Mass Producing Multiple Versions of the Same Character

MadisonXFMadisonXF Posts: 201
edited December 1969 in The Commons

Hey all,

I have been working on a project that requires multiple images of the same characters. So, for example, multiple images of the same base character, but with varied hair styles, hair colors, and outfits. With a great deal of help from this forum, I have improved the quality of my renders while still keeping things real fast at 5-10 minutes per render, in most cases.

However, the sheer quantity of options possible in terms of character possibilities is starting to look insane using my existing strategies. What I have typically done is create the base character, then add all the options for various hair styles, hair colors, and outfits, and then render each combination as a seperate image. However, that still requires a staggering amount of renders.

For example, if I have 1 basic character as a starting point, and add 5 hair color options, 5 hair styles, and 5 outfits, I end up with 125 combinations! And my plan called for many more options than that...and those are just the basic character renders, not counting all the other images I was looking to create for the project.

I had hoped that some form of image layering would be the solution to my dilema, but that seems to require more work than I wanted to try to get everything to match up correctly.

Does anyone have any ideas for how to proceed with this project?

Thanks!

Comments

  • larsmidnattlarsmidnatt Posts: 3,310
    edited December 2012

    You can scale down the amount of variations allowed.

    Trying to use 3D renders and layering them will lower the quality in most cases so I can't suggest that.

    If this was a 2d project you could just edit the color values for hair and clothes really easy, not a lot of work. But that doesn't work at all for 3d.

    Oh, and I really will tell you to scale down the whole project. Yes do it now. I can tell you are biting off a lot more than you intended to. I always suggest starting with simpler projects before going into bigger ones. Smaller projects will teach you want you can't do or don't want to get into with a larger project.

    Post edited by larsmidnatt on
  • MadisonXFMadisonXF Posts: 201
    edited December 1969

    You can scale down the amount of variations allowed.

    Trying to use 3D renders and layering them will lower the quality in most cases so I can't suggest that.

    If this was a 2d project you could just edit the color values for hair and clothes really easy, not a lot of work. But that doesn't work at all for 3d.

    Oh, and I really will tell you to scale down the whole project. Yes do it now. I can tell you are biting off a lot more than you intended to. I always suggest starting with simpler projects before going into bigger ones. Smaller projects will teach you want you can't do or don't want to get into with a larger project.

    This is probably what I will have to do, but I'm not eager to do it. This isn't my first project of this type, but it is the largest in scale and scope, which is why I am starting to run into problems. If I lacked experience, I would probably just keep swinging at this thing and create a massive hole that I won't crawl out of. However, I have enough experience to know what my workflow is like, and based on that it really isn't looking feasible as currently designed, unless I can come up with a better way to render the massive number of combinations I am looking for.

    Thanks for the response.

  • sikeussikeus Posts: 0
    edited December 1969

    Have you already turned off ambient occlusion on the hair? I'm sure someone's already mentioned that one, but that should drastically reduce the time spent.

    The other thing is trying out different kinds of lighting to see what will give the shortest render times with acceptable results. Some lighting rigs drastically increase render time.

    Have you considered separate machines whose sole purpose is rendering? That way you could set up your scenes on one computer, while doing multiple renders at the same time on other computers. Maybe you could set your content up on a network, then you wouldn't have to install content more than once. This idea may not be possible since it may cost too much. It just depends on what your resources are.

    Just brainstorming. You may have heard these ideas already. :)

  • MadisonXFMadisonXF Posts: 201
    edited December 1969

    sikeus said:
    Have you already turned off ambient occlusion on the hair? I'm sure someone's already mentioned that one, but that should drastically reduce the time spent.

    The other thing is trying out different kinds of lighting to see what will give the shortest render times with acceptable results. Some lighting rigs drastically increase render time.

    Have you considered separate machines whose sole purpose is rendering? That way you could set up your scenes on one computer, while doing multiple renders at the same time on other computers. Maybe you could set your content up on a network, then you wouldn't have to install content more than once. This idea may not be possible since it may cost too much. It just depends on what your resources are.

    Just brainstorming. You may have heard these ideas already. :)

    Some good ideas.

    - I have gotten my render times down to 5-10 minutes, which I think is about as fast as I am going to get. I have turned off ambient occlusion on hair, and used other tricks suggested here. I really doubt that I will be able to get things much faster without really killing the quality, which I feel is still decent under my current settings.
    - Same for lights. I think right now that I am about at the right level of quality vs. render time. The only problem is quantity :)
    - The seperate machine plan isn't really feasible for me, sadly. I am hoping to get a new PC next year, but that is a long ways off.

    Thanks for the good ideas. Maybe I will relook my settings again. The problem though is still just the sheer quantity of renders involved. Even if I am knocking them out in 1 minute, I am still going to be looking at hundreds and hundreds of seperate renders.

  • cwichuracwichura Posts: 1,000
    edited December 1969

    Disclaimer: I don't use DAZ to do my renders, I export to LuxRender. So the following may not work.

    While this idea won't affect your render times, it might simplify queuing up the large number of renders you want to do. Once you have your figure set up and outfit applied, switch to the timeline and for each frame, change the colors of the outfit to the variations you want. You could also change the outfit out after you have done all the colors needed for each outfit. You'll end up with an animation sequence that isn't really an animation, but a job queue of all your desired outfit and color combinations. Then you can fire this off as a big render process and let it create all the variations without you having to babysit it.

  • Scott LivingstonScott Livingston Posts: 4,107
    edited December 1969

    I think I agree with larsmidnatt. I guess the question is: what is your goal, and what's the most efficient way to achieve it? Or, to rephrase this, what's the way to achieve it with a minimum of effort...and that probably means keeping your combinations to a manageable level.

    One suggestion: Your characters...can you limit the body shapes and skins? Say, have a male and female, each with a lighter or darker skin texture option? That's just four characters that require clothing, with additional characters achieved through changing only the facial characteristics, makeup, etc. If that's too limiting, you can divide it into lean male/buff male/lean female/buff-or-voluptuous female and still only have eight bodies to clothe. You'd then just have to match these bodies with the various faces you render, and that might be more doable than an exponential number of character+clothing renders.

    Another suggestion regarding clothing: maybe start with a base outfit, with additional variations achieved through adding items of clothing and/or accessories? Much of this accessorizing can be done in postwork which would cut down on your total number of renders required.

    With hair, I think you have two possible paths:
    1. Do renders, but limit options drastically (three colors x three hairstyles, for instance)
    2. Render without hair and paint it on in postwork. You can buy brushes for this...I think I've seen some in Renderosity.

    Any way you look at it, it does sound like a huge undertaking...

  • MadisonXFMadisonXF Posts: 201
    edited December 1969

    cwichura said:
    Disclaimer: I don't use DAZ to do my renders, I export to LuxRender. So the following may not work.

    While this idea won't affect your render times, it might simplify queuing up the large number of renders you want to do. Once you have your figure set up and outfit applied, switch to the timeline and for each frame, change the colors of the outfit to the variations you want. You could also change the outfit out after you have done all the colors needed for each outfit. You'll end up with an animation sequence that isn't really an animation, but a job queue of all your desired outfit and color combinations. Then you can fire this off as a big render process and let it create all the variations without you having to babysit it.

    ...I never thought of that.

    That might actually work.

    Mind is semi-blown. You may have a solution here. It would still leave me with managing hundreds of images, but it will save me a huge amount of time if I can do batch renders with variations like this. Especially since each render doesn't take that long, I bet I could knock out big chunks overnight.

    I'll have to try this out and see if it will work for me. Can anyone share any insight on this technique?

    Thanks!

  • sikeussikeus Posts: 0
    edited December 2012

    I just had another idea. Let's say you have the same character, same outfit, but different hair colors. You could render your first image out, say with brown hair. Then maybe you could keep everything the same, positioning, render settings, etc. But then you could turn everything off but the hair, which you've now switched to black. Render that, save it out as a png since that has a transparent background. Then take both images, and layer them in photoshop or gimp. The new hair color could be on top.

    Or, perhaps you could render the original character out hairless, then render just the hair while turning everything else off, and layer that in photoshop. I wonder if you could do all the hairstyles this way?

    I have no idea if it would work, since I haven't tried it myself. But it's an idea. It would take a lot less time to render out just hair as compared to everything in the scene.

    Edit: As I was thinking about it, I realized that the transparency of the hair may cause problems rendering it out this way. What about turning off the parts of the hair that will be unseen due to the placement of the head? I think there's a away to create more material zones on items, but that may be more work than it's worth...

    2nd Edit: Or maybe, to avoid the hassle mentioned in the above edit, you could render just the head and the hair out. That should take care of transparency problems.

    Post edited by sikeus on
  • sikeussikeus Posts: 0
    edited December 1969

    MadisonXF said:
    cwichura said:
    Disclaimer: I don't use DAZ to do my renders, I export to LuxRender. So the following may not work.

    While this idea won't affect your render times, it might simplify queuing up the large number of renders you want to do. Once you have your figure set up and outfit applied, switch to the timeline and for each frame, change the colors of the outfit to the variations you want. You could also change the outfit out after you have done all the colors needed for each outfit. You'll end up with an animation sequence that isn't really an animation, but a job queue of all your desired outfit and color combinations. Then you can fire this off as a big render process and let it create all the variations without you having to babysit it.

    ...I never thought of that.

    That might actually work.

    Mind is semi-blown. You may have a solution here. It would still leave me with managing hundreds of images, but it will save me a huge amount of time if I can do batch renders with variations like this. Especially since each render doesn't take that long, I bet I could knock out big chunks overnight.

    I'll have to try this out and see if it will work for me. Can anyone share any insight on this technique?

    Thanks!

    I haven't used it yet, but luxrender does have a reputation for taking longer. Renders that take hours as compared to minutes aren't uncommon, but that automation sounds awesome for your purposes.

  • MadisonXFMadisonXF Posts: 201
    edited December 1969

    Advice...

    Good advice, and is basically what I am doing already, although I am not looking to do any postwork, really. Too many individual images for that.

    sikeus said:
    Layered Images.

    As I mentioned, I have experimented with doing layered images, with seperate hair or heads or something. Unfortunatly, it doesn't work as well as I would like, at least not at my skill level. Maybe there are better ways to do it.

    I haven't used it yet, but luxrender does have a reputation for taking longer. Renders that take hours as compared to minutes aren't uncommon, but that automation sounds awesome for your purposes.

    I have never tried it. Unless I get information telling me otherwise, I think I will plan on doing a test batch in Studio to see how it works out. It has been a long time since I have played with using different frames / animations, and I have never done it for something like this. Should be interesting as an experiment and possible solution.

  • larsmidnattlarsmidnatt Posts: 3,310
    edited December 1969

    So you said 1 base character equaled 125 combinations. But that is just one character, one expression/pose. How many poses, expressions and characters do you need? ANd will they all have 5 hair colors, outfits and hair styles?

  • Richard HaseltineRichard Haseltine Posts: 19,878
    edited December 1969

    You might look at pwCatch - one of the options with that is for the surface to show the background, which would mask off the parts of the hair or clothing that are behind the figure. The results might be more readily layered since you wouldn't be having to erase portions yourself.

  • icprncssicprncss Posts: 3,479
    edited December 1969

    What are your client's specifications?

    For lighting, you might want to take a look at this product

    http://www.daz3d.com/shop/sales-promotions/daz-originals-environments-props/speedlights-outdoor-light-set-1

    It's designed for speed rendering.

    If you don't need shadows, turn them off. This will also cut your render times down.

    Dreamlight has an older video tutorial that can show you how to render your scenes and assemble them in your image editor. Granted it's for an older version of DS and uses Dreamlight products but can give you some ideas

    http://www.daz3d.com/shop/making-of-the-raptors-in-daz-studio

  • M F MM F M Posts: 1,371
    edited December 1969

    If it's just a matter of producing all the combinations of 5x5x5... have you considered scripting to set up and render the scene?

  • zigraphixzigraphix Posts: 2,768
    edited December 1969

    I know you said you want to avoid postwork, but I thought I'd mention that I've had some luck with a "green screen" method. For example, I put hair on a figure, but I turn the entire figure white, then set ambient to 100% pure green, and I put a plane behind the figure with the same green settings. Now I have a "paper doll" version of the hair, and I can easily clip out the green. (Gimp has a very nice "color->alpha" feature for this.) If you go this way, use png output and keep your render size exactly the same each time, without changing the character pose, and you'll be able to layer the parts by matching up the edges of the render frame.

    You might also want to look at Send In The Clones. http://www.daz3d.com/shop/send-in-the-clones-ds4-pro That lets you pull in multiple variations of a figure, e.g. applying different poses, clothing, etc. to each copy of the same figure.

    The animated frame method sounds very clever to me, though.

  • MadisonXFMadisonXF Posts: 201
    edited December 1969

    For cwichura or anyone else familiar with the concept...

    How do I change things other than poses during a DS4.5 animation? I know how to set key frames and change a figure's pose, but I don't know how to change things like the hair color, clothing, etc.

    Most of the tutorials I have seen are out of date or don't cover this. Any ideas?

    Thanks.

  • cwichuracwichura Posts: 1,000
    edited December 1969

    Again, I'm not sure if it can be done -- I've not personally tried. Changing the clothing itself might not work. But I believe you should be able to apply surface material changes and have that remembered per frame. Or I could be wrong, and only pose information is tracked by the timeline.

  • icprncssicprncss Posts: 3,479
    edited December 1969

    In the old Poser/DS tutorials there was a tutorial for SnowCloning. Unfortunately, I can't locate it the new knowledge base. If the tutorial doesn't specifically mention DS (which it doesn't because DS didn't exist in those days), it doesn't seem to show up.

    You might want to PM SnowSultan here or if you have a Rendo account, site mail him there. It's been a long time since I've used the technique but it might same you some time.

    IIRC, you set up your figure with hair, clothes, poses, ect. You then hide the clothing (and even the hair if necessary) and render just the figure. Save that render to png. Hide the figure, make the clothing visible and render the clothing saving the render to the same format. You can even to the same with the hair.

    You then take the png's into your image editor and assemble the layers. Since this was done in the Poser 4 days, conforming clothing was the norm. It's been a while since I used this method and never with dynamic clothing but it should work the same as you are simply hiding elements of scene and rendering only what the camera sees.

    I'm sure SnowSultan can give you more detail since it was his tutorial.

  • MadisonXFMadisonXF Posts: 201
    edited December 1969

    cwichura said:
    Again, I'm not sure if it can be done -- I've not personally tried. Changing the clothing itself might not work. But I believe you should be able to apply surface material changes and have that remembered per frame. Or I could be wrong, and only pose information is tracked by the timeline.

    Gotcha, I understand. Thanks.

    I'm sure SnowSultan can give you more detail since it was his tutorial.

    Sounds like the same image layering techniques I've been working with. It seems like a good technique, but honestly doesn't seem to be much of a time saver, sadly. My current method is super easy to do, it just requires tons of seperate renders, which is a pain to work with.

    At this point I'm leaning towards cutting back on some options. I can always add some more options in at a later time.

    Thanks for all the advice.

  • sikeussikeus Posts: 0
    edited December 2012

    I wonder if the new keymate product that just came out today will be what you're looking for. You can always pm the creator or ask in his commercial thread if it will do what you're looking for.

    Post edited by sikeus on
  • sikeussikeus Posts: 0
    edited December 1969

    Okay, here's another idea based on what other people have said in this thread. It sounds like you can't change clothes and hair color in the animation. But what about this. Send in the Clones 2 sounded like you might be able to change hair color,etc. with it. If that works, what about having each frame of the animation be a different clone with the desired changes? So you'd move one clone out of the picture and the second one in. Both in the same poses. That way it could render on its own. You'll probably need to ask the Send in the Clones 2 maker if it will do what you want in regards to clothing and hair.

    This would still work to a point without the Send in the Clones 2, depending on how powerful your computer is. Some computers can handle up to 10 figures before it starts slowing down the viewport. (In another thread we discovered the smoothing modifier has to be completely turned off on all clothes till it's time to render for it to not slow the computer down as much.)

    And in another thread, also in the new users forum, I found out that you can have 2 windows of DS 4.5 open. With some caveats that you have to be very careful with. So one could be rendering while you set the next animation up. But that's very resource intensive, so if your computer is old, it probably won't work.

  • zigraphixzigraphix Posts: 2,768
    edited December 1969

    MadisonXF said:
    For cwichura or anyone else familiar with the concept...

    How do I change things other than poses during a DS4.5 animation? I know how to set key frames and change a figure's pose, but I don't know how to change things like the hair color, clothing, etc.

    Most of the tutorials I have seen are out of date or don't cover this. Any ideas?

    Thanks.

    I'm fairly certain you can make things visible or invisible in the animation timeline. So you can load up all the clothes and hairstyles onto the figure, then hide all but one for the first frame, go to the next frame and hide the first clothing/hair combo, show the next hair/clothing combo, etc. Using this method, you can also load the same hair twice and change the color on the second iteration.

    Then render the timeline to separate images, and voila! :)

  • MadisonXFMadisonXF Posts: 201
    edited December 1969

    sikeus said:
    Okay, here's another idea based on what other people have said in this thread. It sounds like you can't change clothes and hair color in the animation. But what about this. Send in the Clones 2 sounded like you might be able to change hair color,etc. with it. If that works, what about having each frame of the animation be a different clone with the desired changes? So you'd move one clone out of the picture and the second one in. Both in the same poses. That way it could render on its own. You'll probably need to ask the Send in the Clones 2 maker if it will do what you want in regards to clothing and hair.

    This would still work to a point without the Send in the Clones 2, depending on how powerful your computer is. Some computers can handle up to 10 figures before it starts slowing down the viewport. (In another thread we discovered the smoothing modifier has to be completely turned off on all clothes till it's time to render for it to not slow the computer down as much.)

    And in another thread, also in the new users forum, I found out that you can have 2 windows of DS 4.5 open. With some caveats that you have to be very careful with. So one could be rendering while you set the next animation up. But that's very resource intensive, so if your computer is old, it probably won't work.

    Sounds like an interesting possibility.

    zigraphix said:
    For cwichura or anyone else familiar with the concept...

    How do I change things other than poses during a DS4.5 animation? I know how to set key frames and change a figure's pose, but I don't know how to change things like the hair color, clothing, etc.

    Most of the tutorials I have seen are out of date or don't cover this. Any ideas?

    Thanks.

    I'm fairly certain you can make things visible or invisible in the animation timeline. So you can load up all the clothes and hairstyles onto the figure, then hide all but one for the first frame, go to the next frame and hide the first clothing/hair combo, show the next hair/clothing combo, etc. Using this method, you can also load the same hair twice and change the color on the second iteration.

    Then render the timeline to separate images, and voila! :)

    I've tried this and can't get it to work. It renders whatever it set to visible at any given time in each frame. If you can get it to work, please teach me!

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