Friday, August 7, 2015

Visit a Gypsy camp in LuxRender, Bryce and DAZ ... and Smith Micro said to me --

LuxRender: Leon and Roald at the Gypsy camp.
(click to see all images at pinup size)
DAZ Studio raytrace painted in Photoshop:
Roald at the fireside
DAZ Studio raytrace in four "laminated" layers:
Meet Iphigenia ... at the Gypsy camp (Abraxas, Chapter 10)
Bryce 7 Pro: the ruined cenotaph beyond Esketh
Bryce 7 Pro: atmospherics and dawn light:
the foothills on the way into the Blue Mountains
Viewers/readers with somewhat long memories will know what they're looking at right here! Yep. I've been delving into Abraxas: The Forgotten Songs again, since the plot notes, which were lost for upwards of a year and a half (!) turned up unexpectedly. And --

Wow. Going back into Abraxas with the resources of LuxRender and Bryce 7 Pro puts a whole new spin on this stuff. Check out this closeup out at full size, guys (it's 1000 pixels wide), even if you don't click to see the leader shot at full size:

Now, that's LuxRender for you, and I'm impressed. It's 90% of the way to a photograph ... like a still from a movie that doesn't exist. If anyone has copies of the old webcomic pages from yonks ago, compare even the best of them with this! What's so cool is --

-- the render is high-rez enough for the venous map in the hand to show. I usually slap on a venous map, but you often don't see it. The map is a bump map (or displacement map, if you want to go that far) which raises the patterns of the veins in torso, hands, arms, so forth, for an added layer of realism. It's great to see this tiny detail in a render; like the wrinkles in the knuckles, too.

The third render for today -- where you meet Iphigenia (you've actually seen her before ... yep, that's Iphigenia in the underground with Leon, in the intense heat and humidity; ergo, a lotta skin, which is pretty typical of fantasy! (Have you noticed how, in movies, guys are dressed from neck to ankles while gals are flitting around in teeny little costumes? Either he's dying of heat stroke in those clothes, or she's freezing! Anyway, that's Hollywood for you, right?) Where was I? Ah yes --

The third render for today, the big scene at the Gypsy camp with all three characters, is a composite shot. It's actually FOUR renders laminated/layered together, starting with an old Bryce skyscape as the bottom layer, and ending up with the foreground vegetation rendered separately:

You start out with a Bryce sky and use his as the backdrop for a dead-simple background image rendered in DAZ Studio (hint: this can be low-rez; not even raytraced -- doesn't need to be). The shot was done at 3000 x 2000 pixels, shipped into Photoshop, blurred, painted, color balanced etc. Then it was shipped back into DAZ Studio to be used as the background for the middle-ground subjects: two Michael 4s and a Victoria 4, with character morphs, wigs, skin maps and costumes, plus a gypsy wagon (the proper name for which is vardo, incidentally...) and the campfire. Only three lights were set and the scene was raytraced ...which took about seven HOURS, just to render this middle ground. The render was sent to Photoshop to be tweaked and painted; then it was shipped back into DAZ Studio, where it was used as the backdrop for the foreground trees, bushes and grasses. So you had a four-layer render, plus --

-- quite a bit of Photoshop painting with those special brushes, after the fact, to get the teeny little details in. Why would you do the image this way? Because it allowed me to do the whole shot in something like nine hours, including painting. If I'd set out to raytrace the entire scene, all of a piece, it'd have been a 20 or 30 hour render.

Maybe it's just me; do I not have the patience to spend 30 hours on an old fashioned raytrace?! Does anybody have the patience these days? Right now, if we invest that kind of time in something, we expect a LuxRender or Octane image (ie., a photographic result) at the end. Beacause ... wellll, with the best will in the world, if you compare a closeup of the three-character raytrace --

(please view full-size ... it's 1600 pixels wide)
-- with the LuxRender fidelity ... no contest. The raytrace is like storybook art. There's nothing wrong with it. But the stuff coming out of Lux and Octane is generations beyond.

Not long ago, raytracing was the be-all and end-all of 3D rendering on any "civilian" desktop; and when I started this blog, I couldn't even raytrace! If I tried, my Lenovo PC crashed right back to the desktop. Kaboom! Now, just a few years later, we look at a raytrace and wish for more! So --

Just for the fun of it, I tried an experiment, to see just how much one can squeeze out of a DAZ Studio 3 raytrace and some Photoshop painting:

In fact, it's not bad at all, what with the colored point lights, depth of field, and then a whole lot of Photoshop work in post. As artwork goes, it's actually pretty darned nice. But, being human, we're never satisfied, and what we want now is a photo, not a painting! So --

Imagine my joy to get the latest Smith Micro newsletter, entitled "The Future of Poser." Long story short: Poser Pro 11, probably due next year, will have a render engine very like Lux or Octane built in, in addition to the highly-respected Firefly render engine. Built in!! Yowzer. Guess where I'll very probably be going in 2016! The only thing that would keep me from going there would be ... oh, if DAZ Studio 5 came out with a decent interface leaving behind the Donald Duck interface we see in Studio 4, and then the new Reality/LuxRender version is indeed 7x faster, as promised. Then, yep, I'd stay with DAZ and Lux. But you gotta admit, the lure of Poser Pro with a built-in unbiased render engine and the much-vaunted Firefly engine ... it's soooo tempting. Like cherry cheesecake.
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