometimes .jpgs. My model in max has a very high resolution original material (which I need to match/so no compression here), it is this material that I have painted in Photoshop and introduced into Combustion where I am creating animated text and other very tiny moving components with frame by frame instructions. Each material that I am working on is completely different then the last (all the way back from Photoshop) - I then apply these materials to my model in Max using the morpher material.

Combustion - Scrolling text, flipping numbers, moving bars, precise timing, fine details etc. Sometimes, for example with the scrolling text, I have had to render one frame .jpgs to grab a still(s) to extend for a longer period of time by bringing it back into the composite, same thing with the flipping numbers. Scroll boxes are not easily mid frozen without doing it this way. There are many other reasons why I have had to include multiple .jpgs inside of my Combustion scene, as these mat's are extremely detailed, I could go on forever describing, but I digress. Anyway, this is all rendered at best, because it has to match the original mat in Max - so you see, I can not compromise the quality of these files. These materials are the multiple GB size renders.

Max - Each material sequence (out of ten) actually has three parts (sometimes more) - a .jpg for the fade in inside of max, (I need this for control), the .mov, and the fade out .jpg. The fades have a relationship with the previous material and the next material. The have a mid fade at 50% each. So there is never a point of no material. There is also another separate middle man material too, that comes in between each fade out mat and fade in mat. Each new material sequence (not the whole thing right now) is rendered once at high quality and mailed for approval via disk, and then that file is compressed via QuickTime Pro (mostly using Cinepak and occasionally Sorenson - depending on the color in the footage - I have noticed that Sorenson really messes up isolated reds) to send zip file via email.

When I am all done this whole thing will be rendered out from Max - that ought to be interesting, and long! The good news is, after my current material I only have three more sequences left!

2:53 PM  
Anonymous Essen S. said...

I dropped you an email :)

6:32 PM  
Blogger Gina said...

Got it Essen, I'll have to check that out!

8:07 PM  

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