Photo-realistic macaroons?

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Old 03 March 2013   #1
Photo-realistic macaroons?

Hi, this is my first posting on a forum, so I'm sorry if I'm not posting the way I should.

To develop my photo-realistic shading/lighting/rendering skills, I've made a small scene with macaroons on a plate. Because I want to work on my Maya and mentalray skills, I only want to use Maya and mentalray rather than touching up in photoshop.

I got this far but I think it still looks obviously CG.
Could I get some constructive criticism on how I can improve the look of the macaroons and the scene?

Because I'm still learning the software, if you could tell me which shaders or attributes to play with too to make the change, that would be fantastic.

Thanks in advance!




====Breakdown====

The macarons are currently using a Phong material with a small scatter radius, specular and reflective values.
(BTW, changing the scatter fall-offdidn't seem to change the render. The only attribute that seems to make a difference is the scatter colour; I can't figure out why. )

The plates are using a mia_material with GlazedCeramic preset.

The scene is using an image based lighting. There is also a low intensity directional light to make it a bit brighter, and a spot light so macarons can have some specular highlighting.

The camera has a depth of field on it, and also increased dofLensSamples to make the blur smoother.
 
Old 03 March 2013   #2
I have some ideas, but maybe not the specific shader settings - anyway, maybe it'll be helpful.

- composition - it's not very interesting. And the cut-off cup in the background isn't helping, same as the greens (plant?), they distract from the subject.
Take a look here: http://500px.com/photo/1057960
This is just an example - but it's a nice image.

- colors: the colors are not playing together - blue tablecloth, pink macaroon, grey cup, green plant in the background... there's no harmony to them. Adding to that, the grey coloring of the shadows looks very 'default CG'. You could tweak that in post (all the photos I link here were probably color-corrected and processed in some way), or you could use different map for your IBL image. Again, an image:
http://500px.com/photo/14204143

- light: it looks like a just slightly overcast, but mostly sunny day, outdoors - not ideal setup for food photography. Going indoors, and using big area lights (i.e. windows) can get you more 'tasty' results - softer shadows, softer highlights. Image:
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-j2EzDakzl...H+SIGNATURE.jpg

- Model and texture: the models need to be more detailed, especially in the 'rim' area - there should be this 'spongy' structure, with holes and all, modeled. Now it's just a texture, and it does not react to light correctly. Upper surfaces could use some more detail as well:
http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/me...aroon-wheat.jpg
Adding some icing and decoration would give you a chance to play with colors, and would automatically draw the eye towards your macaroons, as the eye often goes where the detail is: http://500px.com/photo/5213505
The textures should not have so much shadows (I assume they are photosourced), as the shadows should come from the model.

- the shaders - best way to get nice highlights is forgetting about speculars, and using soft, blurred reflections. That renders longer, but looks better.

This is a hard subject to render - but done well, could be a very nice image. Doing some research on food photography would probably help you immensely. So.. good luck
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Old 03 March 2013   #3
Thank you so much for your feedback Azazel. Now I can see what I couldn't see before, and I agree with your points. I really appreciate the time you spent in commenting and looking for reference photos to help me understand your points.

I was wondering whether I should model the bubbly rims in more detail or try to get it look good with normal maps (which I was struggling to get right). I will definitely give it a go modeling more details so it looks closer to the real thing.

And thanks for your tips on lighting; I'll experiment with area lights and blurred reflections and try to take away the shadows in the texture maps.

I might take a while experimenting and test rendering before uploading an update, but I'd love for you to take another look when I've made some changes. Thanks again!
 
Old 03 March 2013   #4
Originally Posted by kakes3d:
I was wondering whether I should model the bubbly rims in more detail or try to get it look good with normal maps (which I was struggling to get right). I will definitely give it a go modeling more details so it looks closer to the real thing.


I'd just sculpt the detail in zbrush, and then probably use Decimation Master to get optimize the geometry. It won't be a pretty mesh, but unless it needs to be animated, it doesn't need to be. Normal map won't affect the shadows anyway, and the shadows are what makes those bubbly details look right.

I sure will keep an eye on this thread, really curious to see how it will turn out.
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Old 03 March 2013   #5
I haven't touched the macroon geometry or texture yet, but I played with the lighting.

I read some hints on food photography - take them indoors near a window and with a white reflector on the other side. So I replaced the lighting with two slightly orange area lights with quadratic decay and gamma corrected the materials. I also turned global illumination on and rendered out ambient occlusion.

I think it's looking much better than before.

I don't have Zbrush, but I'll see what I can do with Mudbox and sculpt geometry tool... But I might try to set up the background before I do that.

 
Old 03 March 2013   #6
Originally Posted by kakes3d:
I think it's looking much better than before.



Agreed . Looks way more natural.
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Old 03 March 2013   #7
Nice render!
I feel it can be improved by adding some sort of "contact" shadow, where the model touches the plate, so that it looks less "floaty". =)
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Old 03 March 2013   #8
I'm surprised it hasn't been mentioned already: use the mia_x material on EVERYTHING. Don't use legacy(old-school phong/blinn/lambert) shaders with MR if realism is your goal. The mia_x shader is specifically designed for MR and is optimised for the engine. It is also energy conserving and physically accurate.

Also, why not use displacement maps instead of normal maps? They will yield much better results in a macro-render like this.
 
Old 03 March 2013   #9
Thanks Azazel and Minifrog
I think because the 2nd area light is strong, the shadow is lost even though the shadow colour is the darkest it can be. I guessed I need to increase the ambient occlusion opacity to get the contact shadow darker. Hopefully this looks better. I've added some interest to the brown macaron and harmonised the colours too.

And thanks for your tips Musashidan,
I never thought of replacing the legacy shaders with the mia_x materials. I gave that a go and tried to get the materials to look like before. I think it might be a bit faster at rendering. The mia_x materials seemed to get much brighter compared to phongs so I decreased the intensity of the area lights quite a bit.

I think I still need to play with the lights and how the materials react to it; any tips would be appreciated

Meanwhile, I'll try to improve the geometry and maps.


 
Old 03 March 2013   #10
Don't know if it's been mentioned before (sorry if it has) but your geometry seems a bit too perfect. It would really help if you threw it into zbrush to make a displacement map or maybe even just add some detail in with polys. Here's a hi res shot that shows what I mean. See how the top isn't perfectly round?
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Old 03 March 2013   #11
If you want the shadows to be more prominent, just make the area lights smaller - the bigger the light, the softer the shadow.
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Old 04 April 2013   #12
Thanks Snipes, I've made changes to the geometry to make it less perfect; maybe it still looks too perfect, and I need to do more...

And thanks for your tip Azazel, I played with the area light scale and ambient occlusion. I also tried to make the rims look better, playing with the geometry and sculpting (for the first time ). It seems to have a less effect on the lighter macaroon, but I think the brown macaroon is looking good.

 
Old 04 April 2013   #13
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