Zhou Zhuang - Environment feedback please!

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  12 December 2013
Zhou Zhuang - Environment feedback please!

Hiya all. I'm almost done with this piece, and am currently looking for feedback on whatever else I can improve on before the year is out. This piece is based on Zhouzhuang, near Shanghai, in Suzhou. It's modeled in Maya, and rendered with mental ray. The light is setup with the really really excellent sIBL loader script from the folks over at HDRLabs. And I slapped some clouds in, in Photoshop (and some gamma correction thing. My linear workflow thingamajiggy wasn't set up in an orthodox manner, let's just say.)

This is the first time I've pushed myself this far. I'm mostly an enviroment modeller. I do texturing as well, and look development for a bit, but I've never executed them all at once into something like this, and certainly not lighting it.

My lighting is still really primitive. Everything is being carried by the sIBL setup. I don't even know how to rotate the light so that the shadows fall differently. Instead I rotated my whole set....

Getting the spec to work right was a bit of struggle as well. Still not 100% getting how it should really work (with mia materials x anyhow). (And no back lighting for the leaves too! haha)

Anyway, all comments welcome!

Here are some model and wire frame shots:

Last edited by xiangjun : 12 December 2013 at 01:15 PM.
  12 December 2013
Nice start I'm like you for the Sibl lighting. I don't know how so I rotate. My total recall car use that lol

For critics, i guess you could sculpt the water. Too plane for be realistic. Maybe calm water but you have a boat in it so some water ripples
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  12 December 2013
Very nice detail and atmosphere! Maybe the water could be more transparent?It seems a bit too dark for some reason.
  12 December 2013
thank you guys! I will go back and work on the water tonight. I'll see if I can make the water brighter. Will re sculpt the water as well!
  12 December 2013
Hey guys, some updates on the set. Sculpted the waves a little, and tried to brighten the water shader by just giving a tad of translucency, but I'm loosing a bit of the original color I think, I'll try to get it back.

Might be a good idea to add some leaves on the water as well, maybe near the house walls and such. Will see what I can do within the next few days!

  12 December 2013
The main problem for me is the lighting & rendering. Its very flat, & very dark (Unless that's your intention)

Yes, some leaves, & maybe branches on the water would be nice.
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  12 December 2013
Hey PKD, thanks so much for your comments! I turned up the exposure by just a tad. I did want to keep the lighting a little on the low side, but it might be coming out a little too dark maybe because my gamma settings are off.

You are probably right, my lighting is flat. As I've mentioned above, my lighting is on the primitive side. The whole setup is carried by the sIBL loader script I got from HDRLabs. I still have a lot to learn on lighting and composition, and this is maybe the second time I've tried to properly light a set? The first being years ago haha. I'm basically just a simple modeller, with some texturing skills on the side.

If you have any more specific comments on how I can improve the lighting, I would love to hear them!

Anyway, here's an update, just a little bit of leaves and branches, at the sides, because I don't want them to become too obvious.

  12 December 2013

Maybe you could try adding some volume light and DOF?
  12 December 2013
what is under the water? a simple plan mesh? Can you share your scene without the water mesh?
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  12 December 2013

Heya! Thanks for the suggestion! I'm looking into it atm, and fooling around with tutorials and such, but not having a lot of success with the god rays haha.


Yes, it's just a simple plane mesh under the water. Here's a screen shot:
Attached Images
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  12 December 2013
I think the white/gray picture lighting is good (better than the textured one). And I tried some quick paintover, hope you don't mind. I'm not sure if they are good.

in the next - more exaggerated fog and light rays

  12 December 2013
oh, wow, they are pretty good, thanks! the idea at least came across to me pretty well. i will see if I can get the volumetric lighting to work haha.
  12 December 2013
And another quick 2 . And I realized - the sky should be brighter :

This one gives a photo vibe - with blown out contrast

and lower contrast
  12 December 2013
thanks sebastian! I don't know if I can get anywhere even close to that, but will give it a shot!
  01 January 2014
hey guys, a quick question. i'm rendering this in mental ray, and i'm trying to set up some volumetric lighting effect (parti_volume and all that). i'm testing it on a much reduced set, just a cube with a hole cut in and a ball sitting inside, but using the same sIBL light setup

it's taking ages to render. I'm wondering if scale matters in render time? Like huge sets taking ages to render? I modeled this set with my units set in meters.

Thanks and Happy New Year to everyone!

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