August Musings

Eldiren here. It's been quiet on the Logiciel front since March, but that's because life and education has forced me in different directions. As always I'm trying to figure out the fastest way to approach a task, and to that end I'm always researching the latest and greatest software for the best solutions to problems. The big problem I've been having for about a year had to do with rendering hair, and getting a fast workflow that involved hair, volumetics, and other rendered materials in a photorealistic way. As evidenced from my tutorials Daz makes it incredibly easy to get to the ground running on character creation. MotionBuilder is a quick tool to animate bipeds and props with. Faceshift allows us to quickly get convincing face character animation. After Effects and Premiere will put together the final shots, and take care of any blips in the road. My rendering and modeling package of choice, Cinema 4D has been lacking in essential capabilities to produce the fast super real images that I'm looking for though. Now I've looked at Maya, and what always threw me off about it was some of the quirks it has when doing the littlest things. I can chock part of that to me, however, because even in C4D I produce geometry that is a little messed up when modeling. The thing is I never got far enough in Maya to really run it through its paces as far as animation and dynamics. I realized the error of my ways in the last few weeks about that little point. More on that in a tutorial I think. C4D is still my darling though, and frankly Maya suffers from similar issues as C4D does when it comes to the final render. They are both just too slow for an iterative process of texturing and lighting. That fact is you have to hit that render button to see what the final look is going to be, and even though Maya's viewport 2.0 is stellar and C4D as always has a lovely viewport, it’s just not enough. Enter my research into The Foundry's Katana which aims to solve the problem of long look development and lighting cycles. Katana allows an artist to create 'recipes' which can then be applied to characters and assets in multiple shots quickly. It also allows you the dial in these looks quickly and efficiently. The only problem with it is the requirement to dedicate a computer to Linux during its use. Most of my apps are on Windows and my baby C4D isn't Linux compatible anyway. This makes Katana's workflow needlessly difficult for my studio. So, doing a little more research I found one program, and only one, that is a direct contender to Katana's very unique foothold in the 3D market. That program is Bakery Relight. Now while Relight is really good, and you definitely should have a look at their site because the way it does it's workflow is quite intriguing, during my tests I ran into crashes left and right. Also because of the specific way I handle my exports from C4D I wasn't getting much needed info to directly texture objects the way I wanted. Other things weren't working well also like their guided hair geometries, which was a big deal for me because I was still looking for a rendering system that could handle hair interpolation well. I almost thought all hope was lost. C4D's support for Renderman is woefully inadequate, and the new Pixar Renderman won't be free for non-commercial use till a few months from now. I've yet to dabble in Arnold, but it's making big waves. My biggest issue, of course, is diving into Maya and dealing with that pipeline. Certainly more tools are there, and in fact I am using a lot more of them now thanks to some other new stuff I picked up the last few months. The big point is though, that a Katana style workflow just makes sense. Animating your models without texturing them, tweaking the dynamics, and doing morphs and keeping the look and lighting stuff out of it just makes sense. We should save that stuff for a program that is optimized and prepared to handle it gracefully, and use our worhorses (C4D, Maya, 3DS Max, etc.) for the things they are good at. Traditional look dev is fine for the short projects I teach currently, or for quick parametric workflows like most motion graphics, but for the scenes I want to make I need something that can handle complexity quickly and easily. So I finally found my renderer, and boy is it amazing. The post image was actually rendered in it. The reason I didn't mention it earlier as a direct competitor to Katana is because it does a combination of things in a way that I've never seen done in any 3D program ever before. It truly is in its own niche. Enter Clarisse iFX, a hybrid rendering, animation, and compositing package that pretty much solves all of the problems I mentioned in this article. So anyway, I've been doing a lot, making a lot of renders and playing with a lot of lighting and look development stuff, as well as dynamics packages. I'm planning a few big tutorials to finish up the overall multi app pipeline and Clarrise will definitely be included. Eldiren out!

by Eldiren

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