Volumetric Lighting

In the 3D renders below I have taken a 3D image that I had previously created and tried to improve it by adopting the techniques discussed in this blog. The main focus was to improve photorealism and experiment with volumetric lighting.

When comparing the two images it’s astonishing to think that I was pleased with my original render. It goes to show just how much I’ve learnt since starting the MA.

As mentioned above, I was using this 3D image as a vehicle for experimenting with volumetric lighting. In the improved image, I have applied many of the theories already discussed in this blog, such as adding noise, depth of field, there’s now some dirt at the bottom of the wall and dust on the shelf, but the biggest difference is the addition of atmospheric dust. You can now see the visible light penetrating the right hand side of the image, it is obscuring the model’s rear leg and creating some streaks of light/shadow as it hits the top of the model’s shell.

What’s even more important in the improved render is the consideration that’s been given to the narrative. The diagonal lines, camera angle, and use of warm and cold lighting help to achieve what I had originally intended. It seems that the study of character development and cinematography have had as much impact on the improved render as the study of photorealism in 3D and CGI.

Disgusting Looking Cat

I know, I know, I’m supposed to be studying but couldn’t help jumping into Cinema 4D and having a play with Sub Surface Scattering and the new sculpting tools in version 14.

The sculpting tools in C4D don’t seem as comprehensive as those in Z-Brush, and I found the application crashed a lot (Although this is most likely due to overclocking). Nevertheless, the tools are extremely intuitive and perfect for creating wrinkles on the cat’s skin.

Playing with SSS and Scultping Tools

Playing with SSS and Sculpting Tools

The sub surface scattering still needs attention but it’s a start.

First Research Update

As I began reading up on research from other practitioners I was pleased to find that my own ‘hunches’ were well placed.

In a research paper on Photorealistic Rendering with V‐ray (2007), Anja Rackwitz and Markus Sterner discuss the nature of real light, colour profiles, global illumination, high dynamic range imaging and perception psychology.

According to Rackwitz and Sterner, when you ask someone in the 3D business what they think will make a picture more realistic, the answer is almost every time: “irregularity, dirt, grain” or “imperfect makes perfect”. This echoes my own observations that everything that comes out of the 3D render engine is too clean and crisp without some kind of processing.

I had planned on spending the day reading the paper in its entirety but as luck would have it I needed to pop into town to see to some chores. As I walked past the news agents I decided to pop in and have a look at the 3D magazines. I’m not usually a fan of magazines as I often find their limited space means that nothing gets covered in sufficient depth. It’s worth a look I thought, you never know, there just might be one with an article on photorealism. Loh and Behold, a single copy of 3D Artist magazine sat on the shelf with a big bold typeface on the front cover; “Photoreal 3D”. What are the chances of that? 😀

3D Artist Magazine

3D Artist Magazine

The magazine is available here and contains a 15 hour tutorial by Modo and Zbrush artist Dmitry Denisov. Looks like I know what I’ll be doing for the next couple of days then 🙂

In the meantime, here’s an update on character modelling for my animation. The base mesh for the ears is ‘finished’ and I’ve made a start on the mouth.

Character Modelling Update

progress Update

Modelling the Antagonist

It’s been a little quiet on my blog of late although this is not to say that things haven’t been happening in the background. In fact, the creative juices have been flowing in equal measure to the weather we’ve had recently.

About a year ago, I realised that all of this 3D stuff is pretty cool, but is without any real purpose. To this end I have been developing an animation that hopes to achieve something good for the world. It’s become an enormous project and is beyond the scope of this blog, but suffice to say that my pursuit of realism is made with the intention of producing an animation looks real.

During a discussion on 29/10/12, one of the university lecturers suggested that any work I produced from here on in should be less generic and better tailored to developing this animation, so this is what I’ve been doing, hence the period of inactivity on the blog.

Not wishing to go into too much detail regarding the animation (This would require an entire blog, watch this space), I’ll say as little as I can to give the reader an understanding how the current work relates to the animation.

The animation primarily features a protagonist (a hero), and an antagonist (a villain), which in this case are both cats. Throughout the story they come across other characters that befit a cat’s world, such as caterpillars and spiders.

The protagonist lives in a lush green forest surrounded by waterfalls, singing birds and all things befitting a fairy tale. The animation below shows an early test of a caterpillar in this environment.


The antagonist lives in an isolated and derelict world that is falling apart. I had found a crumbling old shed to film him in but unfortunately the premises has been auctioned and I no longer have access to this venue. In search of a new venue to film the antagonist I paid a visit to the old Ferodo factory in Caernarfon, the photographs I took are available on my facebook photo album.

In my previous post I discussed the benefits of Adding Artifacts to Animation and demonstrated how motion blur helps to create the illusion of realism. This animation had an ulterior motive, I was experimenting with a new environment for my antagonist.

I captured numerous videos and HDR environments that weekend with the intention of finding a free 3D cat model on the internet and experimenting with both sub surface scattering and animating a cat. However, I realised that the time it would take to create realistic textures for the cat, I would be better creating the 3D models for the final animation myself.  The problem is that modelling is not one of my strengths as I have dedicated far more time to the study of lighting and rendering. Nevertheless, here’s my progress so far:

Antagonist progress

Antagonist progress

Although it’s coming along, it’s taking me far too long and I’m worried about the module deadlines. I felt it best to share what I’d been doing and check my progress towards objectives to make sure I’m not falling behind. To keep things readable, I shall do this in a separate post.

Adding Artifacts to Animation

In my previous post I demonstrated that Replicating Digital Imaging Artifacts helped to achieve photorealism.

To further this research I have been experimenting with replicating artifacts found in digital film such as grain, and motion blur and adding them to 3D animations.

The examples below show a single frame from an animation, one with the added artifacts and one without.

When looking at a single frame, the motion blur effect seems out of place, but when watching the animation and the motion blur of the original camera movement becomes apparent, it is clear that the replicated blur helps to create the illusion of realism. In contrast, in the animation without the added motion blur, the sharpness of the cg elements stand out from the noisy, blurred background and begin to hinder the illusion of realism.

Animation with Artifacts

Animation without Artifacts

As well as motion blur, other artifacts have been added according to previous findings such as chromatic aberration, vignetting, and noise.

The affect of sound will be discussed in a future post.

Replicating Digital Imaging Artifacts

Throughout this process of trying to emulate reality I have speculated that it is not the real world that should be emulated, but realism as found in a photograph. To this end I have attempted to replicate some of the artifacts that occur in digital photography in order to improve my previous best attempt at replicating reality.

The Image ‘Without Post-Processing‘ shows the previous attempt at achieving photorealism.

In the image ‘Camera Artefacts‘ I have added some chromatic aberration (The red fringe on the edge of the balls), I have scaled the image up and down, compressed it and decompressed it, and used run length encoding to degrade the quality of the image, and have also added some noise. All of these effects would occur naturally when working with digital photographs.

In addition to this I have also desaturated the image and adjusted the colour balance to make the highlights a little more blue. The benefits of this are that all of these changes affect the entire image, not just the 3D elements. As both the background and the 3D elements have been affected by the same processing, it becomes more difficult for the eye to distinguish between the two forms of media.

For reference, the original photograph has been included also.

Whilst there is not as much noise or chromatic aberration in the reference image, when comparing the two artificial images, it is the image with the added artifacts that is most convincing.