The Wonderful Dynamic Puzzle of 3D (or, What's my Work Flow)

GeddGedd Posts: 2,473
edited April 2013 in The Commons

This topic is semi related to the previous one "To Post or not to Post."

In this, the hope is to explore the different ways people view the wonderful dynamic puzzle of 3D. First a bit of an explanation. Working with premade content is not exactly what people often think originally coming into it. They see a picture, buy the item, load it (no going into finding items in this post.. that's a separate topic) and eventually after putting the various parts into their scene... hit the render button. And.... it doesn't look like the promo. What happened (or didn't?)

Well the short answer is, 3D art is made up of many different parts that all have to come together to make a final image/animation. It ends up being up to us as the artist to fit these various parts together to create the final image. How any given artist approaches this is going to vary based on their experience and goals. There is so much valuable information in our community on how people do this that it seems a good idea to take a moment to explore this topic.

I will start with a simple example.

Post edited by Gedd on
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Comments

  • GeddGedd Posts: 2,473
    edited April 2013

    Here is an image out of the box that I rendered, and it came out ok, but it wasn't what I was going for in this case. The model is Requiescat Which requires Reparation So this is the first part of the puzzle, we need a base product to go with the product we need, simple enough for most of us here as we understand this, but it is confusing to new people.

    The the second part of the puzzle is, we can render in png for a transparent background or in jpg for a smaller file size. If our goal was to use this as a piece of a composition then the png format with alpha would be better, but notice the white fringing... that is because I did render it with a transparent background then simply did a fill in my photo editing software. If we were doing a composition, we would need to deal with this.

    Puzzle-Piece-01.jpg
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  • GeddGedd Posts: 2,473
    edited December 1969

    Ok, for the third part of this particular puzzle. What I want to achieve is a night time scene, and this prop comes with a night light set, so.. I'm all set right? Let's take a look.

    Puzzle-Piece-02.jpg
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  • GeddGedd Posts: 2,473
    edited December 1969

    Again, this image has fringing, which if I was just trying to leave a dark background as it stands I would be better saving without alpha. But the more important point is, this doesn't look anything like the promo and definitely not what I want. There's no detail.. it's all just a shadow with a small point light.

  • ChoholeChohole Posts: 19,845
    edited December 1969

    Moved to the Commons because it is not an offer of a freebie.

  • GeddGedd Posts: 2,473
    edited April 2013

    This next step, I added UberEnvironment for the ambient light and a directional light for the moonlight. The moonlight has raytraced shadows. Render time went from around a minute to about 15. An interesting point about this was it originally was taking much longer and I happened to know from experience it shouldn't take as long as it was for the setup I had, so I canceled the render. The first place I looked was for shadows on the other lights as having shadows on every light in the scene will dramatically increase render time. That wasn't it. Then I noticed that what I thought was putting a texture on the original model actually loaded a second version of the model. This is often noticible in the preview window but wasn't in this case as they overlayed each other in a way that it wasn't obvious.

    *On this last image, one should click on it to see it full size.

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  • GeddGedd Posts: 2,473
    edited April 2013

    So in summary, it may seem obvious to many of us that these are components in a puzzle, but for new people especially, it is easy to think they are more fleshed out then they actually are. Some products, especially newer ones do render out of the box like the promos, but even then, integrating them into our projects requires retrofits.

    The goal isn't to go into too much detail, or even use pictures in the discussion. I put in much more detail in this initial example simply to clarify the concept. What the idea really is, is to explore ways different artists approach the idea of using the components to create their finished product. In most cases this can be done by a simple text post of an example workflow.

    In this example, the sample goal was to create a piece that would serve as a basis for future renderings in a Halloween type render. As such, the final piece was reframed to contain the entire piece and I would typically render one with/without background and save the settings as custom settings if I were planning on using it. It was just an example piece in this case, and definitely not a 'work of art.' But hopefully served it's purpose in showing how we can take a product out of the box, with some simple modifications often, come up with something.

    Final times:
    - Setup, around 10 minutes
    - Render 14m.11s
    - Hardware: I5 760, 12G Ram, 9800GTX w 512m Memory

    Please feel free to jump in, the water's nice.

    Post edited by Gedd on
  • icprncssicprncss Posts: 3,480
    edited December 1969

    If DS can save renders as TIF's you might try that (we don't render in it so I don't know if it can). The alpha channel can be used as a mask in any image editor that supports layers, masks and alpha's.

    On the render with fringing, have you tried the defringe filter? Or tried rendering to a "green screen" and compositing in the image editor?

  • GeddGedd Posts: 2,473
    edited April 2013

    Well technically, DS doesn't render anything, the render engine it uses by default is 3Dlight. Some people's workflows will be very different because they use different render engines for their final output. I am just learning Lux/Luxus myself atm, and would be using Octane if I could afford it. 3DLight does have some features not available in Unbiased (ie Lux/Octane) render engines but that is a separate discussion.

    On the specifics of removing the fringing there are actually a couple good threads on that. If anyone wants to put up the links (don't have them handy at the moment) they might be useful. It happens to be an area I need to take the time get down in my pipeline. Yes 3Dlight does output Tiffs, though I believe it has the same fringing problems, as does green screen in a default 'green (or insert preferred unused color here) background.' As for a defringe filter... not familiar with it.

    [Edit] The Fringe issue was extremely simple to fix, in this case at least. I was trying to 'fill' the transparent area, which was what gave the halo effect. This is actually not my normal workflow but for some reason was taking this shortcut without thinking. Once I created a layer below the image and filled it, the fringing went away. The added advantage of this of course is that in many cases it's a non issue since one is overlaying the object in question on top of another image, and because one can incorporate layer (watchamacallits... my brain blanks on the simplest things sometimes) to effect exactly how the two layers integrate at the fringe areas.

    Post edited by Gedd on
  • GeddGedd Posts: 2,473
    edited April 2013

    On a side note, the previous thread that inspired this, people were posting great examples of this, better then the one I presented here, but I thought a separate thread dedictated to the topic would be helpful. I wish I could copy over some of that thread to this, but hopefully it will fill on it's own with inspiring stuff :)

    Post edited by Gedd on
  • GeddGedd Posts: 2,473
    edited April 2013

    A note on Tiffs for anyone that is not familiar, Tiffs are uncompressed. That means one can edit and save them without them degrading due to multiple recompressions similar to the difference between copying a dvd/cd using an exact copy method vs copying a VHS or cassette tape did (for those that remember those.) Hence the reason many artists will save in Tiff format rather then jpg or png up until the final image that's being prepared for output. So thank-you icprncss. The winning answer here would be to save in tiff at this stage typically, with an alpha, understanding that using a layer under the image with the alpha channel should sort out any fringing.

    This is all open for discussion btw so anyone can jump in and offer counters to anything presented.

    This brings up another good point. What if we have things that we are using for stock and are already in jpg/png? If we are going to be doing multiple edits and saves on them, it pays to save them as tiff or a format that is native to the photo editing tool (as these are also usually uncompressed, but verify this if not sure.) Then, save in the preferred compressed format only when putting out the final image.

    Post edited by Gedd on
  • larsmidnattlarsmidnatt Posts: 3,357
    edited April 2013

    Definitely don't use JPG, and certainly store your files in the native format of your image editor.

    TiFF is just one option and one of the best, but it will depends on what you are doing and looking for. When I did animation we used TGA because they are smaller files, while still retaining data very well (and other reasons). For years I have mostly used PNG as the quality is the same as TIFF or TGA, but file size is smaller. All three are lossless, but PNG and TGA support compression. I don't think TGA does transparencies though...PNG does. So TIFF is the strongest, but if you don't need layers you may have another option.

    The disadvantage of PNG is that it uses more CPU to save a file than the other formats because of its compression.

    If you need thousands of files for an animation file size may become a factor, I know it was for me!

    Using one of my own images here are the file size differences

    PSD file with 2 layers 20.8mb
    Tiff with 1 layer 21.7mb
    TGA 9.65mb
    PNG 3.59mb

    JPG max quality 1.2mb (remember max quality is still lossly!)
    JPG medium quality 167kb (set @ 30% in PS)

    Not a big deal when working with a single image, but it does add up. Not just hard drive space, but impacting speed of file reads if you are creating a video from an image sequence.

    Post edited by larsmidnatt on
  • SickleYieldSickleYield Posts: 6,003
    edited December 1969

    When you render to .png render with a black background, not a white one. Fringing problem solved.


    Yes, it did take me a long, annoying time to figure that out. No, I was never told it by anyone else.


    Yes, there are a lot of little things like that... But many fewer than before I started using DS4.5 as my main renderer. I will leave it at that so the mods don't smack me for app-baiting again. :D


    Another couple of things I've learned that I was never told, or that I was told the opposite of initially by forum denizens:


    -You do not need 15 lights in a scene, unless it's a street with 15 street lamps or the like. You can get a nice-looking scene with an uber, a specular distant, and a diffuse spotlight. If you can't, adding more usually won't help.
    -You do not need a blue velvet setting at 20% in any body shader, ever. It won't even show up at that value, and pink or brown is much more lifelike if your character isn't blue. Velvet doesn't mimic veins under the skin, but rather the peach fuzz aura at the edges of the body.
    -You don't want the SSS above 50% without a specific map for it, either, or your body texture will be overwhelmingly blown out of details by the SSS color.
    -Letting your corneas reflect actual scene objects instead of using a transmap is great - IF you can afford enough raytracing samples in the render settings to actually do that.
    -Seamlessly tiling textures are not automatically bad. BAD seamlessly tiling textures are.

  • GeddGedd Posts: 2,473
    edited December 1969

    Those are all great points :)

  • GreycatGreycat Posts: 183
    edited December 1969

    My Tip.

    First let me say that I use PSP 9 for all my post work.
    I always composite my pictures (my compute can’t render any kind of large scene).
    I render any figure or scene piece against a black background and save it out to a tiff file with an alpha channel. In PSP I create a selection using the tiff alpha channel. I modify the selection by having it add a two-pixel feather to the selection. When I copy and paste my selection to the image I’m working on a little of the black background comes along and softens the edge.

    The first picture shows the straight alpha channel selection and the second picture shows the feathered selection. Notice the edge of the ear.

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    ImageB.jpg
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    ImageA.jpg
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  • GeddGedd Posts: 2,473
    edited April 2013

    The problem one runs into with alpha channels and growing it by a pixel is it doesn't work in situations where there is semi-transparent areas such as the areas around the ivy leaves in the example above. I didn't post the example image, but the fringing in all of the areas except the leaves were able to be solved with growing the selection. It worked fine with a background layer rather then a 'fill' (or past into) of the alpha area of the base layer, as the background layer simply merged with it. One could use multiply, darken etc.. for blend modes and even masks if necessary if using the alpha combined with a background layer.

    It's a great tip because it looks much better, and sometimes a simple fix will work. We can often use more complex methods then necessary to solve a problem because it becomes habit. Not thinking to use simple fixes when appropriate can be the source of big time sinks.

    Post edited by Gedd on
  • GeddGedd Posts: 2,473
    edited April 2013

    Example 2:

    In this first image, we have Stonemason's excellent prop The Dark Star. It is a great image but it isn't quite like the promo and not what I'm looking for, so ... here we go.

    01.jpg
    800 x 800 - 75K
    Post edited by Gedd on
  • GeddGedd Posts: 2,473
    edited April 2013

    Here is a screenshot of the actual lights that make up the set as is. They could be used as a jumping off point for creating the finished item, but in my case I want to take it in an entirely different direction so we will disable all of the lights that came with it.

    02.jpg
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  • GeddGedd Posts: 2,473
    edited April 2013

    The lights weren't showing in the initial image so added ambient to them, which made them show up but they aren't emitting any actual light, they just glow themselves leaving the rest of the scene dark.

    03.jpg
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    Post edited by Gedd on
  • GeddGedd Posts: 2,473
    edited April 2013

    Here I transformed the lights to UberArea lights but it blew out the colors so we'll have to fix that.

    04.jpg
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    Post edited by Gedd on
  • GeddGedd Posts: 2,473
    edited April 2013

    The scene is entirely lit by the actual visible lights in the scene at this point. Besides modifying the colors of the lights, I adjusted the falloff amount and rate to sculpt the lighting into producing the dimensional tonality I wanted.

    It looks grainy because I've left the quality down purposely to allow fast adjustments while I work, total render time for the image is still below 2 minutes at this point. This allows quick tweeking of the color, balance etc.. without waiting forever for the results. I changed the surfaces from plastic to metal, matte, etc.. but this didn't really have a significant impact at this point. I'm just picky that way, it does make some differences when the final lighting comes together, and if going to another render engine like octane or lux eventually, it sets the stage.

    I also added an UberArea light. The purpose of the UberArea light was to balance out the other lights and blend all of it together. It is set to a low level as it is basically blend and fill. There is an image missing between this and the previous one where I had modified the lights to the colors I wanted but hadn't added the UberArea, so it isn't as obvious what purpose the UA is serving as it could be.

    05.jpg
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  • GeddGedd Posts: 2,473
    edited April 2013

    In the final scene I upped the quality (samples.) I also added the default genesis character as a placeholder character. This allows us to see how the lighting is going to work with skin tones. Since the character isn't in a closeup, it doesn't need specialized skin work.

    If one clicks on the final image to get the full size popup and the scrolls up to the first image, one can compare the two side-by-side to see how the lighting really effects the textures. This is the 3DLight render engine with a pretty reasonable render time.

    06.jpg
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    Post edited by Gedd on
  • GeddGedd Posts: 2,473
    edited April 2013

    So, the final render too 22m.11s with the hardware previously mentioned.

    A couple things of note. By understanding workflow I was able to get what I wanted without spending a lot of time rendering during the initial stages by keeping the quality down. It was only the final render that took any amount of time. The second thing to note is notice how the various textures pop compared to the initial render. I did nothing to any of the surfaces other then those of the lights and to change the material types from 'plastic' to metal, matte, etc.

    The point here wasn't to make great art, it was to set up the prop so that when we did want to use it we had something that was more in line with how 'we' would use it. We could save multiple configurations so that they would be ready as a starting point for whatever we wanted to do with them later.

    Post edited by Gedd on
  • Satira CapriccioSatira Capriccio Posts: 522
    edited December 1969

    If the background for my image will be black, then I render against a blank background. If it will be white, I'll render against a black background. But ... if you background is anything other than black or white, you'd want to use that color.

    In other words, I'll pick the dominant color from the background behind my figure and set that as the background color.

    When you render to .png render with a black background, not a white one. Fringing problem solved.


    Yes, it did take me a long, annoying time to figure that out. No, I was never told it by anyone else.

  • GeddGedd Posts: 2,473
    edited December 1969

    All of the methods mentioned for fringing are good and appropriate for different circumstances from my experience. There is another method when it is a particular problem and one need good detailed results in the area and that is to make a specific layer mask of the offending area and deal with that area using various touchup techniques. This level of detail in dealing with it can be time consuming though and doesn't make sense when a simpler method will work. It can be like putting a lot of detail in background areas that are going to have a high DOF effect applied anyways.

  • StonemasonStonemason Posts: 481
    edited December 1969

    Gedd said:
    Example 2:

    In this first image, we have Stonemason's excellent prop The Dark Star. It is a great image but it isn't quite like the promo and not what I'm looking for, so ... here we go.

    looks like your using the wrong version of that set,(judging by the lack of ambient lights)..have a look around for the DAZ Studio mats that came with it,which will adjust all the materials to look as they do in the promos

    thanks
    Stefan

  • GeddGedd Posts: 2,473
    edited April 2013

    Thank you, will do. That would have saved a step, but in the particular case of using it for an example, it helped I didn't have them ;p

    [Edit] Nope, I did a fresh download using a bare (clean install) of DS and tried the poser and DS versions.. no ambient here.

    Post edited by Gedd on
  • StonemasonStonemason Posts: 481
    edited April 2013

    in your account you should see something called "The Dark Star StudioCF" which contains the materials and lights for D|S

    the material files for D|S are in \content\character\Stonemason

    Post edited by Stonemason on
  • GeddGedd Posts: 2,473
    edited December 1969

    In my download of the StudioCF it doesn't have a content\character folder. That zip contains:

    \---Content
    +---Props
    | \---Stonemason
    | \---The Dark Star
    | DarkStarLights.dsb
    | DarkStarLights.dsb.png
    | DarkStar_mats.dsb
    | DarkStar_mats.dsb.png
    |
    \---Runtime
    \---Support
    DAZ_3D_8771_The_Dark_Star_Legacy.dsa
    DAZ_3D_8771_The_Dark_Star_Legacy.dsx
    DAZ_3D_8771_The_Dark_Star_Legacy.jpg

    and none of those provide ambient lights.

  • StonemasonStonemason Posts: 481
    edited December 1969

    DarkStar_mats.dsb is what your looking for.. and its not actual lights, it just makes adjustments to the ambient 'light' fittings surfaces

  • GeddGedd Posts: 2,473
    edited December 1969

    Yes, I tried that.. it didn't adjust the ambients for me.

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