Realistic Picture Group

Clock Material Study

Research & Development

Realistic Picture Group Internal

In order to understand more fully the challenges presented by extremely complex and computationally heavy assets, we created the scene “The Hours”.


The largest challenge faced with this scene is the sheer number of both geometric and texture detail required. The clock was created in Softimage XSI and ZBrush, and the render model weighs in at about 10 million polygons. All this geometry was necessary to allow for extreme closeup shots of the carved details.

In order to provide adequate texture coverage, we opted to use a UDIM workflow. The piece has a total of 24 unique UDIMs, resulting in 120 hand painted texture maps. Texture creation was done in Substance Painter. Attempting to handle so much texture data in a conventional painting application like Photoshop would have taken exponentially longer, and it is unlikely we would have achieved such high quality results.

We also used this project as a test to evaluate different renderers. The clock was rendered in Side FX’s Mantra, Pixar’s Renderman, and Redshift. In the end, we found Redshift the best option for us as it provided an easy way to work with displacement, very good handling of AOVs, and of course, a dramatic performance advantage. 

Key takeaways

When working with such geometry- and texture-heavy scenes, planning ahead pays dividends. We found that the longest part of creating each frame is simply loading all the geometry into Redshift. Performance could be improved by separating parts of the model requiring fine carved details from parts that do not, and by creating displacement maps to create fine details at render time, thereby reducing the time taken for each initial load.