I hope the tutorial would go easier on us, common people, than your current discussion. Heh…
While you’re working on it, I will tell you an anecdote about people who might be reading it once the tutorial’s ready.
I’ve downloaded my first DS almost two years ago and started playing. I found it tougher than coding in C, but eventually I managed to assemble my scenes to my liking and even do some poses that could be judged as “natural” if you were my best friend and owed me a hundred bucks (and you did the judging). What I didn’t get at all was lighting and surfaces. I bought UberSurface 2, dozens of lights, but achieved nothing (mostly because their authors probably think it’s a bad omen to document their products).
I got so frustrated that I actually bought Poser only to try IDL Studio. Well, that was a success in a way. I’ve got my first render that was truly nice - it was well lit and had that fashionable thing, called AO (it’s when you enter a room wearing red sweater and the room walls become red). But even though my characters looked nice, I soon got tired to render them inside that bubble, they call Infinity Cove. I was longing to see something decent being rendered in an urban setting or a forest.
And then I read somewhere, that, you know, you can try to switch shadows to raytracing. Boy, that was something! I’ve tried raytracing before - back when I was trying out DS feature-by-feature. But it didn’t nudge from 0% for quite some time, so I thought I’m doing something wrong and dropped the subject until next time.
Imagine that! I was rendering for a year or so with DSM only and cursing all the time at pixellated ink I was getting at the shadows. I fell in love with raytracing, but not the time it takes to do it. BTW, I found that the best results for bounces are between 2 and 4 (my new default is 4), depending on how close surfaces are to each other. Just don’t do this with jewellery - it’d take a supercomputer to calculate all effects.
Since now it took *only* a few hours to do my renders and my appetite for nice pics was way up, I tried all the things I failed with before. Including UberEnvironment. My previous failure with UE was so deep, I actually avoided any product that mentioned it (even in small print). Now I tried UE with raytraced shadows and found that the same ugliness is achievable during a 4-hour render with RT. A valuable lesson.
And then I read somewhere, that, you know, you can try to crank up UE quality settings. So I did. Left my computer rendering overnight and woke up to something I didn’t know was actually achievable. Never looked back after this, but now I sorta long for the times when I could get my render on the same day I finished the scene.
I also discovered that all the light sets I blasphemed about are actually very good ones once you clicked on their UE and then went 4XHi immediately. So now maybe I’m still far from realism, but my images do jump at me off the screen, so to say. (Makes one wonder why even new light sets, like the Dimension ones you were discussing still come with lame UE quality settings).
And here we come to the UberSurface 2. It was one of the first products I bought at the DAZ store, but I still have no idea how to get nice things consistently. I experimented a lot with SSS, Fresnel, velvets and whatnot. I got some spectacular results, but never on my own volition - they were (still are) sorta random.
Had no trouble to follow Omnifreaker’s promotional video (now I know how to make V4 into a zombie under a single spotlight) and some other scenarios, but I still lament the inconsistency under the differing lighting conditions. The tool is useless if one could not predict the product of its use.
So I hope, you know, for another piece of “and then I read somewhere”.
Do not use an off-gray sphere as an illustration, please. For people like me it doesn’t work as I can’t imagine how the effect will translate to a portrait of a girl, smelling the first flowers of the spring. If you could tell how one thing or another works in most common scene set ups and light conditions (portrait/full height - indoor/outdoor/studio - daylight/dawn/night), that would be awesome.
Even if you don’t, include, please, some rule-of-thumb observations of yours. As you can see, some things might be invaluable to newbies and hobbyists, even though the pros think them being too simple to mention.
Thanks for the undertaking!