For the rendering I used VRay, and the DMC sampler. I also used Light Mapping for the secondary GI bounces and Irradiance Mapping for the primary. The DMC sampler tends to behave better in situations where you have small details in models and textures and a lot of glossy reflections so that's the reason I used it. The GI Irradiance map was set to the high quality preset and the Light map to 5000 samples (default 1000). That was more than enough GI to get into every part of the scene.
The DMC sample setup was as follows:
- MIN samples = 1
- Max samples = 2
- Adaptive Amount = 0.95
- Noise threshold = 0.01.
I also used the VRaySincFilter with the size set to 1.5 (default value). Since I was using a Linear workflow from the start, in the Color Mapping section I set Linear multiply, Gamma to 2.2 and turned on Don't Affect Colors (adaptation only). What this did was decide where the DMC sampler used more samples based on the gamma corrected image value, but at the same time it kept the RAW image in linear space and saved it in that way.
I saved everything to Open EXR file format so I could get ZBuffer (included by default) information which I was able to used for all kinds of effects and color corrections in the post-processing phase.
The final rendering was done in 5k resolution, but all the previous test renderings were done in 2k resolution. For the 2k renders it took VRay around one to two hours, which is pretty fast when you look at the complexity of the scene.
Open EXR provided me with floating point values and ZBuffer information in one file. After I imported the file to Fusion the first thing I did was apply the color corrector with Gamma 2.2. This gave me a gamma corrected image that had nice exposure on the screen. After that I used ZDepth to add some FOG, followed by one color corrector and one color gain to make color corrections to the initial image.
If you want to keep a linear workflow all the way to the end, you can leave the gamma setting for the image at 1 (no color corrector with 2.2) and use the LUT table in Fusion to do on the fly gamma correction for the screen. You will find the LUT button on the screen above the flow area. Click on it to turn it on then click on arrow next to it and click edit, type in 2.2 in gamma and that's it. Then, just before saving the file, you can put one color corrector with Gamma 2.2 applied and it will save image with good exposure when viewed on screen. Remember that the LUT table is just to correct it before it goes to the screen in Fusion; it's not going to bake gamma to the image. Using the LUT table is technically the right way to do it and I suppose I will practice this more and more in the future.
Post-processing is always a crucial part of my image creating process and it should be practiced on almost every rendering. Why would you spend 10 hours trying to get same effect in 3dsMax when you can do quick tweaks in Fusion or some other post-processing software? It's like trying to fake global illumination with custom lights when you can use Irradiance mapping and save a couple of days of work (Fig.18).
Fig.18 - Click to enlarge
And here's the final image (Fig.19).
Fig.19 - Click to enlarge
After I was done with the image, it was time to promote it on internet. What's the reason of doing something if you don't share it with other people? There are a lot of great galleries on the internet where I usually send my latest illustrations. Sometimes I get useful critiques and ideas that make me think a little bit about what I did and how it can be better. When working on something personal for more than couple of weeks, people tend to lose an objective perspective of their work. I know I do. So it really helps to see how other people will react to the image. I just want to say thanks for every comment someone gives; it doesn't matter if it's positive or negative, it helps.