Saturday, February 25, 2012

Romance and fantasy ... render blues and experiments galore

click to see all images at large size,1000+ pixels

First, a huge "thank you" to the folks who have supported the relaunch of the NARC series this month. I guess the piece above will strike a chord ... I call it Rhapsody in Green, and if you know your Deaths Head, you'll know where this one came from! I've wanted to do something like this for ages, but it's a bit more complex than I had the time for, because the emerald green Jarrat with the wings wasn't done with lights, or with Photoshop twiddling. I got in there and created a whole new skinmap for the fantasy image that came right out of Stone's vivid imagination. (Interested? I've pasted in the links in the right-side column ... just scroll down, you'll find them. Five liveried book jackets.)

...and in the past few days I've been working up the characters for a new project ... basically, it's a cover I have to paint, and the truth is, I had no idea, none whatsoever, of what was going to be on it. When in doubt, I doodle in 3D, and as a rule something nice comes out of it. This time, something very nice indeed happened along. What you have here is young Jason Erickson, and Dirk Vanderhoven, of the starship Gilgamesh, which is arriving back at the domed space city in orbit in the Saturn system, and blundering into so much trouble, you'll have to read the book to find out what happens next! I'll keep you posted, let you know when the book comes out ... More Than Human, and due next month.

Last thing for today, a neat Bryce landscape:

I actually called this "Hillside at sunset," but looking at it as its pasted to the page here, it ought to be called Hillside at Dawn ... those are not sunset colors, but they do look like dawn. I guess we're looking east right here.

There's loads and loads more to upload ... I've been so busy on the laptop in the last few days, I've just kept hitting the button to keep the desktop pushing renders along. The laptop, you ask? Why the laptop? Because that's the one with the internet connection. The desktop, known locally as Thor, doesn't have a modem, and ain't going to be getting one. There's a mile and a half of complete security in knowing that the machine is utterly immune to updates and viruses.

Speaking of updates: I ran the Collada experiment, to see if I could get a DAZ character or scene into Poser, and the answer is, "You can, and you can't." You can export a figure as a Collada file, but when Poser imports it, it leaves behind every single preset. Meaning, I export Leon or Jarrat or Stone, and Poser imports the Michael 4 doll boy, standing in the zero pose, the T-pose. And he's not reposable, because a Collada object isn't rigged with morph points, or targets. So I tried exporting a character as an OBJ ... sure, you can do this, and Poser imports it just fine -- face and body morphs, costumes (no rigging, obviously) ... and not one single texture on it anywhere. Plain white plastic. Now, you'd have to go in and put about 200 maps back into place just to get to the point of being able to call one figure done. It would take hours. Not going to happen.

So, next, I looked at the realities of getting the Michael 4 base figure to load in Poser --

It won't, if Poser is running on anything except the boot drive. My Poser Pro 2010 is running on my internal 2TB harddrive, not the boot drive, because I don't have 20GB to spare there for Poser and a tonne of content. Big, big programs are on the boot drive, and it's about 66% full. Time to start conserving swap disk space. (You can run the M4 installer, but it bongs at you with error messages every time it doesn't read a filepath starting in a C.)

So I'm out of luck there too. Next? Will have to install the program itself on my boot drive .. not, repeat NOT the content. Just the base figures, so they'll load up. Then, when I want to do a render in Poser I'll load up the costumes and props I want to use ... render them up, and then remove all the transient content to keep my boot drive viable! This is the next step, and we'll see how this works.

By the by, I spent some time doing about 20 test renders using every possible setting and combo of settings in the Render Settings section of DAZ. Result? With the exception of two of the pixel filters (Gaussian and Box, which give blurred renders, as you'd expect), every other render is utterly identical. So, at this point I don't think there's much more I can squeeze out of the 3DLight render engine...

In fact, I was interested/frustrated/piqued enough to spend a half hour on one of the DAZ forums, over tea, and it turns out that I'm far from the only person struggling to get exceptional results from 3DLight. Some folks are rendering their scenes in Vue, using the DAZ models. At this, my radar turned on, because we also have Vue Esprit. Now, would Vue import a DAZ Collada properly, where Poser won't?!

One guy on the forum had a technique I never tried before: say you have five lights on a scene. Render them separately, come up with five images and composite them later. Now, there's an idea. This is a trick I must give a try. Most users on the forum were chewing over the fact that high-quality renders take soooo long; and the render engines from DAZ are some of the slowest. (For instance, days, plural, to render volumetrics in DAZ. That's news to me ... I didn't even know DAZ had the capacity to handle volumetrics! Or are they talking about Bryce? If so -- nuff said. As soon as I turn on volumetrics, the universe implodes.)

Bottom line: everything is about compromise, and nothing's ever going to be perfect.

The experiments continue! For istance ... here, below, is the traditional DAZ render of today's leader art, Rhapsody in Green. There's four lights on this, and it's pretty much what you expect from DAZ. Compare this with the top one ... there are 16 lights on the top one: red, blue, yellow, green, purple, white and (!) black, all in various degrees of brightness, and all with shadows. Compare the luminosity in the skin tones. Sixteen dim colored lights bring you close to what you see in Poser renders. Black light. Hmmm.

Jade, February 26
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