Saturday, March 20, 2010

The male fantasy ... and a hybrid background

Male fantasy ... what do those words mean to you? A drop-dead gorgeous hunk lying nekkid on a rug? The same hunk in a fantasy setting, exotic as all get-out --? Both?! Join the club: I think, both. And this character is one of my favorites...
A few posts ago he acquired a name: Leon. He's actually named after Richard Leon, in a Mel Keegan story called Breakheart, but that really is another story! This here character is a creation of my own, so it could be Leon Smith, or Leon Jones --! And since he's acquired a name and a backstory (in the previous post), he ought to have a horse, too. And here he is.

Actually, I hadn't intended working with this character again today ... to be perfectly honest, I didn't know what I'd be rendering till I got halfway there! I started in Bryce (I always spend a half hour learning Bryce before returning to the familiar ground of DAZ Studio 3), and I ran an experiment I've been thinking about for a few days...

What sort of results do you get if you marry one of the amazing Bryce skies with a real landscape? The product is always going to be a hybrid, but working with 3D stuff it's almost always the other way around: you tinker with 3D models and then strip in an image as the backdrop ... say, woodland, a hillside, the beach, whatever.

So here, I had a Bryce SKY ... fully designed by me. Now, what? It needed a landscape. Okay ... what kind? I lucked out with a scan of a 4x6 print of one of Mel's photos -- taken in 1997. (The old prints are being digitized to save them. They're literally fading away). So I got this scan into Micrographx and stripped out the boring, boring sky. A gray overcast is pretty typical of the sky in Alaska ... you do get glorious blue-sky days -- I've seen the pictures! -- but not that often. So, I took out the sky and combined the rest of the image ... tundra highlands running away to the Alaska Ranges. (Taking out the overcast sky and replacing it with a bright sky also meant I had to re-saturate the colors and turn up the contrast -- otherwise the land would have looked dull and lifeless.)

This is what I got:

And the color of the foreground reminded me strongly of a series of renders I did back in February. Those pictures were staged against another shot of Mel's, featuring Stampede Trail. So it didn't take any battle of logic to go back to the same idea. But this time around it's the sky that makes the renders extraordinary ... and that's a Bryce sky.

And here's where I am in Bryce today:

More questions answered, more problems solved. I'm getting good at the skies and the oceans. I juuuuust starting to really understand what I'm doing with the terrain models. I figured out how to get veryveryveryvery fine detail on the terrains: make them 20x larger! You make a mountainside and it usually measures about 100x100x100 pixels. Well, get into the parameters editor and change those numbers to 2000x2000x2000 and see what happens. Kazoom! The terrain is suddenly the size of the Himalayas.

In the picture above -- which I call "Last Snows of Spring" -- you're looking at an area about 1%, of half a percent, of the whole terrain. And the fine detail is now pretty acceptable. What I need to figure out now is how to build up layers and layers of materials on a terrain and have them stick, and stay, instead of replacing each other. That's my next assignment...

Jade, 21 March (the Equinox of Autumn)
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