Tips & Tricks For Space Scenes

evilproducerevilproducer Posts: 7,574
edited December 2012 in Carrara Discussion

Just what the title says-


Since most of us never will get a chance to step off this big blue marble, I figured it would be nice to have a thread to share your tips, tricks and ideas on how to get what you think is a great space picture or animation. It doesn't matter if it's reality based or science fiction.


For me, I'll start with an example of how I would light a scene with the sun peaking out from behind the Earth.


Here's the picture. In my next post I'll explain what I did.

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Comments

  • evilproducerevilproducer Posts: 7,574
    edited December 2012

    I set the scene up with the model and three lights. One bulb light, one spot light and one distance light. I set the scene's ambient light to zero.


    The bulb light is just the default settings. I used the bulb for the sunlight. I went to the light's effects tab and enabled the 3D light sphere and the lens flare. I'll include screen shots of what I did. The Light Sphere makes the sun's disk and the lens flare is self explanatory. A bulb usually works better for this than the distant light, as the distant light doesn't have the Light Sphere under it's effects. For the lens flare, I dialed the radius down from it's default. I could have gone for a smaller radius on the light sphere as well.


    The spotlight is positioned to provide a rim light or crescent on the earth model, because the bulb light doesn't light enough of the Earth relative to the camera. This is completely incorrect I know. Consider it artistic license. Be careful though, or it goes from taking minor liberties to taking your viewers out of the picture. I'm actually pushing it a bit myself, but I wanted it to be fairly obvious to illustrate my point.


    The distant light is used to provide a low level fill light. I could have gone a bit brighter in this scene, but my model uses a sphere with a glow channel to simulate the atmosphere, and if I had it brighter, it would show the effect up too much. I also have a nice glow channel for the surface to simulate city lights and I wanted that to really stand out.


    The position of the lights relative to the model and the camera is scene specific, but generally I like the low level fill light coming from maybe a 45º angle from the camera, aiming back towards the primary light. Again, this is scene specific, and depends on what you're going for.


    The other thing to consider is your color scheme. If I'm doing a scene with a fairly pedestrian star field, I tend to have the primary light a yellow/white color and the fill light a blue/grey color to match what I imagine the star shine would look like.

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  • RiggswolfeRiggswolfe Posts: 626
    edited December 1969

    Very nice.This is basically what I lucked into doing in my render in the other thread minus the spotlight to give that extra light. I had a light from a premade scene pointed at the planet. I think it's a distant light. (It looks like a cylinder with a cone on top of it.) Did you use indirect lighting at all? Or the built in ambient light? (I assume that's what the scenes start with. It also looks like a cylinder with a cone on top.)

  • Design AcrobatDesign Acrobat Posts: 431
    edited December 1969

    Very helpful and thanks for sharing

  • head waxhead wax Posts: 2,871
    edited December 1969

    Thanks Evil, velly intewesting and will certainly come in handy in the future,

  • JoeMamma2000JoeMamma2000 Posts: 2,394
    edited December 1969

    Ooo, can I play too ??

    Okay, I really suck at space stuff. Partially because I guess it bores the crap out of me. Unless it's like really surrealistic and gorgeous like some of the nebulas and that kind of stuff. But I'm not much into spaceships, etc.

    But I do see a lot of repeating practices that people might want to reconsider.

    First, cameras in space operate under the same principles as they do on earth. When the scene is dark, and the subject is relatively close or zoomed, then stuff in the background is usually blurred due to a shallow depth of field. And adding DOF helps to give a sense of distance, which is often missing in space-y renders with spaceships that are thousands or millions of miles away from planets and stuff. Unfortunately it obscures that cool planet you spent so much time on, but I think it adds some realism that sells the image a bit better.

    Now of course, bright subjects and wide angle lenses increase the DOF, so you wouldn't see it as much in that case.

    Second, objects in space still interact with light from other objects. Including planets and other ships, etc. And that's very important to place the object in the scene, instead of making it seem like the objects were copied and pasted into the image. So if you have a spaceship that is nearing a planet, the reflected light from the planet should interact with the ship. Also the sun/moon/star light should interact with the ship. And so on...

    Also, textures are real important on spaceships. Often you'll see real dull, uninteresting textures with no light interaction whatsoever, and it just looks like a plastic model was stuck in the image. And engine glow should be made interesting, not just a single color that looks like a bad Photoshop splotch.

    Here's a crappy, standard spaceship image with some depth of field and reflections of light to clearly place the ship in the scene. I think the DOF is way overdone, but I'm not sure. If you check some real life space station photos and stuff you see the DOF when the lighting is low, but I don't know, it just doesn't look right. But anyway you get the point. And I made the spaceship a shiny metallic to enhance the reflections and interest.

    Again, don't take the image as a good example because it's sucky and boring, but hopefully it illustrates the points.

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  • evilproducerevilproducer Posts: 7,574
    edited December 2012

    Very nice.This is basically what I lucked into doing in my render in the other thread minus the spotlight to give that extra light. I had a light from a premade scene pointed at the planet. I think it's a distant light. (It looks like a cylinder with a cone on top of it.) Did you use indirect lighting at all? Or the built in ambient light? (I assume that's what the scenes start with. It also looks like a cylinder with a cone on top.)


    The default light that Carrara gives you when creating a scene is the distant light. The shape is supposed to resemble and arrow and indicates the direction it is pointing. In the image I posted I didn't use any GI and I had the scene's ambient light set to zero.


    If anybody has ideas or suggestions that they use in their own space or sci-fi scenes, please share!

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  • holly wetcircuitholly wetcircuit Posts: 0
    edited December 2012

    Forever ago I was trying to create all of outer space with the Primivol plugin.

    My usual style is to nod politely towards realism and then head straight to the FLASH GORDON end of the spectrum... I'll have a Sun Shader tutorial in a few but here's some of my Primivol efforts:

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  • RiggswolfeRiggswolfe Posts: 626
    edited December 1969

    Very interesting Holly.

    JoeMama: I actually tried to do DOF in my space render I posted in the render thread. However, my objects were fairly close together and I had trouble getting it working right so I eventually gave up on it.

  • evilproducerevilproducer Posts: 7,574
    edited December 1969

    Very interesting Holly.

    JoeMama: I actually tried to do DOF in my space render I posted in the render thread. However, my objects were fairly close together and I had trouble getting it working right so I eventually gave up on it.


    When I do a space image and I want DOF it can be difficult, because as JoeMama said, there's incredible distances involved, so I tend to force the perspective. The built in DOF isn't that great either, so what I use is a depth render pass available under Multi-Pass in the Render room. It creates a greyscale image that can be used in Photoshop (and I assume other sophisticated image editing apps) to create a layer mask. Unfortunately, the depth pass doesn't respect alpha channels, volumetric clouds, hair, or primitives such as fire, fountains and fog. If you have any of those, you'll have to edit the depth pass image.


    The following picture uses a depth pass for DOF. I'm still working on the shaders and lighting for this one, and I may change the background planet as well.

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  • evilproducerevilproducer Posts: 7,574
    edited December 1969

    Forever ago I was trying to create all of outer space with the Primivol plugin.

    My usual style is to nod politely towards realism and then head straight to the FLASH GORDON end of the spectrum... I'll have a Sun Shader tutorial in a few but here's some of my Primivol efforts:


    Holly, I love the bottom planet picture. You did a great job recalling all those early Sci-Fi movies!

  • holly wetcircuitholly wetcircuit Posts: 0
    edited December 1969

    Here's my tutorial topic: a "Photoreal" Sun....

    I put "photoreal" in quotes because what the sun really *looks* like to the naked eye seems to be debatable, and also what structures we want to show of the sun is definitely subjective. But I'll post this "final" render while I organize the tutorial...

    The pic uses Primivol, but the tutorial is going to focus on the surface shader, so Primivol won't be needed...

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  • RoguePilotRoguePilot Posts: 0
    edited December 1969

    I know what you mean about space scenes.

    Boring.

    I can't seem to get any feeling of drama or action into them.

    Maybe I should stop trying.

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  • RoguePilotRoguePilot Posts: 0
    edited December 1969

    Seriously though, when it comes to space scenes I say; keep the rules in mind then just break 'em.

    They can be very beautiful and worthy but ultimately blend into the background..

    Forget correct lighting, if you lit accurately for space you wouldn't see very much.

    To touch on Hollys last post, the Sun as seen from the naked eye is as big as the sky and pure white just before it burns through your retina. Not a good picture.

    Depth of field is a handy trick to portray separation but don't get hung up on it, it's most useful for things very close and very far but since most objects will be in the mid distance (apart from the occasional special shot) you can do without it. (Using a blurred backround image does the job quite well)

    This is one subject where artistic licence really pays off.

  • evilproducerevilproducer Posts: 7,574
    edited December 1969

    Holly, that sun looks awesome! I can't wait for the tutorial!


    RoguePilot, love those pictures. The top and the bottom are my favorites! Great sense of action.

  • JoeMamma2000JoeMamma2000 Posts: 2,394
    edited December 2012

    Forget correct lighting, if you lit accurately for space you wouldn't see very much.

    Well, you're the astrophysicist, but I've seen tons of NASA/space station/etc. photos where you can see a lot, and I don't even think they bring lighting rigs on the Space Shuttle when they go up :)

    Depth of field is a handy trick to portray separation but don't get hung up on it, it's most useful for things very close and very far but since most objects will be in the mid distance (apart from the occasional special shot) you can do without it. (Using a blurred backround image does the job quite well)

    I agree, DOF is one of those things that can get overused. Kinda like lens flares. Sorry, one of my personal "peeves". However, I think that one of the most common issues with space image renders is lack of interaction with the objects and the rest of the scene. Since there arent' generally the large number of surrounding objects nearby to interact with, it's real easy to get a spaceship and a planet and whatever that look totally unrelated. As well as losing the sense of scale and distance, which is extremely common, IMO. And don't forget, distance isn't the only deciding factor, magnification is also a factor. So if you're on a ship and taking a zoom photo of a fighter coming towards you, it's entirely possible to have quite a bit of lens blur, just like on Earth.

    Also, as I think you're implying, in space there can tend to be less overall light unless you've got a direct reflection, so it's more likely your camera would have a wide open iris, which again is reason for considering lens blur.

    And again, I didn't mean to tweak anyone with my opinions on space shots, though I figured it was inevitable, but personally there's only so much I can take of Star Wars and Star Trek fighters battling it out in space. But that's just me, someone who's been seeing the same stuff in films since the 80's. Or was it the 70's. Nice visual eye candy in the beginning, but there's only so much of the same ol' visual eye candy I can take without getting, well, bored. But that's just me, and that's just an opinion.

    You know...opinions...everyone's got one.

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  • evilproducerevilproducer Posts: 7,574
    edited December 2012

    Good point about the interaction of objects.


    One of my favorite scenes that I did used a photo of a nebula that the Hubble had taken. I used that as a backdrop for my scene and used a couple Star Trek models bursting out of a volumetric cloud that I had colored to match the nebula. I did quite bit of work on getting the lighting to match.


    I did two versions. One with a more modern style ship and another with the classic movie Enterprise and a classic Klingon Bird of Prey. I tried an experiment with the model of the old school ship and added the NASA image to the scene's background and enabled the Skylight, so it would act like an IBL. I like the effect, but there is quite a bit of noise/ashiness in the image and in my opinion not worth the render time.


    The image with the more modern ship is just the standard renderer with no bells and whistles.

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  • JoeMamma2000JoeMamma2000 Posts: 2,394
    edited December 1969

    BTW, Rogue, not to pick on you but, I agree with Evil that the first and last images are much nicer.

    And I think the reason is partly because of the consistency in lighting as well as the sense of distance and perspective. The other two, IMO, seem a bit jumbled with different ships and different light levels just mangled together without a clear focus nor a clear sense of depth and perspective and action. And that's exactly the point I'm making, that 90% of images you see of space scenes look like an inconsistent jumble of ships and planets with little or no clear focus and composition and interaction.

    The first and last images are, OTOH, quite nice and have some nice composition, as well as all that other stuff.

  • head waxhead wax Posts: 2,871
    edited December 1969

    I know what you mean about space scenes.

    Boring.

    I can't seem to get any feeling of drama or action into them.

    Maybe I should stop trying.

    Heh, I think that bottom image is looking pretty sexy actually - whatever turns you on I guess ....
    Dynamic composition, lots to look at - maybe a little oversaturated colour wise but its looking great,
    I can almost hear those x wings whizzing by.... hold on, you can't hear in space.... well you can, but you can't (because of space earwax)

    Who cares if its true to the phyics of the situation? As long as it looks good, that's what I reckon :)

  • JoeMamma2000JoeMamma2000 Posts: 2,394
    edited December 2012

    And BTW, Rogue, I realize that you and many others here like to take the attitude of "know the rules yet break them", but I think your images provide a clear example of why NOT to break the rules. In this case, the rules of composition.

    I'll bet that a majority of people here would agree that the second and third images in your post are less pleasing than the first and last. And why is that? Well, probably because you broke the rules of composition.

    Nothing wrong with breaking those rules if you don't care that a majority of people will enjoy the images less. But if you care about how others receive your images you'll be very, very hesitant about breaking those rules unless you have a really, really good reason.

    Of course for those who don't want to learn the rules, it's easier to just say 'rules are made to be broken' :)

    And also BTW, in the same way that the rules of light and cameras and all that stuff still apply in space as they do on earth, the rules of image composition also apply in space... :)

    I think a lot of people forget that.

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  • RoguePilotRoguePilot Posts: 0
    edited December 2012

    head wax said:
    I know what you mean about space scenes.

    Boring.

    I can't seem to get any feeling of drama or action into them.

    Maybe I should stop trying.

    Heh, I think that bottom image is looking pretty sexy actually - whatever turns you on I guess ....
    Dynamic composition, lots to look at - maybe a little oversaturated colour wise but its looking great,
    I can almost hear those x wings whizzing by.... hold on, you can't hear in space.... well you can, but you can't (because of space earwax)

    Who cares if its true to the phyics of the situation? As long as it looks good, that's what I reckon :)

    Funny that you should say that, because the top three images are built in the same scene and have exactly the same light rig, the only thing that changes is the camera position and treatment in post. It's based on a 2 point binary star system.

    If you really want accurate deep space lighting then you're only allowed one light source with very local indirect light. When close to a planet, moon or nebula the reflected light becomes significant. Ship running lights or space station floods are very handy. The NASA nebula pics are enhanced and colour shifted to make them more attractive but I say 'what the heck, if that's what works'.

    The composition is a personal choice to indicate a building battle and confusion. A personal choice and necessary to the story, so I suppose that's the intended reaction from you. I know that I miss on composition sometimes but I get very few critiques, so thank you for that.

    The first one looks good (has more depth and feel of motion) because I massively forced the perspective. I boosted the ambient in post to give more pleasing shadows. I used the same tricks on the last one and but also lit counter intuitively to the background. The framing on both helps to sell the sense of motion, something that the panavision aspect ratio is really good for.

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  • RoguePilotRoguePilot Posts: 0
    edited December 1969

    Evil, that's a good way to work with a nebula image, nice call on matching a volumetric cloud to the background.

    I've not done a proper Star Trek render yet, that makes me want to try.

  • RoguePilotRoguePilot Posts: 0
    edited December 1969

    Thought I'd have a go at the real world for once.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxGARc4LhsA

    The YouTube compression really kills the details but I was working with that in mind to match some posted live action videos.
    The starfield gets lost but can be briefly seen during the lens flare.

    The setup is one distant light (soft shadows) to act as the sunlight. A bulb (turned down) is parented to a glowing Sun object to provide the disc and the flare at the right time. Another distant light is shining up through the earth to provide a little reflected light.

    The final light is a spot parented to the camera to provide a floodlight from the 'orbiting' shuttle camera. That's why you can still see the ISS all the way around.

    And that's it for the lights, zero ambient.

    I tried to time the shuttle manoevers to the music and it comes out quite pleasantly.

  • evilproducerevilproducer Posts: 7,574
    edited December 1969

    Thought I'd have a go at the real world for once.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxGARc4LhsA

    The YouTube compression really kills the details but I was working with that in mind to match some posted live action videos.
    The starfield gets lost but can be briefly seen during the lens flare.

    The setup is one distant light (soft shadows) to act as the sunlight. A bulb (turned down) is parented to a glowing Sun object to provide the disc and the flare at the right time. Another distant light is shining up through the earth to provide a little reflected light.

    The final light is a spot parented to the camera to provide a floodlight from the 'orbiting' shuttle camera. That's why you can still see the ISS all the way around.

    And that's it for the lights, zero ambient.

    I tried to time the shuttle manoevers to the music and it comes out quite pleasantly.


    Sounds interesting. I'll take a peak at it when I'm not rendering.

  • evilproducerevilproducer Posts: 7,574
    edited December 2012

    Looked at the video. Very nice.


    I've been plugging away at an animation for awhile now, but I haven't been moving very fast at it. This thread has given me the impetus to get it done. There's a few more grand shots I need to do, a couple cut-aways and a couple shots that are just going to be a chore. It's these shots that usually get me out of the mood to do anything.

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  • holly wetcircuitholly wetcircuit Posts: 0
    edited December 2012

    Ok, here's the first part of my SUN TUTORIAL in Comicbook format™... YAY! :coolgrin:

    Step-by-step, and suitable for beginners! This section covers building a sun model and texturing the photosphere with sunspots. I had to stop there because it has been 3-days working on this and I need a break, lol. Also the next steps require plugins and elaborate "tricks" to get the effects, so I will add them later as "bonus" pages...

    Eventually I will put it in PDF and upload it to my website... or maybe CARRARA CAFE would be so kind as to host...

    Please let me know if any part is unclear or contains typos or mistakes....

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  • holly wetcircuitholly wetcircuit Posts: 0
    edited December 2012

    Sun Tutorial continues...

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  • holly wetcircuitholly wetcircuit Posts: 0
    edited December 2012

    Sun tutorial continues...

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  • holly wetcircuitholly wetcircuit Posts: 0
    edited December 2012

    Final panel....

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  • evilproducerevilproducer Posts: 7,574
    edited December 1969

    Thank you for your hard work Holly! I'm going to DL and go through the process step by step!

  • RoguePilotRoguePilot Posts: 0
    edited December 1969

    Yes, thanks for that, I always love your comic book style tutorials.

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