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Somethings to Consider when starting to learn CG
Posted: 01 November 2012 11:56 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Before we get started please pop over to this thread http://www.daz3d.com/forums/viewthread/17351/ and read the first post then pop back here and continue…it is worth it, trust me. wink

This is a long post because I get asked a lot about tips and tricks on the DAZ3D Forums, but there is no easy way to condense, in my case, nearly 4 years of knowledge into a forum post. So I am writing this for anyone who might get something out of it.

I am not trying to scare anyone; on the contrary spelling it like this below will hopefully give you something to think about with what steps you want to take or what to aim for. Yes there is some information that may go straight over your head at this point.  Come back in a few months and read it again, I bet you will understand the jargon a lot more. For some it comes easy for some it can be a hard road. One thing many of us agree on though is that it does take time and a thirst for learning.  With anything we get out what we put in. I also believe in not following rules and not being swayed by other people’s tastes in art or opinions on what makes an image art or how we get to the end product. If what you produce makes you feel good then it is art, if it doesn’t then do something about it. smile

Before I start my incoherent rambling I would like to say that there is a ton of information out there on the internet. This is where Google comes in handy. See a term you don’t understand just type it in to Google. It is not often I can’t find the answers I need. Some searches may need tweaking but yeah Google is our friend. Your financial situation may dictate your course like it did with me or you may be in a position to afford to pay for courses. But consider this for a moment or two, some people use the forums and the info shared to learn quite quickly. Most find using Google to search the Forums gives better results. Or just ask one question at a time.  For me I prefer to seek out the answers myself and have been quite successful in doing so. I find doing it that way the info sinks in and stays put. It’s not often I ask questions.  Trial and error, though tedious for some, is a great asset in learning too.

It also helps to understand that there is no make art button (a running joke for some) it takes time, dedication and a love for learning to grasp the complexities of digital art. Passion can go along way too.

1 - Lighting: It all depends on what you want to achieve and what type of images you want to create.

Realism: If you want realistic images then you need to understand real world lighting and then replicate/translate that in to the CG world of lighting. But this is not that easy in a biased render engine for which 3Delight is (Daz Studio’s and Poser’s render engine). It is possible but it does require a lot of learning. Yes there are ways to create Global Illumination and Indirect Lighting, plug-ins and light sets you can buy that can help toward realistic lighting but there is more to realism than light.  Realism can be very subjective, what one sees as realistic another doesn’t. But recently I came to the conclusion that experience helps when looking for realism in rendered images. Also what are we talking about Photo realism, is a photo that realistic? What if the camera is on Auto and you get pitch black shadows, where the naked eye sees the shadows aren’t black at all. You can still see the detail where the light is bouncing around endlessly. Or are we talking about realism as in what we see with the naked eye. Or are we talking about making people stop and think “is that real”?

There is a lot to learn in both the real world and the CG world to get to a point of realism. I am no expert but I have tried in the past to do a realistic portrait shown bwlow and at that time I basked in my achievement. Now that time has passed and I have learnt more I look at it and I see the flaws immediately. I see through the facade of CG that I didn’t see before but I am still proud of what I did.

Seeing that picture now with new more educated eyes says to me we need to train your eyes to what looks real in a CG sense to make more realistic looking images. That means for some looking at the world in a different light so to speak. How many really take notice of how light reacts with all the surfaces we see around us on a daily basis.

With any biased render engine (see NOTE 1 below) we have to treat the surfaces differently than how they act in the real world.  For example and crudely put and speaking in general terms take reflections and glossiness, in Daz Studio and Poser etc we control Glossiness and Reflection separately and independently from each other whereas in the real word they are the same, the shinier and smoother a surface is the more reflective it becomes.

An unbiased render engine (see NOTE 2 below) ties the two effects together, so reflection strength is directly related to how glossy and smooth a surface is. Take human skin for another example, learning how light reacts with skin really helps in replicating the different effects in CG, given the right tools, to give more realistic results.

NOTE 1: Biased Render Engine: 3Delight (Daz Studio), FireFly (Poser); You set the quality of the render, the render engine then renders that image to those predetermined parameters that you set and then stops. But they do have the tools to get some amazing results.

NOTE 2: Unbiased Render Engine: Luxrender and Octane are types of Standalone unbiased render engines. They do a better job of replicating real world lighting and how light reacts with surfaces. Note I said better and not exactly like real world lighting. Even these you need to learn a few tricks. In these types of render engines you start a render and you decide when it is finished. In theory you could leave a render going forever but obviously there is a quality threshold were you wouldn’t notice the difference. 

Light: In the real world the light rays from the sun effectively never stops bouncing around. It also bounces back from the atmosphere giving our planet its blue colour. If there are a lot of bright and reflective surfaces then light gets bounced around like crazy and brightens up shadows etc. Whereas caves or buildings etc made of dark dull/matte surfaces don’t bounce light around as much.  Light walls in a dark house will bounce light around more than dark walls.

CG Lighting: This is what both types render engines are doing, shooting rays out, detecting surfaces and depending the surface properties the light gets bounced, absorbed, reflected and refracted etc. With the biased render engines like Daz Studio has these bounces are predetermined by the settings we give. In the unbiased engine the bounces can go on forever effectively.

At this point you might say well I want to do realistic images so why not use a different render engine well some do with the birth of the Reality plug-in for Daz Studio and Poser, Luxus for Daz Studio and Carrara with both using Luxrender and the Octane Plug-in for DAZ Studio. This doesn’t mean it will deliver realistic images from the get go, far from it. You still need to learn about real world lighting, surfaces and how to set those up. You can’t just add one light as the sun and expect to get a realistic image. Plus Luxrender takes a long time to render but like everything it depends on your computer and how much time you are willing to wait for a final render to finish. Octane with the right graphics card/s can render very fast indeed for this type of render engine. But this is not to say we cannot get realistic results using a biased render engine as some have proved otherwise.

Artistic: If you want to create more artistic (as I like to call them as opposed the realistic), comic, surreal type of images then Daz Studio is perfect for the job too.

2 - Surfaces: Some argue it is all about the lighting but for me I do think surfaces play a big part too in getting realistic or just good results, lighting and surfaces go hand in hand as far as I am concerned, they are dependent on each other. You can have the best light setup in the world but it won’t make any difference if the surfaces are poor and vice versa.  It doesn’t matter what render engine you use surfaces still play a big part in any image whether it be toon shaders or realistic surfaces with realistic lighting.

3 - Composition: Simply put the arrangement or placement of the all the elements that make up an image. The final piece of the sacred three no matter what type of art you are doing, even gardening which I do a lot of, composition can make or break an image. Do you have an artistic background? If yes then you will know about the golden rule, spiral, rule of thirds and all that, shadow and light, contrast, what draws the eye to where blah blah blah. smile  I won’t go in to this subject now as I have a separate tutorial that I will be posting on the HiveWire forums soon.

When it comes to how I make my images well I don’t care how I make my images. I like to challenge myself in both Daz Studio and Photoshop. I like to try to render an image not having to do any postwork and I like to render thinking postwork in mind.
The image above was a challenge I set myself to do a one pass render with no postwork. But the smoke proved too difficult to do at the time so I did that in Photoshop Elements. But that was the only postwork. Even the nicotine stain, liver spots, dirt etc was added to the texture maps in PSE prior to rendering.

Then in contrast with image 2 below I spent a few hours setting up the lighting as I had every intention of doing a lot of postwork and rendering in layers so the lighting didn’t matter so much. I forgot about realism. As long as I could see the detail then that was enough.

Some people don’t even use extra lights they just render using the preview light and apply all the lighting, highlighting and shadowing etc effects in Photoshop.  This is where good use of image manipulation software like Photoshop, GIMP, and Paint Shop Pro etc pays off. Personally I think you can get equally creative in Photoshop etc as in Daz Studio or Poser etc.

Any software is a tool and how we choose to use them is up to us alone and not to be influenced by trends or other people’s opinions on what art should be or how it should be created. How many or what type of tools should we use to make a chair? Should we only use hand tools or power tools? What material? Don’t be swayed by others, do what you want to do. If it pleases you and harms no one then what more is there to add. Doing it for recognition, a pat on the back then forget it, you are doing it for the wrong reasons.

If you are serious about learning CG lighting, not dyslexic like me and can afford it may I suggest purchasing this book Digital Lighting and Rendering (2nd Edition) by Jeremy Birn It comes highly recommended by many around the industry whom I trust and who inspire me to learn more. I just wish I could take info in, in that form. I have to learn by reading in small chunks and a lot of it has to be in layman’s terms. I love video tutorials, see monkey do and all that. smile Plus I do hours and hours of testing this that and the other. I can spend days testing things and not make any images.

  I don’t normally recommend any paid for education because we all learn differently, what works for one may not work for another. And I like to avoid folks coming back to me blaming me for them wasting their money. But this will be the second time I have suggested this as I honestly think if you can afford it and you are very new to this then Dreamlight’s Light Master Course is a good place to start to understand different types of lighting and what they can be used for and how. If you bide your time you may get it even cheaper as Dreamlight tends to have a lot of sales.  NOTE: This course will not hold your hand through Daz Studio or Poser but it will help you understand the different types of lighting we have in Daz Studio, Poser and other CG software.  And with that information, and if you apply yourself, you can adapt to different lighting situations for different types of scenes in just about any software. But like everything you need the basics first and this course does just that, teaches the basics. Also will then need knowledge of what lights your program has and how to use them. Again there are many tutorials out there that can help. Many programs have the same types of lights. The lights may work a little different in each program but essentially they are all the same, just algorithms lighting images in different ways.

Think of Daz Studio and Poser stages in dark studios and where we are the lighting technician, art director, camera person, special effects and wardrobe etc though we do contract out for premade props, light rigs, set designs and clothing.  smile

My personal view is to stay with one program for a year or two and then up to the more advanced tools and plug-ins. But again it all depends on what type of images you want to create, how quick you learn and how much time you spend. I quickened my learning curve by learning Blender, Bryce (basics), Carrara (Basics), Poser (basics) and Vue all while learning Daz Studio. This helped me learn more aspects of this CG black magic. This approach may not suit you so stick with one program. Deal with each hurdle one at a time. Go slowly then it will not be so frustrating when things don’t go to plan. What you see in your head may not be achievable straight away so be prepared to either rethink the image or go searching to find out how. I had to work on learning about art in general having no previous experience in art at all. But I am fairly house bound these days which affords me more time…... to waste. smile

Many, including myself, pull their hair out for months trying to get the results they want and failing. The first thing I do when I get a new piece of software is to sit down with the program open and click everything I can find. I do this for at least three days solid. Most software will need something loaded for certain functions to become accessible. Then once I have familiarised myself to the software I go looking for tutorials. Doing it this way helps with following the tutorials. But chip at it long enough and one day enlightenment comes in a flash and things start to fall in to place then you will be on a high and all the hard work would have paid off. For me it was a very nice feeling.

Have fun which is what matters the most.

Here is some suggested reading, videos and links:
The Science Of CG
Daz Studio Lighting
Cameras and lights in Daz Studio - by maclean
Optimising Render Settings in DAZ|Studio
The different bits of the surface tab by neil
Learning UberEnvironment 2 by Adam
WWWDAZ3DCOM’s Channel – YouTube
Also with Daz Studio we now have ready to render scenes, these can be helpful seeing how they are set up, reverse engineering so to speak. But one thing to remember there is no right or wrong way to light a scene just good and bad lighting.
Reality
3Delight
Photobox for Poser

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Posted: 01 November 2012 01:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Szark - 01 November 2012 11:56 AM

This is a long post because I get asked about lighting tips and tricks a lot and there is no way to condense, in my case, 3 years of knowledge into a forum post. So I am writing this for anyone who might get something out of it.

I am not trying to scare anyone; on the contrary spelling it like this below will hopefully give you something to think about on what steps you want to take and how determined you are to learn. Yes there is some information that may go straight over your head at this point.  Come back in a few months and read it again, I bet you will understand the jargon a lot more. For some it comes easy for some it can be a hard road. One thing many of us agree on though is that it does take time and a thirst for learning.  With anything we get out what we put in.

Before I start I would like to say that there is a ton of information out there on the internet. This is where Google comes in handy. See a term you don’t understand just type it in to Google. It is not often I can’t find the answers I need. Some searches may need tweaking but yeah Google is our friend. Your financial situation may dictate your course like it did with me or you may be in a position to afford to pay for courses. But consider this for a moment or two, some people use the forums and the info shared to learn quite quickly. Most find using Google to search the Daz Forums gives better results. Or just ask one question at a time.  For me I prefer to seek out the answers myself and have been quite successful in doing so. I find doing it that way the info sinks in and stays put. It is not often I ask questions.

It also helps to understand that there is no make art button (a running joke for some) it takes time, dedication and a love for learning to grasp the complexities of digital art.

Lighting: It all depends on what you want to achieve and what type of images you want to create.

Realism: If you want realistic images then you need to understand real world lighting and then replicate/translate that in to the CG world of lighting. But this is not that easy in a biased render engine for which 3Delight is (Daz Studio’s render engine). It is possible but it does require a lot of learning. Yes there are ways to create Global Illumination and Indirect Lighting, plug-ins and light sets you can buy that can help toward realistic lighting but there is more to realism than light.

Surfaces play a big part too in getting realistic results, lighting and surfaces go hand in hand, they are dependent on each other. You can have the best light setup in the world but it won’t make any difference if the surfaces are poor and vice versa. 

With any biased render engine (see NOTE 1 below) we have to treat the surfaces differently than how they act in the real world.  For example and crudely put take reflections and glossiness, in Daz Studio we can control Glossiness and Reflection separately and independently from each other whereas in the real word they are the same, the shinier a surface is the more reflective it becomes. An unbiased render engine (see NOTE 2 below) ties the two effects together, so reflection strength is directly related to how glossy a surface is and how much light there is. (I think) smile

Take human skin for another example, learning how light reacts to skin really helps in replicating the different effects in CG, given the right tools, to give more realistic results, but again it takes time and effort to get good results in any software.

NOTE 1: Biased Render Engine: 3Delight (Daz Studio), FireFly (Poser); You set the quality of the render, the render engine then renders that image to those predetermined parameters and then stops.

NOTE 2: Unbiased Render Engine: Luxrender and Octane are types of Standalone unbiased render engines. They do a better job of replicating real world lighting and how light reacts with surfaces. You start a render and you decide when it is finished. In theory you could leave a render going forever but obviously there is a quality threshold were you wouldn’t notice the difference.

Light: In the real world the light rays from the sun effectively never stops bouncing around. It also bounces back from the atmosphere giving our planet its blue colour. If there are a lot of bright and reflective surfaces then light gets bounced around like crazy and brightens up shadows etc. Whereas caves or buildings etc made of dark dull/matte surfaces don’t bounce light around as much.  Light walls in a dark house will bounce light around more than dark walls.

CG Lighting: This is what both types render engines are doing, shooting rays out, detecting surfaces and depending the surface properties the light gets bounced, absorbed, reflected and refracted etc. With the biased render engines like Daz Studio has these bounces are predetermined by the settings we give. In the unbiased engine the bounces can go on forever effectively.

But this is not to say we cannot get realistic results using a biased render engine as some have proved otherwise.
Take my Pipe Smoking Working Man on page one of my render thread done in Poser using a light rig made by another which I purchased. This light Rig (PhotoBox) uses Indirect lighting that is part of the FireFly biased render engine that Poser uses. It took me two months of learning, test rendering, adjusting textures, merging displacement maps together, more learning and more testing before the final render took place. The only postwork done was the smoke. All the dirt, liver spots, nicotine stain on the thumb etc was all rendered in one pass (one image). This was a self appointed challenge to see how much I could do in one render and how realistic I could get with the tools and textures I had. With more computer power and learning I KNOW I could do the same or better in Daz Studio. I am just waiting for the day I can try.

AT this point you might say well I want to do realistic images so why not use a different render engine well some do with the birth of the Reality plug-in for Daz Studio which uses Luxrender. This doesn’t mean it will deliver realistic images from the get go, far from it. You still need to learn about real world lighting, surfaces and how to set those up. Plus Luxrender takes a long time to render but like everything it depends on your computer and how much time you are willing to wait for a final render to finish. Some moan about waiting half an hour where some of us have let Daz Studio renders run for days.

Artistic: If you want to create more artistic (I like to call them opposed the realism), comic, surreal type of images then Daz Studio is perfect for the job too. Take this image for example. I spent half hour on setting up the lighting as I had every intention of doing a lot of postwork so the lighting didn’t matter so much. I forgot about realism. As long as I could see the detail then that was enough. Some people don’t even use extra lights they just render using the preview light and apply all the lighting, highlighting and shadowing etc effects in Photoshop.  This is where good use of image manipulation software like Photoshop, GIMP, and Paint Shop Pro etc pays off.

My point is for me I don’t care how I make my images, any software is a tool and how I choose to use them is up to me alone and not influenced by trends or other people’s opinions on what art should be. How many tools does it take to make a chair? Should we only use hand tools or power tools? Don’t be swayed by others, do what you want to do. If it pleases you and harms no one then what more is there to add. Do it for recognition, a pat on the back then forget it then you are doing it for the wrong reasons.

If you are serious about learning about lighting, not dyslexic like me and can afford it may I suggest purchasing this book Digital Lighting and Rendering (2nd Edition) by Jeremy Birn It comes highly recommended by many around here whom I trust and who inspire me to learn more. I just wish I could take info in, in that form. I have to learn by reading in small chunks and a lot of it has to be in layman’s terms. I love video tutorials, see monkey do and all that. smile Plus I do hours and hours of testing this that and the other. I can spend days testing things and not making images.

I don’t normally recommend any paid for education because we all learn differently, what works for one may not work for another. But this will be the second time I have suggested this as I honestly think if you can afford it Dreamlight’s Light Master Course is a good place to start to understand different types of lighting and what they can be used for and how. If you bide your time you may get it even cheaper as Dreamlight tends to have a lot of sales. 

NOTE: This course will not hold your hand through Daz Studio but it will help you understand the different types of lighting we have in Daz Studio and other CG software.  And with that information, and if you apply yourself, you can adapt to different lighting for different types of scenes. But like everything you need the basics first and this course does just that teaches the basics.

Do you have an artistic background? If yes then you will know about the golden rule, spiral, rule of thirds and all that, shadow and light, what draws the eye to where blah blah blah. smile I ask this just in case because there is more to making images than good lighting and surfaces.

Think of Daz Studio is just that a dark studio and we are the lighting technicians, art director, camera person, special effects, wardrobe etc though we do contract out for premade props, light rigs and clothing.  smile

My personal view is to stay with Daz Studio for a year or two and then go on to the more advanced tools and plug-ins. But again it all depends on what type of images you want to create, how quick you learn and how much time you spend. I quickened my learning curve by learning Bryce (basics), Carrara, Poser (basics) and Vue all while learning Daz Studio. This helped me learn more aspects of this CG black magic. This approach may not suit you if so stick with one program. Deal with each hurdle one at a time. Go slowly then it will not be a s frustrating when things don’t go to plan. Also I had to work on learning about art in general having no previous experience in art at all. But I am fairly house bound these days which affords me more time…... to waste. smile

Have fun which is what matters the most.

Here is some suggested reading, videos and links:
The Science Of CG
Daz Studio Lighting
Cameras and lights in Daz Studio - by maclean
Optimising Render Settings in DAZ|Studio
The different bits of the surface tab by neil
Learning UberEnvironment 2 by Adam
WWWDAZ3DCOM’s Channel – YouTube
Also with Daz Studio we now have ready to render scenes, these can be helpful seeing how they are set up, reverse engineering so to speak. But one thing to remember there is no right or wrong way to light a scene just good and bad lighting.
Reality
3Delight
Photobox for Poser

Thanks Pete, I’ve bookmarked this, and printed it!  Lots of good info.

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Posted: 01 November 2012 01:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thank you Barry.

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Posted: 01 November 2012 05:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Szark - 01 November 2012 01:26 PM

Thank you Barry.

Whoa, Pete.  Way to go!!  grin

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Posted: 01 November 2012 05:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Thanks Miss B I have been meaning and planning to do this for a while now. I wanted to make it longer but settled at this. smile

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Posted: 01 November 2012 05:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Thank you.
For giving us your personal approach. For me your words are encouraging.
Much appreciated smile

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Posted: 01 November 2012 05:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I am glad you got something from it bartman

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Posted: 02 November 2012 01:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Great posts Szark!

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Posted: 02 November 2012 02:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Very helpful post for me!

Thanks ^^

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Posted: 02 November 2012 02:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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so much thank you ^^  (great work,,,)

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Posted: 02 November 2012 03:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I have an art background but only in 2D.
When I first launched DAZ I thought by myself: this is no PS AT ALL, how will I ever get the hang of this…
Also you’re spending much more time with technical stuff then actually creating art, especially because all the things you would otherwise create are mostly ready to use CG’s.
I consider myself quite a good artist, especially with portaits, but it takes A LOT of stress away from me to just be able to use some sliders and voila: an expression!
Also clothing…I am just not patient enough to draw all the folds and then there is that thing called “background” *shivers*.
So far DAZ has been a relief to me and it makes all the learning and the time it took me to learn very worthwhile!

Does it take a lot of time to learn?
Yes.
And if it’s worth to you depends on what you are looking for in artcreation, if you’re willing to infest time and your own mindset towards CG.
I know of fellow artists who think 3D is no real art and think using a pencil and paper are holy.
It even took me some time to take my own statement in this, because I found myself asking: am I still a real artist?
I think the “old fashioned” mindset comes from those times that the value of art are directly attached to some kind of suffering from the artist part.
One of the reasons why van Gogh’s paintings are among the most worthy for sure.

Somehow there is still that image of an artist sitting in a badly lit room with a candle without electricty (because of course he’s too poor to pay for electricity).
Whenever I mention I am artist, 95% of people ask me if I either do landscapes or animals (usually dogs).
Of course I deny that, but I mostly leave out the part for my love of the naked male body XD

Oh my, that escalated quickly XD
Anyway, these are my thoughts on the subject of 3D art wink

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Posted: 02 November 2012 04:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Estroyer I had the same judgement as your friends I admit it. Looking the renders I thought that this is easy and anyone can do it but after jumping in the whole business I saw that’s not so. CG movies I never thought to be easy but images created with, at the time, Poser and Vue easy piece of cake.

Szark thank you for the long post. It’s helpful and encouraging at the same time. As for the book. I have it and as far as light goes it helps. Surfaces never thought they play any serious part in the render. Usually just switched to matte so that’s sort of new tip. As for lighting in general which gives better and ‘realistic’ results DAZ or Poser?

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Posted: 02 November 2012 06:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Ilena52 - 02 November 2012 04:49 AM

As for lighting in general which gives better and ‘realistic’ results DAZ or Poser?

Neither. It still comes down to the skill of the person setting up the lights in the program.

Sorry Szark. It was just there, so…

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Posted: 02 November 2012 06:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Jad don’t be sorry, you carry on dude.

Thanks for the great comments. I am glad it is helping some around here. Makes me a happy chappy.

I agree Jad about it being the person not the software.

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Posted: 02 November 2012 09:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Excellent post Szark. Thanks so much for putting it up. Plus, you saved me a lot of time because now I don’t have to write a similar post I have been thinking about for a while. wink

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Posted: 02 November 2012 09:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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LOL DestinysGarden thanks. Yep two days and one rewrite well spent methinks. smile

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Somethings to Consider when starting to learn CG

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