Tag Archives: alien

Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun

Set the Controls for the Heart of the SunI’ve been wanting to do an abstract piece for some time.  I love the way this came out.  I’ll definitely be doing more art like this in the future.

Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun BTS wireframeThere’s not much to say about this piece. It’s pretty straight forward.  The light is from the HDMI which is essentially a gradient with a bright spot that becomes the “sun.”  The gradient did create a very slight banding across the sky and I had to bring the piece into photoshop to add some noise to try and smooth it out.  That was the only postwork I did in Photoshop.  You can still see the banding a bit but it’s much better than it was.  You can see the grain actual size behind the mountain in the color correction image if you click to embiggen it.

Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun BTS ccI tried to make the ground look like ice by playing with the Metallic Flakes Weight setting in the Surfaces tab.  All in all I’m very happy with this one.

Created in DAZ Studio 4.9
Rendered with Iray
Minor post in Photoshop
Color Correction in Lightroom

Figures used:
Blank Boi
Planet X-3
Mec4d PBS Shaders vol.2 for Iray
Wireframe and Hologram Shaders

 

Who Are You?

Prints are available on my Deviant Art profile:
http://ericsusch.deviantart.com/art/Who-Are-You-612998410

Who Are You?This is an update of the first CGI image I ever completed in DAZ Studio.  Back then I didn’t know how to do lighting so I moved the character into the lights that were already pre-built into the set.  This is the original:

v6 test 09 cam 01It took me days to place the character properly and learn how to aim a camera and render.  The image is dark and I’ve grown to hate it as I’ve become more experienced.  And so, like George Lucas, I decided to go back and change my earlier work to add new characters and “make it better.”

Back to the Beginning

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 back then.  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.

v6 15 cam100 possible angle v6 15 cam103 possible angle v6 15 cam101 possible angleThe 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.

v6 12 cam07 00 amb key 2 meters around character 100 percent + amb fill 40 percent v6 14 character ambientIt 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.

v6 15 back wall 01 v6 15 back wall 02Know Yourself

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.

Not What I Thought 2016 BTS 00 lightwaveI encourage everyone to do this at least once.  Open up a really old project and see how you used to work.  See how you used to think.  You may learn something from yourself.

Who Are You?Created in DAZ Studio 4.5 and 4.9
Rendered with 3Delight
Color Correction in Lightroom

Figures used:
Victoria 6
Liquid Halo On Sky 16 for Genesis
Grey Alien for Genesis 3 Female
Sci-Fi Corridor 2013

Alien Avatar

Aien AvatarI started a facebook page for my artistic work several years ago.  Ever since then I’ve wondered how to separate what I post to my personal profile, which I keep essentially public, and what I post to my page.  After years I still haven’t figured it out.  The page is reserved for my work and general SciFi culture, but I also post that stuff to my personal profile too, so I end up cross sharing a lot which I hate.

It’s easy to get confused between the profiles so I make sure they at least have different avatars.  I created this one similar to my new personal avatar but with an alien.  I won’t know what to post where, but at least I’ll know who I am when I’m posting!

Eye Light

I had to light this differently from my personal avatar.  Usually I go for the control of spotlights but for this I needed something to reflect in the big black eyes.  I lit this image solely with a skydome that surrounded the entire scene.  Since that put too much light on the back panel, I then modified the surface and made it darker, so it would look similar to the original background.

Created in DAZ Studio 4.9
Rendered with Iray
Color Correction in Lightroom

Figures used:
Grey Alien for Genesis 3 Female

My Only Hope Is an Alien Weapon

My Only Hope Is an Alien WeaponI started this scene with the intent of making a simple header for my facebook page.  A reclining figure fit the aspect ratio so I started there.  The rest came from that.

I also decided to use this piece as my first serious plunge into DAZ Studio’s new Iray render engine.  I have been avoiding Iray since my first experience showed a significant increase in render times.  I was right to be afraid.  The original render of the image above took 24 hours to cook.  But I’m skipping ahead.

A New Facebook Header

For the lighting I decided to keep things as simple as possible and use the light built into the ceiling of the set.  I changed the light fixture material to emissive and started the guesswork of how bright to make it.

Zorn BTS ceiling lightBeing a newbie, it took me awhile experimenting with the various controls.  The f/stop in the camera doesn’t effect the exposure, only the depth of field but unlike 3Delight, there are exposure controls called tone mapping in the Iray render tab.  For some reason the defaults are shutter speed 1/128, f/stop 8, and ISO 100.  It seems to me that would give you a dark photo even outdoors in bright sunlight.  I’m also not sure why you would change one setting or another.  If changing the f/sop doesn’t change the DOF and raising the ISO doesn’t increase grain then why have different settings?

I’ve seen a few online tutorials that say you should raise the luminance of your indoor lights into the millions of lumens.  That is extremely bright and seems wrong to me.  Why have real world units like lumens with no connection to real world light levels?  Anyway, I spent a day fiddling with all the various controls and eventually settled on something that looked properly exposed.  In the end I decided to follow the advice of the tutorials.  I kept the render exposure settings (tone mapping) at default and set the ceiling material to 2,000,000 cd/m^2 luminance units, which is excessively bright for room lighting.  But the final image looks correct.

Fill Light

Since the light is all top down and my character is wearing dark clothing I needed a little fill for the underside of his body.  At first I tried using a spot light.

Zorn BTS spot fillFor some reason the emissive mesh lights do not show when you are in working mode in DAZ Studio, only the regular lights do.  So to balance the mesh ceiling light with the spot fill I had to render each time I adjusted the light.  This became quite tedious since you really couldn’t see any of the nuance in the test render before ten minuets or so.  Here’s an example of a screen test render after about six minutes.  It’s still hard to tell what’s going on in the dark areas.  (Click to embiggen and see the grain.)

Zorn BTS grainy full with timeI abandoned the spotlight fill idea and tried what I would do in real life in this situation, which was to use a white bounce card.

Zorn BTS white cardIt worked but unlike real life I wasn’t able to subtly position the card to get the reflection going exactly where I wanted, again because there isn’t any live feedback from the overhead emissive  light.  My character was still slightly dark on the bottom but I fixed that in color correction.

Facebook Render

My first renders for the 851×315 facebook header ended up a little grainy with the default settings so I raised the max render time and max samples and was able to get a final result with 95% convergence.  I think this took a couple of hours.  I don’t remember.  All I remember is that it took a lot longer than I thought it would for such a small resolution.  My system can render the same 851×315 scene in 3Delight in a minute or two.

My Only Hope Is an Alien WeaponAfter I posted the image to facebook my wife CAT mentioned was that the red in the back might be too similar to the orange in the character.  Since I wanted to eventually render this scene again at high-rez and make something suitable for framing, I also decided to try and change the red elements in the set to blue.

Paint the Set

Up to now I have avoided directly editing the textures in a model mainly because there are so many other things I have to learn in CGI work.  I’m very familiar with photoshop editing.

Zorn BTS blue texturesChanging the color of the background set surface textures was easy although a simple color conversion left the set a soft baby blue which didn’t really fit the theme of a gun battle.

Zorn BTS white card 2Individually adjusting the darkness of the various blue elements I was able to balance things the way I wanted.

Zorn BTS blue redAt this point I set a new camera with an appropriate aspect ratio, set the resolution to 10K and hit render.

One Day Later…

As I mentioned above, I rendered the 10,000 x 6667 image for a full twenty-four hours.  Well, I should say the FINAL render was twenty-four hours.  I did a lot of test renders at various resolutions including 10K, 8K, 4K, and 1080HD.  This took a few days.  Most of the tests I set to time out at fifteen hours since that’s already more than “overnight.”  They were all a little grainy but not bad, perhaps similar to something shot on film.  I was able to get 95% convergence in fifteen and a half hours at 1920×1080 HD resolution.  That’s the resolution I would use for animation and that’s just way too long.

This picture shows the grain at about twenty minutes into one of my Iray render tests, which is about how long one of my 10K 3Delight renders takes.  I believe this one was 8K.  (Click to embiggen)

Zorn BTS grainy faceI’m hoping that there will eventually be a few ways to speed this up.  I’m guessing that the emissive lighting used here takes a lot longer to render than lighting with spot lights.  I haven’t tested that yet though.  I could also throw more graphics hardware at the problem but my computer is no slouch as it is.  All the work I’m describing here is on a dual eight core 3.1 GHz Intel Xeon processor system with 128 GB RAM and an nVidia Quadro K5000 with 4 GB RAM.  The render logs say my CPU’s are doing a little less than half the work so I’m guessing installing two more graphics cards (maybe nVidia GTX 980s?) could double the speed.  So that means a 24 hour render could be done in 12 hours, still a long overnight render.  And how much heat will build up in the case with three graphics cards?  I don’t know.  I need to do more testing.

The Final Picture

The final render is still a bit grainy even after cooking a full 24 hours.  Click the image below to see the 10K image at 1:1 pixel ratio on the left.  The complete image, however, has enough resolution that it looks pretty good.  I’m quite happy with the light too.  I didn’t do much color correction on this one, just brightened up the shadows and color a bit.

Zorn BTS lightroomIray is still a big question mark for me.  I got into DAZ Studio because it made CGI easy which I felt could make it possible for one person to do short animation projects.  Iray makes everything harder.  It takes a lot more time to light.  You have to essentially work in the dark if you are using emissive mesh lights.  You have to futz more with all the material settings on the models.  And the render time is a killer, not only at the end but throughout the process as you are changing things and checking your work.  For my first steps into animation Iray is probably going to have to take a back seat.

Created in DAZ Studio 4.8
Texture editing in photoshop
Rendered with Iray
Color Correction in Lightroom

Figures used:
Zorn
NWX Section 18