Thursday, July 5, 2012

CG fantasy on a really squeezy deadline ... nice!

click to see all images at large size

This one was a tremendous pleasure -- a commission, to illustrate a story in an upcoming magazine. As I read the story, at least a dozen illustrations jumped into my mind, but this was the one that was the "stickiest" -- meaning, the one I kept coming back to over and over.

What was I saying last week about rendering large and then cropping to your heart's content? With this one, the editor will have loads of options -- and you can even cut entirely different images out of it, just as you could with the gypsy boy. Like this:

There's also a great fascination for the super-wide shots. I would love to do something that was in "true cinemascope" rather than the 16:9 format that we know so well from tv screens and also YouTube videos. The aspect ratio is close to this:

...the problem for me is that when I set up the shots I usually can't bear to crop out the top and bottom, which is where so much of the beauty is. Though, I have to say the cinemascope crop of this piece looks pretty stunning. 

Reading the story, it seemed to me that the sky and water, the landscape, were principle players, and that any illustration had to feature them, or else be "missing the important part." So the first thing I did was get into Bryce 7 Pro and custom-design the sky and water. Here it is at half-size: 

...this backdrop was actually rendered at 1600 pixels wide and then imported into DAZ Studio for the character and props to be added. You might actually recognize the "actor" ... you've seen him a couple of times, and he was perfect for this piece. The sword is the same prop you saw in the "Absent Friends" piece, but once again I changed the dimensions and switched out all the materials to give it a new(ish) look. The ground cover was done completely in DAZ by using full-size shrubs, but reducing them to about 40% size and sinking them into the "ground" so that only the tips show through and look like small plants. This works well -- it takes a looooong time to render, so I set it up to render overnight -- but it's well worth doing it this way. You get a better overall result than trying to paint the foliage. Also worth mentioning is that this is "just" a raytrace ... if it were a LuxRender picture, it would still be rendering. The deadline was (!) 48 hours, from "go" to delivery. It really was a case of "drop everything and just do it," which was another reason to do the foliage as 3D objects rather than painting them. Painting is fun, and you can get wonderful results but when you're doing this kind of work, you might not have the time to get really terrific results fast enough. The last thing I should mention is that to get the hair to look like that I combined two hair props. Here, you're looking at both the Yannis Rasta Dreads and the Spartacos hair by SAV!

So then the bare render was shipped into Photoshop for over-painting. A lot of over-painting. As cool as the raw renders are, it's the post work that makes them come to life, gives them the depth and vibrancy ... so what was painted? A lot of the shadows, most of the highlights (on hair, skin, costume, sword), mist, birds, "godrays." I think this one was painted in something like about 12-15 layers.  And I'm very pleased with the result.

Adventures in Scrivener Part 2:
It's a breeze! Don't let anybody tell you that this writer's tool is hard work, or has some kind of learning curve, because it doesn't. It's as easy to run as a word processor, and I'm in the process of getting Mel Keegan to switch over to it. Mel is overflowing with ideas but has very little time to write these days, due to having a work load that would drop a charging buffalo in its tracks. Imaging having the ability to open a project and just chuck ideas into it, and then push and pull them every which way. Scrivener gives you this ability, and it's a tremendous freedom. I'm enjoying it a lot ... full marks to the program's designers, who hang out at Literature and Latte

Sorry to be posting so infrequently lately, guys. Haven't been very well,  health-wise, simple as that! But I'm hoping that the worst might be behind me, and I can get well in the near future. So much to do ... so many ideas for art and also for stories!

Jade, July 5 (July 4 in the States ... enjoy the fireworks, folks!)

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