Why are my renders boring and bad looking?

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  07 July 2006
Why are my renders boring and bad looking?

Ok, so I'm using maya at my school, which comes with mental ray, and I would like to see impressive photo-real renders coming out of it like I see everywhere else, but I feel that just manipulating the first nine attributes, glow, and render settings aren't giving me what I want. I see the mental ray materials but don't really know how to use them appropriately. I really want to crack this rendering thing open, but don't really know where to go to do so. I suppose the answer will be in the form of a book because I don't think that a single post will answer this one. Also, I don't see sub-surface scatter. Is that only in the standalone version?
my site : Gabesportfolio.com
  07 July 2006
Subsurface scattering material should be there, it's actually called misss_fastskin_maya, or something along those lines. But you can look on the net and this site is very helpful too for learning to use this and all the other materials and other Mental Ray stuff such as Global Illumination and Final Gather.
GI and FG are very simple to use and they can turn crappy lighting into very realistic lighting. You should learn to use these first.

Hope that helps.

Last edited by pap87 : 07 July 2006 at 09:59 AM.
  07 July 2006
is the version too old to have sub surface scatter? they have maya 6.0
my site : Gabesportfolio.com
  07 July 2006

Fist of all let me add that rendering is probably one of the most complex process in 3D animation and VFX. To really master it, takes both dedication and patience. So don't be frustrated if your first attempts don't match things you see out there. It only takes one step at a time.

My suggestion to start learning photo-realistic rendering techniques is to STAY AWAY from anything that has to do with render settings and fancy features like SSS and GI. Most novice users think that the key to great looking images is in the settings used to achieve it. In my opinion they couldn't be more wrong.

Instead you should concentrate your efforts in the most important aspects that make up a great looking render: Lighting and Texturing.

Regarding the first, start from the very beginning: Real life lighting. Get a few photography and lighting books and start to recreate real-life lighting set ups in your 3D application. For an exercise, get a few portable lights yourself, a simple object (even a coffee cup on a table) and light it using different set ups. Take digital pictures and take notes to where each light is positioned on every set up. Now with your picture in front, recreate the same setup in the computer using digital lights.

When I speak about texturing I'm really speaking about both texturing and shading. Or simply put, recreating real life materials in the computer. Like before, study real-life objects and try to recreate them in the computer. Pay attention to how their surface is affected and responds to light, and what makes a specific surface different from another.

Third: just practice and always look around at real life thinking how would you recreate it digitally.

Just at the very end, as you've mastered these disciplines should you worry about rendering settings and on how to refine the actual rendering process.

  07 July 2006
Really good advice there by ExP. I carnt really comment on shading, but im sure its the same as lighting in regard that you just need to keep practicing! Lighting wise I suggest you take part in our lighting challenges here on cgtalk. Many people with different skill sets from beginner to pro enter and its a fantastic place to get feedback and comments to improve your work. Many of the people are Mental Ray and Maya users, so you can get technical as well as artistic suggestions for help.

Dan W.
CG Artist

Last edited by Dan Wade : 07 July 2006 at 05:55 AM.
  07 July 2006
thanks for the advice. And currently I've gone in depth into understanding how materials react to light. I've spent time understanding the differences in each material attribute, and how to manipulate them. I just feel as though there's a few nobs or buttons I could be turning or pushing, but aren't because of simple ignorance of their existance. Is there a book that goes in depth into the endless possibilities of materials in maya? Or maybe certain options that aren't visibly shown in the maya default GUI.
my site : Gabesportfolio.com
  07 July 2006
Agree strongly with Dan Wade and ExP. Try taking up photography, or doing some painting to get an eye for composition and colour. It will help you understand how light behaves and what makes a particular material "look right". Learning different new-fangled shaders isn't a solution to anything. The best lighting artists can make almost anything look photoreal using just a blinn (although they should really use a cook-torrance, blinn's model sucks balls).

You can have your characters photoreal, fast or cheap. Pick two.
  07 July 2006
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