Friday, February 22, 2019

A French cafe, a mystery at Ponte Maggiore ... too many islands, but great clouds!

This was very nearly "the render that didn't happen" ... I knew that eventually I'd come up with a render that just could -- not -- be done. Or, not with my software and hardware! This seems to be it, because what you see here was composited from three layered images, when the original configuration stalled at 42% ... forever.

Initially, I had two buildings across the street, hit by spotlights; two walls to make a corner of a little French cafe; a transparent plane with bump map and reflection values set, to be the window glass; table and chair; bottle, glasses and plate, with transparency mapping on bottle and glasses; a Michael 4 (same dude as Amadeus, but with a honey matte on the Akaste hair); there was a lovely transparency map on the shirt too. It will render as a deep shadow map image, but as soon as you turn on raytracing, no joy. Soooo...

I took out everything but the buildings in the background, set lights and camera and rendered that, then re-imported the image as a backdrop and deleted the buildings. It still wouldn't render the remainder, so I did the bottle, glasses and food separately ... then did the table, chair and character against the backdrop -- with the window glass in place and reflecting ... and just pasted the bottle and glasses in!

Even then, it was an hour to raytrace the character, his hair, and the reflection in the glass, at which point I was so sick of this process, when the render turned out to be pretty awful, I almost chucked it in the bin. Sigh. Into Photoshop, and paint. And paint. And paint. And of course now I'm glad I did, because the nett result is rather good -- you just wouldn't believe how much painting it took to save it!

Harrumph. Anyway, this cafe scene came out of ideas spinning off a render I did yesterday that gave me phenomenal problems,  but was fixable inside the render:

The problem with the car was that it looked like a huge slab of plastic. The human eye expects to see reflections in highly-polished Duco, and there was nothing because, of course, the 3D stage is not the real world: there is nothing to be reflected. Soooo, I went in and used a photo of some buildings on the foreshore as a reflection map. Now the car looked like a bloody mirror. So I went back in and added a displacement map to make it look like there are the usual million tiny imperfections in the surface, which got rid of the mirror effect. Put in the sky image as the reflection map for the windows ... and so on, and on, and on. Aarrggh. In the end, it came out right, but ye gods--!! Admittedly, it is a very complex render, with a vast set.

And it got me thinking: there's a story in here! Someone went to meet a friend at the bridge on the canal, but all they found was a pair of women's fashion shoes, abandoned. Shook up, our hero goes to a nearby cafe to make a call, wait for a detective to arrive, and have a fortifying glass or two. Et voile. Thereby hangs a tale.

More misadventures than adventures in Terragen in the last day or two: island creation is giving me strife (or a challenge):

Safe to say, I'm not doing it right yet. There has to be a way, and I have a few ideas. It's not as simple as making very tall islands in a common "hightfield terrain," then flooding it: too many islands!!! And it's not as simple as making a "power fractal" terrain, slapping some heavy detailing on it to erode it or whatever ... again, you don't get one island, you get a thousand. I don't want a thousand. I want ONE. Tomorrow, I'll see if I can make a credible island in Bryce, export it as an OBJ (this much, I can do), then import it into Terragen (it should do this), and (the bold experiment) see if I can have Terragen apply its surface shaders to the OBJ island/terrain/mountain structure, to work up the color and texture. I don't know if Terragen will do this, but it ought to, and it's worth a shot! If not, well, back to the drawing board!

But this came out reasonably well:

Same project as the "better" island scene, with the camera flown up to about 10,000 meters and tilted to look down on the clouds ... then, the sun repositioned for noon-ish, and evening. That's not too bad at all -- and I'm pleased to report, I'm doing this on my own, without chickening out and running back to the tutorials! Getting there. Slowly.
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