Thursday, February 21, 2013

Playing with fire

click to see all images at large size ... top image is wallpaper size

"The Fire Juggler" is almost entirely a painting. Not much is left of the 3D render that forms the foundation of the project. Please do see it at large size ... you can really appreciate the painting if you can see the details. The inspiration comes from several directions, and I got to thinking, "What about a fantasy world where magic really works, and people with these skills are so commonplace that if you can conjure fire and juggle with it, you might just be able to earn yourself a living performing in the marketplace. What an idea! Imagine that you have a caravan of performers moving from place to place, town to town, full of exotic skills that are almost ignored, because so many people can do this kind of thing. So I couldn't resist this image.

The landscape is another crack at Bryce which turned into a hybrid. The background is all Bryce, up to the tall grasses. The foreground is all DAZ Studio, because the routine of importing and positioning little plants in Bryce is more than patience can cope with! Here's the bit where Bryce turns into DAZ:

...but I will admit, the result is very nice. Cool flowers -- from one of the Environment props sets. Must do more like this. I know I keep grumbling about the end product not being a photo-realistic landscape, but if you appreciate it as art, it still has a lot going for it. 

Right now, I have a render percolating in Lux ... the hardest thing about this is jogging my memory! I had LuxRender just about "nutted out" before we moved house, and now I can't remember the first thing about it. I knew I should have written it down!

For the artistically inclined: Michael 4 was posed with a lot of point lights -- no spotlights, just point lights. One in each palm to create the glow off the fire, and a couple of others here and there to give a bit of depth -- for instance, the blue light off his left shoulder, which gives the impression of blue backlighting from the marketplace. The raytrace and the deep shadow map render were enormously different, and each had a lot to recommend it; so I did one of each, at 3000 pixels wide, and shipped both into Photoshop. Then each of them was duplicated, and all the layers recombined at different merge/blend settings. When the color and tone were right, painting started ... highlights, shadows, hair, eyes, eyebrows, mouth, skintones ... not to mention the fire! The flames were done with .abr brushes: blat on the fire, then copy the layer twice ... walk the color into a deep tone and a highlight tone in subsequent layers, and apply a different merge/blend mode to each. The background was blocked in from a digital sketch based on a shot of a renaissance fair in Hungary! Michael 4 is wearing the Akasta hair, but you'd never know it, because 80% of what you're seeing here was hand-painted. M4 is wearing the SAV Eros skinmap, but that's one of my face/body morphs. In fact, you've seen it before, but it was wearing a different skinmap -- and what a difference it makes, when you change out a skinmap! The last time you saw this face, it belonged to John, from Umbriel. The other thing I changed for M4 was the bump mapping on the torso. You see realistic veins. This bump map was hand painted for a project a long time ago (to be honest, I can't even remember what it was!), and I keep going back to it, when I want to get the effect of a guy who's been working hard.  

Glad to say, I had a lot of fun with this one .. it's sitting right on the line where "rendered" meets "painted," and it was painted this way because getting a really good render was going to be the job from hell. The lights were low ... the raytrace was too dark, the deep shadow map was too grainy, and each test render (where you fiddle with the lights yet again) was a twenty minute wait! In the end I thought, "Nuts to this, it's going to be a painting." Nice!

Jade, February 21, 2013 
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