Rubber/foam I didn’t really have a direction, just what looked good.
There seems to be two trains of thought on cgSociety, one group says yes for Fresnel and some say no. I understand dielectrics and non dielectric surfaces and like you thought this too. But after reading many pages on the subject I am not so sure now.
It does look good. Would you share the settings, please?
The question would be, what background does that “pro-Fresnel” group have? If they’re trained artists, that’s one thing. It means that we, in turn, as artists, can disregard their opinion because it is what it is, “whatever looks prettiest”.
Now if those guys are somehow physicists/engineers, then it’s more interesting. I, for one, have never heard about Fresnel laws in context of metals and light. But I did not major in optics. Maybe there is a handful of specific cases or whatever.
As for the lights, my fix was for the time when the shadows did not work at all, and it’s here: http://www.daz3d.com/forums/viewthread/12191/#182158
The guys in the thread you linked basically told it like it is, though: a point light won’t cast shadows that are much soft, by definition. There’s that intrinsic conceptualisation limit. Now if you imagine a naked lightbulb and a photostudio softbox, which would cast softer shadows? Softness of shadows depends quite a lot on the emitter surface size. Think of a softbox as consisting of an infinite number of infinitely small pointlights spread over a surface; each casts sharp shadows, but as there’s a lot of them and some are far apart, their shadows overlap and hence the edges are blurred… something like that.
Here’s a link that specifically contrasts “traditional” point light sharp shadows with softer ones and gives some interestic ideas about setting up surfaces to better match either: http://www.peachpit.com/articles/article.aspx?p=516590&seqNum=6
There are “point” (i.e. omnidirectional) lights in UberSoft Lighting Kit, but given that they are morphable into directional lights, and given that the shadows from all of them are calculated by the Master one, I won’t even try to guess what those “soft” shaders could be under the hood.
Here are two renders of a 3 meter tall cylinder atop a 5 meter side plane. The one on the left is illuminated with a single point light; the one on the right - by four identical ones (intensity 25% each). I’ve moved them apart a little, so if you look hard, the shadow gets marginally softer. More pointlights spread farther apart - more softness kicking in earlier. Hope that helps!
Click thumbnail to see full-size image