Creating Product Shots in 3ds Max
Illustration by Richard Downs

Creating Product Shots in 3ds Max

with Aaron F. Ross

Video: Setting exposure for image-based lighting

With our environment set up, we're ready to start doing test renderings. Okay, here's our first attempt.
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  1. 5m 50s
    1. Welcome
      1m 1s
    2. Using the exercise files
      4m 49s
  2. 32m 32s
    1. Setting the Customize UI and Defaults Switcher
      1m 43s
    2. Choosing units and grid options
      1m 13s
    3. Importing a CAD file
      5m 12s
    4. Managing the scene hierarchy
      7m 46s
    5. Managing display layers
      3m 52s
    6. Working with Body objects
      2m 53s
    7. Modeling an environment sphere
      4m 17s
    8. Creating a camera
      2m 44s
    9. Framing the shot
      2m 52s
  3. 16m 46s
    1. Creating mental ray area spot lights
      4m 31s
    2. Creating photometric spot lights
      5m 9s
    3. Setting exposure for studio lighting
      3m 9s
    4. Controlling Final Gather
      3m 57s
  4. 1h 1m
    1. Creating Arch & Design materials
      7m 26s
    2. Creating an environment material
      6m 14s
    3. Enabling self-illumination
      5m 33s
    4. Applying procedural textures
      7m 20s
    5. Working with reflectivity
      7m 10s
    6. Creating a metal material
      4m 33s
    7. Adjusting highlights
      5m 4s
    8. Varying highlights with a bump map
      6m 43s
    9. Working with transparency
      4m 44s
    10. Adding ambient-occlusion nodes
      6m 40s
  5. 37m 46s
    1. Understanding image-based lighting
      2m 42s
    2. Creating a skylight
      2m 10s
    3. Adding a spherical environment map
      2m 51s
    4. Controlling bitmap coordinates
      4m 5s
    5. Setting exposure for image-based lighting
      7m 36s
    6. Adjusting materials
      5m 38s
    7. Modeling environment geometry
      5m 42s
    8. Self-illuminated image-based lighting
      7m 2s
  6. 50m 6s
    1. Controlling mental ray Sampling Quality
      5m 18s
    2. Rendering to the high-dynamic-range EXR format
      5m 52s
    3. Defining After Effects color settings
      4m 0s
    4. Adjusting the image
      10m 4s
    5. Setting up render elements
      7m 51s
    6. Creating ambient-occlusion materials
      6m 9s
    7. Layering specularity and reflections
      3m 47s
    8. Adding all render-element layers
      7m 5s
  7. 49s
    1. Goodbye

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Watch the Online Video Course Creating Product Shots in 3ds Max
3h 25m Intermediate May 15, 2014

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Creating virtual product shots reduces the need for photography. But those shots need to be accurately shaded, lighted, and rendered to seem realistic. 3ds Max can help. It's a powerful application for design visualization. In this course, you'll learn to shade, light, and render a product shot in 3ds Max. Aaron F. Ross leads you through the entire production workflow, starting with a prebuilt CAD model. Once the model is imported and the scene is organized for 3ds Max, Aaron shows how to create Arch & Design materials, construct several different lighting setups, render in mental ray, and color correct in Adobe After Effects. Explore the power of 3ds Max to present your product renderings in their best light.

Want to learn how to create the same effect with Maya? Check out Creating Product Shots in Maya.

Topics include:
  • Importing solid models as 3ds Max body objects
  • Working with the scene layout, hierarchy, and display layers
  • Building Arch & Design materials
  • Creating area and photometric lights
  • Setting exposure control
  • Optimizing indirect illumination with Final Gather
  • Image-based lighting with high dynamic range files
  • Lighting with self-illuminated geometry
  • Rendering to high dynamic range
  • Saving render passes with Render Elements
  • Adding ambient occlusion
  • Layering and color correction in After Effects
3D + Animation CAD
3ds Max
Aaron F. Ross

Setting exposure for image-based lighting

With our environment set up, we're ready to start doing test renderings. We'll want to adjust the exposure control. Go into Rendering > Exposure Control. And what we see in here are just the same values that were left over from the chapter on studio lighting. We've got an exposure value of nine and we've got the image control set to pretty neutral values, mid-tones of 0.5 and just a little bit of burn on the highlights of 0.02. So with those values leftover from the previous project, let's take a look at what it looks like if we render it.

Okay, here's our first attempt. And what you'll notice here is that although the object is looking a bit dark, the background is extremely bright. And we actually can't remove that background. It's always going to render. We can replace it in Post by using the alpha channel. If we go up here, we can click on Display Alpha Channel. What you'll see is the black areas have transparent alpha. And that means in Post, in an editing program like Photoshop or AfterEffects, we could replace that background with something else.

However, the actual RGB pixels will always render that background image. And in fact, we can't turn that off, so that actually might be a problem if you've got a really high contrast between the object and the background, and then you need to replace that background with some other colored background, because these pixels here are going to be anti-aliased. If I zoom in here with the wheel, you can see that these pixels are blending here along this edge, and there's really nothing that we can do about this.

The issue could be that when you composite this in Post, you could get some halo or fringe around your object. So, that's just something to look out for, and again, there's not really a work around for this using the environment method that we're using here. But, later in this chapter, we will look at a definite work around, which involves using a piece of geometry, instead of the environment, from the Environment and Effects dialog. So now, we want to work on the actual brightness values of this, and make this better. As you know, you can normally adjust the exposure value here.

If we bring this down to a lower value, it should make our image brighter. Like, if I bring it down to something like five or whatever, and do another render, under normal conditions that's going to change the brightness. But as you can see here, nothing has changed. We're getting the exact same brightness that we did before. And that's just because we need to choose a different option for the scaling of the exposure control. I'm actually going to cancel this because I can already tell this is not going to help me. If we scroll down a little bit here you will see Physical Scale and what we need to do here is choose Unitless.

And then we can adjust this value to something else if we want. And this exists so that we can scale the image-based lighting into whatever range we need to. The physical unit setting is designed to be used with photometric lights. But here with Unitless we can set this to whatever arbitrary value we want. All right, so let's set this back up to nine, and try this out with Unitless with the default value of 1500, and click Render.

And you'll see that it's still doesn't look any different. And there's one other switch we have to turn on here. I'm going to cancel out of this. We have to go up to the top and there's a very important switch here that says Process background and environment maps. And if that's off then nothing that we do here is going to matter. We need to turn it on and that's going to change the lighting and you can see it actually in the view ports as well. With it off we get a bright background, and with it on it gets dimmed down. And this is going to give us a pretty good idea of the brightness of our rendering as well.

With that dimmed down then that tells me I need to increase this unitless amount here. And, of course, I've already played with this and I know what value I need in this case. I'm going to set this to a value of 40,000, which seems really high, but it's going to give us a nice, crisp render. Go ahead and click Render on that. Okay, so with those options adjusted, now we're getting a nice, bright render. There's one last thing I'd like to show you regarding exposure. We can actually control the brightness of this scene by going back into the bitmap setup and changing the histogram and the black and white point.

Let's do that. We'll go back in the Material editor, and back into the bit map parameters. You might need to double click on that bit map node and you'll see the path to the file. Click on that button and we're taken back into the Select Bit Map Image file dialog, but we don't want to actually select a different file, we want to go back into the set up. Notice that the button looks grayed out, but this is just a minor bug in 3ds Max. Click the Setup button once, and it will light up. Click it a second time, and we can go back into the HDRI load settings, or the settings for whatever type of image you're dealing with.

Remember previously we chose Default Exposure. If we want the adjust the black and white point, we'll turn Default Exposure off. And then I'll bring the white point down a little bit to a value of about one, and that's brightening this thing up. Anything above this red line, to the right of that red line's going to get cropped off. Same with a black point. I can enable it and then change its value, bring that upward a little bit to a value of about, let's say, negative four or so. Then you can see in the preview here that we're getting a much darker rendering.

Basically anything below this line to the left of that red line is getting cropped off. So all of these dark pixels are just being crushed down to black. All right, so let's make this a really clear example by setting that to about negative four or so, and click OK. And then click Open as if we had chosen a different file, but of course we've got the same file chosen here. All right. And we'll do a comparison. Take the previous image and clone that off to its own window and then render. And as you can see it's considerably more contrasting.

We didn't change the exposure, we didn't change the units setting, all we did was adjust how that bitmap file is being interpreted. And now we've got much darker reflections down here. Remember, we've crushed all the blacks. Now I wouldn't actually use this particular setting in production, but I made it really extreme so that we could see it here on the screen. So it would be a really good demonstration, what it would look like. But in fact, for the purposes of a production render, I'm actually going to go back into that dialog, and set it back to Default > Exposure settings.

Go ahead and clone that off, just to compare it. And go back into the Material editor once again. Back into that bitmap setting. Set it back to Default Exposure because what we had looked good. Okay, cool. So we're looking pretty good. We're back to this state now. And we want to adjust some of these materials and clean this up a bit.

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