Sorcery

Greetings. When last I left you, I was tumbling head over heels through the broad and deep valley of 3Ds Max modeling, attempting to piece together a somewhat appealing composition for a still life.  Finally, after many long weeks in the sand-choked wastes of rendering, my throat sandpapery and eyes glazed over from hours of staring slack-jawed into computer monitors... I have scaled the crumbling walls of the aforementioned wasteland and have emerged on the other side!!  This has been my most in-depth and ambitious assignment so far in the BVIS program, and the time and effort have paid off.  I'm extremely pleased with the outcome! Come with me, on a journey through the various phases of this laborious project...

In my last post I was still putting together all of the various elements and objects that would be in the final scene of the still life, each of which pertaining to the memento mori theme: a skull, a pocketwatch, candles, etc.  Throughout the process, I took lots of in-progress screencaps and a few short weeks ago, this single shot blew my mind and I said to myself "YES.  It's really happening for me.  THIS is the future. I'm almost done!"  I was so wrong...

..."Spooky."

I also discussed the process of using photogrammetry to create a realistic skull model.  After implementing a little bit of computer-based magic, I was able to get a pretty good model in a *very* reasonable amount of time - the majority of which took place in ZBrush, where I optimized the model, textured it, and added paint:

Completed skull model in ZBrush

 

All of the other objects in the scene were created in 3Ds Max, with lots of lighting, material, and bitmap manipulation.  This is where the !real! !fun! (sarcasm) began - RENDERING FOR HOURS.  The first set of render passes was the whole scene together, with a beauty shot, lighting, shadow, zdepth, ambient occlusion, diffuse, specular, etc. etc.  After that was done, I rendered each individual object by itself, with the same previously listed passes for each.  finally, I rendered out each individual light in the scene to maximize my ability to tweak the settings in the scene.  Here's the final break down:

PHASE THE FIRST:  The Beauty Shot

This is the beauty pass from the final scene.  This is a single pass without any manipulation:

small_MM_Process_1_3DsMaxRender

PHASE THE SECOND: Beauty Composite

This is the result of taking the previous beauty pass and compositing it using the lighting, shadow, ambient occlusion, diffuse, specular passes, etc.:

~10 passes

PHASE THE THIRD: Final Master Composite

This is where the majority of the fine details were adjusted.  Before getting into the final shot of the scene, here is a single object in the scene that was composited using roughly 10 different render passes, before and after for comparison:

Original --> Composite

 

This step was taken for each individual item, every light, and every shadow, before adding Z depth (for distance blur) and the candle flames to the scene.  So, without further ado, here is the final shot:

small_MM_Process_3_FinalCompRender

 

The result is leaps and bounds better than what I was hoping to achieve.  In previous attempts at rendering and compositing, I had only made adjustments to the beauty composition as a whole.  Rendering out individual elements and being able to adjust them ever so slightly - that's where the real CG sorcery happens.  This whole project was an exercise in learning how to create realistic materials and lighting, and I feel like I've improved quite a bit since my last few attempts.

I will never underestimate a lace tablecloth again.