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Kitchen Scene - Breakdown

This scene is challenge scene #2 from Jeremy Birn provided the models, and it was my job to create the textures and lighting rig. Here is the final render:

The challenge with any blank scene is properly portraying the emotion and feel that you so desire. Summer was uprising and I felt like creating a scene with lots of light and a rich back plate. Of course, lighting is nothing without textures, so I proceeded to texture all the elements of the scene. All the wood, fruit, glass, and wall textures are procedural. I projected textures onto the countertop, floor, and back plate.

Next comes the lighting, which was the main purpose of this project. I began with a directional key light to simulate bright sunshine:

What I've noticed in a lot of amateur CG scenes simulating sunlight, the intensity of the light is far too low; as if the artist was afraid to turn the intensity too high. I really wanted to simulate a hard beam of light flooding in from the window so my sunlight's intensity is somewhere around 3 with no decay (Maya).

Next were the fill lights. Although there is a bright sunbeam coming from the window, there will always be quite a bit more indirect light coming from the sky and grass outside, as well as from the room off-camera to the left. This is what these lights accomplish:

Even though my intent was to use final gather to simulate the bounce light within the room, there are always a few areas that final gather leaves too dark. This is where my bounce lights came in to play. I tried to simulate light bouncing off the walls and cabinets to brighten up the room a bit:

At this point it's looking really nice. Though, in reality if there was an intense beam of sun coming in to a room, that light would bounce several times before expiring. Having simulated a single bounce manually, it has added a lot of realism to the scene. However, to get a better simulation of reality, I turned on final gather to really drive the scene home. Here is the final render again:

Since the extent of this project was only to be a single frame, I didn't hesitate to use raytraced shadows for all of my lights. Although sunlight will naturally have crisp shadows, the bounce and fill lights have soft raytraced shadows that do a great job of simulating reality.

Aside from raytracing, one more thing that I added to my scene was soft, blurred reflections. On a surface like a wood table or a linoleum floor, the reflections aren't going to be crisp as they are by default. By turning up the mi_reflection_blur in mental ray to 1-1.5 (must increase reflection rays as well), you get the nice blurred reflections as shown above. Be avised, using heavy raytraced shadows and blurred reflections (as well as final gather) is not cheap. The final frame of this simple scene took 45 minutes to render.••• 

Fruit Bowl - Breakdown

This scene is challenge scene #1 from Dan Wade provided the models, and again my job was to create the textures and lighting of the scene. Two slight modifications I did to the scene: I created new plum models for the scene, and I also made a new leaf for the apple. Here is the final render:

Like before, I was given a blank scene with no textures or lights. I wanted my real emphasis to be on realism. I wanted you to look at the final render and feel as if it were a photograph. Whether I reached my goal or not I'll leave up to you, but that was the approach I took to my texturing. My real challenge with texturing this fruit is that they are organic items that everyone is very familiar with; even the slightest flaw would register with the viewer. Another challenge was that these are spherical, organic shapes; not easily mapped to a texture.

I spent the next few days in my free time developing procedural textures for the fruit. There is subsurface scattering used on the grapes, but other than that it's all pretty standard 2D and 3D maps daisy chained and mixed together as shaders. There was a real emphasis on the specular, as that's where I believe sells the realism of the fruit.

On to the lighting! Once I was happy with the shaders (well, I'm never really happy with them - constantly tweaking) I set up my key light. I wanted to go for an overcast/indirect feel with light coming from a nearby window. With indirect or overcast light, the intensity isn't too high, and the shadows aren't too crisp. This is because instead of the light coming from a single point (sun, light bulb) it's scattering through a cloudy sky, diffusing the light in all directions. Here is my scene with the key light only:

As you can see the shadows aren't hard, but soft, diffuse shadows. Just with the key it sort of looks like moonlight. Now, for the fill light I wanted to imagine that the fruit was sitting in a bright room with warm-toned walls. I made the fill lights a warmer color. The warmth really takes the feel from moonlight to indirect sunlight:

So that is looking pretty nice for only a handful of lights. In reality, even if the light is diffused through clouds, there would still be a fair amount of light bouncing within the environment that the fruit is in. This means that there wouldn't be so many dark spots on and under the objects. So, since I elected not to use global illumination or final gather on this scene, I needed to take care of the dark spots manually. Here is how it looks when I have added some bounce lights to simulate indirect illumination:

Adding the bounce lights may seem nit-picky, but when realism is my goal, I can't cut corners. There is a nice difference on the orange. Now, last but not least, I have added some rim lights to the orange and the plums because I feel they are too dark on the right side. One kick light was added to the left side of the orange as well just to brighten it up a bit. Then, for the final composition I rendered out a depth map and added a small amount of depth of field to really make it look like a photograph:

I hope you liked this breakdown! Don't hesitate to let me know what you think.•••