Saturday, December 22, 2018

A hunk, a stag, a stream ... plus Gaussian blur and film grain

CG character design: The Mercenary
The Mercenary -- again. I really like the character, and couldn't resist coming back to him. Wondering about posing him with The Magician ... like, maybe they're in the same place, on the same job? The possibilities are endless and delicious. But --

If there's one thing that "bothers" me about the classic raytrace (which is pretty much where I'm stuck, not being able to outlay several grand on hardware and software at this time, to play catch-up with all the front runners who take Genesis whatever and fabulous render engines for granted...) it's that a raytrace is "too sharp, too clear, too perfect," or something -- an almost indefinable quality that makes even a good picture look fake ... and can make a poorly-rendered character look like a plastic doll, or manikin, perhaps one of those life-like marionettes. The big question being, of course, what can you do about this as a work-around?

So I'm starting to play with film grain and Gaussian blur, to introduce a kind of imperfection to the image, to sort of "knock the edge off the digital perfection," which might fool the eye into seeing a human being instead of a piece of plastic. Here's a detail crop to give a better look at this:

Gaussian blur and film grain added to a CG render
Gaussian blur and film grain were added in Photoshop (I imagine Krita has the filters too, but I confess, I haven't even looked for them yet: am still learning to handle the brushes there). Just enough film grain to knock the edge off the digital perfection ... just enough Gaussian blur to fool your eye into believing a camera took this shot. Raw CG renders with DOF left off are ... just too much in-focus to look real! (This character has also been over-painted with beard shadow, body hair, and a bit of work done on the wind-whipped head-hair ... same reason. The raw model (Michael 4, wearing face and body designed by me) is just too plastic to convince, or please, anyone much today, in the wake of the aforementioned Genesis and fabulous unbiased render engines. (Anybody remember Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue? No, not the more recent digital animation, the 1960s production. Yeah, that one ... did I just date myself??)

Also in this render, I've overdriven the bump maps on everything to heap texture into the shot; the only thing I didn't do was turn on DOF. Technically I should have; but if you just spend twenty minutes over-driving the bump values, then turn on depth of field and the background blurs out, why bother with the bump maps? So in this one I went for texture; in the next one, I'll play with DOF.

Also been painting in Photoshop and Krita. This first one is a digital watercolor done from a photo that was such crap, it belonged in the bin -- but it was the only one where the framing and composition were perfect! So, naturally, the automatic light metering gave me a washed-out photo in pale grays and no real color, and blurred the hell out of it into the bargain. The camera konfooz itself. (My bad: I "cooked" it in a veryveryvery hot car. I think I halfway killed it. Sound of sighing.) So the assignment was, can you take a garbage photo, derive the sketch and wind up with a very nice painting? And the answer is, yes, you can:

Digital watercolor in Photoshop
Please do have a look at that, large size (I uploaded it at 1600 wide) ... am very proud of the fine work. This was produced 90% in Photoshop, with just a tiny bit of painting done in Krita (because it has a brush that Photoshop doesn't; if you have the right .abr brushes in your Photoshop, you could do the whole thing in Photoshop).

Then, this one below is the reverse: 95% done in Krita, with just a little bit of work done in Photoshop for the same reason: a specific brush I wanted to use:

Krita painting: something like oils or acrylic
This one (Stag at Dawn) is much more like a work in oil or acrylic, not at all like watercolor. With the watercolor -- digitally -- you're pouring in layers and layers of semi-opaque "washes" to get a cumulative result. With this one, you're spattering tons of paint onto the digital canvas, all at full opacity, layer after layer of texture to come up with a final result. I'm actually very pleased with this one; but the technique is a lot more time-consuming than the digital watercolor technique. Will save this for projects that either warrant the extra work, or are superbly suited to the process.

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