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The Dark Room

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The Dark Room is a deep compositor for Cinema4D. I designed it to help with storyboarding and previsualisation of live composites and character animation.

An early screen grab of the Dark Room program

Above is an example of what the Dark Room looked like in an early version. You can see that it was almost like a video editor and compositor with it’s timeline options and viewport. Since Deep compositing was introduced, I’ve had to build my own render engine to help work around the limitations of the Cinema4d SDK. You can see some deep compositing working in the image below.

The Dark Room’s deep compositing in action, running at approximately 2.2 frames per second on an old Nvidia GTX285. Modern graphics cars will fare better

Unfortunately, road blocks with the Cinema4D SDK have meant that development is in limbo until I can find a way to circumvent the issues. The short story is, I’ve had to build my own render engine. To date, the Dark Room is awaiting my custom render engine to be implemented so it can once again be integrated into the moving image pipeline. More on my custom render engine can be read in the Hyperion project.

The Dark Room includes an external preview window to view composites on a separate monitor, an in-built rendering pipeline system that can render in the background while you work, or, that offers a brute force method that soaks up every bit of CPU power your computer has to give. You can even line up renders and let the system knock over jobs one at a time. There’s also a bunch of timeline and editing options, but I may remove these in future – it’s not meant to be a video editing app.

That said, interestingly, it’s got the footprints of being a compositing app in it’s own right. While that’s not the intended use, if my render engine does enough, then it could well be used in place of other production apps.

Below is a grab of the splash-screen you get when you first open the program. The glass magnifying loupe is The Dark Room’s signature icon. It’s a touch back to the days when I did manual photography at University! The loupe and film are a 3D render.

An early Dark Room splash banner with it’s signature film strip and glass loupe

The Dark Room is only meant to be a ‘previs’ tool, so final image composite and editing should still be done in other apps. However, the addition of the custom Hyperion render engine will be a big step forward, which hopefully isn’t too far away. In the meantime, the Dark Room was a serious step forward in project development. I’m hoping it can be a publicly available app sometime in the future.