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 Taming The Dimensions

Posts Tagged ‘3D art’

Instancing in DAZ Studio

Monday, October 27th, 2014

Have you ever wanted to do a crowded scene in DAZ Studio, but run into problems with limited memory? Well, there’s an easy way around that: instancing. There are some pretty severe limitations to this method, but it’s really light and easy on the memory.

First, how to do it. I’m in a fantasy sort of mood right now, so I’m going to create a fantasy warrior. Okay, here he is:


There you have it, a rather annoyed-looking Gianni dressed as a barbarian in a desert wasteland. Now for the next step, and an illustration of a hidden catch of instancing.

I’m going to select Gianni, then go up to the “Create” menu and select “New Node Instances”. It asks how many, I leave it at the default value of ten. Then voila, I have my fantasy raiding party! Or do I…?


Oops! There’s something missing. If you’re going to instance a figure, the clothing absolutely has to be parented to it, or you get a whole bunch of naked people.

So now I’ll parent everything properly, create my instances, and drag each one into position. Instances can be selected individually or as a group, so you can drag the whole group into a rough approximation of where you want them, then select and move each one.

Okay, here’s my group of barbarian warriors, illustrating the one major drawback of instancing: they all look the same.


The similarity of the figures isn’t the end of the world, though. There’s a way around it. If you create, say, five different warriors, all in different poses and maybe with variations of armor, and of course different hair and weapons, then you can create instances of each warrior. Vary the number, too, so there’s maybe five black-haired guys, and eight with their swords overhead, or whatever. Then intermix all the instances and their original figures, and you’ve got an active battle scene, without completely destroying your computer.

If you have Photoshop, or any other imaging program, you can add some final touches such as dust or lighting effects, and you’re done. Put your finished image online for the world to see, and enjoy the comments about your amazingly powerful computer and the questions of “How’d you do it?”

An example of instancing in DAZ Studio, postworked in Photoshop to tweak colors and add dust.

An example of instancing in DAZ Studio, postworked in Photoshop to tweak colors and add dust.

Composition? Or Worldbuilding…

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Hello again! First off, I need to apologize for falling off the face of the web. I didn’t produce even a single post for the entire month of July, because I got thoroughly sidetracked by Camp NaNoWriMo, one of those crazy wild writing adventures I’ve grown to love. But I’m back now, and I have a few subjects waiting patiently in line for me to write them out. So here goes.

Composition is a huge word in the photography world, and in the 3D art world, as well. I don’t much like thinking about it, which tells me it’s something I probably should look into. I avoid stuff I don’t completely understand. To me, the word and the concept behind it just smacks of careful thought, and planning, and mapping out concepts, and all sorts of other stuff, when all I want to do is make pictures I think are cool looking. But to get those cool looking pictures, I really should know the rules of the trade. Right?

A very basic definition of composition, as applied to both photography and 3D art, is “the arrangement of visual elements within the visual frame.” Nice, bland, boring definition. It doesn’t take into account the vast amount of discourse on composition available online, in books, in videos and classes and pamphlets… You get the picture.

Now, I’m not about to take on the entire subject of composition in this blog post. That’d take half a lifetime. And I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this, you’ve probably run across the term before, and maybe even concepts like the “rule of thirds” and the “golden spiral.” What I will do, however, is share some thoughts I’ve had recently while I was supposed to be working, about how traditional composition fits together with the worldbuilding a writer does, and applies to 3D art.

A 3D artist, like an author or a movie director, is in complete control of the set. Of course, in this case, the set is a program window in DAZ Studio, empty and waiting to be filled with magic.

Playing With Render Settings: Pixel Filters

Monday, May 26th, 2014

When I first started using DAZ Studio, I freely confess that render settings meant nothing to me. I’d used Bryce casually for years, but generally left it on its default render settings, because I was kind of afraid to change anything lest I break the program. But using DAZ Studio forced me to get over that silly fear in a hurry, because the default render settings in Studio are pretty lousy. Here’s an example render using the default settings:

olympia_daz_default DAZ Default Settings

Max Ray Trace Depth: 1

Pixel Samples (X,Y): 4

Shadow Samples: 10

Gain: 1

Gamma Correction: Off

Gamma: 1

Shading Rate: 2

Pixel Filter: Sinc

Pixel Filter Width (X,Y): 6

Not the greatest image ever, I think you’ll agree. The default settings produce very blah and disappointing renders, especially when you’ve been looking through galleries and seeing all the amazing things people can do with this free program (and all the paid content they lure you into buying). After doing a bit of research into why my renders looked so bad compared to everyone else’s, I found out all sorts of interesting things about ray tracing, pixel and shadow samples, and shading rates. Those are the basic settings that need to change to produce a decent render. So here’s an example of a render done with my preferred final settings:

olympia_my_defaultMy  Default Settings

Max Ray Trace Depth: 4

Pixel Samples (X,Y): 12

Shadow Samples: 32

Gain: 1

Gamma Correction: On

Gamma: 1

Shading Rate: 0.1

Pixel Filter: Sinc

Pixel Filter Width (X,Y): 6

Olympia now looks sharper, more in focus, not blown out. Her hair looks better, and the details on her dress are more visible. Still not absolutely fabulous, but definitely getting better.

All right, there you have a baseline for this experiment. That last pair of settings, Pixel Filter and Pixel Filter Width, are what snagged my attention this time. I’ve messed around with pixel filters in LuxRender enough to know that they change the quality of the image, but not how or why. I’ve also ran across comments online that indicate using a pixel filter width higher than six is crazy, but again, I don’t know why. So here it goes.

Box Pixel Filter

olympia_boxYuck! She’s gone all blurry and out of focus. Okay, try again.

Triangle Pixel Filter

olympia_triangleOkay, not as bad, but still not nice and crisp like I want. Next one I have high hopes for, because I’ve used it in Bryce and been happy with it.

Catmull-Rom Pixel Filter


Whew, she’s looking like herself again. Okay, one more try, and I know this one will be blurry, simply because of its name.

Gaussian Pixel Filter


Yep, more blur, although still not as bad as that box filter.

So, why do the box and triangle filters look so horrible? This entailed a bit of research. I went online and read up on pixel filters. A pixel filter turns out to be the calculation used to determine what each rendered pixel filter will look like. If you want the technical details, sorry, you’re on your own. Math makes my head hurt. But take the box filter for an example. It looks at a single pixel, then it takes all the pixels around that one in a box shape and calculates an average of all the values. Voila! Now I understand why the image is so blurry! Because the filter is looking at its surroundings and averaging them out, resulting in mush.

Now how to fix the mush problem? There has to be a way, otherwise nobody would ever use the box filter for anything. Hmm… calculates surrounding pixels… What about pixel filter width? Aha! That tells the render engine how many pixels to look at. So, if I’m right, modifying the pixel filter width will transform the box filter into something usable for purposes other than producing a nice blurry background to composite with another image and simulate depth of field, which is about the only use I can think of for something that blurry. So. Here we go.

Box Filter, Width 3


That’s it, then. There’s a visible improvement in the image, just by changing the pixel filter width.






Box Filter, Width 1


There you have it, folks. Olympia is back to looking like herself again.  Just to make certain, I tried the triangle filter out with different filter widths, and the same result happened.

Hopefully you learned something from my little experiments. I know I sure did. Happy rendering!

Gamma Correction Is Your Friend

Monday, April 28th, 2014

I’ve been thinking about this subject for a while now, because it can have a rather startlingly huge impact on a 3D render. But you see, I just can’t come up with a way to explain it better than this article, Gamma Correction For A Linear Workflow. It covers all the whats, whys, and hows of gamma correction, and does it much better than I ever could. So what I’ll do is post a nice, clear illustration of what gamma correction will do for a DAZ Studio render. And I will also pass along the warning that you should always do test renders with gamma correction on, if you intend to use it, because otherwise your lighting will be all messed up. (more…)

Diving Underwater

Monday, April 7th, 2014

I’ve seen many underwater images online, and never really felt the desire to make any of my own. But I started experimenting with Bryce and making HDRI images. For some reason or other, the camera wound up underwater in the Bryce scene, and I liked the look so much I rendered it out as an HDRI. This is the image that came of using it.


First attempt at an underwater image in DAZ.

In Bryce, an HDRI image is really simple to make. First, you set up your scene the way you want it, then render it, then save as HDRI. Simple.

But what, you ask, is an HDRI, and why do I want one?

HDRI stands for High Dynamic Range Image. Both Studio and Bryce, and of course other 3D programs, can use this image to generate some really cool indirect lighting. Have a look at the fish-guy holding the spear. See the highlights, shadows, and the way his texture looks? That’s all from the HDRI. The base model is completely untextured, just the default grey.

Without the HDRI, the image is pretty bland and boring, without and real indication that it’s set underwater.

underwater with HDRI

Same image, with HDRI.

Raw render, no HDRI, no postwork.

With it, the underwater feel has started to happen, but it’s still not what I was looking for. However, you can see how much light is added from the image, ans you can begin to see the underwater look.

Enter Photoshop. I’ve used the program for a while, ever since PaintShop Pro got taken over by Corel. But mainly I used it for very basic stuff, adjusting light levels on photos and such. Now, I’m learning how to use the program for that mysterious thing called postwork.

In this case, I couldn’t see any real underwater look. Yes, the color suggests underwater, and yes, the dude with the spear looks like he belongs underwater. But where’s the depth? The ripples, the way everything looks submerged when you’re swimming around underwater? The weeds and fishes that come with the bottom of lakes and oceans alike?

To get these effects, I sent the original render in BMP format to Photoshop. I went online and located some free, unrestricted use fish and seaweed brushes, and used them to add in a bit of life. Then I started experimenting with layers of colors, blend modes, and opacity to bring more depth to the colors. If you’re curious, there’s an orange layer set to Vivid Light, a dark purple Hue layer, and a salmon-pink Overlay. The ripple effect came from a simple trick. I made a black layer, then applied “difference clouds” (Filter>Render>Difference Clouds) to it, and used the blend mode Vivid Light at 20% opacity. Voila! A more realistic underwater look.

If I’d been using Bryce, I admit, it would have looked way better. Bryce has some fabulous caustic effects for underwater, which is the primary reason I’d never really thought of doing an underwater scene in Studio. Why bother, when it’s so easy and awesome in Bryce? But sticking with what you know never expands anyone’s horizons, and I learned a lot working on this image.


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