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Making Use Of Render Time

May 26, 2010

Back a few years ago, I actively started baking again, and the one thing I wanted to learn was Bread Making. I explored the kitchen science, and did a very casual apprenticeship with a small local artisan baker here. One of the most important things I learned while working there was how to make the most effective use of “downtime”. Because when you’re making bread, there is that “rise time” that usually occurs twice when making a bread batch. As I gained a little confidence and skill, I got myself a plain old mechanical dial timer, would set it for the specified time, and then go off and do other things. The challenge with the “other things” is that I wanted tasks I could easily complete within an hour, or whatever the specified rise time was. I just didn’t want to leave stuff hanging. So I made a small listing of tasks that could be easily completed during the down time. They include things such as supply inventory, shopping lists, and even appliance routine maintenance.

When doing 3D work, you’re in a similar boat. Sure, at first you’re excited about your renders and you’ll actually be pretty juiced about watching their progress in real time. But this becomes old after a very short while, and the time wasted in watching your render progress can add up quickly and can result in many idle hours sitting in front of the screen. I’m lucky enough to have multiple computers here, but there are times when I refer to my own graphics work task list, things I can do while awaiting final output.

While I’m waiting out short renders, the 15 to 30 minute variety, I keep a client list at hand. Near the desk I have a pile of promo cards. It only takes me a minute or two to handwrite and stamp a card to a client off the list. When I send a card, I just write a date and a card code in a column by the client name. In this way, I can ensure that clients hear from me about once every 4 to 6 weeks, sometimes more often. I don’t try and finish the list, just write enough cards to fill my wait time. Eventually, this list cycles through, and everyone gets a card. My promo cards are sometimes standard postcards, sometimes oversized postcards, and sometimes folded greeting cards, professionally printed via offset press on UV coated cardstock. They range from quirky graphics to local landmarks to pretty flowers and zoo animals. I add new cards to the mix quarterly. I got quite a thrill one day when I walked into a local ad agency and found all of my cards on their waiting area bulletin board. In fact, they asked me for some blank extras of the local landmarks to hand out to out of town visitors. It was nice to see that they didn’t land in the recycle bin. Just goes to show that promo cards can work even on a small scale.

Another thing I do during render wait times is attack the Classics, as in books. When I was young, my schooling was accelerated and it was mostly a math/science regimen. I had missed out on a lot of classic literature. But I’m trying to make up for it, and during those half hour wait times, I sneak in some leisure reading. My current title is Hard Times by Charles Dickens. Never discount the power of imagination and literary visualization in helping enhance your photography and graphics work.

Longer render time waits like 2 hours or so will usually steer me toward the technical books because they need a longer time block in order to be digested, or send me out for a walk with the camera. In getting out with the camera, you just have to make the break and go for it. We spend way too much time directly in front of the computer screens.

By making your own brief routine task list, you can enhance your personal or business workflow, get some surprising things accomplished, and relieve yourself from some of the anxiety involved with waiting out those renders.

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