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Fine-tuning lights and render settings

From: Digital Creature Creation in ZBrush, Photoshop, and Maya

Video: Fine-tuning lights and render settings

So far things like render quality, light samples and shadow detail have been kept low so that we could do fast test renders. Now it's time to get final render quality, so we need to start turning up the settings. We'll be hitting lots of little things in this movie, but the main concept to keep in mind is to only make one change at a time. We'll be doing a test render after every setting that we change. If you change several things at once and then the render doesn't come out right or it takes too long, you won't know which setting it was that caused the problem.

Fine-tuning lights and render settings

So far things like render quality, light samples and shadow detail have been kept low so that we could do fast test renders. Now it's time to get final render quality, so we need to start turning up the settings. We'll be hitting lots of little things in this movie, but the main concept to keep in mind is to only make one change at a time. We'll be doing a test render after every setting that we change. If you change several things at once and then the render doesn't come out right or it takes too long, you won't know which setting it was that caused the problem.

By changing just one setting at a time, you get a better understanding of what they do, so let's start with our Render settings. I'll go up and click this button. We want to change the image size to 720 HD, so let's scroll down and set the image size and from Presets, let just scroll down a bit here and find HD 720. This will give us higher resolution renders than the default. Now let's do a render and see what we get. Okay, let me move this over here so we can see more of the render, okay, let's save this image, so that we can compare it with any future changes that we make.

Okay, close the Render window and let's go back to our Render Settings. The next thing I want to change is the quality preset, so click the Quality tab. Let's open up the Quality Presets. I'm just going to click and come down to Production as you may notice a few different things changed. The Min Sample Level went from -2 to 0, the Max Sample Level went from 0 to 2 and the Filter went from Box to Gauss.

The explanation of what these settings do is very technical and beyond the scope of this course. In simple terms the changes increased the amount of detail that goes into every pixel of the render. Now there's one other change to be aware of, let's open up the Indirect Lighting tab. The production quality preset doesn't include final gathering by default, so we need to go and turn that back on in order to get the bounce to light effects. Now let's do another render to compare. All right let's save this image and compare with the previous one, you might not be able to see quite so much of a difference right here, let me zoom in closer, so there's several things to notice here.

The new render is much cleaner and less noisy; edges are smoother and not so blocky. In addition to being better looking, the new render also takes about twice as long to compute. So 2 minutes and 43 seconds for this one and minute and 3 seconds for the previous one. Now that number is going to very greatly depending on what kind of computer you have. So in this new render you can see that some of the shadows are still kind of grainy. For example, right back here on the rim; it looks kind of noisy, so let's fix that up.

We've already saved this rendered, so I'm going to go ahead and close this window. I want to close the Render Settings for now and let select the Keylight. In it's attributes I'm going to change its Shadow Settings. I am going to slide this down, so we can see more of the attributes and let's open up its Shadow Settings and let's scroll down to the Shadow Rays. I want to change this from 8 to about 30, so that we will have more detail in our shadows. Now let's open up the Render view, but not do a render yet.

So this button right here will show us the previous render. There is a little trick that will help speed things up. What you can do is just click and drag a box over a portion of a render. Now if you click this Render region button, it will only render that small section and it will go a lot faster. If you only need to see a small part of a render for comparison, this will save time by not having to render the whole image. All right, it finished, let's save this image and let's zoom in to see what changed.

Okay, so notice especially right about here when I flip between the two images, there is a definite change in the graininess of that shadow. The setting of 30 turned out to be pretty good for the situation. Depending on what you're doing, you may want to go higher. Remember the blurrier the shadow, the more shadow raise you need to make it look smooth. A sharp shadow doesn't need as much, and a setting of 30 may slow down your renders unnecessarily. Now it looks like there's still a lot of graininess in the rim, let's close the Render view and see if Ambient Occlusion has anything to do with that.

Let's go into the hyper shade and open our Textures tab, and let's scroll down until we find the ambient occlusion node, here we go. Let's try doubling the samples to 32. Basically this number is just going to increase the number of competitions that go into calculating the ambient occlusion, thereby making it smoother, so let's see what happens. Again, let's open up the previous render and we'll just select a smaller box right now, since we don't need to see the shadow from the Keylight and let's go and click Render region.

All right, let's zoom in on it and let's store this render and I'm just going to flip between it, okay. The graininess is almost gone. It may not be worth it to try to get rid of all graininess, you have to balance quality with render times. If you bump up all the settings to 10 times the default, you might have perfectly smooth renders, but they would also take so long that it might not be worth it.

Now let's render the whole thing. I want to zoom back out by clicking the 1:1 button, so it displays the image at real size, and now let's click the Full Render. Let's compare this final render with the first one that we did, so that we can directly compare the difference. I'm going to save this one and then let's go and delete the intermediate renders. So let's see, here's the first one, let me go to the second one that we made and just click the trash can, and click the trash can a few more times, until we have deleted all the first and the last.

All right, let me zoom out of this render, so I can see how long it took. It's kind of hard to see this number right here. Okay, 4 minutes 7 seconds for the last one, and 1 minute, so about four times as long to get the extra detail out of this image, let's zoom in to just see how much better the detail is. Okay, so it's grainy and blocky here, and it's smooth and clean here. I don't turn up Render Quality until I get close to the end of a project, this is because I don't want to wait forever to renders while I'm setting up lights and testing out textures.

Again the other big thing to remember is to turn up Render in Shadow Settings one at a time so that you know exactly what effect it has on the render.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Digital Creature Creation in ZBrush, Photoshop, and Maya
 
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  1. 2m 34s
    1. Introduction
      59s
    2. What you should know before watching this course
      34s
    3. Using the exercise files
      1m 1s
  2. 10m 45s
    1. Installing custom brushes
      3m 54s
    2. Preparing GoZ
      5m 6s
    3. Optimizing tablet settings
      1m 45s
  3. 8m 36s
    1. Brainstorming
      2m 47s
    2. Refining a concept
      3m 22s
    3. Gathering reference images
      2m 27s
  4. 42m 12s
    1. Starting with ZSpheres
      6m 45s
    2. Posing the ZSpheres
      3m 39s
    3. Sculpting the basic forms
      5m 34s
    4. Using DynaMesh
      3m 8s
    5. Sculpting muscles and mid-size shapes
      6m 20s
    6. Defining joints
      3m 42s
    7. Sculpting bony plates
      5m 0s
    8. Sculpting leathery skin
      8m 4s
  5. 22m 8s
    1. Using GoZ between ZBrush and Maya
      2m 15s
    2. Making an eyeball
      3m 45s
    3. Creating tail spikes
      2m 44s
    4. Modeling a tooth
      4m 27s
    5. Duplicating the teeth
      4m 8s
    6. Finishing the teeth
      4m 49s
  6. 51m 27s
    1. Drawing guidelines for retopology
      4m 56s
    2. Fleshing out the retopology guides
      4m 29s
    3. Creating new topology
      5m 32s
    4. Generating the new mesh
      4m 58s
    5. Cleaning up the mesh in Maya
      5m 5s
    6. Modeling the tail in Maya
      4m 5s
    7. Modeling the claws
      6m 4s
    8. Preparing to project detail
      6m 5s
    9. Projecting detail to new topology
      4m 46s
    10. Cleaning up projection problems
      5m 27s
  7. 21m 0s
    1. Cutting UV seams
      5m 55s
    2. Prepping UV shells for UV Master
      4m 38s
    3. Using UV Master to unfold UVs
      4m 17s
    4. Arranging UVs in Maya
      6m 10s
  8. 13m 25s
    1. Creating a pedestal with Spotlight
      4m 53s
    2. Decimating the geometry
      4m 53s
    3. Finishing the pedestal
      3m 39s
  9. 38m 21s
    1. Setting up the scene for rendering
      5m 14s
    2. Making a key light
      6m 7s
    3. Making a soft sky light
      3m 0s
    4. Making a rim light
      4m 53s
    5. Setting up a simple SSS skin shader
      5m 21s
    6. Adjusting the skin shader
      7m 2s
    7. Adding ambient occlusion to the shaders
      6m 44s
  10. 55m 37s
    1. Polypainting colors in ZBrush
      8m 1s
    2. Extracting texture maps
      6m 54s
    3. Organizing the maps into Photoshop layers
      8m 9s
    4. Compositing the color maps in Photoshop
      4m 33s
    5. Compositing the specular maps in Photoshop
      7m 20s
    6. Importing the maps into Maya
      5m 7s
    7. Connecting the maps to the shaders
      5m 13s
    8. Setting up remap value nodes
      5m 51s
    9. Editing remap value nodes
      4m 29s
  11. 26m 32s
    1. Designing the pose
      4m 35s
    2. Linking subtools to the main body
      4m 12s
    3. Posing with transpose tools
      6m 4s
    4. Polishing the pose
      2m 4s
    5. Finishing touches in ZBrush
      4m 50s
    6. Finishing touches in Maya
      4m 47s
  12. 18m 7s
    1. Fine-tuning lights and render settings
      7m 0s
    2. Batch rendering a turnable animation
      5m 48s
    3. Polishing the renders in Photoshop
      5m 19s
  13. 52s
    1. What's next?
      52s

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