The ups and downs of HDRI

The ups and downs of HDRI might as well be a roller coaster. Permit me to share a story.

For the longest time, I thought I couldn’t use the fancy new render engine DAZ rolled out with 4.8: Iray. I longed to play with the photo realistic render engine, but having an AMD video card instead of the NVidia the specs called for, I thought I couldn’t.

Fast forward to just before Christmas 2016 and DAZ 4.9. I made a curious discovery about the list of installed stuff in the install manager: a public beta build of DAZ 4.9. So, I tracked it down among my programs and opened it. Played with it some and got curious about the render settings. What should my curiosity behold, but that NVidia Iray was available to play with!

So, I explored, dabbled and started tracking down tutorials. Fast forward again to about mid March 2017. After multiple not-so-good attempts at making my own HDRIs with Carrara. I still have trouble with the lighting in that one. I was exploring a favorite group for 3D artists on Facebook and stumbled across an image that could be rotated 360 degrees. To go with it, a youtube tutorial video on how the trick was done!

Well, again, I dabbled and played. Made a neat city 360 followed by a scene from Techwarrior #5 and put them on Facebook to a very receptive reaction. I realized I could convert that city 360 to an HDRI and use it as a background for renders. Well, you won’t catch me using 3Delight anymore! Scenes with an HDRI background render very quickly even on my older computer and they look amazing!

HDRIs are wonderful as both light and background, but – and this is the downside – they take a long time to render! Smaller size and resolution just won’t work with these bad boys. The ratio suggested in that tutorial was 2 to 1 with a size of about 4000 by 2000 pixels. Be ready for a long wait unless you’re able to despeckle and sharpen effectively in Photoshop. Here’s what I mean:

Not the greatest picture I’ll admit, but this one’s been at it 14 hours and it’s still pretty grainy.

Personally, I set the render time to 24 hours so it would have plenty of time to render as cleanly as possible. Know how many seconds that is? 86,400 seconds! Now, as I’ve pointed out on Facebook, once this is rendered, it can be used time and again as a background and light source without bogging down the scene I’m trying to render. So, when it comes down to brass tacks, the occasional 24 hour render like this isn’t too horrible, right?

The trick is a simple one, but only available in Iray. Setup a scene with lights but without characters if you want it to be a background HDRI – the one in that picture is a dungeon lit only by fire – and add a camera in the center of it. Go into the camera’s parameters and pick on the lens type. Set it to spherical. Then go into render settings and set the size ratio to 2 to 1 and the pixels to 4000 by 2000. For my 4-year-old laptop, there’s no acceleration from the video card, so I setup the render time at 24 hours or the 86,400 seconds I mentioned before. From there, hit render and walk away for the duration of the render.

It’ll take its time rendering considering the size and and how complicated the scene is, but when it’s done finally, it can be converted to an HDRI and used as a background/light source without being so slow with characters. So, it balances out, wouldn’t you say?

Tragic victim: vampire cockroach

cockroach vampireVampire cockroaches are unfortunate creatures. I know, the first thought for a cockroach is usually “EWWWW!!” Here’s some food for thought, though: roaches’re excellent survivors. Which would make them more difficult than ever to kill if they were undead vampires.

These roaches are roaches through unfortunate circumstances, too. They’re the victims of Jerigel SwampFang’s third bite. Unlike most vampires, it takes three bites for him to completely control his victims. As a result, they become cockroaches. The only thing these victims keep of their humanity is their height.
If anything, these unfortunate creatures should be pitied. There’s no known cure for their condition and killing them is far more difficult than if they were normal roaches.

The one thing these roaches fear above all is spiders. If they should see one, they become uncontrollable. The larger the spider, the harder they are to control.
One important ability besides turning their own victims into roaches for an hour, is being able to change form. They’re able to temporarily resume their human form during the day, but only if Jerigel allows it.

Over the years, these victims are those who tried to rebel against Nyxus. Some got in Jerigel’s way, and others Nyxus wanted to just make disappear. Since Nyxus controls Jerigel and he controls roaches, rebels are then made to do her bidding.

Once Jerigel controls a victim as a roach, they have no free will of their own. In fact, they cannot do anything without him knowing about it. The control is complete and permanent as far as anyone knows. Even Ryu doesn’t know of a cure to change these unfortunate victims human again.

These roaches are today’s daily deal. Aren’t they interesting characters? Won’t you take pity on them? They just want your love! they make their comic book debut in Dream Angel #7, which is available in the shop. It’s a good idea to get the books that came before it so the story makes sense! Also found in the shop is the plush action figure of these creatures.

One-of-a-kind vampire: Jerigel SwampFang

jerigelJerigel SwampFang’s origin is a complete mystery. Not even Nyxus knows how he came to be. In reality, his origin is as simple as a ten-stripe June beetle.

At the time I came up with Jerigel SwampFang, I was enjoying the Sera Muun Musical Last Drakul Jyokoku. It’s part of a trilogy centered around the vampire Dracula – as Sailor Moon encounters him.

I will formally admit I found both the actor and the character fascinating. I developed an interest in vampires and found that the mythology does not include insects. This I found funny because nature is full of insect vampires, starting with the mosquito and flea.

When I found the June beetle, I thought it was a beetle whose nickname is “Hell insect.” Well, what better for a vampire? They’re considered creatures from Hell and on top of it all, they’re undead. So, I read up on vampires, scrounged up every vampire movie I could find and studied up a bit.

Sure, there’s a good many ways to kill a vampire, but how do you kill an insect vampire? A wooden stake wouldn’t necessarily penetrate the exoskeleton, holy water and a cross is mostly superstition (look it up, if you don’t believe me). Fire only works when the vampire becomes ash and that takes time – how long do you really think an insect vampire would be contained? Probably not long enough, I think.

Superhuman strength comes with being a vampire, so it’s like containing Superman. A sock in a river? Bugs don’t wear socks, so why would he care? Sunlight is another that’s superstition.

Admittedly, I haven’t figured out how to kill the insect vampire, but his power is most intriguing. Aside from speaking in mirror speech – meaning you need a mirror to understand what he says in the comics – his third bite is what finalizes his control over his victim. On top of the control his third bite gives, it also transforms the unfortunate person into a cockroach leaving nothing of their humanity except their height.

What do you think? Is Jerigel an interesting character? He makes his comic book debut in Dream Angle #4. Getting the books that came before it is highly recommended so the story makes sense. Also available in the shop is his plush action figure.

When is a hero not a hero? When she’s Arora Arum!

Arora Arum is our hero Dream Angel when she’s not Dream Angel. At first, an ordinary school girl attending high school and getting good grades. Of course her life changed when she got the power to become Dream Angel.

Arora Arum

After high school, Arora turned her attention to being a full-time superhero. Unfortunately, this meant setting personal goals and ambitions aside for the most part. It also meant setting aside seeking a job, since a fight could break out and she’d be late. Fortunately, her self defense experience and friendship with local martial arts dojo owners means she could get a job as an instructor without much trouble.

She’s a bright, artistic type of girl, so when she’s not out pounding bad guys, she’s drawing, painting and even training with her retired wrestling champion father.
Having a wrestling champion father and police lieutenant mother, she’s been well trained all her life in self defense. Add in training with the tiger people as Dream Angel and she could handle most situations without transforming reasonably well.

Arora is named after the goddess Aurora, but her name is spelled differently on purpose. Her last name is also Latin for gold, making her literal name Golden Goddess of the Dawn. This ties in to her power as Dream Angel, but it also led to teasing in school.

Although she didn’t pay much attention to most of the teasing and the teasers eventually gave up, one refused to stop teasing and bullying. Gina SweetFace bullies Arora about everything she could think of every time she sees her. Even after graduating high school, if Arora found Gina anywhere, the bullying would resume. Despite never formally graduating high school, Gina bothers Arora more than Nyxus ever could.

Arora’s quiet charm and fun-loving nature earned her many friends even as Dream Angel. Her debut appearance in comic books is as Dream Angel in Dream Angel #1, available in the shop. Also in the shop, you’ll find Arora Arum as a plush action figure. She waits only for you and loves hugs. Will you give her a hug?

Double-wielding jokester: Red Nite Soldier

red nite soldierLover-boy, double-wielding warrior, jokester – Red Nite Soldier is a surprise package villains don’t want to cross. He very efficiently wields his katana and if needed, his short sword.

He and Katrilina make a very formidable pair in battle. He’s even sometimes seen on her back when she’s one of her favorite large felines. Like a knight atop a black charger, spotted charger, brownish-gold charger or even striped charger, they’ve been known to turn the tide of a battle very quickly.

His katana was a gift from Ryu and specially forged to give him extra protection. His short sword is a gift from Kiryoku and blessed with its own powerful virtues. It’s not known if he has any power, but his blades sure have a magic of their own.
Kendo champion and team co-captain in high school, he definitely has the skill to handle his blades. Fast, smart and quite dangerous.

Combined with his steed Daybright, he’s especially formidable. Add in Blue Nite Soldier and Firebright and you get a foursome that can plow through just about anything.

What do you think? Is he an interesting character? He makes his comic book debut in Dream Angel #1, which is available in the shop. Also available in the shop is his outfit for Shin Tsurugi.

What makes 3D so difficult?

What makes 3D so difficult to handle is that it has a very steep learning curve more often than not. I’ve found people that assume because the computer does a lot of the work that 3D isn’t art and it’s lazy to use. Let me assure you: nothing is further from the truth!

True, some programs, like DAZ Studio or even Poser are good for beginners or hobbyists and make setting up a scene reasonably easy to do, but that doesn’t mean the rendered art will be good quality. Like pencil and paper, there’s basic techniques and much more advanced ones. It’s the difference between a stick figure with dots for eyes and a line for a smile and a fully detailed anatomically correct figure that’s nicely lit and realistic.

Anyone can draw a stick figure, but that much higher quality figure with all the details and lighting? That can take years of practice. The very same holds true of 3D art.

First and foremost, it’s very much art. If it isn’t, it shouldn’t be in movies as a special effect since it takes special effects artists to use it for movies. What are they using if it isn’t art? Secondly, it’s constantly changing and improving, so just because some amateur hasn’t yet mastered even the basics isn’t a reason to tell them to use pencil and paper.

Four years ago, I knew next to nothing about 3D art. I posed bald, nude figures in Poser with default lighting and painted hair and clothes in Photoshop. As I learned more, my methods changed. Figures began having clothes and hair, I began experimenting with lights and camera angles.

Being a 3D artist is a lot like being a movie director. You have to be able to work with all the various departments to get the scene just right. Actors, wardrobe, hair, makeup, lights, cameras and other things have to be prepared for the scene to be complete. Finding, creating and effectively rendering the scene elements is more complicated than some might imagine. Even when you think the scene looks the way you want it, it doesn’t mean the final render will have the desired result. That means post work, which can get almost as complicated as setting up the scene in the first place.

The truth is there’s a million ways a scene can go wrong. True, pencil and paper mean you can simply erase the part that’s not the way you want it, but what if it’s already inked? That means hours with white-out or something similar to correct the problem.

Lots of ways to mess up, lots of ways to create incredible art. It’s a matter of time, patience and a lot of practice.

What makes 3D so difficult?

What makes 3D so difficult to handle is that it has a very steep learning curve more often than not. I’ve found people that assume because the computer does a lot of the work that 3D isn’t art and it’s lazy to use. Let me assure you: nothing is further from the truth!

True, some programs, like DAZ Studio or even Poser are good for beginners or hobbyists and make setting up a scene reasonably easy to do, but that doesn’t mean the rendered art will be good quality. Like pencil and paper, there’s basic techniques and much more advanced ones. It’s the difference between a stick figure with dots for eyes and a line for a smile and a fully detailed anatomically correct figure that’s nicely lit and realistic.

Anyone can draw a stick figure, but that much higher quality figure with all the details and lighting? That can take years of practice. The very same holds true of 3D art.

First and foremost, it’s very much art. If it isn’t, it shouldn’t be in movies as a special effect since it takes special effects artists to use it for movies. What are they using if it isn’t art? Secondly, it’s constantly changing and improving, so just because some amateur hasn’t yet mastered even the basics isn’t a reason to tell them to use pencil and paper.

Four years ago, I knew next to nothing about 3D art. I posed bald, nude figures in Poser with default lighting and painted hair and clothes in Photoshop. As I learned more, my methods changed. Figures began having clothes and hair, I began experimenting with lights and camera angles.

Being a 3D artist is a lot like being a movie director. You have to be able to work with all the various departments to get the scene just right. Actors, wardrobe, hair, makeup, lights, cameras and other things have to be prepared for the scene to be complete. Finding, creating and effectively rendering the scene elements is more complicated than some might imagine. Even when you think the scene looks the way you want it, it doesn’t mean the final render will have the desired result. That means post work, which can get almost as complicated as setting up the scene in the first place.

The truth is there’s a million ways a scene can go wrong. True, pencil and paper mean you can simply erase the part that’s not the way you want it, but what if it’s already inked? That means hours with white-out or something similar to correct the problem.

Lots of ways to mess up, lots of ways to create incredible art. It’s a matter of time, patience and a lot of practice.

Dangerous beauty: Anaplkete

Anaplkete is the fastest of the Keres sisters. Although she lacks super speed, she makes up with it using her weapons and their lightning speed.

Anaplkete

A skilled double-wielder of twin short glaives, she’s often found battling with Red Nite Soldier, who also double wields skillfully. Of the two, she’s considerably more experienced, which puts him at a disadvantage. Being fast on top of that makes the fight quite difficult for him. If he’s lucky enough to disarm her, she’ll certainly run the other way. The difficulty is disarming her.

Although she doesn’t flaunt her beauty, she does use it to her advantage at times. This tends to leave a trail of broken hearts and sometimes bodies in the wake of achieving her goals.

All four of the Keres sisters have varying levels of vanity with Ker being the most vain of all and the most dangerous as a result. Anaplkete qualifies as least vain, but that doesn’t mean she’ll get her hands dirty unless it’s absolutely necessary. Like her sisters, she’d rather let the reprobates do the dirty work.

Often accompanied by a large number of reprobates, she’s a strong opponent for our heroes. Like her sisters, even a cracked nail can lead to very, very dangerous levels of anger. Luckily, her speed is much like a cheetah. Fast for a time, but short-lived. It’s during that burst of speed that the fight for survival is most difficult, however.

Beautiful, fast and deadly. The best description around for Anaplkete. Her debut appearance in comic books is Dream Angel #1, found in the shop. Also in the shop is her charmingly adorable plush action figure who simply wants a hug. Will you give her a hug?

Tragic victim: vampire cockroach

cockroach vampireVampire cockroaches are unfortunate creatures. I know, the first thought for a cockroach is usually “EWWWW!!” Here’s some food for thought, though: roaches’re excellent survivors. Which would make them more difficult than ever to kill if they were undead vampires.

These roaches are roaches through unfortunate circumstances, too. They’re the victims of Jerigel SwampFang’s third bite. Unlike most vampires, it takes three bites for him to completely control his victims. As a result, they become cockroaches. The only thing these victims keep of their humanity is their height.
If anything, these unfortunate creatures should be pitied. There’s no known cure for their condition and killing them is far more difficult than if they were normal roaches.

The one thing these roaches fear above all is spiders. If they should see one, they become uncontrollable. The larger the spider, the harder they are to control.
One important ability besides turning their own victims into roaches for an hour, is being able to change form. They’re able to temporarily resume their human form during the day, but only if Jerigel allows it.

Over the years, these victims are those who tried to rebel against Nyxus. Some got in Jerigel’s way, and others Nyxus wanted to just make disappear. Since Nyxus controls Jerigel and he controls roaches, rebels are then made to do her bidding.

Once Jerigel controls a victim as a roach, they have no free will of their own. In fact, they cannot do anything without him knowing about it. The control is complete and permanent as far as anyone knows. Even Ryu doesn’t know of a cure to change these unfortunate victims human again.

These roaches are today’s daily deal. Aren’t they interesting characters? Won’t you take pity on them? They just want your love! they make their comic book debut in Dream Angel #7, which is available in the shop. It’s a good idea to get the books that came before it so the story makes sense! Also found in the shop is the plush action figure of these creatures.

Using 3D to make comic books part 4

Using 3D to make comic books, as I’ve said, is quite the challenge. There’s a lot to take into consideration and I’ve only scratched the surface so far with these little postings. It’s definitely recommended you read parts 1, 2 and 3 before this one.

Okay, you’ve rendered awesome scenes, put them together in Comic Life and made them into a cool book. Now what? Well, this is actually the hardest part: getting it to sell. See, 3D is more widely used for porn comics, which makes it tougher to sell to other people. Add in the common complaints about it that I’ve read about and you’re going to find a lot of very harsh critics that won’t even give you a fair chance.

What are those common complaints? One is “stiff, lifeless figures.” Well, this one is harsh on rookies with the medium. Unless you are a fast learner especially with lights, cameras and textures, figures are going to look awkward while you’re learning. The same can be said of hand drawn characters, too though!

Ask for comments to learn from and ignore the ones that are blatant put-downs. You’ll probably be asked if you modeled the characters yourself. Odds are, you didn’t but don’t let that bother you! You’re still learning! So am I! So is anyone that can call themselves an artist. If they claim to be a master and don’t think there’s anything left to learn, they’re never going to grow as an artist and their work will go stale.

Another complaint is stiff clothes. On this one, I’m willing to agree, but only to a point. If you’re like me, your computer’s limits are where you have to draw the line. Realistic cloth simulation is possible and looks incredible, but uses an unbelievable amount of power from the computer!