Ultra-realistic displacement in Reality

Posted on April 13, 2014 at 10:20 PM

This is a tutorial on how I made the above log from Stonemason's Enchanted Forest set look so realtistic using my favorite method of making surfaces look realistically "bumpy" in the Reality plug-in for DAZ Studio. Note that the original log settings in DAZ Studio weren't designed for Reality necessarily, so this is not to say that Stonemason's displacement was in any way at fault.

Warning: This method is resource-intensive, meaning it might take a slower computer more time to render properly, so you might want to go out and get a sandwhich during the process, or take a vacation to Italy and say high to Paolo, Reality's creator, while your computer does its business.

First, for those who don't know, I will explain the difference between bump and displacement in the 3D world.

Bump: The illusion of bumpiness/roughness on a surface. It does not actually change the shape of the surface one bit. It is less resource-intensive than displacement so sometimes you can get away with this method and it looks all right.

Displacement: Actually displacing (moving out of its normal position) the surface of your object to create real bumpiness. You can use bump and displacement together if you choose, to balance out your resources to get just the effect you want.

Ok, now that that's out of the way, I'm going to show you how I made the log look the way it did in the above image.

Here is a detail of the log just for kicks:

Notice how many bumps it has? This is because I used a method of displacement called "micro- facet". Micro = tiny, facet = side (think of a cut diamond. Each side is a facet). Facet in this case can also be called a "face" which is what it is more commonly known as.

Why are tiny facets/faces important? Rather than give you a long explanation of that, here's a simple diagram: 

Make sense? Good.

Now onto the settings. 

0) Open Reality and select your object. Go to the modifiers tab.

1) Make sure the Use Micro factes box is checked

2) In this screenshot we see I set it to a whopping 299 subdivions. So we take the total number of faces in the object, let's say 100, and we divide all those up 299 times, you get a very fine "mesh" (what we call all the faces together that make up an object in 3D).

3) Then I fooled around with the positive and negative values, which control how high and low the bumps and grooves get. We want the bark to stick somewhat but not too much, so a positive 0.0030 and negative -0.010 seemed to work just fine in this case but your values may be much different.

4) The strength slider can be played with to increase or decrease the overall effect to your liking.

You can play similarly with the bump map to add some more detail to the surface but remember it won't affect the actual shape, so its outline will remain the same.

And that's all there is to it. Hope this helps you make some cool effects out there!



How to make a nice candle flame in Reality

Posted on July 3, 2011 at 7:27 PM



This is only one method, and I'm sure there are better, but it seemed to produce a nice result, so here's how I did the above image.


First, I used one of the free props that came with Carrara 6 Pro, but any candle prop and photo of a flame should do just fine. The prop consisted of a candle mesh, some ground (which I did not use) and a flame (an image on a simple plane).


In order to get the flame to reflect light properly, some preparation was needed. If I simply took the image on the plane from Carrara into DAZ Studio and then into LuxRender via Reality, the lights reflected off its black backgrond and created an unnatural effect.


To fix this, I opened up Photoshop and created an alpha (opacity/transparency) map. (Note: Original flame image watermarked and shrunk to prevent copyright/distribution issues.)


To do this, all you need to do is use the wand tool (or lasso tool or whatever selection method you prefer) of your paint program, select the background, color it black, then invert your selection area and turn the flame pure white. Some tweaking might be necessary to get your flame the shape you want.


To get better results with your wand tool, you can try raising or lowering the tolerance as needed. Higher numbers will select more area with a single click than lower numbers. You can also hold shift while you click to select multiple areas.


After you make a selection, you can click the “Refine Edges” button for even more fine tuning. Each function of this tool is explained within the window that pops up when you select it.



After that's done, you open up DAZ Studio, load in your candle prop, then assign the alpha map you just created, to the flame's alpha channel in the surfaces tab. If your candle did not come with a flame prop, you need to create one.  Just add a plane, make it verticle and assign the flame to the Diffuse channel, then the alpha map you created to the Opacity channel.



Once I called Reality, I used these settings to give the candle itself a nice dull shiny feel.



I set the flame to Glossy Translucent (See the Reality 1.2 User's Guide page 23 for details on  Glossy Translucent) and gave the transluceny a yellow color. This allows the light to really fill up the body of the flame.




For the lights I created two softboxes. One on the left with its snoot enabled to fake the glow on the flame, with a yellowish color, just above the candle stick. Then I created another softbox on the right to give the candle a little light, so it was not completely lost in shadow. In Reality I named one “Fire” and the other “Fill” so I could control the light intensity individually in LuxRender.

Note: For the Fill light I kept the color at white 255, 255, 255.

Here they are from the other side so you can get a better idea of their relative positioning.


Next, here are my camera and exposure settings.



Once you are satisfied with the placement, call Lux and adjust the light levels to taste.


After many hours of rendering I noticed I had missed a spot in creating my alpha map.



But to fix this I simply lowered the gamma slightly and the blemish was gone.



And that's all there was to it.

Well, I hope this was useful for you.


Happy rendering.

Making Your Lampshades Look Nice

Posted on June 25, 2011 at 10:14 PM

Today I am going to go over how I made the above image. The prop I used was the lamp from the Danielle Bedroom in the DAZ store.

The floor texture was a nice freebie from I recommend you try them out for some good variety.

Anyways, this is a fairly easy setup so I don't expect this tutorial to be 500 pages long, but if it does become 500 pages, too bad. :)

First, the scene is made up of a "box" of simple planes. You can create planes from the Create menu, New Primitive item, or by using the New Primitive button on your toolbar (if you set it up that way. If you have not set up your toolbar that way, you can change it by going to View, Interface Layout, and I select "Classic".)

You might notice I called the file "Lamp in grey room". Wel, l ended up making it brown and did not bother to change the file name. So that is the reason for that.

Next, here is a shot from above and behind so you can get an idea of my light setup (I hid the unnessary walls and ceiling for the purposes of the scene):

What you are looking at is one softbox with the "snoot" walls extended and one PointLight right inside the bulb of the lamp.The softbox comes as a prop with Reality and the PointLight is a DAZ Studio native light.

To make sure the light from the lamp does not burn a hole in the floor, you have to block it similarly to how the lampshade works. So I created a cylinder from the same menu as the planes and squished it down using the scale tool until it resembled a dime.

Then I simply put it in the center of my lamp, at the base of the shade. (By the way, in the below pic, "10:13" is the aspect ratio, the ratio between the horizontal and verticle size of my image area.)

One quick way of centering your objects with each other, is to parent the one you want to center into the one that will stay in place, then simply delete each axis value in the parameters window that you want. For example, if you like where it is vertically (the Y axis) you would delete the x and z parameters to get it centered horizontally only. Then when you are done, simply unparent it (or leave it parented if it does not matter for your particular scene).

However, if your lamp is already at the zero coordinates, no parenting is necessary. Just delete the x and z values of your cylinder and you are done. In my case the lamp's center did not match the center of the cylinder, so I had to then eyeball it into place. This can happen simply because the original creator of the model did not adjust the center of the their object before importing into Poser or DAZ Studio. It makes things like rotating rather a pain:

If you get poke-through due to your cylinder having rough edges, simply make a new cylinder with more sides. Try 30 instead of the default 15.

Ok, now we call Reality. I set the walls to matte as we don't want them eating up render time, and made the back wall a nice brown color of 81, 54, 2 in the Diffuse tab.

The floor I made nice and glossy and used a bump map I created by making a black and white high-constrast version of our wood texture.

Then you want to make sure your bulb is see-through, so I set it to Glass and hit the "architectural" checkbox to simplify it so that it takes less time to render.

If after turning it to glass, it is still not see-through, try deleting any textures it may have. In my case it seemed to have not mattered much but your results may vary. Especially for eyes, you don't want to have any textures in the glass, otherwise it will obscure the eye color beneath.

For the lampshade and cylinder, I set them to matte trasnscluent with the following options:

For the lamp shade, I left the alpha channel at 1.0. For the cylinder, I found that it blocked too much light, so I lowered the alpha to 0.92. You can raise and lower that to control how much light you want going through the bottom.

And here are the settings for the rest of the lamp (note: the "metal" surface of the lamp looked like wood to me, so I set it as I would for any glossy wood. I also set the "plastic" surface the same):

For the lights, I thought I set the gain of the PointLight to 0.1 but it's showing me now 0.2. You can try either one; the lights are adjustable in LuxRender so it is not too big a deal. The softbox I left at default.

And next I set the exposure of my "camera" before opening Lux to save time:

After hitting the Render Frame button, I wanted it a bit brighter, so from within LuxRender, I adjusted the gain of the softbox to about 6. You can therefore set it to 6 right in Reality if you'd like to get that out of the way beforehand.

The End. :)

Getting sharp images using Reality

Posted on May 26, 2011 at 6:10 AM

You may have tried playing with the depth of field (DOF) setting in Reality and had difficulty getting your image sharp.

One problem that I have run into, is having too short a focal distance, causing my field to be so tight that even going to f/22 (which is the maximum f/stop setting for DOF in Reality) would not sharpen it up. Focal distance is simply the distance from the camera to the point where the image will be sharpest (otherwise known as the focal point).

As a result of this, I decided to do a little experiment to test my theory. The below images were taken with a focal distance of 186. The center shape is the closest visible object to the camera and the cube is the farthest back. I set the distance to a null object right in front of the shape in the middle. Null objects are very handy for this kind of thing without having to be something visible in the scene.

To set your focal distance, select your null (or whatever you want to focus on) before loading Reality. After loading, check the DOF box in the Camera tab and remember to hit the "focus on selected object" button, otherwise your focal distance will not change!




Next, the below images were taken with the  focal length lowered from 65 millimeters to about 30mm (which causes the image to get smaller, because the angle of the lens is wider. In other words, the camera can see more in the same shot.) I zoomed the camera in so the focal distance became about 90. Not much change in sharpness here:

But look at this: These next images were taken with a focal distance of 42 and the camera lens set back to the default 65mm:

In case you're wondering, to get the above focal distance with a 65mm lens, I shrunk the objects and moved the camera closer. I would often work with small objects like this, hence my DOF troubles!

Now let's quickly look at what happens when you move the null object (our focal point) and not the camera or other objects:

In the above image, I moved the null object inside the center shape. Here it is again in a side-by-side comparison. Notice how the sides are sharper but the front blurrier than the image on the left:

So if you are having trouble getting someone's face to be sharp for example, try using a null object just in front of their eye instead of selecting the eye itelf. You can also increase the focal distance so that you have move room to play with your DOF size. This would be done by moving the camera back (and if your scene then looks too small, you can scale the whole scene larger to compensate, or just increase the focal length).

Before I end off, here is an example of the camera appearing to move closer when you are really only changing the focal length (in other words, the focal distance stays the same!) from 30mm to 65mm:

Well, that's all for now. I hope my experiment has helped clear a few things up for you. Thank you for reading!

Simple photo-realistic scene tutorial

Posted on May 21, 2011 at 7:51 PM

Today I will show you how I made the below image.

This was done using the Elite Marie texture (which even includes morphs!) and the Streets of Asia product. I only used a Sun and one large diffuser without any special lighting. You can see the diffuser below.

Before I open Reality, I try to delete or hide all the parts of the scene that will not be visible and that I do not want to have cast shadows into the scene. (Sometimes you might want to have something off-screen just for the shadow effect it provides in your finished image.)

Once that is done, I select the object that I want to use to set the camera's depth of field (DOF). This time, I chose to click one of my subject's fingers for this.

After loading Reality, you can set the DOF at this point (or later if you feel like it). Sequence does not matter. But remember to click the "Focus on selected object" button or else the distance for DOF will not change and you will get the wrong part of the image in focus.

You can also set the exposure of the camera in the above window. This will change the amount of light entering your camera. This saves you time from having to set it again in Lux.

Next, I check the material settings. For the diffuser I lowered the opactiy to .91.

And I lowered the specularity/glossiness levels of all the Streets of Asia props to more reasonable levels. We're not making an ice-skating rink after all!

Despite lowering these levels, I was still getting a lot of noise during rendering with the concrete ground sections, so I simply set them to matte.

For your model's eyes, make sure that the Cornea and EyeSurface materials are set to glass and have no textures in any of the boxes. (If there is a texture it can turn their eyes black.)

Next, the results you can get with skin textures rendering properly in Lux is affected by a few things. One is the realisticness of the skin to begin with. Even before coming into DAZ Studio or Reality, if you are using a low-quality texture, your results in the end will be severely limited. So, if after trying every tweak imaginable in Reality, checking for optimum light intesntity and direction in Studio, fiddling with the camera exposure, sun and sky settings in Lux, your skin still looks unconvincing, you might want to try a better skin.

That being said, let's look at the skin settings I used. (By the way, to get even better results, you can try upping the intesity of the bump map bit by bit. This can make the lips looks especially great. But adding too much to your model might make them look like they just came from a B-movie convention, so be careful.) If the skin does not have any bump maps, you can create them easily with a program called CrazyBump. For me, it's been a nice program to make good maps when you're in a hurry.

Here are my basic settings for the skin:

Now, this is a little embarrasing, but when I made the image, I didn't realize Reality had turned my bump map strength down to 2% (they were at 80% in DAZ Studio) making it practically flat. Luckily, the image still looked good, but would have been even better had I spotted the problem beforehand. Nowadays, I always try to remember to check the strength levels of any bump/displacement maps in Reality before sending to Lux.

This can be quite frustrating, as there have been times when I kept upping the Positive and Negative bump levels (which are just to the right of Strength) and saw no change in the image Lux was presenting me. After a while, you look over and see your strength setting is something like 0%! So always keep that in mind if the program is not responding as you would expect. Just calmly look over all the settings being presented to you to see if something like that is happening.

Here are the hair settings I used. I like to keep my hair glossiness in the 7000s, but you can make it higher if you want it shinier and lower if you want it duller.

Here's another potential problem you may run into: If you find your model looking too pink (which can happen easily with lighter-skinned characters) you can change the Coat color to something a bit more beige and a little darker. That's what I did with the below image.

For our Marie Streets of Asia image, before calling Lux, I clicked the Alpha Channel box to render without a background, as I would be adding my own later.

After you call Lux by hitting the Render Frame button in Reality, lower the sun intensity so the shadow on her neck blends in more with the rest of her body. You may have to play around with the balance of the sky and sun to get what you want.

When your render is up to your standards, simply stop Lux, open your image in your favorite photo editing software to load your background into the bottom layer, with your render on the top layer.

Note: If there is a little noise or any strange artifacts left, (I had some in the back right behind my model) you can easily fix it using the Soften brush in Paint Shop Pro or the Spot Healing Brush in Photoshop. If these tools don't quite work, you can also color it in by selecting a color next to the noise with the dropper tool and then setting your opacity for your brush to around 50 percent. This should blend nicely and make it look like no noise had ever been there.

And that's all their was too that image!

I hope this tutorial has been helpful to you. Good luck with your renders!

Outdoor lighting with a great free prop.

Posted on May 4, 2011 at 6:46 AM

Today I want to introduce you to an excellent prop called "Sponza" created by Marko Dabrovic and now offered to the public free of charge at Crytek.

It is an excellent testing ground for the Reality plug-in and the LuxRender rendering engine. This is because of it's rather narrow construction. You can't just slap a sun into the scene and expect to get great results. Of course, it is almost that easy. I will show you in this tutorial how I was able to get the below result:


Of course, a lot more went into this scene than just placing the sun, but I don't want to overwhelm you with all the details. So for now, we will keep this is simple as possible.

First, due to the narrowness of the space, I was having trouble with the perpective view in DAZ Studio. The view kept going into the walls as I rotated around! Well, to fix this, I simply created a new camera and changed it's focal length to 35 millimeters. (See below highlighted portion.)

Now I could rotate around without running into any walls!

Next, I created a sun using the Sun Light in the Reality Light folder,  then loaded a diffuser from the Reality Prop folder. (How nice that you don't have to make these yourself anymore!) What's a diffuser? It's a device that spreads the light particles so they become nice and soft. It will load into Reality as a Matte Translucent material. What's "matte" mean? It means it's not shiny. Pretty deep, huh?

By the way, with the Sun added, I was having trouble seeing my objects to work easily with them in DAZ Studio. To fix this I added an UberEnvironment light. From my experience Reality ignores UberEnvironment, so it's no big deal if you forget to delete it later when you are ready to render. After all, you might need it to tweak things a few times.

When I was ready to load Reality, I selected an object on the flagpole so that I could set the camera's focal distance to it. In other words, this is the distance from the camera to the point where the image will be sharpest, or most in focus. This time I selected the pin that the doll on the right was holding.

Also notice in the below screenshot that I preset the exposure controls for the camera. What that does is tell your Lux rendering engine to have your light levels where you want them to begin with. Without presetting, it can become quite a pain when you have to keep resetting these values in Lux itself after tweaking something in DAZ Studio or Reality. (Also see my earlier tutorial for a note about f/Stop near the bottom of the page, just above the last image.)

So, I set the diffuser's alpha channel strength to 0.91...

...and set the tranmission color to light gray. (Transmission color is what color the light is that passes through the material.)

Back in DAZ Studio (you can do this in whatever sequence you like) I resized the diffuser and positioned it perpendicular to the direction of my sunlight, which you can see below.

And here is a shot from the Sun's point of view (with the diffuser hidden so you can get a better idea of the light's relationship with the Sponza prop). Don't you feel all nice and toasty now?

You might notice I also hid the roof. This is because it would not appear in my render anyway and I wanted to save on system resources. I also hid all the non-visible geometry of my human models to save on even more resources.

Finally, once you have all your objects in place with all the materials set as you like in Reality, simply hit the Render Frame button to bring up LuxRender. Important Note: if your system has low RAM (less than 12 GB) you'll want to remove most of the displacement maps before you try to render, otherwise Lux may crash. This is because the current version of Lux will "subdivide" (a way to make objects look smoother by taking each face and dividing it into more faces automatically) your objects that have these maps, which causes it to eat up enormous amounts of RAM. For this scene, I needed over 6 GB just for Lux itself, even with most displacement maps deleted.

One great feature of Lux is the ability to change the entire tone of your image by adjusting the whitepoint. "Whitepoint" is a movable point that simply defines the lightest area in an image, causing all other areas to be adjusted accordingly. For outdoor scenes, I generally use D75 daylight or 9300. For this image I chose 9300.

Well, that concludes the tutorial. For more information on Reality please check out Pret-a-3D's website and for LuxRender you can see their wiki here,

Create melting ice using Reality

Posted on May 1, 2011 at 8:29 AM

This is an experiment I did with a few props from DAZ 3D and some simple spheres.

This tutorial assumes you have a basic knowledge of DAZ Studio and Reality. If you do not, please watch some helpful DAZ Studio tutorials and Reality tutorials, first.


Now, Reality is a great tool to achieve, among other things, the simulated physics of light, such as the shine of metal, the refraction of water and so forth.

Today I will show you how I made the below image.

To start with, the icicles themselves are from the Winter Snow product at DAZ. But instead of using the original texture, I simply set the icicles to "glass" in Reality.

Next, I set the Index of Refraction (IOR) to "milk" under the "Liquids" category. In layman's terms, IOR is simply a number that tells you how much the light will be bent when it passes through the material. Now, I could have set it to "ice", but I wanted a little more of a pronounced effect. For the water droplets, I simply made a bunch of spheres and elgongated them along the Y axis (that means up and down, or "height", with Z being depth, or "forwards and backwards", and X being width, or "left and right")

Also notice I set the glass to "Hyper-Realistic" which, while being more resource-intensive, is good for times when you want detailed closeups. For simple glass objects like windows (but not stained glass) you would want to set it to "Architectural" which is the exact opposite of Hyper-Realistic.

To get a good icey feel, I created what's called a "bump map" and loaded it into the Modifers tab. What the map does is create high and low points in the surface of an object. The whitest areas become highest and the blackest parts become lowest. I basically created a greyscale (black and white) image based off of the oringial texture and upped the contrast. Yes, there are much, much better ways of creating bump maps, and hopefully I will learn those techniques someday, but in a pinch, this sloppy method might just be what you need.  Here is a quick render of the icicles with my bump map removed.

The spheres were also set to glass, with the IOR set to "glycerin" under also "liquids". Glass Type was left at default (all boxes unchecked). Note: the "Relection Color" is just what it sounds like, the color of the light as it bounces off your object. The "Transmission Color" is what color the light becomes while it passes through your object. Thus, if you set it to orange, your object will turn orange. I set the water droplets' Transmission Color to a light blue just for the fun of it. The icicles I kept at the default white for both settings.

The icicles in the background however, I kept their default material type as "glossy" instead of changing it to "glass". This is because using glass would eat up computer resources during your render time and the details would be lost anway.

The lighitng I used, was one "mesh light" with a wattage of about 140 right behind the camera. A mesh light is simply a 3D object converted to a light. In my case, I used a plane, which again, saves on resources while rendering. You generally don't want to use a sphere, as the number of faces will be resource-intensive. For use in something such as a lamp, I would recommend a simple cube, shrunk down to an appropriate size.

After a few test renders, I noticed there was too much light reflecting from the gold trim near the roof of the pavillion. I then set the trim to "matte" in an effort to lower the glare coming from the mesh light. Unless I want something to be shiny or slick-looking, I generally set it to matte. It makes for a cleaner image most of the time, at least in my experience.

To achive the depth of field effect, I created a plane and put it through my front icicles. I then algned the camera to be perfectly parallell to it, then created a null object to place in the center of the plane. Once it was set, I deleted the plane.

Th null was needed so that when I called Reality from DAZ Studio, it could use the null object's position to determine the focal distance. But you do have to have the null object selected in DAZ Studio first for it to work.

After Reality comes up, go to the Camera tab and selct the DOF checkbox, then click "Focus on selected object". For this shot I set the f/Stop to 4.0. Next, I click "Exposure control" and set the lighting as appropriate. One intersting feature, is the ability to set the f/Stop's lighting aspect and DOF aspects separately. Please do not be alarmed. I like to refer to it as a miracle of digital physics and leave it at that. Once it is all set up how you want it, click "Render Frame" at the bottom of the Reality window.

At this point, LuxRender will pop up and happily render your image. Since you already set the light levels in Reality, you don't need to mess with it in Lux unless you want to tweak it a bit. You can play with the lighting in Lux and see the changes in almost real time. (There is usually a small lag before you see it change.) 

Once you have it tweaked, just let it render. The image quality will increase gradually. When you feel it is good enough to end off, just hit the stop button, Your image will be saved automatically. If you do not hit stop, it will keep on rendering.

Note: I did do some postwork to fill in a few burned out highlights, but I could have avoided that if I had used a diffuser before rendering. (See this tutorial for details on using a diffuser.)

Well, I hope that this tutorial was helpful. Happy rendering.

-Tako Yakida

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