Tag Archives: iray

Mister Zero

Mister ZeroMy eternal quest for the perfect CGI avatar continues.  I’ve grown tired of my current avatar artwork.  People think it’s a picture of me and I have to explain that it’s CGI.  I need something that doesn’t look human.  Perhaps something creepy…

What to do?

Mannequins and faceless people have always freaked me out ever since I was young.  I attribute that to this scene from Star Trek…

charliexhd487crop…and the Anything People on Sesame Street.

A freaky “no face” avatar would be cool and no one would think it was supposed to be me.  Perfect!

Building a Mannequin

I started with a faceless character model I had and I replaced the skin like surface with a different shader.  I experimented with many, many different surfaces trying to find something cool.

no face shader test 01I tried cloth, wood, metal, rock, plastic, glass, grunge, paint, rubber, wax, anything I could think of.

no face shader test 02I tried to avoid chrome because I had done that several times in the past but in the end I caved, because I really liked this particular dusty anodized aluminum surface.

no face 02 chrome headI posed the figure tipping his hat with a 1960s fedora.  I wanted him to be creepy and friendly at the same time.  A sloppy overcoat and loose necktie seemed to fit so I added that too.

no face 01 test 03 dome and sceneGive that man a hand

The fingers of the alien no-face character were creepy long, which looks OK but I like to make everything difficult so I decided to try and replace the hand with one that was human sized.

To do that I had to add another entire human sized figure and position the hand in the same place, grabbing the hat.  It took awhile but I got it into position.  Then I “turned off” (made invisible) the rest of that human character.  For the no-face character I turned off the hand.  The sleeve of the jacket was just long enough to hide the fact that the arm and hand didn’t meet exactly correctly.  Everything came together when I layered the same aluminum shader on the human hand.

hand shader tile 08 looks goodDramatic Light

The lighting was difficult because of the reflective metal on the face.  I ended up with a lot more spotlights than usual for a simple head shot just to get the reflections right.  There are seven spot lights on the character and one blue spot on the background, which is just a gray wall panel.

no face BTS lights After rendering it out I pumped up the color a little in Lightroom…

Mr Zero cc lightroom BTS…and uploaded the avatar to Facebook.

facebook avatar

Unfortunately I saw almost immediately that you couldn’t tell what the picture was at very small sizes.  It was the high contrast lighting, the same problem I had before on my first CGI avatar.  It looked fine at larger sizes but when it was super tiny the bright shine of the face looked like an unrecognizable white blob on a blue background.

Flat Light

I went back into DAZ Studio and tried to even out the lighting.  The best way was to set up a few more lights to fill in the dark spots.  I didn’t like it as much when I was done but I rendered it out anyway just to test it on facebook.  This is the “flat light” version.Mister Zero (flat light)It worked better at small sizes as you can see but still not as well as other avatars I’ve created.  Humans are programed to recognize faces easily, which is why facebook can make their avatars so small.  I’m asking people to recognize “no face” so I guess that’s more difficult.

facebook flat light avatar 02So it sort of works at the tiny sizes and doesn’t look as good as it could at larger sizes.  I guess that makes this avatar attempt a bit of a failure.  I still like it though, so I’m going to keep it for a time before I try again.  I can also upload the first version to other sites that don’t have such small avatars.  What do you think?

Mister ZeroCreated in DAZ Studio 4.9
Rendered with Iray
Color Correction in Lightroom

Figures used:
The Slim Man for Genesis 3 Male
Mec4d PBS Shaders vol.3 for Iray
Amazing Hat
Eldritch Seeker

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

 

Don’t Dream It, Be It

Don't Dream It, Be ItThis piece started out as a test for some new models that I purchased but I liked the way it looked so I finished it into something a bit more than a test.  Unfortunately it ended up as a character just standing there, which I try to avoid.  I like more of a story, more action, but this is what it is.  I do like the curve of the ship in the background.  I suppose that’s something.

Star Slayer in SciFi corridor A 01 cam02 aiko 00This is an early version with different hair and environment.  You can also see that the stomach panal on the suit is a lighter color.  In the final composition I thought it distracted from the face so I darkened the texture map so that it was closer to the rest of the suit.

Star Slayer in SciFi corridor A 01 cam02 aiko 06I eventually decided she was a pilot so I put her in a hanger bay with a shuttle.  I spent a tremendous amount of time going back and forth deciding if the shuttle doors should be open or closed.  I even thought of putting another character inside the ship at one point but I wasn’t able to made that work.

Don't Dream It, Be It BTS wireI don’t have much to say about this wire frame screen shot other than it looks cool!

Don't Dream It, Be It BTS ccI think I left the bottom too dark when I initially did the color correction.  I went back later and brightened it up a bit.  The original render is 8000×8000 and the light on the skin looks fabulous at native resolution.  Very pleased with how the face came out.  (click to embiggen)

Don't Dream It, Be ItCreated in DAZ Studio 4.9
Rendered with Iray
Color Correction in Lightroom

Figures used:
Aiko 7
StarSlayer outfit for G3F
Shuttlestar
Sci-Fi Hanger A

Aiko 6 and 7 Comparison

Aiko 6 is one of my favorite DAZ character models.  I’ve been waiting for some time for Aiko 7 to come out and yesterday was the day.  Here is a quick comparison render.

Aiko 6 and 7 comparisonAs I expected they changed the character’s proportions and made her more realistic.  This is a trend at Daz with the new models.  I think it’s a mistake especially with characters that have a toon, or in this case, anime flavor.  It bleeds the style out of the models and makes them bland.  What’s the point of CGI without a little artistic flare?  If you want realism just take a photograph.

I do like the new eyes.  Aiko 6’s eyes look droopy sometimes, like here:

I was fluid, like water (close up)Of course if the new model were exactly the same then it wouldn’t be new.  Also, you can always change the proportions of any model so it’s not too hard to dial the anime back.  What do you think?

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 quest for the perfect CGI avatar

After using my new CGI profile picture on facebook for awhile I started to dislike it.  It looked mean, especially at small sizes.  Part of the reason I think was the contrasty film-noir lighting.  I thought I would try something a little different with softer light.  I also turned the face to the side similar to my original photo that I used for years.  This is what I came up with.

The Future ContinuesI started to dislike it as soon as I uploaded it. I thought the face looking away from the text had an aloof quality. I turned things around, used a longer lens so the face wouldn’t be so distorted, and gave him some hair. This is my newest avatar.

The Future DirectionI’ve been using it on facebook for about a day now.  So far I like it.  I’ll upload it to other social media sites and live with it for awhile.

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

Figures used:
FWSA Aiden HD for Michael 7
Awesome Fantasy Eyes

The Future Starts With You

The Future Starts With Youout of focus art SQUAREI’ve been using the same avatar across all of social media for many years.  It’s not very good.  If you look at the original it’s actually out of focus, but you can’t tell when it’s a teeny tiny avatar on facebook.  My wife CAT is in it too, which is nice.

I always intended to replace it but it was working, doing it’s job, so I didn’t.  When I shaved my beard over a year ago I thought, “Well now it doesn’t even look like me.  I really need to make a new one!”  But it was still working.  People still knew it was me.  So I didn’t change it.

Cut to a few days ago.  I was in DAZ Studio and I decided to experiment with different ideas for a new avatar.  I figured I could come up with some “concept art” and then take a picture of myself with the same theme, same lighting.  Simple.  Maybe even use the same CGI background so I wouldn’t have to deal with that in the photograph.  But, what to do?

What Makes a Good Avatar?

To all those people who have their kid, or their dog, or cat, or a movie star, or an anime character, or their feet, or a sports team logo, or Abe Vigoda in their avatar:  Nobody can figure out who you are!  I go through this all the time.  The name sounds familiar…  Did I know this person in college?  Did we grow up together on the same street?   Did we work together ten years ago?  Is that YOU as a kid?  Or is that YOUR kid?  Now I have to be a detective.  It’s frustrating.  Put your friggin’ face in your avatar!   /rant

Square One

I like an avatar with a big face so I started with that.  The bigger the better because sometimes these things are super small.  I decide to try something similar to what I have now, an evolution if you will – the same but better – a big face but a little arty and off to the side.  Centered is so boring.  I used a long 200mm lens to blur the background, making the face stand out.

The Future Starts With You BTS (mesh)I decided to go for hard side light with a blue kicker (back light) to give it a shadowy tech-noir feel.  I wanted the style to reflect my personality.  I’m one-hundred percent SciFi and my avatar should be too!

Reality Is an Illusion

I then spent a lot of time trying to get good skin.  There’s a trend in CGI these days.  Reality.  I think reality is overrated but in this case it makes sense.  An avatar is supposed to represent a real person.  …And it doesn’t hurt to learn new things.  I spent a lot of time experimenting with skin translucency, glossy reflections, roughness, bump maps, and scores of other surface controls.  Endless tweaking.  (Welcome to CGI.)  Ultimately I got something that looks like a real person.  The guy doesn’t look like ME, but he looks relatively real.

And then I put a glowing cross hair in the eye.  Screw reality!  I like robots!

The Future Starts With You BTS ccAbout-Face

And here it is.  It turned out much better than the “concept art” that I intended so I’ve decided to use it straight-up as my new avatar.  So to the people who have their kid, or their dog, or cat, or a movie star, or an anime character, or their feet, or a sports team logo, or Abe Vigoda in their avatar:  I’m now one of you!  My avatar is now a synthetic man that doesn’t look like me.  If you can’t beat ’em join ’em.  We’ll see if it works.

The Future Starts With You on facebook

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

Figures used:
FWSA Aiden HD for Michael 7
SciFi Passageway
Awesome Fantasy Eyes

UPDATE:  After using my new CGI profile picture on facebook for awhile I started to dislike it.  More in this post: My quest for the perfect CGI avatar

No One Told You When To Run

No One Told You When To RunI’ve been spending the last few weeks experimenting with animation making a few test shots of people running down long hallways.  I’m going to put them together and make a short video but I want to add sound and music so it’s going to take a few more weeks.  In the meantime, I found an interesting frame in one of the animations and set a camera for a still shot.

Fast and Hot!

This piece is rendered with nVidia Iray which I’m still learning.  It took about five hours to render which is considerably faster than my previous high-rez image which took a full twenty-four hours.  Why was this one faster?  I bought a GTX Titan X graphics card and added it to my system.

EVGA GTX Titan X croppedIray can use both the computer’s CPU and the graphic processors on the video cards to compute the render, eliminating the need for a render farm.  (…at least for now.)

I managed to get my old Quadro K5000 and my new Titan X graphics cards to both work in the system at the same time, which some say can’t be done because the drivers conflict.  So far it’s working for me and both cards chug away when building the image.  The new Titan X ended up doing two and a half times the work of both my old Quadro K5000 graphics card and CPU together.  It’s a significant boost but boy the Titan X runs hot!  It screams at eighty degrees Celsius while building the image.

V6 runs - rendering heat monitorIt turns out that if I render with the door on my computer closed, the Titan X throttles down because of the heat.  I’m going to have to build a custom vented door for my system with maybe a fan or too.  For now I’m working with the door off.  At least I won’t get cold this winter!

Don’t Go Too Far!

I had two major problems with this render.  The first was a strange shadow around the eyes caused by the photometric fill light I was using on the character’s face.  It was as if the spotlight didn’t see the transparency part of the lashes.

V6 runs 07 ECU2 frame 305 disc key light - eyelash and hair shadowTurns out this was a combination of increasing the size of the light making it soft, and the distance the character was from the center point of the CGI world.  It’s a crazy bug that DAZ3D has promised to fix in the next version of DAZ Studio.  In the meantime, I had to grab the entire scene – sets, cameras, lights, everything – and drag it all back to world center.  Thanks to everyone on the DAZ forums for helping me debug this problem.

Strange Honeycomb Dot Pattern

The other issue was a strange honeycomb dot pattern appearing in the wall texture.  (click to embiggen)

V6 runs 09b wall problem 01Looks like Iray was compressing the wall textures too much.  There’s a Texture Compression setting under the Render Settings / Advanced tab.  I had to raise the Medium Threshold to 2048 and the High to 4096 to make the problem go away.  Apparently this increases the RAM needed on the graphics cards during the render but my system didn’t have a problem.  It also didn’t effect the speed of the final render.  I know because my system built this image twice!

V6 runs CCCreated in DAZ Studio 4.8
Rendered with Iray
Color Correction in Lightroom

Figures used:
Victoria 6
Liquid Halo on Sky 16
Utopia Deck C

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