Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Adventures in IRay, Terragen, Bryce and ...!

Yes, you're right: that's trusty old Michael 4 -- "The Man in the Hat," as you might know him from a fair number of renders on this blog! The difference? It's an IRay render. Turns out, IRay is actually built into DAZ Studio these days, which is neat. Also neat is that is does 80% of the textural work automatically ... however, the last 20% is stuffs up royally, and unless I'm missing something major, there aren't any controls in DAZ Studio 4 to fine-tune IRay: you need to drop US$50 and get IRay Studio, a plug-in. Well ... if I'm going to drop A$75, I'll probably opt for Reality, which is an interface I known and trust from past experience. IRay is fast, sure: the render, above, took about 50 minutes with a lot of stuff running in the background. It'd have been faster if I committed the whole computer to the render. But the new Reality is supposed to be up to 20x faster than the version I was using years ago, so it's a safe bet, these two, IRay and Reality, are comparable. So --

First, today's new art:

Terragen: that took about half an hour. It's pretty simple, but quite effective. I need to jog my own memory on Terragen ... haven't done it in a month or two, and am starting to forget! I know I need to wrap my head around procedural terrains, then get into working with objects. Like trees and plants. Just a few experiments to see how long renders take, involving trees. If it pans out to a render taking three days and tying up the whole computer to get an image with a tree -- forget it. Won't know till I try, right? And ...

Bryce 7 Pro, and a rather nice abstract. No way will Bryce give me realistic landscapes, but by golly, you can make it render some very nice arty-tarty images. I like this kind of thing a lot. Must do more.

And then, I decided to put a couple of recent images through the IRay process to see what it can make of them. Here we go:

Now it's starting to get interesting ... though I have no control whatsoever over what IRay is doing at this point. This is "click and go" stuff. And IRay is making a mess of a lot of the textures: it was Photoshop to the rescue" to fix this picture, after it refused to "see" or "apply" the diffuse maps on the plants on the foreground. They were white plastic, when rendered -- so weird. Anyway, Photoshop fixed that and saved the picture. For comparison --

Left: IRay. Right: Raytrace
That's worth a look at large size. The other challenge about the IRay render of this was that Studio 4 couldn't find the sword of the tree ... I had to import those as OBJs. Which is easy, I guess, so -- no real problem. Just a few minutes' extra work. Quite impressed with the quality of the basic IRay render, though I also see the art value in the old fashioned raytrace. (Incidentally, that on the right is the raytrace from Studio 3. Interestingly, the deep shadow map image choice seems to have been deleted from the 3DLight engine built into Studio 4.10 -- with good reason. Its raytrace feature is FAST. I mean, lightning fast. Cool.)

Here's the recent "Jack," sent to IRay:

Not bad. Far from brilliant, because, as I said, I have zero control over the render engine: this is just "click and go," and Iray is utterly ignoring a lot of the mapping. The venous map on the Michael 4 has dropped out; it made a mess of the texture on the shirt (Photoshop to the rescue again), and I think the skin tones are washed out. It was an adventure getting this picture into Studio 4, in order to send it to IRay...

Problem 1: when Studio 4 opened the Studio 3 file, it left the hair behind! I did a test render to make sure it was worth going on, and when it was, I imported the hairdo as an OBJ. That's dead easy; but the next test render showed that Problem 2, adding an OBJ to the scene made the skin tones go utterly bananas in the raytrace. So I sent it to IRay and crossed fingers, and ... Problem 3, sure, IRay renders the skin fine with the OBJ-hair in place, but it makes a complete muck-up of the shirt. I gritted my teeth, finished out the render, put it in Photoshop and repaired it, to save it. Hmm.

Next thing I must learn is how to control the surfaces on IRay -- or make the decision: do I drop A$75 for IRay Studio, or for Reality? Because without one or the other, you'll get these problems all the time.

Before you get excited about the quality of the renders today -- hang on. First, these are auto-generated by the plugin, and they are NOT high-rez images. This one, below -- not my work: a catalog image from the DAZ store -- is a high-def image:

It's chalk and cheese. First, obviously, that's a Genesis 3 figure, whereas all I have to work with at the moment is Michael 4, because I am still waiting for help from Tech Support at DAZ. Right now, I cannot add content to Studio 4 ... any content at all. So all I'm doing is posing stuff in Studio 3, then opening it in Studio 4, giving it a tweak where possible (it seems not much is doable, when you're trying to interface with IRay without having the IRay Studio plugin), and then clicking "go." Sooo...

Suffice to say, there's a lot to learn, and/or a lot to buy. But I've made a start, and if Tech Support can get the SQL problem worked out, we'll be a step closer to having oars in water. At least I'll be able to work with a figure comparable to the one you see above. Till then, I can certainly get into the numbers and see if I can figure out how to configure a high-def render, rather than a "click and go" automatic one. And there are more problems beyond this --

Spent some fascinating (not!) hours on the forums, where people are screaming blue murder about not being able to install third party content into Studio 4. Hunh. About 70% of everything I have is third party, and if DAZ 4.10 won't load it ... well, we'll see. Maybe I can find a way.

The adventure continues...!
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