Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Render BIG, then crop to your heart's content

click to see all images at large size...

Till very recently, I was "rendering in a keyhole," because if I tried to render a larger picture I would just get a crash to the desktop long before I even got a picture. And you know, I'm still in the habit of rendering at modest sizes, even though now I could actually render the side of a barn, so long as I do it in DAZ Studio rather than in Bryce or LuxRender. Admittedly, Bryce and LuxRender take one heck of a lot longer, but ...

Here's a neat piece I call "The Gypsy." I've uploaded the top version of it at 1600 pixels wide, so you can see the details, but I actually rendered it at 2000 wide, and it took about 90mins, because it's loaded with vegetation. As soon as you add in the vegetation, the render times go into orbit. But here's the beauty of rendering at humongous size:

The Gypsy Vanner ... and click on this, see him at full size ... you can actually crop a full-size, finished picture out of a small part of the whole image. The luxury of this is soooo neat. And then:

Indulge yourself in a super-wide, panoramic version! This one is reduced to 1600 pixels wide, because at 2000 it won't even fit on most monitors. And every time you crop the image, the "character" of it changes. In this one, you don't get such a strong impression of a young guy and his horse totally overwhelmed by the mountain wilderness; and in this version...'s very much a story about the vehicle first, and then the young man -- your eye is commanded by the gypsy wagon itself, and the young guy, tasty though it is, is secondary. But... 

...crop it closer, and it's a picture of a young man standing in front of a gypsy wagon, with just a hint of mountains in the background. Even the top picture was cropped down from the original, full-sized render:

I couldn't decide what aspect ratio I had, so I said words along the lines of "never mind, I'll render it as if it were a shot off the digital camera and worry about it later. So this one, here, is the original aspect ratio, which I've resized to 1000 pixels wide for this upload.

Cropping images was an art all in itself, back in the days of (ye gods!) darkroom photography. You actually decided what part of the negative you wanted to print. You ran the projection head way up to the top of the pole, and moved the "easel" around under it till you saw the exact framing you wanted of just a bit of the negative. Then you had to calculate your exposure time, to get the right contrast and darkness on the image before you put it through the developing "baths." Ahhhh, those were the days! I used to walk out of the darkroom with my fingernails bleached white, and a case of "vampire eyes," because the fumes off the chemistry were a little bit harsh. Digital photography changed everything. In so many ways it's far better, because you can take 100 pictures, where you used to take one, and you can do literally anything with the images, in Photoshop, after the fact. But I still think back with some nostalgia on those darkroom days.

This image involves Michael 4 wearing Sickle Yield's Skinny Jeans, the Garry Hair, and the Jackson skinmap. He's standing in front of the model called "Gypsy Caravan" -- can't tell you the vendor, but you can find it at, I think, Content Paradise. The horse is the Millennium Horse (from DAZ), and he's wearing the CWRW gypsy horse skinmap, and the Millennium Horse bridle, with the reins turned off. The hillside was created in Bryce and exported as an .OBJ -- the mountain in the background was done the same way. I re-textured both hillside and mountain with my own textures ... and the way you get the mountains to go silver-blue with distance is to make a plane (primitive), stand it on its edge, make it silver-gray and put a ~50% transparency on it. The sky isn't a backdrop -- it's one of the Vue skyscapes that fit the Light Dome Pro prop (just what it sounds like: a huge hemisphere, inside which you park all your props, and then you can spin the camera around because it's, uh, a dome!). The trees were from the Content Paradise store (Smith Micro's model store), and are the Rhodi Design Baby Fir Trees. The ground cover is one of the PNature shrubs (Renderosity again), cloned over and over and over and buried in the ground model so that only a small part of the top shows ... instant ground cover. The lights: I turned OFF all the Light Dome Pro lights because (sorry dudes ... I know what your advertising says, but...) they were somewhat worse than useless for getting a good result. I lit this myself with one distant light to simulate the sun, and five assorted spotlights, all with shadows. If this were done in LuxRender, with the "unbiased " form of lighting, you'd just use the one distant light -- the sun ... and it would be rendering for about a week! I wanted the picture fast, so I just did it in DAZ Studio. 

There is some post work on it, which was done in Photoshop, with .abr brushes: the clouds in front of the mountain were painted with Mystikel's Clouds (Renderosity), and the birds are Ron's Birds (DAZ); and there are some grasses painted here and there, but for the life of me, I can't remember which brush set I used. Other than this, some of the shadows were hand-painted, and the reflection in the van's window was also hand painted.

Next project: I'm going to fly the camera in close to the gypsy boy, and do more of a portrait shoot than a "figure in a landscape."

Jade, June 21 (the solstice of winter!)

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