Victoria 6 and 7 comparison

DAZ3D released a new model yesterday, Victoria 7.  It signals the beginning of a new generation of figures, Genesis 3.  Here’s a quick comparison of the new model to the old Victoria 6.

Victoria 6 and 7 comparisonFor this comparison I set V6 (on the left) with pose #4 from ‘Perfect 10′ Standing Poses for Genesis 2 Female and converted the mirror pose for V7 via the new Genesis 2 to Genesis 3 Pose Converter. It wasn’t 100 percent. I had to pull the right hand out of V7′s side and her left foot was in the floor a bit but other than that it was a close conversion. The V6 pose is unmodified except for the head turn.

Hongyu’s Bikini for V6 was auto fit to V7 and that too is a little off as you can see. Pyrit Hair for Genesis 2 Female is auto fit to V7 as well and that seems fine. (Note, the weirdness on V7′s left wrist isn’t a problem with the model, it’s the shadow of the bikini tie.)

V7′s expression is using the new Genesis 3 Female Expressions (100% happy and 10% excitement.) It looks good and there are lots of controls to play with. V7′s eyes were horribly cross-eyed however, maybe from the pose conversion? I don’t know. I had to work with pointing V7′s eyes quite a bit. I don’t think I got it resolved. Right now her eyes are pointed at an object in the sky and they look better but still a bit cross-eyed.

Figures posed in DAZ Studio 4.8.  I used the V6 Belle all (default skin) materials for V6 and the default all 3Delight materials for V7. Rendered in 3Delight with no postwork.

I Spit My Last Breath At Thee

I Spit My Last Breath At TheeMy wife CAT suggested the idea of a man fighting a dragon some time ago.  It’s been banging around in my head but I wasn’t sure how to compose the characters in the heat of battle and still see both of their faces.  I had a few false starts that really didn’t work but then DAZaholics, one of my favorite groups over on Deviant Art, announced a weekly challenge with the theme: Trial By Combat.  I strapped myself to a chair Monday morning with the goal of figuring this one out.  Apparently the challenge worked because by Monday evening the pieces were all fitting together quite nicely.  I had the basic construction of the piece, but if I wanted to enter the contest I would have to finish and upload it by Thursday 7AM Pacific time.

Vertical Integration

That first day I focused mostly on the character poses, facial expressions, and camera position.  I wanted to try a vertical frame which I had never done before.  As a filmmaker I’m used to a horizontal frame and I wasn’t sure if I could make it work.  I also wanted to keep the shot as close as possible for the most dramatic impact.  Ultimately that meant losing the shield off the edge of frame but It felt so much more dramatic in close.

dragon BTS 00I’m spending more and more time in these pieces getting the expressions right.  It’s not easy.  There are hundreds of morph sliders to adjust and it’s hard to get a realistic expression on a human.  Lots of tedious work with breaks to keep perspective.  Much of the dragon’s expression is due to the shape of the head so I concentrated on that, and getting the eyes right.  For our hero, I just kept at it over the three days.

dragon BTS 01One Light (or six)

The light was tricky.  It’s outdoors so it’s basically just one light, the Sun.  I wanted to dramatically rake the light across the guy’s chest but at the same time I needed to get the light in his eyes and illuminate the dragon’s face as well.  I found a position that worked but it took some doing including adjusting the characters a bit.  Unfortunately that left the sword arm in darkness under the wing.  To bring it out a bit I shot a warm spotlight up from below simulating  a reflection from the ground.  I set another cool spotlight from the left to simulate skylight.  That highlighted the ribbing on the dragon’s wing and added a nice rim light on the side of the guy’s chest.

The dragons eyes are very deep set.  It was impossible to get the sun in there so I also aimed two spotlights at just the eyeballs.  I’ve been doing this for awhile now, especially with robots.  It gives the eyes a nice glow.

dragon BTS eyelightsWhat the hell is a Cucoloris?

Another first for me in this piece was the use of a “cookie.”  I added a dapply light grayscale image I found to the Opacity Strength of a plane primitive (in the surfaces tab) and used it to break up the light on the dragon’s torso.  This darkened the area behind the guy’s left shoulder and side making him pop foward.  A few other “flags” and “nets” (semi-transparent planes) took care of other hot spots on the dragon.

dragon BTS cookie

Battle Damage

The body scars and blood smears were several separate add on products I bought at DAZ.  They had a lot of customization in terms of the types of injuries, color and size, but not much when it came to placement.  I would have liked some scratches on the right thigh and I needed more at the belt line where the dragon was grabbing him.  Maybe there’s a way to move the scratches but I think that would end up being a huge manual slider nightmare.  Anyway they worked for the most part.

I also used a Vascularity product to make it look like our hero was straining and his veins were popping out.  It caused a lot of problems though.  The veins kept popping through the clothing, especially the right arm and leg straps.  The veins screwed up the scratches and blood smears too.  Lots of fiddling with tons of sliders eventually fixed all that up.  It was worth it though, the veins really sell it.

dragon BTS vascularityLeft-wing Decisions

I spent a lot of time debating the dragon’s wing at the top right.  I set it there to look like our hero was surrounded.  I think it also works moved out of the way with a clear sky above, with our hero looking for a path to heaven, if you will.  It’s certainly simpler that way…  I don’t know.  I’m still second-guessing my decision to leave it.  I just hope the wing isn’t too distracting hanging up there.

dragon BTS lightroomThe End of the Line

I eventually stayed up all Wednesday night fiddling with details.  It was starting to look quite good and I didn’t want to upload it before I had smoothed out all the problem areas.  I managed to render it out of DAZ Studio, color correct it quickly in Lightroom, and upload it to Deviant Art an hour before the deadline!  What do you think?

The Creation of ATOM (hands)

After Man destroys the planet Earth with nuclear weapons, God creates machine life to take his place.

The Creation of ATOM - handsIn light of the close up experiment I did last week, this one was a no-brainier.  Once again I didn’t just crop the original image.  I went back into the 3D space, set another camera in the exact position, and composed a new shot with a longer focal length.  That allowed me to create a new 10K render and also control the focus on the mountains in the background.

As I was color correcting this piece I noticed that you could see a reflection of God’s face in the machine-man’s middle finger.  Not sure what that means but it’s obviously important.

Created in DAZ Studio 4.8 beta
Rendered with 3Delight
Color Correction in Lightroom

Figures used:
bot Genesis
Lilith 6
Dry Mud Desert

The Creation of ATOM

I Was Fluid, Like Water (close up)

I was fluid, like water (close up)I’m frustrated with my work.  In most of my previous CGI pieces I started out with an idea that should be dynamic but ended up with something less exciting.  Most of my ideas have become medium to long shots of characters just standing there.  If I was directing a movie, this is when I would punch in for a close up to capture more of the emotion.

As an experiment, I’ve taken a previous piece I Was Fluid, Like Water and created a close up of the face.  It looks like a cropping of the previous image but that’s not how I created it.  I went back into the 3D space, set another camera in the exact position, and composed a new shot with a longer focal length.  That allowed me to create a new 10K render and not lose any of the small details like the stitching on the jacket.

The hair is still a problem, maybe even more so in the close-up.  I fixed it up a little in Photoshop but it’s still kinky and unrealistic.  The overall style is on the “doll-like anime” side with fake eyebrows etc. so maybe the kinky hair is OK.  What do you think?  Which do you like better, the original long shot or the close up?

I was fluid, like water

A Collection of Rusty Robots

Can six rusty robots fight crime without driving each other crazy?

A Collection of Rusty RobotsThis one was complicated. Six characters and twenty-five lights.

I was trying to emulate a team freeze frame at the end of an anime intro. I wanted to capture the uniqueness of each character. I even wrote out a short description of each robot to help me differentiate them. Looking at this piece now though, I think it ended up a little too “characters just standing there.” It could do with a few more action poses, but it’s done now so here it is.

I’m going to post my usual more in depth behind-the-scenes info but that will have to wait a few days since this piece is so complicated. It’ll probably end up as multiple posts. For now I’ll leave you with the character descriptions I wrote. Let me know what you think!

Meet the team!

(from left to right)

Gomer is a wise guy. He always has an opinion and he doesn’t take lip from anybody. He thinks he’s the leader but nobody else listens to him. When attacking a bad guy’s hideout the others always make him crawl in thru the air ducts which pisses him off. He thinks Brigitte is “hot stuff.”

Barney is a “can do” fella. He can fix just about anything. Knows how to make explosives too. He gets the job done while the rest are goofing around. Currently he’s in a romantic relationship with Alice.

Alice is a fighter. She can swiftly and silently take out a whole gang of bad guys. She’s a bit fussy though and, unlike the others, she likes to stay clean. She avoids the general dirt and grime of crime fighting. She’s in love with Barney even though he always seems to be a bit dirty. It’s OK though because she’s confident she can change him.

Jim is the leader of the team. He’s a powerful warrior but is totally lost trying to get the rest of the team to work together. He thinks Alice is his girlfriend even though she wants nothing to do with him. Alice thinks Joe is too full of himself.

Brigitte is a master of disguise and can wear a rubber mask to look human. She doesn’t really enjoy fighting crime but she hangs around because she likes Jim. Gomer is in love with Bridget but she can’t stand him.

Gronk (AKA 5) has a powerful Plasma Death Ray to blast holes in buildings and blow up cars. He wants to do more but doesn’t really have the ability. He trys.

Buy a print here –> http://www.deviantart.com/print/38109712/

Welcome to DAZneyland

Welcome to DAZneylandAfter walking for ages, our hero finds a curious place with two dimensional beings.

I put this image together mainly as my first test of the new nVidia Iray rendering engine in the just released DAZ Studio 4.8 beta.  The changes at first glance seem a bit like re-inventing the wheel but I’ve just started working with it and I’m still finding my way around.

I was initially attracted to DAZ Studio because of it’s simplicity.  Throw some twenty dollar models in a scene, light it properly, hit render, and it looks fantastic.  This new render engine seems much more complicated and I’m not sure what you get for all that extra work.  I’ve seen others rave that the renders look more “real” but so far I haven’t seen any comparisons where the Iray version is significantly better.  In fact in many comparisons I’ve seen the Iray version is significantly worse but it’s still early days and people are still learning.

One problem I’m seeing immediately with this new engine is the render time.  The very simple 3D scene above took about an hour to render at 4K (4000 x 2667) which is quite long for my relatively powerful system.  For comparison some of my previous (more complicated) scenes took anywhere from fifteen to thirty minutes to render at 10K.  Maybe I’m doing something wrong but I don’t see how.  This piece has only three elements: one character (with no clothes,) a sky dome, and two flats with photos on them.  This needs more testing but these types of render times just won’t work for me, especially when I get into animation.

I also had trouble with the sky dome.  I had to work quite hard in Lightroom to eliminate significant color banding across the sky in the picture above.  Everything was set to the default so I’m not sure how I could have avoided this.

As far as the rest of the picture quality, we’ll have to see.  The rendering technology is different and for a fair comparison I’ll need to get more proficient with all the new settings.  I’d like to see the best this new technology can do and compare it to the best of the old engine.  That’s the only true comparison and that’s going to take some time.  The old 3Delight render engine is still available in the new version of DAZ Studio so I’ll probably keep using that for my serious pieces while I continue further testing of the Iray engine.

Created in DAZ Studio 4.8 beta
Rendered with nVidia Iray
Color Correction in Lightroom

Figures used:
Infernal Behemoth
DAZneyland

The Creation of ATOM

Prints of this image are available on my Deviant Art page:
http://ericsusch.deviantart.com/art/The-Creation-of-ATOM-516835191

The Creation of ATOMAfter Man destroys the planet Earth with nuclear weapons, God creates machine life to take his place.

This CGI piece took me awhile. It’s based on the The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo, from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican.  CAT and I were recently in Rome and were able to spend five minutes in the Sistine Chapel admiring all the artwork.  You couldn’t take any pictures of course, since the Japanese own the copyright.  (The Vatican is a strange place.)  So when we got back I decided to make my own creation imagery to hang on the wall.

I used this project to learn how to pose characters manually.  The poses were iconic and predetermined so I didn’t have to worry what was going to look good, just how to get the characters into position.  In the end It took some doing to get everything adjusted in three dimensions and looking correct for the camera.

Creación_de_Adám

I don’t think a man can actually lean back in the real world the way Adam does in the original, at least an android can’t.  I have several of the robot joints pushed way beyond their limit and still he isn’t really in the same position.  It’s close enough to get the idea though.  The posing process was long and tedious but ultimately rewarding.  I’m especially happy with the hands in the center.The Creation of ATOM - handsI had problems again with kinky hair.  The short style I chose was an older mesh and didn’t have the smoothing control I used in the last piece.  I then discovered that the smoothing controls can be added to any object by selecting it and accessing the DAZ Studio menu in the upper right of the scene tab.  Select Edit / Apply Smoothing Modifier and then the smoothing controls will appear in the object’s Parameters tab.  This fixed the kinks but I still had hair shadow trouble.  Some of the underlying shadows were ending abruptly probably because some of the hair was poking into the skull.  Adjusting the hair didn’t resolve the problem.

The Creation of ATOM - bad hair 03To fix the funky shadows I rendered the hair again without shadows.  I then layered this underneath the head and used a matte in Photoshop to erase only the parts of the hair where I wanted to remove the shadows.  This left the shadows at the edges and bottom of the hair but eliminated the distracting ones deep within.

The biggest problem I had was the horrible, horrible dress.  I purchased and tried several Greek/Roman toga-esque dresses which were similar to what God is wearing in the original piece.  I really liked a dress that had one long sleeve but unfortunately it covered the wrong arm and I couldn’t figure out how to flip it.  This next best alternative was nice looking but turned out to be a disaster.  It had a million shaping controls but I couldn’t get it to fit correctly without the mesh bunching, tearing, and dripping all along the chest.  It was the only dress I had that looked right so I grit my teeth and fixed it with the spot healing brush in Photoshop.  That kind of fix isn’t going to work when I get into animation.

The Creation of ATOM - bad dress 03I struggled with the background again too.  The original idea was a destroyed city like after an earthquake or a nuclear attack.  It was way too busy and difficult to separate the characters, especially the chrome of the android, from the background.  There was just too much detail in the rubble.

creation of ADAM BTS 04CAT suggested I try a desert background.  I wasn’t sure.  I didn’t want it to look like an unrelated background photo.  After I tried it I changed my mind because the background became a metaphor to me.  It suggests nuclear testing, or maybe a Mad Max type social collapse.  What do you think?

The Creation of ATOMCreated in DAZ Studio
Postwork (fixing hair and dress) in Photoshop
Color Correction in Lightroom

Figures used:
bot Genesis
Lilith 6
City Ruins: Vehicles
Dry Mud Desert

Prints of this image are available on my Deviant Art page:
http://ericsusch.deviantart.com/art/The-Creation-of-ATOM-516835191

The Space Between Us

Prints of this image are available on my Deviant Art page.

The Space Between Us

I’ve started working on a few CGI images with multiple characters but this is the first one I’ve been able to finish.  Right now I have five or six projects that are stuck at various stages.  One thing I’ve realized is I’m having tremendous difficulty with backgrounds.  I’m consciously starting my scenes with character ideas first because I see that as the most important element in the image. I then end up trying eight or nine “sets” for the background and nothing seems to fit.  It’s easy to move entire sets in and out in virtual space and try different things but I guess my brain just doesn’t work that way since it’s not how you make movies in the real world.  All my creative experience starts with the location first, then the actors come in to block the scene, and finally the camera positions are locked down.  I think I’m going to have to change my workflow and do it the way I know.

the space between us BTS extI originally envisioned this scene as an exterior, but that didn’t work so I tried several interiors including this space bedroom complete with professional video tape rack.

the space between us BTS space bedroomI eventually settled on the interior of a shuttle type spaceship.

the space between us BTS vanguardYou may have noticed I originally had a different character for the boy.

the space between us BTS space bedroom2He was anime style but a bit too realistic for skinny toon/anime girl (Keiko 6.)  Modifying a straight up toon style boy character (Animated Shapes for G2M) with a different skin texture and bigger eyes created a figure more in line with the anime style of the girl.

I had that kinky hair problem that I’ve mentioned before.  You can see it here above the right eye.

kinky hair detail

I asked about it on a DAZ facebook group and there is a fix!  There’s a hidden control in the hair parameters called “smoothing iterations.”  Increase it a bit and the kinkiness goes away.  I found that you should only increase the smoothing just enough to solve the problem because higher numbers thin out the hair considerably making your character look like a post-apocalyptic radiation victim!  (…which, come to think of it, may be a hair style I need some day.)

the space between us BTS aux viewerWhile working on this piece I started using the new Aux viewport in DAZ Studio 4.7.  You can set it to continuously render so that, as you are working it will keep updating.  It sort of works.  My processors and fans were churning hard as it was trying to keep up with the changes.  It’s useable for lighting, only re-rendering the area of the picture effected when you move a light.  For moving models around the space it’s not as good.  The screen update gets slow and you end up waiting a lot.

The Space Between UsAll in all I’m very happy with this piece.  It’s my first with two characters interacting in a two shot which is more like a movie and less like a character just standing there.

Prints of this image are available on my Deviant Art page:
http://ericsusch.deviantart.com/art/The-Space-Between-Us-513716053

This World is MINE!

Prints of this image are available on my Deviant Art page.This World is MINE!

In keeping with my goal of making my images look like stills from a motion picture, I set the camera on this piece low with a long lens.  If I were shooting this as a film that’s what I would do.  Unfortunately that makes the background environment flatten and, in this particular image, I think it makes it look like a layered composite over a still.  I spent a lot of time trying to adjust the depth of field and the camera angle to make it look “whole” but I think I was ultimately unsuccessful.  There may be several reasons for this but I think it may be partially psychological.  In a film this style is common and accepted without question, but here we know beforehand that the image is synthetic and therefore our eye is on the lookout for signs of fakery.

One thing I learned from my early experience with actual physical model making is that a shallow depth of field will make the model look small, regardless of how well it’s done.  You always need everything in focus to fool the eye and make it look bigger, otherwise the eye will notice other cues and the actual scale will be revealed.

I really don’t want to be limited in that way with my CGI work.  I need to find a way to use a shallow depth of field and make it look right, especially on medium and close shots.

Rendered in DAZ Studio
Color correction in Lightroom

Prints are available on my Deviant Art page.  Hang one on your wall today!

I Was Fluid, Like Water

Prints of this image are available on my Deviant Art page.I was fluid, like water

Looking back, my previous CGI images have all been very static, essentially characters just standing there.  I wanted this one to be dynamic!  I imagined something less realistic looking with an Anime flavor that said, “Stand by for ACTION!”

I also wanted to keep it bright.  Almost all my previous images have dark low key lighting, mainly because I like the visual drama that creates.  This needed to be bright not only because of the comic book animation inspiration but also because I wanted to offer this image as a print.  I wasn’t sure how well my previous dark images would translate to a printed photo on the wall.

To create drama in the background I wanted a long space corridor.  With a wide camera lens the one point perspective could simulate a stylized anime background action burst.  I wanted it to look like a comic book splash page.  I imagined a long space hallway like the white corridor on the rebel blockade runner at the beginning of the original Star Wars.Star Wars white hall

I tried every hallway set, factory, train station, and urban exterior I have, SciFi or otherwise, but nothing really worked.  I did have a modular SciFi construction kit with various wall and floor panels so I decided to build the corridor I needed myself.I was fluid like water BTS set building

It had to be quite long and recede far into the distance.  I tried many different combinations of the panels but most of them didn’t work.  I found that even slight raised details changed the character of the panel lines when viewed edge on, especially way in the back.  Getting strong unbroken lines down the corridor was difficult and took a long time.I was fluid like water BTS camera setup

Whenever I tried something and it didn’t work I had to propagate a change down the entire length of the hallway.  Fortunately most of the pieces in the construction kit were similar sizes so it became a matter of knowing the offsets of sections further down the hall and simply replacing the objects.  Relatively easy but tedious.I was fluid like water BTS blue walls on top

In the end one panel with two blue painted lines became the theme of the entire space.  The blue was similar to the blue in the “spacesuit” I had picked out for the girl so that helped.I was fluid like water BTS long hall

Initially I had built the lighting into the walls of the set.  I had placed small “practical” lights along the top angled section of both walls. Extending those lights down the entire length of the hall created an even overall “hall light.”  It worked OK but became unwieldy when making so many changes to get the walls correct. There ended up being over a hundred of these small lights that had to be moved every time there was a change, so I dumped them.I was fluid like water BTS first hall slice

I decided to try the Advanced Ambient Light by Age of Armour that had been recommended to me awhile back.  An ambient light is able to bring up the light level of everything in the scene all at once.  I was leery of using it because it creates a very flat and unrealistic light, but it did exactly what was needed for the background down the long hall.

The ambient light lit up the main character too but the quality of light was just so blah.  I added seven very specific spot lights on the girl to punch it up.  These lights aren’t bright but they’re angled in such a way to model the face, hands, legs, etc. and give the character more dimension.  Each light is subtle but all of them together make quite a bit of difference.I was fluid like water BTS spot lights 640

Setting them was tricky because if you weren’t careful you could end up with some crazy shadows on the background.  The lights needed to be very focused.

After rendering out of DAZ studio at 10K, post work on the image was minimal.  I fixed a few minor problems with the hair in Photoshop and did a little bit of color correction in Lightroom.  What do you think? I was fluid like water BTS lightroom

Prints are available on my Deviant Art page.  Hang one on your wall today!