I’ve gone back to the beginning and updated the first CGI image I ever completed in DAZ Studio. Back then I didn’t know how to set lights so I moved the character into the lights that were already pre-built into the set. It took me hours to place the character properly and learn how to aim a camera and render. The images are dark and I’ve grown to hate them more and more as I’ve become more experienced.
To start, I loaded up the old project and continued right where I left off. As I re-familiarized myself with everything it became obvious how little I knew at the time. It was interesting to see how I solved problems a year and a half ago. I’m really deep into all the technical details now and the way I work today isn’t necessarily better, just more complicated. It was surprising.
I knew I wanted to add more light and make everything brighter, but what else? I hate pieces where people just stand there so I added another character for the girl to react to. She’s looking out a doorway so I put a little alien guy there who is startled by her.
I tried many camera angles to get the best interaction of the two characters but eventually decided to keep it wide and head on similar to the original. You need to see the distance between them for it to work. These are some of the test angles.
The last one isn’t bad but you can’t tell the alien is a tiny guy. I think you need to see that to understand he is scared. The middle one’s good too but you don’t get the sense of him coming around the corner.
Straight on wide shot seems the best but I still think it’s boring and too far away. Will have to work on that in another piece. For now it will have to do.
A Brighter Future
If I knew how to use an ambient light back when I originally rendered this scene it would have looked much better. I’m a big fan of the Advanced Ambient Light by Age of Armour. It’s the easiest fill light I’ve ever used and it renders fast. While I was playing around with it, I tried something new. I set three ambient lights in the scene. One was set to light everything overall like I usually do. The other two were placed very close to the characters with the light limited to their immediate area. That gave me the ability to adjust the brightness of each character and the background separately.
It worked out very well. The light from the stairs and the blue back light from the windows were still the main lights but the ambient lights in this configuration allowed for very fine brightness adjustment during the final tweaking. I’m going to use this technique whenever I work in 3Delight.
The Small Stuff Is Always the Hardest
The most difficult part of this re-imagining was actually the back wall. The set had a window that looked like a portal or hatch right where the lines on the floor converge at the back. It drew your eye right past the two characters to the window. I had to eliminate that panel and take a different wall from another part of the set and replace it. The other wall had a larger window that extended behind the corner so it wasn’t as distracting. Finding the right panel to use took some time. Adjusting the glossiness of the window and darkening it with a semi-transparent black plane helped too.
After struggling with the complexity of Iray for the past year it was a joy to build something in 3Delight again. You forget how simple it is. And that’s the key, isn’t it. Simplicity. Working in this old project, I was surprised how much I was able to do originally with how little I knew. I didn’t have a lot of options – not a lot of knowledge about surfaces, materials, render settings, shaders, UV maps, morphs, or even lights. I didn’t have all those things in my head slowing down my creative process. I just did it whatever way I could figure out in the moment. I’ve forgotten what that’s like.
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Sci-Fi Corridor 2013