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In production, we want to have maximum control over the image. And the best way to do that is to separate each one of the render components out to its own file. For example, we can have the diffuse stored separately from the reflections, separately from the shadows and so on. That way we can sandwich all of these components together in a compositing program like After Effects. And control each one separately and really fine-tune the look of the rendering. One of the things that we want to do in this case is to apply the ambient occlusion in post so that we can control the amount of contact shadows, that are applied to the diffuse and the reflection components of the rendering.
So we need to cope with that first. Let's go into the material editor. Remember that there are multiple ways of applying ambient occlusion. The conventional way is through the Arch and Design material. We double-click on that. Remember I mentioned that inside Arch and Design, in special effects, there is an ambient occlusion switch and if we turn that on it would block the light coming from final gather, but it wouldn't block the direct illumination or the reflections. So I've chosen to do it a different way, which is by adding this ambient reflective occlusion node, and piping that into the diffuse color and reflection color.
Well what we want to do here is actually break those connections so that we can render the diffuse and reflection components without any ambient occlusion applied. And then apply it in post. So, let's delete these connections. Click that and press delete, select that wire and press delete. And we want to make sure that the colors match. Our Arch and Design diffuse and reflective colors here are actually not precisely the same as the ones in these ambient nodes so we need to copy those over. So that our rendering matches.
There's a color clipboard over here in the utilities panel. Click color clipboard. And then go into the ambient for the diffuse, and copy this bright color over. And click Copy. Same thing with the ambient for the reflections. Double-click that. Copy that over. Go back to the Arch and Design material. Double-click that. And then drag these back in. So we're going to copy that diffuse color over, and copy that reflection color over. Little kind of the same but there values were not precisely the same. We weren't really careful about that.
So now we know that it's going to match exactly to what we saw before. Okay. So now, we've done that. And we're ready to set up our render elements. We'll go into the Render Setup. And we want to go to the renderer tab first, and make sure that our quality is set to 1. Which it is. And make sure that our frame buffer is set to floating point. because we're going to render out to high dynamic range. And then go to the render elements tab. In here we can add various render elements or passes. So click on Add. And in here you will see a bunch of options.
And a lot of them are labeled mr A and D. And that of course corresponds to mental ray Arch and Design. So the render elements can output the colors of those materials directly. You'll see that there are different flavors of A and D. There's Level, Output, and Raw. Raw is the color of the material without any lighting. Level is the lighting, and output is the final result, which is the raw color multiplied by the lighting. Usually we want the output.
And we've got a bunch of these that we want to add. The diffuse direct illumination, which is coming from the lights. And also the indirect illumination which is final gather. So hold down Control and select that as well. We want the reflections. Ctrl+Select that. And the specular, which is the shiny highlights coming from the lights, not from the environment. Scroll down a little bit, and there are a couple others of those that are not actually Arch and Design specific. We've got Refraction. Ctrl+Select that, and also shadows, Ctrl+Select that as well.
So I've currently got six elements selected here, Diffuse Direct, Diffuse Indirect. Reflections specular refraction and shadow and these are all output. And none of them are raw or level. Click OK. Now they're all added, can move this over a little bit so we can see these. There's one little change we do want to make which is the shadow pass has filtering turned off which means it's not going to be anti-aliased. We do want to turn that on.
So with Shadow selected, turn on Enable Filtering. And what we're going to get from this is a Beauty Pass, which is the ordinary rendering. And it's not going to have any ambient occlusion applied to it at all, because we've broken that connection. And Ambient Occlusion is turned off in the material itself. So we'll have a diffuse channel, an indirect channel, reflection speculate refractions and shadow plus the beauty pass which is all of those precomposited together. Okay and we want to also make sure that we save this out to a file.
Go to the common tab. Scroll down, and under Render Output, click the button that's labeled Files. We want to save into the Render Output folder, and let's create a folder inside that. We'll call this one studio lighting passes. Go into that folder. And we will give it a base file name, we will call it studio lighting.exr. That will be the base file name and so our beauty pass which is the ordinary rendering will be studiolighting.exr and all the various render elements will have the names appended to them that we added in the render elements dialog.
Click Save and we get the opening exr configuration dialog. The format we want is full float 32 bits, the type is red green and blue plus alpha and compression zip compression per scan line. Click OK and before we render we want to save the document. Save the scene so go to Save As. Call this one render elements finished. And we'll go ahead and click Render and it's going to take longer because we're rendering all of those various elements.
So don't be alarmed if it takes probably five times longer than before to render all that. When it's finished rendering you'll get a whole bunch of new windows popping up. And they might be stacked exactly on top of each other making it look like there's only one window. But I've moved them all so that we can see them and take a look at each one. We've got the shadow pass here but it looks just black but don't be fooled. Go to the alpha. And you will see that what it's done is it's saved out a black rgb channel. And then it's massed it with the alphas.
And we put this into after effects. This area will be black. We've also got the refractions which is everything that's inside the glass. We've got the specular highlights, the reflections. Now don't panic that this looks overexposed. Remember, we're saving it out as an EXR document, so we can adjust the exposure in post. And then we've got the indirect illumination, which is final gather, and then finally, the direct illumination from the lighting. And all of those have been stored in our folders. So if we go into the Render Output > Studio Lighting Passes folder we created.
Here's the beauty pass, which is the main rendering. And there's our six separate render elements.
Want to learn how to create the same effect with Maya? Check out Creating Product Shots in Maya.
- 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