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Over the years I've had many questions about how I do my renders and what my render settings are... and why in the entire fuck I still use Firefly??? But the thing is its not about the render settings, its about the materials. I'll post the render setting shortly.

Before I answer, if there's one thing I've learned, is that Suspension of disbelief works 100,000 times better than the best renderer. Think about that first.

Anyway: I still use firefly for efficiency, and the black body is my trick.

Efficiency: firefly is built into Poser, intimately linked to the scene and the materials room. Therefore every scene I ever save is merely a few clicks away from a nice render. I can save materials easily and reuse them in other scenes. And trust me, with 400 renders per comic, you want to shorten the distance between starting a scene and rendering it... perhaps even at the expense of a little quality that firefly cannot achieve. Remember, life is short... you'll be dead before you know it.

Black body has to do with the behavior of light (no not sexy black men KF ;) ). The idea is this: "black body (also blackbody) is an idealized physical body that absorbs all incident electromagnetic radiation, regardless of frequency or angle of incidence." (Wikipedia: Black Body) In other words this: all materials are defined by the light it reflects, and the light it absorbs, and at which angles. In some circumstances, materials also emit light, but you'll have to do some crazy shit with it like pass electricity through it or something.

But sticking to light hitting a surface, materials either absorb certain wavelengths of light, or reflect them, and depending on their molecular structure, they can differ with the angles they reflect some of the light (a certain color), or all of it (specularity). 

With Firefly, you can see 'diffuse' as the color that is not absorbed by the material, or just the base color. With all specularity options at zero, and diffuse values and color at zero, this is a perfect black body. Then when setting colors and values to the diffuse channels, you're allowing the material to reflect that particular light. With specularity, you're emphasizing this behavior under certain angles, and perhaps even allowing all the light to be reflected, in which case you'll get a white patch.

These basic settings originated from the old Poser versions, but with newer Poser versions you got the 'Alt Diffuse' and 'Alt Specularity' channels, where you can attach more specialized forms of material behavior to them, while setting the old basic channels to absolute zero. Subsurface Scatter (SSS) works through these channels, dictating how the material absorbs the light but then reflects it back from deeper within the body and not just the surface. 

This is actually a very simplistic approach to Poser's Material room, but when you delve deeper, you'll find just about anything you'd want to try and emulate, limited only by the renderer. The real power of Poser's Material room lies within the ability to apply math functions and more importantly 'masks' through the use of 'blender nodes'. Black and White masks can help to filter out certain material properties to emulate regional effects like non-reflective paint from sweaty skin (like with Sen's skin materials). The Firefly renderer does fine for now, but it can be improved. I'm hoping to see great shit coming from the new Superfly renderer. We'll see.

Now about the actual lighting (and this applies to all renderers): one more tip, and then I'm going to shush (I cannot give away too many secrets), clouds and a cloudy day...! Or better put: STOP FUCKING RENDERING WITH CLOUDY DAY SETTINGS! The reason is that I see a lot of artist just going with whatever settings the renderer provides them, which IMHO is cheating. Its clever of the manufacturer because its the default lighting choice for professional photographers for stuff like... OFFICE CHAIRS! Its mostly just diffuse lighting, or rather like making a photo during a cloudy day. Clouds disperse the light, which is the best lighting for making a photo of an object that needs to be clearly photographed, like a product or something. Its like in a professional photostudio (or like with a porno shoot) there are spotlights everywhere, and it kindof makes all the colors and shadows blend into each other and you get a kindof dreamy palette of shades and colors... which can get rather dull if you do nothing else but.

The reality is that shadows are usually much harsher. Light only comes in through one window, or two, or straight down from the sun. If you have light everywhere, then you're no Anton Corbijn... unless you're trying to emulate a bus or disco interior. Even on a cloudy day in Africa, you'll still get a proper shadow. Its like a lot of 3DCG artists are afraid of shadows, or big dark areas in your images. For fuck's sake look at Rembrandt's paintings, half of them are entirely black, it might as well be painted with tar or bitumen. Shadows define light, you cannot go without shadows. So many 3D renders are FULL of light, or so weakly defined by shadows, which is just false. A lot of artists over-light their scenes thinking that ALL objects in the scene need to be visible. Bullshit. And artificial lights are like 5% of sunlight (probably less), yet I see many artist just blasting some lamp at 100% with the sun at the same strength... NO! And Sometimes artist just blow up their scene with light, casting not a single shadow anywhere, no definition!

Sometimes one light is just fine. Here are examples of scene that were lit with one light:

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The Odalisque (Final result) by erogenesisCGI
 

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Sen, slightly improved body by erogenesisCGI
  47 miles later... by erogenesisCGI  Amanda and Merel by erogenesisCGI  Siren 7 (For Rob Caswell) by erogenesisCGI  The Initiation Starts by erogenesisCGI 

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Room 9 by erogenesisCGI
 

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Lali Sutra .2 by erogenesisCGI
 

Do not fear shadows, think of how light behaves, and respect the sun! But remember, without character, a photo-realistic render can be utterly useless.

Edit: read up about photography. In fact buy a book about photography, and you'll learn a lot about renders and Poser, lighting-wise, composition-wise, art-wise... Poser (or DS) is basically virtual photography, the difference being that you get to create the subject :)

.... and I cannot wait for Superfly! :D



EDIT:

there is one important thing I forgot to mention and I think this applies to just about any for or art: observation. If you cannot observe, then you don't know what to paint (or render). But sometimes we don't know what we're observing and we need a little help. The whole story above about the black body will not necessarily help you improve your technique, but it will give an extra dimension to your observation of materials. Its like listening to a Symphony of Beethoven, without knowing what instruments are being used in the piece, you'll have only a limited form of appreciation of it, you won't recognize the individual sounds. But if you knew about the individual instruments, like the clarinet, the oboe, the violin section, the timpanis, the brass or the cellos, then you'd have a greater appreciation of their interaction. Likewise with the different properties of light, how colors are mixed, how the shadows are cast, what light is reflected and by how much, and in what direction... if you don't know how light works, how a camera works, or even your very own eyes, your observational skills will be strained. 
  • Listening to: Stressedafrican
  • Watching: my renders trickle in...
  • Drinking: beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer
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:iconnonsolum:
Nonsolum Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is one article-tutorial that has no price and it isn't because it's free !
Thanks so much to enlighten some points Ero !
Sometimes, it offers a spark to the memory to break our own habits...
Reply
:icondonsand:
Donsand Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2015  Professional General Artist
Thanks for the material room tips. Your images prove that you've built up a mastery of the Firefly render. So any time I can glean some insight from you is a good day.

By the way, on the subject of keeping Poser a go to product... I don't think you intended to be the greatest hope for a nicely articulated figure in the form of Project-E. But after Daz's V7 coup attempt I find myself checking your blog every other day for news. I know, I know. She won't be an everything character. But I'm hoping her joints won't fold into paper like V4's.

Anyway, thanks for all you do.

Cheers
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:iconasterionx:
AsterionX Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
How interesting and enlightening. I love what you do, and I'm learning from you. Thanks. 
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:icongishzida:
gishzida Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2015  Professional Artist
What you said... Amen!

:+fav:
Reply
:iconlapindefer:
LapinDeFer Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is a very useful treatise, and you're right.
Shadows are very important, and I'm still learnig the material room after umpteen years with Poser.
Reply
:iconmortze:
Mortze Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I actually love shadows. It is one of the most important thing in 3D. Shadows give contrast to light and 3D perception comes from contrast. I couldn't possibly render a believable space scene without such contrast

mortze.deviantart.com/art/A-wa… 
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:iconjames-is-james:
James-Is-James Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Interesting.
Reply
:iconlynxander:
Lynxander Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I agree, it's more about the materials when going for good renders. Good lighting alone doesn't help if the materials are poor. Keeping the number of lights low is a good idea, usually 1 or 2 is enough.

Ah, I suppose the closer to the equator one lives, the more stable the length of days and nights are, and thus light conditions as well.
Here in the far north it is different. We have a quirky Sun :iconimsunnyplz:
In midwinter the sun takes a vacation and does not rise at all during the day (called Kaamos) and in midsummer it works all day and does not set at all during the night (called Midnight sun). The rest of the year, the length of day travels smoothly from the one extreme to the other. This results in very varied conditions through a year as the Sun can be at a wildly different height and angle at say 2 pm. It can be up in the sky shining brightly, or below the horizon, or anything in between depending on the time of year :iconcatsmileplz:
Reply
:iconbelzaph:
belzaph Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
Totally agree. One thing i always do in post is use levels in photoshop to enhance the shadows. When i was young i used to paint more and just did not put shadows in except maybe the floor. I just did not get that it made my picture unnatural and flat.
Reply
:icontinaevil:
TinaEvil Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2015
thanks for this.  i've always wanted to ask you about your flow, but i'm always a bit hesitant...trade secrets and all that :) i haven't used poser in since the hair room was new (is there still a hair room?) and i didn''t plan to go back to it as i am quite lazy and don't want to learn or relearn stuff. your results are making me think again.

by the way, your renders are distinctively yours; i can spot them from a thumbnail. all amazing :D
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:iconmarcelojavier83:
First, in general I find it kinda annoying when people think that by having the latest equipment or the latest software version, they are gonna make better products (I see this a lot in photography myself and the typical "That camera takes nice pictures"...when it's the one using the camera, regardless of being a DSLR or a pocket, that takes the nice pictures"
That being said....

As you mention, shadows and good lights are very important, they give the person, or the objects "life" and not like they are in a vacuum chamber being tested for science (unless the THAT's the scenario rendered lol), they give a sense of reality, everything casts a shadow... it's just a matter of how those shadows look on camera. They sure are hard to handle, but not impossible.

I'm into film making (student soon to be graduate), and I'm sure that one of my biggest faults is how to lit a scene properly. You may have an idea on how you want the ambient mood to be, but then you need to know what kind of lights to use and how to place them to give THAT mood.
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:iconformatela:
formatela Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2015
Thanks. That's an interesting journal.
Reply
:iconkristinf:
KristinF Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
>no not sexy black men KF ;) (Wink)
*pout*

You produce *amazing* results with firefly and your lighting is incredible.  I think whatever package you used you'd really make stupendous works actually.  Well... except for Poser 3. :D
Reply
:iconrubbermatt:
Rubbermatt Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
Amen to the sermon, less is more. As far back as pre-order Poser 5 I tried to use as few lights as possible and get it as realistic as possible - so an indoor daytime scene would have one Infinite light 100%, shadows on as the sun, and another at 5-10%, shadows off  to try and fake global radiosity.

Now I'm using Vue it's even easier - sunlight and sky dome lighting (simulating light being scattered as it passes through the atmosphere). Plus of course proper Global Radiosity :D

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Drive it by Rubbermatt


But for the really atmospheric scenes, well you've just got to switch the sun off and reach for those spotlights .....

  

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Domino Effect by Rubbermatt
 

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Double Cross by Rubbermatt
      


Or you can use no lights at all and just light with glowing materials.

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In a Bind by Rubbermatt
  

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Fully Loaded by Rubbermatt


Even more fun when you combine the last two methods and put the glowing materials somewhere different.

Origins II v by Rubbermatt
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:iconapocalypse3dx:
Apocalypse3DX Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
It is from the Darkness that we see the Light, With out sunshine we would see no clouds, and big giant canon ball titties let us appreciate those cute little perky ones... (Um, I think I got distracted by tits on the path to enlightenment... Oh well)
Reply
:iconerogenesiscgi:
erogenesisCGI Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
remember that scene in true detective where he tunes the guy looking up at the night sky: "its always the same story: light versus the dark"

how true! the buddha was a clever mofo! but yeah titties would make life a bit more difficult :D
Reply
:iconapocalypse3dx:
Apocalypse3DX Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I've never seen True Detective, but he has a point... Titty, titty, titty fun time, titty, titty...
Reply
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