First lesson of the new year!

Happy New Year again! The first lesson of the new year is an incredibly exciting one! For the longest time, scenes have taken quite a while to render, even using DAZ’s less complicated render engine, 3Delight. I made some fantastic scenes that would take up to 10 hours to render mostly because background elements were so complicated. I’ve been trying to find a solution to that problem for a long time, and having discovered it finally, I’ll share my technique with you.

Why would I want to reveal this secret new technique that solves the problem of slow render times because of complicated backgrounds? Well, they say “In teaching you will learn” so I’m going to teach the technique and see if I learn something in the teaching as well.

Let’s say you’ve got this really awesome scene in DAZ. A great background, characters in cool poses, lights and a cool camera angle, but… it’s slower than molasses in January rendering, right? 10, 12 hours and it’s at what? 80%? Especially with Iray. Iray’s definitely heavy-duty, but the renders are impressive, too, right? Take it from someone with an older computer, those long render times are murder on the system and what if DAZ decides to crash mid-render? You’d really want to scream, right? I know I would! Well, what if you could still have an awesome scene, but far less complicated? I can’t say this’ll work for any scene, but it’ll help if you want to do a sweeping mountain vista or broad city.

So, what’s this mysterious secret? I’m coming to that, bear with me a moment. Like you, I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been mid-render on a fabulous scene when DAZ suddenly decided to crash. Worse, after the crash, the program has a hard time opening the file again because it’s so large and complex. Lesson learned: complex scenes might look great, but they’re horribly harsh on the machine trying to render them! Let’s solve that problem together, shall we?

Let’s take a cool city for example. You’ve setup the building props, skydome and anything else you want. That alone is pretty complicated, right? Don’t add those characters yet! Instead, pick the center of your scene and put a level camera in it. You’ll probably want a simple lighting setup, too. Me, I used a basic 3 point light setup, but you can get fancier if you’d like.

I found out the hard way that a 30 frame rotation image series seems to be too many images to line up smoothly, but for my experiment, it served me well. So, render an image series with that camera in a full 360 degree rotation. Probably using fewer than 30 frames. Best to use the Y rotate parameter so you can control the rotation and don’t get any wild rotations. The view cube and similar tools tend to do that, I’ve noticed.

Got that image series rendered? Good! Let’s pop into Photoshop and play with its photo merge. You want it to create a panorama. I’m not going to go into detail on the settings this time, but once the panorama’s created and saved, I put an online image converter to good use. Converting the TIF I made in Photoshop to an HDR for DAZ to use.

Back in DAZ, with Iray on, we hit up the render settings and change the HDR to the one we just made. Presto! Awesome scene is now an HDR background and won’t slow down the render anymore! Instead, characters can be added and render much faster for not having those extra props in the way!

As you can see, my HDRI experiment has some problems, but still works nicely anyway. Solving those problems is next on the agenda and hopefully, once they’re solved, book rendering will be much more realistic and considerably faster. Going back to the self-imposed schedule for releases I had last year, I should be rendering Dream Angel #31 this month. Unfortunately, Dream Angel #24 is next in line, so this new technique should enable me to catch up fast.

Now, if you figure out ways to improve on this new HDRI technique, please don’t hesitate to share! My experimental HDRI turned out misaligned and squished because the technique is new to me. If you figure out how many frames for the image series to render, for instance, don’t hesitate to comment with it!

I’m very well aware that there are some incredible scenes (Stonemason makes some very impressive ones that are high quality, but they’re high poly and tough on the machine trying to render) on the DAZ site, but they’re very hefty on the computer’s resources for rendering, especially in Iray. This technique is to help ease that burden, so let’s help each other out and learn from the basics I’ve taught here. What I’ve shared will get you a basic and quite rough HDRI. Help me fine-tune the technique so it’ll benefit many!

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