Friday, February 3, 2012

The leap of faith has been taken...

click to see all images at large size...

An assortment of things today, reflecting what I'm working on. The Bryce landscape, I call "Red Sky at Evening," and its not at all what I set out to create. I wanted a stormy scene. I'm trying everything I know to make Bryce 7 pro make WAVES, but -- no joy yet. The waves you think you see here are basically optical illusions, mostly created in Photoshop!

Meanwhile, Dave is romping Vue Pioneer. I haven't yet talked him into getting Esprit, but it can't be long in the future. He's doing astonishing things -- and I'm amazed by the difference in the way Vue tackles the same job as Bryce. Example: I put down a patch of grass and wind up with a file that's close to a quarter of a Gig in size, and crashes Bryce before I can even finish the scene, right? Dave builds massive forests with over forty billion polygons; the file size is about 10MB and the scene renders in half an hour. I use one tree with 640k polygons, and Bryce takes seven hours to render. Say, what?! Not fair!

The top three pictures are the result of an experiment in lighting. I'm playing around with "black light," to see if a numerous very, very dark lights of various colors will combine to stop skintones turning "muddy" in the DAZ Studio render engine. I'm getting various degrees of success, and this experiment was prompted by the amount of painting I had to do, to get nice skintones in one of the shots I did the other day. You know the one of the two guys standing at the window, in the rain --? That one. The guy on the right, with his shirt off ... even on the raytrace, the skintones were so muddy, you'd think he was covered in freckles! Took a lot of painting to bring that under control...

All of which got me aggravated enough for me to get on Google and start researching Poser. Now, I can't afford Poser Pro 2012, at $500 -- in addition to the which, it only came out a few weeks ago, and is reportedly buggy. But I started looking at the other versions of Poser, like Poser 9 (which is $250), and whaddaya know? Serendipity struck.

I blundered into the traders in the slightly-older versions of Poser, which are going for a song now that Pro 2012 has launched. Back a very short ways, just before Pro 2012 was unveiled, Pro 2010 was state of the art. It was the best in the business, on the desktop end of the industry. So imagine my surprise when I found that it's going for $50-$70 now, because everyone is in such a rush to get the (buggy) new version!

It's, uh, been shipped already, and is winging its way to Australia on a DVD-Rom, in a box. Your actual physical copy, not the OEM Download. The practical upshot of this is that I get to learn the program on the previous version, and when they've dug the bugs out of Pro 2012 -- in about six months or so -- I'll be ready to upgrade; and the upgrade price is $199, so in the end, by cultivating a little bit of patience and learning on the pony before you swing a leg over the racehorse, you also save a lot of money.

Wee-hoo! We could be on our way to the kind of luminous renders I've been drooling over in other artists' work ... renders that are luminous with their ambient occlusion and sub-surface scattering, and ... all that stuff.

The thing I don't know for sure is if I'll be able to get any of my own characters into Poser -- the Hellgate characters, and the guys from NARC. There's no way to open a DAZ scene, or any kind of file, in Poser, so whatever happens, it'll be about file conversion (.dsb to .cz2 or something ... I don't know a heck of a lot about this yet), or else it'll be about manually entering the "dial numbers" one at a time into the appropriate places in Poser's "Face Room."

Speaking of NARC, here's where I've been today: 

This is the third of the five covers -- I did Death's Head and Equinox late last year (those are on-site links to the new covers, not to any pages about the books, incidentally). Scorpio, here, uses the floating sky cities I designed a few days ago for just this purpose. The project was composited in Photoshop, and if you're wondering, I did the characters like this:

Digital actors standing in front of the equivalent of a green screen. Hey, what's good enough to Jim Cameron and Sam Worthington is good enough for Jarrat and Stone! The technique worked well. There were ten different ways to do this, but the green screen method was by far the fastest, and I'll definitely be using it again. The guys were originally rendered with the gunship in the background, in the hangar or launch bay, but the composition of the shot just worked better without the backgrounding. The lights were a bear, mind you -- but well worth it, because I got an almost photographic result here, especially on Jarrat.

Just before I go ... here, take a squiz at this, at full size:

No way could I get photorealism out of this render, but it's still a knockout. (This is one of my own characters. You might not recognize him, but this is the guy I designed for the cover of The Deceivers! This is very close to the best that can be achieved with the DAZ Studio engine, and I'm going to be sooooo fascinated to see what can be squeezed out of the Firefly engine in Poser (always reminds me of the Joss Whedon show, which I used to love). I've seen the most fantastic quality renders off that engine, and I admit, I have high hopes!

Jade, February 3
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