I must admit that I didn’t like the direction the second image was taking. It just seemed too bland with blue skies, blue water, and white lighting. The latest image is a definite improvement, but mr.wheels could push the imagery farther…
I actually like the simplicity of the models. There’s a certain quaint quality about it that reminds me of dioramas and stop-motion animation sets. There are a few discrepancies that seem confusing to me such as the inconsistant scale between certain objects (I’m comparing the boats and the doorways of the huts, and the boats look too big for the imaginary inhabitants), but I can overlook those problems for now.
The fewer huts makes a difference for the better in the latest image, but the arrangement is still bland because it looks so mechanical. If you looked at the picture from the other side of the room, you can see that the upper half of the picture is more interesting because there’s plenty of variation even though the rooftops are similar. However, the lower half of the picture is a different story. The most striking element in the lower half is the boardwalk between the buildings, and it looks very straight and flat. The straightness is not a problem by itself, but the boardwalk looks parallel to the horizon, and that’s boring composition. How can this be fixed? Probably by angling one of the boardwalk toward the camera (Move the end of one boardwalk that is off-screen closer to the camera).
The huts on the both ends suffer from lining up with the horizon, but the leftmost hut is the most noticeable offender because of the strong contrast between the white glare bouncing off the water lining up with the bottom of that hut. The rightmost hut can be left alone, but the leftmost one should be adjusted higher or lower so that it’s no longer even with the horizon.
I like the addition of grass (although the jury is still out on whether it makes sense or not) because it looks visually interesting, but the patch of grass in the lower right corner lines up vertically with the edge of the picture, so it’s distracting if you notice it. Mess up the straight edge of that grass patch, and it should look better.
A minor detail that should be fixed are the barrels on the left side of the picture. I can tell that they’re not touching the boardwalk because the light on the water is showing under them. Another minor detail to fix is the rightmost hut which doesn’t look like it’s in contact with its floor.
Again, inconsistency is spoiling the picture here. The boardwalk has a wonderful texture, although it could use stains at the water level, but let’s address the main issue here. In comparision to the boardwalk, the huts look undertextured. The colors are nice, but there’s no indication of what sort of construction material was used. I think you can get away with the plain walls for now, but you should concentrate on adding some sort of bump or displacement map on the roofs so that they don’t look so smooth.
I can see that there are still veins in the green leaves on the rooftops, but they don’t do much. To make them do more, two things could be done. The top sides of the leaves should be shinier than the bottom side, so the specular setting needs to be bumped up for one side if you can figure that out. A bump map would be nice too. If you’re using an image file for the color map, just plug the same image into the bump map, and that should be a good start.
Without a shoreline as a point of reference, the vertical water ripples look really weird to me. If the ripples were rotated about 90 degrees so that they run horizontal, that might look better. Be careful about the scale. You want the faraway ripples to be tinier than the closeup ripples. If there’s not much difference, then it’ll betray the size of the other models in the picture.
This seems to be the biggest problem with all three images. There wasn’t a strong light source in the first picture. There was an overhead light, but it seemed to make the picture dull because of the interaction (or the lack of…) between the color, the composition, and lack of textures. Then a strong light source was added in the second picture, but a lens flare was also added, which is now one of those no-no’s in good computer graphics. The ambient lighting in the second picture was way too strong. When you have too much ambient light, things look flatter which makes them look boring. So you want a happy medium where there’s some dark parts for visual contrast and some ambient lighting to help define shapes and give them dimension.
The lighting in the latest picture takes a step in the right direction and makes things look more dramatic. The yellow sunlight is a great improvement, though a bit unrealistic… If you’ve watched sunsets, you’d probably remember that the sun is not so white-bright when it’s that low on the horizon because the sunlight is refracting through a thicker layer of atmosphere than it does during the midday. I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but there’s a nice bloom in this pic (you can see it where the silohuette of the leaves are yellow instead of black in front of the sun). The more I think about it, the more I think that it’s a happy accident of glow settings.
The biggest flaw in the third picture’s lighting is that the sun is not centered over the glare on the water. All the shadows of the upright poles converge on a point that’s to the left and below the sun. I can see a soft glow emitting from that point, so it looks like you’re using two light sources…
I can tell that shadow-casting was turned off on the key light (the strongest light) because the floors inside the huts are well-lit. This is the same problem with the first picture. Sure, there could be lights inside the huts, but it wouldn’t that strong or the same color. Plus there’s nothing inside the huts. If you want to hide the lack of furnishing inside the huts, it’s best to turn on shadow casting, or better yet, texture the floors a dark color. A few of the objects added in the third picture don’t cast shadows, namely the barrels on the boardwalk near the center of the picture and the boat on the right.
The ambient lighting in the third picture is an improvement, but I’m not completely happy with it. Since the amibent light is coming from the right side of the picture, the left sides of the huts are flattened because they’re completely in shadows. A possible solution is adding a dimmer ambient light (that’s not white) coming in from the left side of the picture to help define the roundness of the huts. Taking cues from the sky texture, maybe you should use purple-colored or orange-colored ambient lights. The missing shadows where the hut walls meet the roofs still need to be addressed, but let’s see if the other stuff improve the picture.
For two weeks of experience with Maya, I like it, so I’m looking forward to seeing improvement in your future renders. Good luck!