Learning Dark Arts

Come learn the art of 3D computer generated art and animation. This blog deals with the lessons learned and the art created by Robert G. Male using DazStudio from Daz3D. Also covered are the ancillary software, tools, techniques, and processes needed both before and after rending in the 3D software.

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August 22, 2011

Whip It Out

Warning: The following post uses proper terms, and medical terms for body parts. If you are uncomfortable with that stop reading now.

A little while ago I got my hands on the Michael 4 Morphs++. I was just using it yesterday and it looks like I have to add whatever dials I want to Michael individually. Maybe I'm just not seeing them in the new set up for DazStudio 4. Along with everything else the Morphs++ comes with genitalia for M4. I had that accessory for David. There was always a problem though. I never had a character map that used it, so it was always essentially useless. This time with M4 is different. I thought it might be difficult to find a character map that used it but once I went into the People section of the store, limited the items to Michael 4 and then typed "genitals" into the Search Within box I received recommendations. The search term "genitalia" yields two more M4 characters. I chose to go with the Raphael character.

The maps have to be applied to the M4 Genitalia figure separate from the M4 figure since there are two separate figures. I noticed that when I apply the maps that parts of it appear translucent or nearly see-through until rendered. Also, depending on the angle some postproduction work may be required to soften out a very square perineum between the buttocks behind the scrotum.

In a related note, more recently I also bought the Victoria 4 Elite Body Shapes including Utopia, Fantasia, and Sylph morphs. Included along with that, unknown to me, was a dial marked GenitalCrease2, which augments or replaces the normal V4 dial for a more 3D look than before. Now I have everything I need for whatever nude images I need to make. I no longer remember specific images that required a full male figure, but I'm sure new ones will come to mind now that I am no longer limited by the lack of maps.

Music: Awaken the Giant by Stratovarius.

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August 15, 2011

Smooth and Extra Tasty

One control in DazStudio for focus that I did not get into last week is the Focal Length. Focal Length is just like the same control on a physical camera. Daz sets the default at 65, which at an educated guess equates to 65 mm for a camera lens. If you have the Depth of Field turned to On and change the Focal Length the resulting render appears closer or further away from the viewer. A larger number, like 100 in the render on the left below, you see less of the scene and the background is out of focus. A smaller number, like 35 in the render on the right below, you see more of the scene behind the figure and there is much less blur. When you change the Focal Length you need to decide if you want to leave it as is or if you then want to adjust the F/Stop as discussed last week. If this all isn't clear, depth of field is about what is clear and sharp, and what isn't--I find the idea gets lost easily even as I write about it.

Focal Length 100 Focal Length 35

I want to leave that all behind for the time being and talk about a new picture that I put together using some postproduction techniques to greatly improve the render. Amongst the processes I applied is the PaintShop Photo Pro X3 version of after-the-fact Depth of Field. My favourite new process in X3 (over my old version 6) is the Smart Photo Fix. As you can see in the control window marked 1, it has three levels of brightness control, Saturation and Focus, and Black and White balance. It gives me what I consider a great amount of control to really make my renders pop. The window marked 2 adds backlighting, which means it fakes lights that aren't there, or are at least influenced by the bright spots in the scene, which happen to be the lights in the render.

Control Windows

I also immensely enjoy that sunburst effect with the light rays and heliographing circles of light in control 3. The Depth of Field dialogue box in 4 is what I've talked about previously and you can see I selected the figure and wand as being the clear focused part of the picture. The last one marked 5 is Soft Focus which I understand least, except that it makes some parts softer than others and adds a halo or blur effect to some of the lighter areas. I ran all of these in the order of the numbers to achieve the final picture on the right below with one small addition. Most of the sunburst light rays are completely in focus so I manually softened them with a brush so as not blur out too much of anything behind them. That left image is the untouched render. Quite the difference between them, eh?

Before After
Music: I'm Going Slightly Mad by Queen.

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August 8, 2011

Learning to Focus

To give a camera-like look to your pictures in DazStudio you want to add depth of field and perspective. By default the Default Camera has Perspective set to On. Below that setting is Depth of Field. For these images you want to turn the Depth of Field to On. That is only part of the process though. All cameras have the setting Point At. You need to have something for the camera to point at to use the depth of field. To do this put a Null in the scene and tell the camera to point at that. Place your null before altering the camera angles or they will change suddenly. The null should be placed where you want the focus of the scene to be. That focus will be as clear as if you had done nothing, but items further back, and background structures, will be out of focus just like in a photo. The null can be buried in a figure, behind it, or in front of it, depending on just how sharp you want the focus to be on the subject. Everything else will blur naturally.

In DazStudio 3.x and lower the amount of blurriness can be pretty intense so I actually suggest taking the value next to Point At, which will be 1.00 and setting it to 0 or even -0.1 (though going further negative doesnít sharpen the background any). In the new DazStudio 4.x I found the value to be semi-locked and could only change it by digging into the parameters, and then it appeared to make no difference to the focus anyway.

There is one immediate problem when pointing the camera at the null. The scene will shift and your camera angle will be different than it was. Also the controls to change the angles work different because the camera continues to point at the null and what you are doing is, to your perspective, moving the scene around until it looks like you want it to look. You may also need to put your null lower than the face of your figure if you want to see more of the figure's lower portions. Then there are the other controls involved with the camera for depth of field.

There is Focal Distance, which allows you to move the point of focus in the same manner as moving the null closer and further to the camera--to me thereís no point in using that control since the null can affect the focus in all three dimensions. If you do use it, Focal Distance short of the figure gives the figure some blur, beyond it the same, though with beyond more of the location behind the figure should be clearer, but that's likely to be just the floor unless there are other objects. There is also F/Stop, which in a physical camera controls the amount of light coming in. That affects the depth of field, or how sharp a focus the picture has away from the object or position that is fully in focus. It has the most effect in DazStudio 4.x, as best as I can tell, and will be the go-to control in there for how much blur there is. All in all Daz's un-focus is grainy and not very natural, but a softness pass in postproduction might alleviate that some.

The Daz depth controls arenít useful if you want to focus on a figure that is close to inline with important parts of the background items/sets. In such cases it can be better to use a postproduction technique as I did in the Killing Time Cover 3-4. That is done by using a selection tool to select your figure, as close to their skin/clothes as you can--though I selected the figureís shadow as well--and adding blur to the rest of the image as desired. That method though makes everything out of focus the same amount of blurry. As in a photo it should get progressively more out of focus as you move away from the in-focus object to as badly blurred as it will get, which wouldn't be to the point of being a coloured smear unless your photo was really large. Since I switched to the new PaintShop Photo Pro X3 I have access to a Depth of Field control panel, which I will discuss some other time.

Focus Test Wizardess
Click for larger version.

Music: Crazy by Aerosmith.

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Robert G. Male

Name: Robert G. Male
Location: Ontario, Canada

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