Fur, Nodes and Lighting… oh my!

So yesterday I was whining about the problems and issues that cropped up while working on my last project. Now that I am done complaining, I’m going to share some of the things I actually learned. And yes, I did learn a thing or two on this project. :P

Let’s start with the fur. There is more than one recipe for creating fur. Even if you start with someone else’s recipe, you will most likely need to adjust and tweak it to fit your model and scene. Nothing ever fits “right out of the box”.

I most likely have a ridiculous amount of fur, but all said and done, I did end up with some fairly decent soft looking fur.

particle settings used:

  • Emmison: 30,000, Random with Even distribution
  • Velocity: Normal 0.020, Random 0.025
  • Children: Check the screen shot.

In addition to particle settings, materials are an important part of how fur looks. A little experimenting got me to these settings. (check screenshot)

material settings:

Next up in my hit parade is Nodes. Keep in mind, that before this project, I had never used compositing nodes and have only used nodes for materials once or twice, which did result in a bit of fumbling around. But I finally figured out how to get to what I wanted.

I started out with 4 render layers.

  • Background (the ray streaks); so I could apply some blurring
  • Hearts; I wanted them to glow
  • Bears; I was concerned that I might need to make color adjustments
  • Clouds; I didn’t want them messed with, so they ended up with their own layer.

So the blurring of background was easy. I added a Blur node set to Fast Gaussian;50.

The Glowing Hearts; yeah, not so much. I did add the Glare node>Fog Glow, but it really didn’t add much to the image and ultimately got deleted.

The Bears layer proved the most problematic. I experimented quite a bit and then realized that poor lighting was the problem and there doesn’t seem to be a “Fix my crappy Lighting” node available. :P

After many test renders and lots of adding various nodes to see what they did or didn’t do, I finally ended up with just three render layers.

  • Background; still needed for blurring streaks
  • Clouds and Hearts; needed them left alone
  • Bears; I tried rendering the bears with the clouds and hearts layer, but then the tips of the fur kept disappearing, it looked funky. So I ended up letting the bears keep their render layer.

I used Alpha Over Nodes to link it all up. And added a vignette at the end of the whole noodle mess with a Mix node. Nothing overly complicated about the node setup, other than I hadn’t done it before.

So now that I had my Nodes going, I really needed to address my lighting issues. My bad lighting was seriously cramping the style of my image and needed some help.

I tried several different setups that oddly enough gave rather similar results. Flat lighting that looked like … hmm, I’ll go with not impressive.

Finally I managed to put together a setup that worked (or maybe I was just tired of messing with it, which at that point was highly possible :P )

  • One spot; positioned behind and slightly to the left of camera
  • 2 area lamps, one positioned to either side of bears. One was colored slightly orange and one slightly blue.

Now some things I learned concerning render times.

First off I had had tiles set to X: 8, Y: 8. That was the default and I never really thought much about it. On a whim I put it to X: 5, Y: 5 and got remarkably faster renders. I would have thought it would go slower, but I wasn’t about to argue with faster results.

But the thing that sped up my render times the most, was actually in the lamp settings. Some lamp settings are obviously more render intensive than others. And of course I was using the render heavy settings for most of the project. Which equaled lots of time spent waiting for test renders.

Setting my Area lamps to jitter and changing the Spot’s buffered shadow type to Classic-Halfway, cut my render time from 2-3 hours down to about 30 minutes. Big difference to say the least.

And speaking of shadow settings on the spot lamp, during numerous test renders I tested Classic-halfway, Irregular and Deep shadows. Now I understand why Irregular and Deep increase render times that is a no brainer. But the Classic-Halfway not only rendered faster, my teddy fur looked better too. Go figure. If I had known that before I started I could have saved massive amounts of time waiting for renders.

Okay so, there you have it. One thing I would still like to experiment with is clouds. I pretty much just went with the defaults in the Cloud Generator add-on. Which looked pretty good, but I might just have to make it my next project to do a little poking around to see what does what and see what cool cloud formations I can come up with.

Okay then, gotta go… things to do.

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4 responses to “Fur, Nodes and Lighting… oh my!

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