This past weekend’s 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix marked the end of the 2020 Formula One™ season and the first year of the AMD partnership with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, a partnership that combines the two companies’ passion for extreme performance.
To promote this relationship, we worked closely with the team and The Pixelary to create some amazing 3D-rendered images of the Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance car using AMD Radeon ProRender, our fast, easy, and incredible rendering engine.
Now, to celebrate the availability of Radeon ProRender 2.0, the next generation of our rendering engine, and the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team’s record-breaking season, we are releasing our renders of the W11 EQ Performance as high-resolution desktop wallpapers and have also created a video.
The video above both highlights key feature of the new Radeon ProRender 2.0 update and includes some amazing animations of the W11 EQ Performance, the car that propelled the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team to a seventh Constructors’ World Championship in a row and Lewis Hamilton to his seventh career FIA Formula One Drivers' Championship.
One of the biggest challenges with creating both the rendered images and the animation was the creation of an authentic, accurate, and photorealistic representation of the W11 EQ Performance and credit should be given both to the power of Radeon ProRender and the skills of the talented artists at The Pixelary.
In fact, why don’t we let Mike Pan of The Pixelary take you through the process of creating the stunning rendered images, all created using our Radeon ProRender plug-in for Blender? Take it away, Mike:
“Lights Out and Away We Go”
“At The Pixelary, we have plenty of experience with rendering cars. When we took on this AMD project, we knew in order to deliver the most believable images, we needed the most accurate model. Luckily, we managed to get access to the actual geometry of the W11 EQ Performance car straight from the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team thanks to their partnership with AMD.
Having access to the geometry meant we didn’t have to build the car model from scratch. But we still ended up spending a lot of time adding details to the car using photographic references. For example, we used normal mapped decals to create panel gaps on the car body and we also placed every single screw and rivet that we can see. Small details such as the DRS actuator, camera pods, and aero pieces that are unique to this year’s car were also added.
The new black livery for 2020 was also painstakingly recreated. The way the Mercedes Three-Pointed Stars in the paint shine through the black metallic paint was very difficult to capture. Looking at all the reference photos, we found that the car looks quite different under different lighting conditions. In the end, we had to get some help from the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team to nail the shading.
The black paint shown above in itself was hard to get right. We wanted the rendered car to have a deep black, but not swallow up all the lights. We wanted the car to be shiny, but not overly glossy. And we wanted all the sponsor colors to stay visually consistent in every lighting scenario.
Because of the variety of small adjustments we had to do to the car material, the Radeon ProRender for Blender shader node setup for the paint ended up being quite complex. We used groups extensively to ensure that multiple artists working together were able to quickly identify the purpose of each section.
One material that needed special attention was the exposed carbon fiber parts of the W11 EQ Performance car, which required the anisotropic shader to achieve the material’s characteristic textured highlight. We also created multiple variations of the tire material (see image above) to suit different racing conditions and the wear level of the tires.
Needless to say, we are quite happy with the final result:
Radeon ProRender + Blender
We used Blender, the free and open-source 3D creation suite, for this project due to its speed and amazing features, such as the Vulkan API-based Radeon ProRender Full Spectrum Rendering viewport . We were able to easily preview the fully textured car with over 5 million triangles and dozens of 8K textures in the viewport with a high level of interactivity. Radeon ProRender is also compatible with Blender’s native material engine, so once we were happy with the node setup and look of the car, we simply flipped the rendering engine to Radeon ProRender’s “full” OpenCL mode to get all the benefits of photorealistic path-traced rendering.
On and Off the Track - Environments
From the very beginning, we had some ideas of the environments we wanted to see the W11 EQ Performance car in, so while we were still working on the car model, work started creating scenes for it to be in. Because the overall look of the final image is heavily dependent on lighting, we also started doing lighting tests quite early as well, in parallel with everything else. This allowed us to nail down an overall feel for each rendered image before committing to adding details.
The image below shows a small selection of the test renders that were produced during this process. You might also notice that the Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance car is shown in the 2020 pre-season “Silver Arrows” livery - more on that later.
Red Flag - Restarting the Race
No project is without a few hiccups along the way. Our biggest challenge came when the black livery for the W11 EQ Performance was announced. We had already been developing quite a few renders of the car in the original silver livery and had to restart the process due to this significant change. Not only that, the environments and lighting that we planned were all designed for the silver car. With the car suddenly being much darker, we were forced to rethink how we could light up the car and whether the environments we designed still fit the car.
With the silver livery, the material catches a lot of light, so it was relatively easy to light, but with a glossy black car, the shape of the car is revealed almost entirely through reflections and highlights. Therefore, we had to be very specific with the light placement to control precisely where the reflections of the car fell so that we accentuated the shapes of the car without creating distracting lines.
Checkered Flag - The Finish Line
Radeon ProRender is primarily a GPU-based rendering engine and it runs very well on virtually any graphics card. However, due to the size of the scene, we had to reduce some of the textures from 8K to 4K. Luckily, this did not impact the output quality visibly and allowed us to optimize the scene to render on the Radeon graphics cards we were using. If we had been able to render the images using a new AMD Radeon RX 6000 Series graphics card [AMD NOTE: which were not available at the time of rendering], we would have been able to take advantage of the support for hardware ray tracing in Radeon ProRender to get us across the finish line even faster.
Post-Race - Debriefing
During this project, we ran into some issues with motion blur rendering that prevented us from creating the shots of the car on the track. A few short emails later, the AMD Radeon ProRender team identified the issue and prepared a hotfix for us, demonstrating the team’s responsiveness to feedback and commitment to resolving any issues identified.
We also identified a few more issues and “good-to-haves” with Radeon ProRender and supplied it to the AMD team, hoping that our experience on this project can help shape future development and make the rendering engine even better for everyone. And as of December 2020, we’re very pleased to see that many of those requests have already been addressed in the latest release of Radeon ProRender.
An Upgrade for Next Season – Radeon ProRender 2.0
When this project started earlier this year the recently released next generation of the Radeon ProRender rendering engine, 2.0, was not available. That means that all the final images you see here were created using the plug-in for Blender based on the 1.0 version and as you can see, the original version of Radeon ProRender is more than capable of producing stunningly photorealistic images.
However, as soon as we had access to the updated v3.0 plug-in for Blender that uses Radeon ProRender 2.0 , we were excited to see the impact of all the upgrades, especially the improved rendering algorithm and support for hardware-accelerated ray tracing when used with AMD Radeon RX 6000 Series graphics cards.
In some tests performed by AMD, when using the “Full” Radeon ProRender 2.0 render quality mode with the AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT graphics card that supports hardware ray tracing, the image above rendered in 516 sec, compared to 1065 sec when rendered with the AMD Radeon VII graphics card that does not support hardware ray tracing. That is up to a 2.1x reduction in render time , which is quite an improvement! On top of that, Radeon ProRender 2.0 also has improved multi-GPU scaling so if we were able to render the same image with two Radeon RX 6900 XT’s, the render times would improve even more.”
Thanks, Mike for the insightful and detailed write-up about how these amazing renders of the Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance were created. They are a compelling showcase for all the capabilities of Radeon ProRender and how it allows content creators to create incredible renders quickly and easily.
On behalf of everyone at AMD, I’d like to give a huge thanks to the entire The Pixelary team for all the hard work they put into this project. We’d also like to thank the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team for all the help they provided to make creating these renders possible and for being an amazing partner — we are looking forward to continuing to combine both companies’ passion for extreme performance and delivering incredible innovation.
*Links to third-party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied.
Alexander Blake-Davies is a Software Product Marketing Specialist at AMD’s Radeon Technology Group. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies, or opinions. Links to third-party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied. GD-5
Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance renders and animation created by The Pixelary using AMD Radeon™ ProRender and rendered using Render Pool™ powered by Morgenrot. 3D model courtesy of and copyright Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One™ Team. “Mercedes-Benz”, “Three-pointed star in a ring”, “Mercedes-AMG Petronas” are all registered trademarks of Daimler AG. Renders and animation created with permissions from Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Limited. All logos featured on the livery and tires are used with the permission of their respective owners all of whom reserve their respective rights in the same.
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