One thing about “default” settings. If you want them to be good for all users - never ever leave them with settings that are super-hard on the computer - as some people haven’t yet (possibly never will) built a dedicated workstation.
I have - but mine is fairly modest: 8 cores @ 3.2 GHz each, 16GB Pro grade, cooled RAM, High-throughput, military class motherboard, blah blah…
...and still, I prefer my default settings to be the faster options - I can always increase the quality. If the default is too high, you may have to restart the app before a save - simply by attempting a spot render. Okay… enough on that.
For this I used Dimension Theory’s Carraracter - Delphinia (just one of the HDRI that comes with it), a set that I strongly suggest to anyone interested in digging deeper into super high quality results. He includes some more video tutorial - perspectives that can only be acquired through the creative mind of Jeffrey Felt (Dimension Theory), who I’m sure Phil will also recommend. Perhaps if I have some time later tonight, I’ll load one of his shader sets and repeat the experiment. I don’t want to give away any of his secrets. But he uses several global shaders you can apply ranging from Basic (which is excellent) through Advanced, Extreme, and finally - Superior. This will give you results closer to what Phil is showing us in his first example - which I can tell has an incredible shader setup!
My girl, Rosie, is set up for my fast and furious animation renders. I’ve even taken to reducing her texture maps down to 2000 x 2000 at the highest end of resolution. That is where you’ll see my character break down under this sort of experiment - as she is not intended for ultra-realism.
Using DT’s HDRI, I’ve otherwise followed Phil’s instructions. The results really are stunning. The top picture is the experiment as per instructed. The lower is how I normally fake the effect using the highlighting light rig attached to Rosie - so she always has it available - using the defaults I have for her lights - and added in a single distant light at a brightness of 60 casting a slightly yellow-green hue due to what I would do according to seeing the image in the HDR. For that one, the HDRI is not being used as such - but only as a spherical background - no GI or IL - just Rosie’s light rig and a single distant light.
Like I’ve mentioned above, I think that the blotchiness of Rosie’s appearance in the HDRI experiment comes from her lowered resolution. But you can really begin to see that I have successfully optimized her shaders to work with my fast and furious style of rendering and lighting. Well… lighting and rendering. Notice how her eyes sparkle in my fast render. But her hair, I think, looks better in the HDRI version.
So for this method - I would simply adopt a new method of going for a much more superior set of shaders - to make the image worthy of the much longer render times. I forgot to check the log before starting my next render - but this method definitely makes me have to walk away - as it takes a long time to render the subject. The second image was done as I sat and watched for about four minutes.
Again: Top Image - HDRI experiment using 2.2 Gamma
Bottom Image - my usual method of hand placing lights to fake the result
Click thumbnail to see full-size image