Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Trees, elves, daylight and playing god in the vitual world

click to see at large size (they're compressed for quick download)

The quest for Bryce 7 Pro daylight appears to have been rewarded! I won't claim that these renders will appear fully photo-realistic on close examination (especially not the second one, featuring the really neat tree in the foreground -- more about that later) ... but at quick glance, your eye is just about fooled, because (hee hee!) that's a pretty good representation of daylight. 

What's the trick? Well ... I was hunting through the Atmospheres pane of the Skylab (that really is what it's called), and I saw something called Basic Daylight. Now, everything in the Skylab is a preset ... you can get alien planet skies, midnight storms, storybook mornings, whatever you want, basically ... anything except for real, genuine, normal, ordinary, garden variety daylight. So when I saw something called Basic Daylight, I had to take it for a spin...

Hmm. Not too bad -- at least, it gives you a place to start. What you do is, load up the Basic Daylight sky, and then get real busy: change the sun position (by dragging an icon on a virtual globe), and then ... gird your loins and get into the actual sun/moon controls, and literally "play god" and tell the sun how bright to shine, and what color! Me like. A lot.

And speaking of playing god ... something about "Only Zeus can render a tree" (with all due apologies to Joyce Kilmer; who is no relation to Val. I think). I know, I know, it was make a tree. But, sheesh, you'd need to be zapping lightning bolt around (or maybe your name better be James Cameron!) to render proper trees properly...

This one you see here --? I, me, myself, actually made this tree in a program called Carrara, which is DAZ Studio's bigger, brighter brother. They're up to Carrara 8 Pro now, so they're giving away Carrara 6 -- it was packed on the disk in the back of their promo book, which I bought via Amazon about two years ago. Frankly, I never even bothered to install it on my old computer. It would have been a world of grief. But with the new machine, I loaded it up the other day and Dave, who has some acquaintance with it, showed me around ... showed me the tree lab.

Aha, says I ... I shall play god big time, and make a tree! The upside: the perogram makes it quite easy to get some very good results with tree making. The downside --

Dang. This tree, which looks about 500% more realistic than your average 3D tree, has over 650,000 polygons!! I exported it out of Carrara, got it into Bryce, set it to render (and not even on the top settings, either), and even with a super-fast computer, Bryce was going to take thirty HOURS to render it at a large size. So I rendered the picture at half-size, about 750 pixels wide. That took about three hours, and it's all on account of the polygon count.

Well, shoot. Now you know the reason why 3D trees usually look pretty poor! They're made simple, of necessity, because anything more complex would take the rest of your life to render, or crash the computer, and probably both! Unless your name is James Cameron, and you're rendering on about 50 processors ... or you happen to be Zeus, and you have access to every processor in the known universe.

Not being either one of them, I'll tread carefully when it comes to making trees! But daylight is doable, and I just stumbled into how another part of Bryce's materials lab works. You can sometimes scale your materials to fit the object you're slapping them onto. Not all the time, but sometimes. And that's so handy.

Speaking of daylight ... before anyone asks, the sun rays in today's figure work were not done inside DAZ studio. They were painted on in Photoshop, in post work. In fact, they could have been done in DAZ, but I didn't have time or inclination. To have these render as part of the scene, you'd paint them in Photoshop, save them to a black and white image, and load up that image as an opacity (transparency) map, which would be applied to a primitive, a plane, which you make in DAZ by clicking "create primitive." You'd jiggle the plane into position, so that the rays were in the right place, and render. But there was quite a lot of other post work to be done on these shots anyway, so I thought, why bother?

Here's the detail from the second one:

...and as nice as this is, I knooooow what it would look like, if it were rendered in a proper render engine. I'm drooling over the Firefly engine, which is built right into Poser. Meh. Whimper.

Notice the background in the figure shots?! The view outside the window. Yep, it's the Bryce landscape (or a piece out of it), which you see today, with full daylight over the craggy skyline with the canyons in the background. I just cut a swatch out to fit the render size of the figure shots, and adjusted the gamma and contrast waaaay up to simulate the brightness of "outside" which your eye would expect, when the virtual camera is getting a correct exposure on a figure in the dimness inside. Neat.

The cute little sparrow is a prop I bought from Content Paradise a year or more ago. The costume is the vest from The Hunter, and I wish I could remember what the bottom half of the costume started life as! I changed out every texture and map, and I've totally forgotten what the original prop was, sorry. Likewise with the skinmap. That's one of my own face morphs, and I have 100% forgotten what the skin is. But the hair is the Akaste Hair prop, that much I can recall. (Makes note to self: get brain examined.)

Jade, 18 January 
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