I use V-Ray for everything that I light, and this image was no exception. I wanted the lighting to help tell the story just as much as the modelling, so I needed to make sure I placed the lights in just the right places. The nooks and crannies were very important to me, and the lighting direction needed to capture those at the right angle so that they weren't lost in the big mass. I placed a spot light directly over Mr. Rock and the sphere, and kept the falloff somewhat tight to make sure I kept the focus on them. I then added a couple of rim lights behind them, a fill light off to the right of the camera, and a couple of extra spot lights to highlight the sphere, the stool and "Quiet” sign. Finally, I added two more lights which washed the back walls to achieve it a bit more of the overall mood (Fig.14).
Once I got the image rendered, I took it into Photoshop and started doing some basic colour correction work, tweaking and image enhancements (Fig.15).
I rendered out an ambient occlusion pass of the scene using Mental Ray, and used that as a Multiply layer at 50% on top of the render in Photoshop. I then began to refine the lighting in certain areas by burning and dodging on a layered copy. I like to mask out main elements and separate them out so I can have freedom in changing them easily. I used this technique on many elements in the scene. I changed the colour of the back walls and ceiling to pop out the foreground more, added some crumbling on one of his left hands, motion blur on the hand with the hammer, some dust and spray, and finally added a slight glow to the brighter areas, as well as the lights in the background (Fig.16).
These days I rarely try to get this all correct in 3ds Max and V-Ray. I like to give myself a good starting point to work from in Photoshop. In essence it's a painting, and I'm just using these pieces of software to achieve a final result. In my earlier days, I would try to get it all absolutely perfect in 3D only, and would waste a lot of time trying to figure out how to technically get it all flawless. You can get there light years faster by combining 3D and 2D, in my opinion. Of course, there are certainly artists out there who do it all in 3D with very minor corrections in Photoshop and achieve amazing results. This is just the way I like to do it. It all depends on the project I guess. If I was doing an animation, I'd probably spend a little more time in 3D, but I would still in end up tweaking it with masks and passes in post-production, so it would be the same principle there, too.
So at this point, the image is done. I could probably hack away at it forever, but you have to find a stopping point and be pleased with it as it is. Sure, I see some weak points with some of the composition now, and some things in the scene I'd like to have more time to tweak. For instance, I'd really like to have managed to transfer a lot more detail in Mr. Rock from ZBrush to 3ds Max (grr!), but I'll just use those mistakes as a learning experience and apply them to the next project that I work on.
So that's how I made Pursuit of Perfection. I hope to create more images in the near future and push my artwork to the next level, and I'll do my best to make leaps and bounds every time. Thanks!