Friday, May 25, 2012

CG illustration, calendar boys, fantasy plots, and a rhapsody in Lux Render!

click to see all images at large size (mostly 1:1)

As you can see, CG illustration is on my mind -- these are actually images designed around Chapter Two and Three of Abraxas: Leon has gotten the kid, Martin, back home, and in the evening he and his old friend Roald enjoy a quiet hour in the gardens, talking over the past -- and the future. What's to become of the kid, and in fact, does Martin have a halfway decent idea, though he went the wrong way about realizing it? The story is actually about the conflict between the 'old warhorse' and the conscientious objector ... the natural warrior and the person who is not a born soldier, but isn't a coward, and needs to go out and prove this. I still think it's a very strong story ... and it's yielding some rich, evocative illustrations --

These were rendered BIG, because I've lately discovered that (hee hee hee!) I have the ability to render at 1600 wide and more. I've gone up as far as 2400 so far, with no crashes of the software or computer. And I loooove having the big images. So everything I'm sharing with you lately is at full desktop/pinup size. These pieces, today, are well worth seeing at large size, but I know a lot of visitors won't give me that extra click or to, so -- at the bottom of this post I'm going to paste in the "detail" crops, just for fun.

At last -- al last! -- I got the painting finished on the LuxRender version of the Hyborian Age Calendar Boy ... and here he is:

You have GOT to see this one full-sized! It's like walking into the studio and meeting the model who posed for the painting! Lux does amazing things with the skin tones -- and I also had a lot more luck this time with getting it to handle a darker complexion without going muddy...

Notes for the technically minded:
This is just about the first time I've coaxed LuxRender to handle the darker skin tones well, and to do this, I used an odd kind of mix between the 'biased' and 'unbiased' lighting setup. What's the diff? Well, raytracing uses resolutely 'biased' rendering, meaning, you set up a boatload of artificial light to create artificial (or contrived) results that, if you get really, really good at this, can be made to mimic proper daylight, moonlight or whatever. LuxRender is an 'unbiased' renderer, so you can feel free to set one light, call it SUN, make it really bright and a long way away ... set it to render, come back tomorrow, and you can get a startlingly photographic, real-world daylight result. It's not all that difficult to get good daylight results that way. So far, though, I'm having a much tougher time getting Lux to simulate (or duplicate) very soft lighting, such as firelight, candlelight, torchlight. This ain't so easy. So ... hmmm. Now, one of the ground rules in Lux is to stay the hell away from distant lights, which Lux recognizes as suns. O...kay. So in the last few dozens of renders, I've been using exclusively spotlights and point lights. And it turns out, you can ship a scene out of DAZ Studio that was set up with spots and points, and you can fiddle happily, and endlessly, in Lux's own window (not the Reality bridge -- Lux itself), changing the strength and color of spots and points while the render is in progress. Wahoo.

The results are ... well, you're looking at 'em! The Hyborian Age Calendar Boy is such a hybrid -- a biased light set rendered in an unbiased renderer. Ye gods. Does it work? Yep. And it really does look like lamplight. Compare the LuxRender image with the previous raytrace: 

Please, please, see the above at full size: LuxRender on the right, raytrace on the left. The raytrace is by 3DLight, done in DAZ Studio 3. This scene, complete with spots and point lights, was shipped into Reality, and thence to Lux. Nice!

And now, those "detail" crops I promised. And yes, I do intend to post the Photoshop tutorial on retouching and overpainting. All the images you see today are heavily overpainted. One or two are experimental. These, below, are from a scene in Abraxas that comes along well after the point where it was discontinued on account of being tagged as porn. And that is something I'll never agree with. It wasn't even spicy enough to be called 'erotic romance.' There was nothing 'hot' in it up to page 62, which was the last on-line -- just some adult concepts which were logical, rational, salutary, cautionary. In fact, the story would have been just plain dumb without them -- the developing plot of a tale about a young conscientious objector out to to prove he's not a coward won't "go" if he blunders along, oblivious to danger and doing "brave" things because he has no idea he's in mortal peril! To make the story mean anything, Martin needs to know he's in real danger, and do his stuff anyway, and the only way to learn this is to walk into danger, have a close call, a narrow squeak, survive, and grow. In the first chapter of Abraxas, he runs into a real villain ... remember Yussan? Uh huh.

On that note, here are Leon and Roald (Martin's guardian, if you recall), in the courtyard, talking over the days of their service in the militia, and trying to hash out if Martin has half a plan after all:

...and it occurs to me that I also ought to give you the link to the site where the graphic novel itself was unfolding as a web comic: Abraxas: The Lost Songs. Stay tuned for more on this, because I'm starting to get bitten by the inspiration bug. Again. In its next incarnation, Abraxas won't be a comic, but it's going to be richly illustrated, because I'm having a ball with this, and I'd forgotten how much I love these characters and this story!

Jade, May 25

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fantasy with an edge of the erotic ...

click to see all images at large size

When I was a kid, waaay back when, if I had a favorite artist, it was probably Frank Frazetta. I used to sit looking at his work, thinking ... how in the [expletive deleted] do you do this kind of stuff? There was only one Frazetta, and his talent was immense. For a start, he could draw the way the Olde Masters of other eons could draw -- and to a very great extent that is not something you can teach. Believe me: you can't be taught to draw, no matter what art schools want to tell you in their advertising! They can hone and perfect an existing talent, or knack, but if you just plain can't turn a three dimensional image into a two dimensional depiction on a sheet of paper, there is no alchemy in the universe to force your brain into doing it. 

Which pretty much describes me! I worked on paper, canvas and illustration board for years, but always from tracings ... I got rather good at coloring and embellishing, which are valid art forms too. Once, I took a still of a silent movie actress (Theda Bara, in fact!) and turned it into a 24" x 36" painting of an androgynous wood sprite sitting in a tree, surrounded by leaves and flowers about the same size as him/herself. It was actually quite a nice piece! I think I still have it, somewhere...

And nope, it didn't get me one step closer to being able to a) draw, or b) produce anything within a light year of the fantastic work of Frazetta and, some years later, Boris --

Fast forward about 30 years. 

Invent computers. And 3D modeling. And digital painting. 

Uh huh. 

Here, above, are Leon -- whom you know -- and Iphigenia, and this is actually a scene from something like Chapter 9 of Abraxas! You know, I was only up to the beginning of Chapter 2 of the story when the adjudicator at Project Wonderful slapped on the label of pornography, and I dropped it like a hot potato. The story was going in some fantastic directions, and in fact, it still it ... as the pieces you see here, and yesterday, suggest. 

The name of Iphigenia --? She was one of the daughters of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra -- say that three times fast, after you've had a very large gin and tonic. The name means something like "Born to Strength." But it's also the middle name of V.I. Warshawski ... there's a bit of trivia for you. I'm quite an aficionado of the novels ... there's one movie, with Kathleen Turner, that everyone likes to bash, but in fact, in retrospect, it was pretty good. I first encountered V.I. Warshawski in the radio (!) adaptation of Killing Orders, with Kathleen Turner as V.I., and British actor Martin Shaw has the love interest -- it was done by BBC4, circa 1990. If you can get hold of a copy, I can recommend it; it was wonderfully done. However, that's by the by. The V.  in the 'V.I.' stands for Victoria ... and the female 3D doll artists work with is called Victoria. So there you go -- Iphigenia. Makes a warped kind of sense. Maybe the gin and tonic has something to do with that...

So here's a little something from Abraxas, Chapter 9, the way the work would be rendered today, as big, labor-intensive, sumptuously-finished plate illustrations for a text-driven version of the story. And I gotta tell you, I am itching to write. I have loads of stories to tell, and am getting more and more eager to write the stories that lie behind some of these images!

Jade, May 23  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fantasy male nude ... hello, beautiful! (And Painting Shadows and highlights in Photoshop)

he's uploaded at pinup size ... enjoy!

Just one image today -- because I was painting on this for over an hour. The shadows just refused to go properly in the render, so in the end I said words along the lines of, "stuff it, I'm wasting my time ... I''ll just paint the shadows later. So, around 80% of the shadows and highlights you see in this image are hand-painted, including all the highlights on the (ahem!) costume, and most of those of the skin and floor too. So--

How to paint realistic shadows in Photoshop? 

It's not actually that hard, it's just that the penny has to drop, and it can take a long time dropping! If you're looking for a quickie tutorial, here's the "one minute toot" version:

By far the most important tools are your own eyes. It's essential that you know what your lights are, and where they are. If you know for a fact you have -- say -- two spotlights on this side of the model and they're  this far away, and this bright, then you've got a pretty good idea where the shadows ought to fall, and how, and why. 

The first golden thread of truth: in the real world, different kinds of lights cast different kinds of shadows on different kinds of surfaces. You can refer to photos to see how this works. Look at a dozen pictures, connect what you reckon you're seeing back to what you know the light source was (the sun? A lamp? Car headlights? Candles? An open fire?) and you can pretty quickly figure out what basic kind of shadow you need to be painting to get a realistic effect. Hard shadow? Soft shadow? Deep shadow? Lighter shadow? It's actually easy to paint any of these in Photoshop.

So you can get a handle on what you want to be painting. Next ... paint it -- in as many layers as there are shadows, or surfaces collecting the shadows. There's at least five layers used to create the shadows you see on this little bit of today's painting (and I'm calling it a painting, not a render, because it's very, very heavily overpainted.)

Here's the easiest way to paint in the shadows. Once you know how the shadow ought to be falling (and you work that out by knowing where the light is, how far away it is, and how bright it is, and checking what you know about your lights against real-world photos), then open up a new layer. Sample the color of the surface that's collecting the shadow ... take that color down to almost as dark as it will go. Adjust your brush for size, hardness and opacity appropriate to the area you're painting, and how dark you want the shadow to be. You're painting in a very, very deep shade of the surface's own color ... paint it DARK.Whop on a ton of virtual paint -- don't be worried about painting it almost black, because the next thing you're going to do is change the merge (blend) mode of this layer to "multiply," and then drop the opacity to wherever it needs to be, to look good. Last thing: is this supposed to be a soft shadow, like the one cast by the hilt of the dagger? If yes, then on your Filters menu, choose Blur > Gaussian, and adjust the blur on this layer till you get exactly what you want. Have a fiddle with the opacity after blurring the layer. Hee hee! The shadow comes up looking juuust what you wanted!

Repeat process for each shadow you need to paint in. The more you do it, the quicker you get at it. In a little while you'll be whipping through this process in no time. 

The other thing you can do is add life and zest to other areas of your image by adding highlights:

Here, virtually every shadow and highlight has been hand-painted. The material of the costume rendered okay, but it looked just plain dull. Boring. Not what I'd wanted at all. So again I thought, "what the hey, call it done, and I'll paint it later.

So, what's the process for painting highlights? It's just about the reverse of painting shadows, as you'd expect. Paint on a different layer for each surface that's receiving the highlights (one for the face; one for the chest; one for the earrings; one for the armor, and so on). Sample the color of the surface that is to be painted ... take that color out to almost white. Adjust your brush for size, hardness and opacity. Whop a lot of virtual paint on, where you figure the object ought to shine. Don't be afraid to paint great splodges of near white, because the next thing you're going to do is change the merge (blend) mode of these layers to Overlay (aha!) and then have a fiddle with the opacity to boot. And -- hee hee! Check out the result by turning the highlight layer on and off and on again. You won't believe how dull and boring the layer was before it was painted. You can also apply by blur to highlight layers, if you need to. 

Before you start hand-painting hair, you can get a bit more mileage out of the DAZ Studio (and I guess, Poser) hairstyles by using a couple of tricks:

This is the Midnight Prince hair, which is still one of the best styles available. This, here, has the sumptuous look of having been hand-painted, but it's not. What I've done to get a bit more mileage is to go into the surfaces tab, pick up the individual layers of the hair (there's about six or eight in this one; some styles have just a few, some have as many as a dozen), and change the specular color and strength on each later. It's dead simple, very fast, and this trick can save you a lot of time in post work in Photoshop.

One interesting this is that the eyelashes you see here ... are hand painted. For some reason, nothing I did would make the eyelashes render properly, and I thought (you got it!) "paint it later." The way to do this is very similar to painting shadows, but how successful you'll be pivots on how BIG your image is. To get this kind of a result, you need to have a biiiiiiig image to paint on. You can render it huge, if your processor and time budget will allow for this, or you can actually double or quadruple the size of your image in Photoshop, then paint the eyelashes in, and then reduce it back to normal size. I rendered this at 1400 wide and 1600 high, because I knew ahead of time, it was going to be a bear to paint this. The render just didn't want to play nice. Photoshop to the rescue.

And there you go, that's basically it. The costume, what there is of it, is pieced together from four sets of clothing and jewelry. The ivy in the background is from the Reparation standing set. The hair is, as I said, Midnight Prince. The sword and dagger are from either Fae Weapons or High Fantasy, and I can't remember which, but you can find both at DAZ. I changed the textures, opacity maps and displacement maps on the costume -- doing my own mapping is part of the fun. The character -- face and body morph -- sorry, he's one of mine, you can't but this one anywhere. I've called him Leon for a looooong time. 

I have some more images rendering on the other computer. With any luck, I'll be back tomorrow with some serious eye candy!

Jade, May 22

Sunday, May 20, 2012

SF heroes, and -- posting to the other blog today

[cropped at the interesting part: posted full-size to t'other blog]

click to see all other images at large size... 

Sorry to disappear on you for a week. The last few days, health has been an issue. Some kind of sinus infection -- it started out as major sneezing and a headache, which I was slow to realize were symptoms of the same thing till the full-on "lergie" hit me broadside, Friday. Anyway, as Sam said, I'm back!

Here's a couple of things I've been tinkering with, off and on, in the background -- Richard Vaurien and Neil Travers, from Hellgate. Lately, Richard is fascinating me more and more, and Hellgate is very much on my mind, with the sixth -- final -- novel of the series coming along soon. Event Horizon. Indulge yourself in a shiver when you think about it. I surely do!

Have been enjoying myself playing with effects --

--like that. Reflections in lenses. Many, many projects are simmering in the background, and if my health was 100%, I'd be going a lot faster, but ... grrr. Thanks for bearing with me.

And as the post title suggests, I'm posting to the Exotic blog today. As requested, I went back into the Hyborian Age Calendar Boy piece and rendered it as a full-on male nude. With all due arm waving and flashing purple lights about the results NOT being even vaguely worksafe, here is your link. Enjoy! 

I did re-render the original in Lux of the Hyborian, and the results are amazing ... but the image also needed a LOT of painting, and I'm about 85% of the way through. There was just a heck of a lot to do on it, and I've been waaaay under the weather for the last few days. I'll get it finished very soon.

Also picked up the latest issue of ImagineFX ... and whaddaya think's on the CD-Rom taped in the back of the magazine? Pirate costumes, pistols, and what they describe as a highly detailed model of HMS Victory. Aha. Well now, this will be explored in some detail, very soon!

While posting to the other blog, I chanced upon the blog stats. The most often-loaded post over on the Exotic blog? It's been loaded well over 6,000 times. And it ain't for the text! I don't write much over there. It's all about art that's not merely sensual, but "adult," if you know what I mean. Nudge, wink and whatnot. That's pretty fantastic -- six thousand views of the one post!

Anyway -- please enjoy these pieces, and ... I'll be back soon with some projects that have been buzzing around in my mind while I've been hovering within reach of the tissues and teapot.

Jade, May 21

Friday, May 11, 2012

A little urban fantasy, anyone ...?

click to see all images at large size...

If you're not chuckling, you're not looking close enough ... or your monitor might be a bit small ... or you might have misplaced your reading glasses. So why don't I make this easy --

Elf, out shopping, took the sports car ... looking for his keys. Right...

And ere's the detail from "Elven Scholar, 2012 style..."

...the top picture is well worth a look at large size. I rendered it at 2000 pixels high in order to paint in some very fine detail, and then resized it down to 1500 pixels high for uploading. He's, um, interesting, isn't he? Elves don't show their age, only their sagacity. My guess is, this guy's about a thousand years old, maybe more, and he does not suffer fools gladly. Or at all. 

What got me onto this train of thought was an old, old post of Mel Keegan's -- it appeared on his blog years ago. He was talking about Lord of the Rings at the time, and referencing the scene where Elrond says to Gandalf that he was there two and a half thousand years ago, when Isildur stuffed everything up by not chucking the ring into the cauldron at Mount Doom (thought: Elrond should have chucked Isildur in, while he had hold of the ring ... boy, would that have saved everyone a ton of angst). Mel was just remarking that given 2500 years' worth of time since that fateful day, how come Sauron didn't run face-first into a brace of cruise missiles when he stuck his nose out of Mordor again? Men, elves, dwarfs, hobbits, wizards ... they never even developed the gramophone, let alone color tv and laser guns --

Which got me to thinking, suppose they had

So here's Master Aldwyr, yonks older than Doctor Who, hunting for the keys to his yellow sports car as the afternoon shadows lengthen, so as to make it home in time for an evening session in the garden with a student of 650, who's ... a little dense, by the look on Aldwyr's face!

These are just raytraces. The 2000 pixel high "Elven Scholar - 2012 Style" was a 3 hour render, and then another hour painting in Photoshop (including gamma, color balancing, photo filtering). I definitely need to set him to render in Lux, I know. What a difference it would make ... speaking of which, you have got to check this out:

Remember The Fugitive, from last week? This, above, is the LuxRender version. Whew! I've uploaded him at pinup size, because you're going to want to keep him. Please do see this at full size!! The detail in the skin is just astonishing And ... the LuxRender image with the raytrace. Photographic realism. The "response" in the skinmap is amazing. This is the Atlas skinmap by SAV, and I'm blown away. 

Now, not all skinmaps work out well in Lux -- at least at my current level of proficiency. One or two render up flat and muddy. I need to work out how to get Lux to handle darker skin tones. But yes, I know, I need to set Master Aldwyr in the garden to render in Lux, and see what happens. I might also skedaddle over to Renderosity and go trawling for some new skinmaps that have levels more detail which Lux can get hold of. And then ...

I need to set the Pinup Boy of the Hyborian Age to render in Lux, same reasoning. What a difference that ought to make. If you were very sharp eyed, and had a really good memory, you might have halfway recognized him from a 2010 project. This is another old, old project that's come out of the archives and been re-rendered, and this is worth a glance:

On the left is the new raytrace, finished in Photoshop. On the right is the old render -- from waaaay back when I couldn't raytrace anything to save my life (result: crash to the desktop and a lot of ripped out hair), and I was also rendering in a keyhole because large images crashed me too. So if you look at the diff between the LuxRender image and the raytrace, and then look at the diff between the raytrace and the old deep shadow map...!

The Fugitive took about 18 hours in Lux. Master Aldwyr will take longer, and so will the calendar boy (he seriously needs a name). So it's "one thing at a time" here, and "don't be hasty," to quote Fangorn himself. In fact, when you're talking about Lux, you can be as hasty as you like ... the software will take its own sweet time!

If you're wondering what in the world I did with the hair on Master Aldwyr ... no, that's not hand-painted. That's actually in the render. What I did was to get into the Surfaces pane and change all the specular settings -- not on the hair, as such, but on each of the 10 different layers that go to make up the hair. You have three things you can change: the amount of glossiness, the color something shines, and the "strength" of the color/gloss, as distinct from the sheer amount of shininess. By jiggling these numbers/values, you can get some great effects and save a heck of a lot of painting --

But yes, even after all this is said and done, there's a lot of painting all over these renders to get the absolute maximum out of them. And I'm working on that Photoshop retouching tutorial -- I am, really I am!

Stay tuned.

Jade, May 11

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A little fantasy, a little SF, and the cult gay heroes

click to see all a large size; the fantasy pinup dude is 1:1 size...

As promised, more of the Hyborian age heartthrob (and he's uploaded at full pinup size, again), plus a couple of Jarrat and Stone pictures that are well worth a look. The full-shot is ... complex. Covered in effects, on top of a Lux render that was already not half bad. The sky was done in Bryce and then painted to suggest city lights reflecting on stormy clouds. The  captains from the Athena look like they're in an alley by some docking bays on a thoroughly nasty colony world -- went there to meet an informant. It's a safe bet Gil and Joe aren't far away, and probably in the "hard suits," right around that corner. (If you're intrigued and wondering what goes on here, the inspiration is Mel Keegan's NARC -- the cult gay SF series. Scroll down and see the five book covers in the right-hand column!)

The portrait might not look like a challenge, but it was the last in a looooong line of experiments aimed at getting a skinmap on Jarrat that will render properly alongside Stone --

And this one ain't bad. You notice, they're both properly exposed in these shots. Usually (and previously), to get Jarrat properly exposed, Stone would be washing out like a ghost, and to get Stoney to expose properly, Jarrat would be getting darker and darker, which, which this skinmap, means more and more "orange" in coloration. Not what we want. So I've been working hard to figure a way around this...

The scene in the alleyway is a Lux render which was heavily overpainted. The other two are raytraces right out of DAZ (meaning, the 3DLight engine), and there's a big difference in the "nature" of the images, though you'll have to see them large-size to see it. The Lux render shows the shortcomings of the Jarrat skinmap -- in fact, Lux ignores virtually everything I do with texturing! This is herding me down a narrow trail at the end of which is the necessity to get my finger out and (gulp) actually paint a skinmap, to get something that looks as good in Lux as this here portrait looks in the raytrace...

Having said all that, I also painted a lot over the raytrace! 

And yes, I have promised a Photoshop retouching tutorial, and I will deliver. It's going to be a good tutorial, which means it'll be long and detailed, which takes time. Bear with me!

Jade, May 8

Monday, May 7, 2012

Pinup Boy of the Hyborian Age

click to see at 1:1 size -- uploaded at pinup proportions

If sword and sorcery has a pinup boy, this is probably the guy ... and he's the result of about half a dozen experiments I've been running in the last couple of days. In fact, I'm fiddling around with skinmaps, hot on the trail of The Perfect Skinmap for Jarrat ... you all know Kevin Jarrat, right? Mmm. Well, I still haven't worked out the Jarrat skinmap, but along the road to getting something to work there, I stumbled over a whole bunch of discoveries. 

These, you're going to want to see, if not keep, at pinup size, so they're slightly compressed as JPGs, but I haven't shrunk the size down. The landscape format one is 1600 wide, which ought to suit most monitors. And this guy is well worth a look at that size. Check this out, at somewhere close to 1:1 ...

Okay, so what did I do? Do I know what I did, so I can do this again? Did it happen by accident?! In order of asking, "Mix and match and tweak; yes; and no." What you're looking at here is face and body morphs designed by me (as usual; I very rarely use a stock face or bod); he's wearing the Atlas skinmap, but with the JM Falcon bump map overlaid on it (!), and then I've tweaked every specular setting in the book, and raytraced it --

These are not Lux renders, because I don't have the time for Lux today. Also, I wanted to do several renders to see if the track I was taking was going to work. Rendering these at 1600x1200 took about 15-20 minutes each shot. Lux would have taken 12 - 20 hours for each shot,  so Lux is a (!) luxury you indulge in when you know, 100% that what you're going to do will work.

The luster/luminosity of those skin tones was not wrangled in Lux, it was done with specular settings. Now, Atlas is a great skinmap -- dusky yet filled with tonal difference, gradients and detail. I don't yet know how to make Lux handle dusky skin tones properly. I'm sure it will handle them, but so far, when I ask it to render anything other than a fair European skin, the results can get muddy ... you can find yourself painting on the skin to get a good result, and you shouldn't have to do that. But the thing about the Atlas skinmap is that it's absolutely matte. I mean, it's suede ... velvet ... no luster on it when it usually renders up in DAZ's 3DLight engine (I suspect that Poser's Firefly engine would do it better justice) ... whereas gloriously healthy skin should have a sheen, what I've been calling a "luminosity," right? Notice, I said usually. [sounds of gleeful chortling]

Lately, I've been achieving the quality of luster/luminority with a bunch of Photoshop overpainting  (and yes, I promise I'll show you how to do that convincingly -- I've been asked to do a tutorial, share what I've worked out lately, and I'd be delighted to: it's on the agenda). But once again, you shouldn't have to achieve these results with Photoshop cheats. The Futitive, which you saw a few days ago, was brought to life with lustrous skin in Photoshop -- but this pinup boy of the age of Conan? Nope. That luster is in the render ... and it was done by modifying the specular parameters. Yee haw. Seriously. I've made this work three times so far, and I knoooow what's going on here. I think I can do this at whim. [chortling again] The piece was finished in Photoshop with painting on the background, the lamp and so forth; and it was gamma shifted and color balanced, but one thing I didn't have to do was paint on the skin to make it gleam with health and vitality!

There's more of this guy ... plus, I've had a couple of very complex Jarrat and Stone pieces rendering (up to 18 hours each) through the nights, so join me tomorrow for a bundle of goodies!

Jade, May 7

Friday, May 4, 2012

Snake tales, apples and ... associated nude hunks

As promised -- I've done the "Adam and the Snake" art as a proper male nude, and you can find it on the other blog -- complete with a humorous little story about one Tuesday morning in some garden somewhere, with two nude hunks, Adam and Ed, and a Snake with something poignant to say ... if only he can get Adam to stop juggling. With apples. I uploaded the piece at full size, 1600 pixels wide -- pinup size. Here's your link, and ... enjoy! Above is a preview that is, uh, cropped just as it got interesting. This is the Auntie Maud Safe version. Be warned: the pinup version ain't work (or Auntie) safe. 

Meanwhile, I have "The Fugitive" rendering in Lux (you remember the raytrace/Photoshop version from yesterday, right?), and this makes a perfect opportunity to answer a recent question, and show you what the LuxRender workspace looks like. There's actually two interfaces. The one you think of as LuxRender is, of course, Lux itself:

On the left are loads of dropdowns in which you'll find yourself selecting film types, film speeds, setting F-stops and shutter speeds and so forth. If you have a good grasp of the theory of photography, you will LOVE the way Lux works. The penny is really dropping for me now, and one step at a time I'm starting to make sense of it all. (My challenge at the moment is to figure out how to make Lux "honor" the bump mapping, because right now it barely registers any bump mapping I load onto objects. I'm probably doing something wrong, still. Must find out what.)

But before you get to Lux, you get to Reality, which is a plugin for DAZ Studio. Load up your scene in DAZ, get it all set, and you're ready to render, right? When you click on Render, with the plugin installed, you get the option of calling up Reality as your render option. Take this option, and the user interface pops up right over the DAZ screen:

...Reality's interface is all about tabs, menus and numbers. You're jigging about a hundred parameters which interact with each other to make a million different values. It looks simple, and the interface itself is -- it's as clean and "stripped" as the old DOS interfaces we worked in, and with, about 20 years ago. (Sounds of nostalgia.) But hiding behind the straightforward GUI is a very powerful bridge to get a DAZ scene into Lux. I've got the lights about 70% figured out. If I can get bump mapping figured out, I'll be cruising. 

Anyway, there you go ... that's the Reality/Lux workspace; and link over to r'other blog for the pinup boy and the chuckle. 

Jade, May 4

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Photoshop retouching. And you can't see the seams.

Click to see all images at large size...

Here I am getting in some practise ... at what? You might well ask! Well, one of the things I've learned pretty quickly is that most of the hairstyles (toupees, if you will) I've been using, and which I like to use, don't render up well in Lux. They come out looking like little sheets of plastic attached to someone's head! The thing is that the best render quality you can get, even at the raytrace level, doesn't show the problem, but just as soon as you whack something into Lux and attempt something that's waaay closer to photorealism ... hmmm. The hair is what lets down the image almost every time. 

In fact, someone was just mentioning the other day, on some message board or other, I forget which, apropos of Michael 5, that what DAZ really needs to to is get "a hair system that works properly." Until you're rendering in Lux, you don't have (too) much to worry about, but in Lux there's nowhere to hide, and the hair is problematical. So...

Solution? Wellll.... try this:

...and since were doing 1:1 outtake detail shots, have a look at this guy, too:

Of course, I'm doing what I swore I wouldn't do, because it takes a loooong time, and as you know, time is something I don't have unlimited amounts of! Yes, I'm hand-painting the hair -- getting the hang of it, working out a method for doing it. Right now I seem to have my own system. 

The hair is painted in 12 layers (dark, medium and light tones for each of the layers -- bottom, middle an top layers -- plus three extra layers for the hairline, same routine with the tones and layers). When I'm happy enough with the painting the layers are all merged into one layer called (duh) "Hair," and then this layer is given a Gaussian blur, something around the .4 mark, which makes it not stick out of the rest of the picture, and then it's given a partial opacity, for the same reason.

Hmmm. Well, the results are very promising, and I guess this is one more thing where the more you do it, the better you'll get at it! So far, I've done this for just three pictures, and we're looking at two of them here. The male nude I call "The Fugitive" is the third, and the best. Practice makes perfect? Could be.

Anyway -- the male model is a Lux render of an old old project which you saw about two years ago. This time around he took about 13.5 hours, cooking overnight. The Fugitive you see here is actually 60% raytrace and 40% Photoshop painting. I have painted virtually every part of that image. Tonight, I'll see if I can set it to render in Lux. Could take 15 hours, could take 40. And when the Lux render is complete, it'll really, really need to have the hair painted! This one needed the painting to look really good, even at the raytrace level.  Whimper.

Last image for today: have been playing with false color: 

...and that's quite a dramatic picture... 

Oh -- while I think of it: I was asked to re-render "Adam and the Snake" as a full-on male nude ... basically, move the bloody apple tree out of the way! ... and upload it at large "pinup" size to the Exotic blog. I'm doing this right now, and should have the image ready to upload tomorrow. Will post an update and a link to the blog here when it's been uploaded.

Jade, May 3

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