DevLog 1-2: What’s in a Render? Part 1 – The Devil is in the Details
Every good VN is built upon and supported by three pillars: A Good Story, Good Coding, and Good Renders. There is the old cliché about how much a picture is worth, and it’s our opinion that it is doubly true when developing a virtual novel. The more information and detail we can communicate through our renders, the less we have to actually write on the screen. Since I have been unofficially leading the vanguard on our Daz efforts, Roman asked me to write up on some of what I’ve learned.
So many things can be written about the art of rendering good pictures, so I imagine this post will be the first of several. With that in mind, I think I would like to focus this effort on details. Details are the little things that can destroy the credibility of an image. Something as simple as a misplaced shadow, a hand that isn’t in full contact with a surface, or even a strand of hair that is defying gravity. These little things, while seemingly insignificant, can ruin a render.
Daz is wonderful in that the possibilities presented are nearly endless. But it also means you have to pay attention to everything. More than twice have I sat at the computer cussing because after several hours of rendering, I realized only after that I forgot to confirm a character’s hand was making contact with another surface. What resulted, was a 1/2 gap whose shadow made it very clear the character was leaning back and resting on thin air. To combat these little inconsistencies I have developed a sort of check list, to help ensure that my renders come out the way I want the first time through.
I attack this checklist after I have done all of the other basic tasks like modeling, posing, lighting, composition and adjusting render settings.
- Are all body surfaces fully touching any surfaces the are meant to be in contact with? This point includes but is not limited to feet touching the floor, hands touching a sofa or another model, asses touching chairs. Depending on your camera angle this can be an easy thing to miss. So always go into perspective mode and get close to each of these contact points and verify you have actual contact.
- Are the model’s eyes looking at the camera? This of course is only important when the camera is meant to represent a character’s point of view and another character is looking at the POV character. Daz has an excellent feature that allows you to select a character’s eyes and change what they are point at under the parameters tab. Unfortunately, this script tends to fail when you have a saved file and you are rendering in batches. So unless you are rendering one scene at a time and avoiding batch rendering altogether, you will need to manually adjust the character’s eyes to look at the camera. It’s tricky, and in some cases may require to remove the “limit” on eye movement, but after a few test renders, you can be sure that your batches will come out correctly.
- Is gravity behaving? It’s easy to be distracted by everything else going on in a scene and ignore something as simple as a loose article of clothing ‘leaning’ in the wrong direction. More frequently it will be strands of hair not falling downwards on a tilted head. Once, it was even a tilted glass in which the liquid didn’t behave correctly (we learned that for most glasses with contents, it will either need to remain upright or a character drinking from it will have to be facing the camera).
These three details are the devils that will plague a careless render. Failure to pay attention to these and you risk breaking the ‘reality’ of the image and your reader/viewer will have to work harder to accept your visualization and you risk disconnecting them from their immersion in your story.