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What's Behind 3D Renders?

Journal Entry: Mon May 12, 2014, 8:15 PM

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** What's Behind 3D Renders? **

       

           

One of the biggest misconceptions in 3D rendering is to think that the final outcome comes from "magic" and secretive rendering settings. So many people have send me notes asking me for what rendering settings I use to get the looks I show in my gallery, which sounds odd and misguided. As a matter of fact, rendering settings depend on what's in the scene, so there is no "magic" single setup that would work for all of them. Rendering looks depend on other things, so lets talk about what rendering is all about.

In a nutshell, a 3D render is a simulation of how light rays interact with different surfaces and materials. Every pixel in the final render is the result of that. Both Poser Firefly and DS 3Delight use basically the same renderer based on the open source Pixar Renderman, so the following applies to both.

There are basically two ways of rendering a scene: accounting for all physically correct interactions of light rays with surfaces and materials, or instead try to simplify those for the sake of faster and easier to set up renders. Physically correct rendering is called "unbiased", while simplified and approximated models of it are called "biased" rendering. The prior takes longer but delivers the most realistic results, while the latter renders much faster but at the cost of lower realism. Both Firefly and 3Delight lights and rendering are of the biased kind. Note that I've mentioned that not only the renderers are biased, but the lights and materials are too, meaning they are also not physically correct.

One may ask why not always render with unbiased renderers, and as a matter of fact, some of the early rendering engines tried to go that way, but in theory, an unbiased render will "never end". That's because when real light hits an object, part of it is absorved, part is reflected and go hitting other objects and repeat the process until all energy is spent. Computers can only work with "discrete" numbers, meaning it cannot calculate things to infinity. In practical terms, this means a computer may never finish calculating all possible light interactions that happen in the real physical world. If it did, we would always get the ultimate level of realism in every render - but only if we could wait forever for it to finish.

Modern rendering engines use a mix of biased and unbiased rendering solutions that try to get the best of both sides in a controllable (and reasonable) amount of time. There are ways to "fake" real infinite light interactions in a more concise way and still get a reasonable result in a fraction of the time. Computer science keeps coming out with new solutions every now and then, but at least one thing is still necessary to obtain realism - ray tracing. This is still the Holy Grail of 3D rendering, and also one of the most used features.

Ray tracing is the process of simulating light rays being emitted from a light source, bouncing off whatever it hits, get refracted and/or reflected depending on the material it hits, and then eventually "die" after a certain number of interactions. Only light rays that can be seen from the camera are accounted for. Both Firefly and 3Delight use ray tracing, where we can manually set the number of times a ray can bounce before it dies, and also the number of light rays to cast. This alone can dramatically affect rendering quality when it comes to what makes images look real, such as shadows, reflections and refractions.

You will notice, though, that the default number of bounces is set to a very low value (usually "1") in both rendering engines. The reason is simple: the more bounces, the longer a render will take to complete. A value of "1" can get you precise shadows, but unrealistic reflections, and no refractions. But since these renderers are both biased, even crazy amounts of ray tracing would still not calculate how light interacts with translucid objects such as glass, which should produce refracted lights coming out of them and hitting other objects (this is called "caustics"). Neither Firefly nor 3Delight support that.

From this we can see that biased rendering engines have limitations - even when using almighty ray tracing, there are still things they cannot do. There are ways to simulate some of those things, like for example, how one object can cast very subtle shadows over it's close proximity that really happen in the real world, but are usually not accounted for in biased renders. A mathematical algorithm called AO ("ambient occlusion") does just that much faster than it would take to do the same with more advanced methods.

Another physical phenomenon that can be faked in 3D is the way an object can reflect light emitted from another object, and illuminate other surrounding objects with it. For example, the moon reflects the light from the sun and illuminates the Earth during the night, even when the moon itself does not produce any lights. This is called IDL ("indirect lighting"), and while most biased renderers will not account for this, it can be approximated in a fraction of the time it would take to reproduce it with full ray tracing (by using fewer rays and guessing the rest by means of interpolation). Poser's Firefly renderer supports AO and IDL natively, but remember these are meant to fake reality.

Exactly because biased renderers will always fake reality, and in some cases even lack the ability to do that, I have quit using Firefly last year, and adopted Octane as my default renderer in Poser. Some of you may have noticed some visible differences in the images I have been posting since then, since Octane is an unbiased renderer.


           

If you have been following my train of thought, we can conclude that Octane cannot use any lights, materials or cameras from Poser because they are all "fake". There is a lot of myth going around about how this or that program can do a better material "conversion" from Poser to Octane, but the truth is that this is better done manually because biased and unbiased materials are based on completely different laws. If they manage to get you a good conversion, it was most likely a matter of luck and guessing.

Although modern rendering engines try to simplify things the best they can, chances are that it will be difficult to produce realistic looking renders if you don't understand what the tools do. For instance, knowing what ray tracing, AO and IDL do can help deciding when to use them and in what amount. Hence always using all features to the maximum settings will only guarantee the render will always take the longest time to complete.

With unbiased renderers like Octane, Lux and others, things work quite differently. While things are rather complex to setup in biased renderers, unbiased engines are much easier to configure, in part because there aren't such multiple options for things to fake. Having that said, Octane is not a single rendering engine, but several in one. This "hybrid" approach has become common with unbiased renderers as means to reduce rendering times.

Unbiased renderers will try to simulate the way real lights work in the real world, but as we have seen above, this can easily lead to endless rendering times. There are several theoretical models to simulate real light, and each has pros and cons, but the main objective is to produce the best results in the shortest time. Here again, it is important to understand what each is trying to accomplish, because just setting everything to max values will only make them take longer - not necessarily better.

Biased renders have multiple kinds of lights, such as point, distant, and spotlights. Unbiased lights only exist in two kinds: Sunlight and area lights. At first, one may think this is too limited, since my main kind of light used to be the spotlight, and those don't exist in Octane. In reality, Sunlight is similar to a distant light, except that there can be only one in the scene, and it directly affects it's own "physical sky". Sunlight is most useful for architectural visualization, so I don't use it so much.

The real gold is on the area lights, which can be used to replace any other kinds of biased lights, and with advantages. For starters, area lights can have any shape and size, so if you want to make a point light, just make an area light out of a sphere. Want to make a spotlight or distant light? Create an area light out of a plane - it's that easy. A simple plane area light can easily simulate a photographer's softbox, which would require much more work with biased lights.

Now back to unbiased renderers, typical rendering cores are Direct Light, PMC, and Path Tracing. Direct Light is the only biased option, and not surprisingly, it can be very fast at the cost of not supporting some more advanced features. If your scene uses Sunlight and has no (or few) semi-transparent objects, it will produce decent results using Direct Light with fake ray tracing, IDL and AO - in most cases much better than what you can get with Firefly or 3Delight.

PMC is the traditional "Monte Carlo" brute force ray tracing method. It's an optimized version that can produce the best caustics and refraction results - but only if your scene has objects that require that. Otherwise it will just take longer than necessary to complete the render. PMC is by nature slower than the other cores, but when it comes to scene with refractions and caustics, it will do it faster than the others.

Path Finding is by far the rendering core I use the most, and to no surprise it is also the default core in Octane. This core produces the best trade off between quality and rendering times, but it may lag behind PMC if your scene has lots of transparency, refractions, and caustics.

This is a classic example of how important it is to know what each rendering core is good for, so we can pick the right one for the job in hands. By now you should know when to use each of them, and why it depends on what's in the scene. With biased renderers from Poser and DS it is still the same thing - we can get much better results when we know what the features do, so we can choose when to use them to our advantage. For instance, increasing number of ray tracing bounces in Poser or DS will be a complete waste of time if the scene doesn't have complex reflections and/or refractions over semi-transparent objects, for this alone can easily explode rendering times with no visible gains.

I hope this will help people understand that it's a myth to believe there is some secret rendering setting that makes all renders look good. In a nutshell: what comes out of a render is the result of how well the materials and lights react to each other, based on the kind of rendering engine that is doing he job. Learn what your particular rendering engine is trying to do (or fake), and make educated decisions of where and when, and in what amount to use them.

Have fun and render!


       





Clubs I joined:
:iconposeraddicts: :iconcatgirl-zone: :iconkawaii-neko-club: :iconglossy-legs-club: :iconpantyhoselovers: :icon3danimationgroup: :icontradewinds3d: :iconarizona-art-history: :iconpanoramaclub: :iconworld-of-catgirls: :iconkemonomimilovers: :iconanime-manga-artists: :iconflanimate: :icondemons-n-angels: :iconanime-catgirls: :iconfemale-incorporated: :iconbrazilians: :icondarkskin-love: :iconsexyvoluptuousvixens: :iconhouse-of-fetishes: :icondawn-of-a-new-era: :iconpwfa:

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-How to Catch a Girl- by ken1171 -Daydream- (Animation) by ken1171 -64K Sexxxy Ryn Kiriban- by ken1171
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-Night Run Animation- by ken1171 -But isnt that stupid- by ken1171

MY COMICS:
-Nonsense is in Fashion- by ken1171 -Master Usajiro ep01- by ken1171 -Master Usajiro ep02- by ken1171
-Pirate grudge- by ken1171 -Private Study- by ken1171 -Creature comforts- by ken1171

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MY WRITING:
-Metal Seduction- by ken1171 CollectionsCollections
Chances are that nearly everybody likes collecting things during their life. My mom collects dolls from different countries, my friend collects stamps, another one collects buttons and so on. I collect Anime videos and have been doing so for over a decade now.
But the funny thing is that those collections only have a meaning to us. You might have a grandparent who passed away and left their own collections of something behind, and your family doesn't have a clue on what to do with it. If it's valuable maybe it can be sold. If not, it will either be dumped somewhere or donated to whoever might want it.
My wife and I went to some antique shops the past weekend and I couldn't help noticing how many meticulously preserved collections we found there. We found things of all sorts, like Coca Cola collectables from the 1950's and classic car miniatures from the 1960's. I remembered some of those things from my childhood (I was born in the late 60's) but never imagined someon
-Inaho's Homework- by ken1171
ShadoGal Mai Chronicles IShadoGal Mai Chronicles I: Living Forever
There are many vampire stories based on the fact that life loses its meaning if you cannot die. Those stories tend to emphasize that life itself can become a burden in such cases, because after a few centuries there is nothing much of new to be seen or learned, especially because history tends to repeat itself over and over.
That's how I defined the personality of ShadoGal Mai, my wacky half-vampire (damphyr) character. One can become quite bored after living for 500 years, and many books and movies have covered aspects of it, such as "Interview with a Vampire" and "Highlander". But in those stories the characters were nearly all male, and I here I wanted to show a female side of the story.
Human nature dictates that we will value the most what we don't have, or things that are rare and thus, precious. But immortality makes life itself worthless. In a vampire perspective life has advantages, although they have to live without a good deal of the
ShadoGal Mai Chronicles II====================================
ShadoGal Mai Chronicles II: Fay and the Scroll of Dhakr
====================================

One thing to keep in mind is that Mai us a supernatural being. She inherited a vampire hypnotic gaze that can paralyze humans with ease. After a "love bite", they become addicted to her highly arousing ways and will tend to come back for more at regular periods, which is very convenient for both sides. It's like the next step in the vampire symbiotic evolution, which is described in the "Unification Prophecy".
Mai doesn't like fighting and in most cases she never has to. That's the nature of vampires. She can paralyze any human just by looking at them in the eyes, no matter their physical strength - the gaze paralyzes a human (or even animals) by freezing their souls right at the core. Besides that, Mai has the strength of 10 men, which means trying to defeat her by brute force is unlikely to work by all means. It's not physical strength, but rather a
ShadoGal Mai Chronicles IIIEpisode III: Dawn of the Ancients
Fay was sitting comfortably on a sofa in this magnificent mansion. She was used to be at different places every once in a while, because her job forces her to move from place to place every few decades. There were five men around her, looking very suspicious of the new location. The older one, Vance, was particularly uncomfortable with the place because it has too many windows. He was not concerned about his privacy or anything, but instead about his own safety, since sunlight can be quite inconvenient to most vampires – especially the older ones.
They spent the following hours painting all of the windows black, and only then Vance could finally sit and rest on the large and decorated sofa where Fay had already fell asleep. How long has it been since the five of them have been faithfully following this woman? It becomes hard to keep track of time in terms of human years, since numbers in that system can quickly grow large. Vance thinks to himsel

-ShadoGal Chronicles IV-~ShadoGal Chronicles~
Episode IV: Legend of the Primal Princess

Legend claims the queen of the extinct race of the "Ancients" had four beautiful daughters, where the youngest was Mai (500 years old) and the oldest was Sethalus (8,000 years old). None of the girls knew of each others existence or of their significance on the events to come. As far as they know, they are the only ones of their kind although deep inside they want to believe there are others. Vampires have mixed feelings about them because they are not harmed by most of the common things they fear, such as direct sunlight and holy objects. The girls have become outcasts of both human and vampire societies, often seen as abominations. To some others, they are perhaps the answer to a long forgotten vampire prophecy that foresees the return of the "Ancients", from whom legend says the first vampires descended from.
With her fixed bat wings and pointy ears, Sethalus can walk in broad daylight and even eat human food. Ev
-Fatal Delivery- by ken1171 -A bird? A plane? No, it's...-
~A bird? A plane? No, it's...~
PART I:
One of the advantages of being 500 years old is that you have probably already seen it all. ShadoGal Mai was in a trip to the Big Apple when she spotted an interesting male figure flying in cape & tights over the city - but without any wings. Well, Mai has many superhuman powers, but flying without wings is certainly not one of them. Even less at speed! Very curious, She followed the man in tights until he landed somewhere in the streets. He apparently found somebody in distress and went down to help. Mai was very impressed by him: how can he have so much strength? Dad said I can't go out with human pets, but what about him? He can't be human!
PART II:
Mai followed the guy in tights until he went back home. As she hid inside his house, she sneaked around until she found the perfect opportunity to give him a little surprise 'love' bite from behind. Mai used her inherited vampire powers to keep the guy still while taking a sip. She immediately notic


MY FANART:
-Yuna Fanart- by ken1171 -What are you looking at?- by ken1171 -Bleach Orihime fanart- by ken1171
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-If Penguins Could Fly- by ken1171 -Techno Heavy Metal Revolt- by ken1171 -27,000 Exotic Journey- by ken1171
-Madoka Memories- by ken1171 -Bouncy Piano- by ken1171 -98K Rockit Bunny- by ken1171
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deviantID

ken1171
Ken Kawashima
Artist | Professional | Digital Art
Brazil
Current Residence: Brazil
Print preference: Biiiig, laaaaaarge, gigaaaaantic
Favorite genre of music: Female
Favorite photographer: Ken1171
Favorite style of art: Anime, Manga, semi-realistic
Operating System: Windows 7 Home Edition
MP3 player of choice: Apple iTouch 4
Shell of choice: Lobster :D
Skin of choice: Women's
Favorite cartoon character: Yoru & Eru (Shugo Chara!)
Personal Quote: Creation is just the beginning
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Shout out to Ken1171 --> desouzaweb.deviantart.com/jour…
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hi
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happy boythday
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happy new year!
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You do beautiful work =D
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Hey! Happy Birthday! I hope you have fun and a nice day! :airborne:
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Feliz Aniversário!!!!!!
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:iconsherberttcat:
SherbertTCat Featured By Owner Edited Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Finally beat the Story mode on Ken's Rage 2. Got it last month, as a Father's day gift. MUCH longer game than the first one. It covers the manga's version of the story from beginning to end, with the exception that some of the minor characters were replaced by mooks(No Hulk Hogan or Mr T look alike, etc). What it lacks in an English voice cast, it makes up for in sheer content. Much faster game play too. Now I gotta beat all of the side-stories.

Noticed that the textures aren't as nice as the first game, but I think they did that, because this game is so big, and they had to cut corners somewhere. The shadows can be damned ugly too. The other area they phoned it in was the soundtrack. Its essentially the soundtrack from the first game, with a few extra tracks. The first game had a bad ass soundtrack, so that's not a terrible thing per say.
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:iconken1171:
ken1171 Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Come to think of it, I haven't played much in the last few months - just working on commissions and personal projects. So last week I have started playing "The Omega Stone" adventure game I've bought ages ago and never played. The story is interesting, but the puzzles redefine the notion of TEDIOUS, until I got to the last one that was really beyond tedious. I was thinking on playing Wolfenstein: The New Order, but some of these FPS games give me motion sickness if you know what I mean. ;p
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:iconsherberttcat:
SherbertTCat Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Never been motion sick from an FPS in my life. I'd love to get New Order, but do I go with the lower quality 360 release on multiple discs, or do I buy the PC version that weighs in at a 50gb install size? Either way, I'm waiting for a big price drop.
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:iconken1171:
ken1171 Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Indeed, I am still baffled by the current game installation sizes. Very commonly they come around 15-50GB, which is just too much. Then we look at the repetitive levels, and wonder where all that space is coming from? I have checked one of the MassFX resource files, and noticed how much redundancy they have, where sometimes the same model and textures are stored dozens of times across different files. Looks very disorganized, and I think that comes from studios getting so large that most people working on the same game don't even know each other. The end credits scrolls for so long that they need multiple music tracks to follow it. I imagine how hard it must be to manage all these people (thousands?) working in the same project from different locations, and still make it work as a single job in the end.
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(1 Reply)
:icontzoli:
Tzoli Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you for the favourite!
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:iconken1171:
ken1171 Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
My pleasure! Such a lovely catgirl! ^o^
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:iconmicrthongbikinibabe:
micrthongbikinibabe Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2014  Professional Artisan Crafter
Hi Ken, Love your work you are a great artist.
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:iconken1171:
ken1171 Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Thank you, that's very nice of you. :hug:
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:iconsherberttcat:
SherbertTCat Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Just saw the new Godzilla movie. They did it right this time, by God!
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:iconken1171:
ken1171 Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Darn, they are not playing that move here yet, but I've heard good things about it. Wouldn't it be cool if they replaced Godzilla with a giant (yet sexy) bunny girl in fishnet stockings, stomping her way through the city? :XD:
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