Tag Archives: combat

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:
NWX Section 18

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 dragon’s 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 forward.  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?

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

Models used (from DAZ3D.com):
Gianni 6
DAZ Dragon 3
Peter for G2M
Dry Mud Desert
Body Scars for G2
Dirt and Blood for genesis and G2
Fantasy Weapons collection 3