Questlog

April 30, 2020

Rendering

9:30 PM

About a year ago I had to use the 3D modelling software Blender to make some graphics and renders for a mechanical keyboard keycap set I was designing with my friend. If you don’t really know anything about mechanical keyboards, you can basically treat this like a new clothing line drop or something, except instead of a full line of products it’s just a hoodie and a hat. It’s also designed by a fan of clothes and has to be pre-ordered by a minimum quantity of people (usually around 150-250) in order for the products to even be manufactured. Long story short I had to learn how to use some modelling software, and of course I didn’t really learn it from scratch because I’m impatient and opted instead to learn the very bare minimum needed to produce my render images, which is why to this date I still do not actually know how to use Blender. Fortunately I have learned from my mistakes and am actually taking the time to learn the fundamentals of the software now so I can add it to the list of things I can actually confidently say I know how to do.

Rendering an image requires an intensive amount of computer power, so whenever I was done setting up the scene and fixing the lighting and camera angles I would have to click a “Render Image” button that would then begin the process of creating said image, which could take anywhere from a few minutes to a couple hours depending on the settings and quality of the render. It would show you little squares of the completed image as it continued to process it, along with a progress bar to let you know when the estimated completion time was.

Recently I’ve been doing a fair amount of data science projects, either as experience to put on my resume or as part of my major curriculum. Most of it is coding and working in Excel or RStudio, but every once in a while I’ll get a very, very large dataset, the type of file which also requires heavy computational power to analyze and perform functions on. I haven’t had a console output take more than five or ten minutes to complete yet, but it is nice to just sit there knowing that the result is on its way, without any additional work required.

Instant gratification is of the utmost comfort, but things like this provide a different sort of satisfaction. Almost like a blissful moment where I am truly free to do nothing, with the bulk of my computer’s RAM being taken up producing a regression model or a picture of a keyboard.

I guess it’s slightly similar to ordering something on Amazon and knowing that a present for yourself will arrive in the next two business days. All you can really do is trust in the system and just wait for your package to arrive. Actually, I don’t think this is a very good analogy. But whatever. It’s alright.

What’s the point of this all? I suppose it’s that I realized there is a very tangible feeling of bliss that is able to be attained by the concept of delayed delivery. If I was finishing up a graphic in Illustrator after a couple hours of work, I could probably export the PNG file in about five seconds. Vector formats simply don’t require the same level of computer power as full images, and that would probably be considered a good thing by all logical standards. It fulfills the requirements for instant gratification - quick and easy delivery within a matter of seconds. But the task is then considered complete, which means I am once again doing nothing at that immediate moment, the thought of which is enough to make me lose all sense of peace and go back into workaholic anxiety mode. The instant gratification is pretty much cancelled out.

But each time I rendered an image in Blender, I was given a 30-40 minute window to do nothing while my computer slowly worked on producing the image. I would say I honestly much rather prefer that, as it feels like my computer is doing all the work for me at that time. I can just kick back and relax knowing that my work is paying off, even though I’m not doing anything at that exact moment.

Of course, it’d be kind of absurd to say that it was more efficient, but it certainly does help ease the stress off of my mind.

I hope I can capture that feeling of not having to do anything, even if my computer is not currently consumed by some heavy task. Even if I don’t have something I’m waiting for or some finished product I’m waiting to be delivered to me. Just me being ignorantly blissful, without any sort of productive thoughts plaguing my mind. Complacency is a real killer, but I’ve found that true comfort is something that should not be thrown away so easily. If I could find some way to switch between this hypothetically comfortable self and a more efficient, productive version of myself, then I would be able to maximize the relative utility of all of my free time.

But I think that sentiment in itself kind of defeats the purpose of it all, doesn’t it?

- Sam