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10 top rendering tips

By Poz Watson

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Date Added: 4th March 2014

Render only what you need

"When working on 3D illustrations for print, often the render resolution needs to be quite high and I often create final renders at 6k or 8k. This requires high-resolution textures, which will slow down rendering and Maya's Hypershade. As these textures are only required for final renders, I will duplicate the directory with my textures and resize them down by up to 90% for test renders. When tweaking materials and lighting, I don't need über high-res textures slowing down the iterative process.” Alex Alvarez

189_tid_05 AA rendering.jpg

This scene had several gigs of textures. Resizing textures cut test render time by 75% while Alvarez was designing the scene's lighting

Test it first

"Render a few tests in low resolution format before advancing into the final render and make sure that all the settings are optimized to get a very good result without illumination errors or undesired glitches or spots on the image. For example, I render in a low res such as 800 x 800 up to 1800 x 1800, and for the final render I always set a resolution of 5000 x 5000 with all the important passes that I use for the post-production phase. I save this in the format HDR because I want to have all the exposure control to adjust it.” Sérgio Merêces

189_tid_06 SM rendering.jpg

Quick tests can save you hours of waiting

Color correcting

"RAW renders sometimes don't look as good as one would expect but having an option to use Photoshop, Fusion or NUKE to push these renders though post-processing is a great way to increase the visual quality of images. By doing masked color corrections, defocusing some parts, adding noise or sharpening specific parts of the image, important areas of the renders can be manipulated to attract more focus, while less important parts of the image can be pushed to darker tones.” Toni Bratincevic

189_tid_07 TB _RunAway_compositing_leftRAW_rightCCd.jpg

Making things darker or lighter or brighter or otherwise dramatically different is still within your grasp

189_tid_TB Level10_sketch.jpg

If you're unhappy with your render, then go back to your initial idea. As Toni Bratincevic says "If it does work as a layout, there is already a good established composition and simple models, then after this point it is just a matter of technical skills to model/texture and light everything.” © Toni Bratincevic

Plan to pass

"Plan on rendering out different passes for anything that is either reflective, incandescent or translucent; this will allow you to reshape these passes in compositing using rotos and gradients. Rendering out elements such as foreground, midground and background to their own respective layers will also allow you more control in compositing. And remember, hide everything that doesn't appear or contribute to the render. Turn off shadows and contribution to the GI and reflections for anything too small to be noticed. Matte paint anything that is far enough from the camera to have no parallax shift.” Francesco Giroldini

189_tid_08 FG rendering_passes.jpg

Different passes allow the different strengths of your work to shine through

ID your image

"ID mattes are one of the cheapest and most powerful ways to alter a picture after the fact. Assign a flat bright red green or blue shader to elements of the scene, render them from the same camera as the beauty image and key them out in compositing to create custom mattes to be used to color correct the image in compositing.” Francesco Giroldini

189_tid_09 FG rendering_ID_mattes.jpg

It's never too late to fix something

189_tid_FG rendering_remove_everything.jpg

Don't render what you don't need, says Francesco Giroldini © Francesco Giroldini

Pull the look together

"What you get out of your render engine generally only takes you about 90% to final. The last 10% is accomplished in post and can make the difference between something looking CG or professional. Spend time learning the limitations of 3D render engines in regards to making images look like they were shot by a real camera. These elements (glows, blooms, glints, grain, contrast) are easily added in post, not to mention harmonizing color and defining the ‘style'. Tools such as Magic Bullet Looks are easy to use and are generally real-time, making the process far faster than trying to simulate them with your render engine.” Alex Alvarez

189_tid_10 AA rendering.jpg

Explore different looks to an image with Photoshop and Magic Bullet

189_tid_AA Meadow.jpg

This is the straight render from mental ray that Alex Alvarez produced for his image 'Meadow' © Alex Alvarez

189_tid_AA cut from render.jpg

Here are the textures Alex Alvarez cut from his Dirge render tests © Alex Alvarez

Render, and then rest

Hopefully, if you've done your job properly, you're happy with your renders and even happier with the finished product. And if you're not, then there's always the next project to think about. Next time, your modeling will be even defter, your texturing subtle and sublime, your lighting sparkling and your renders a reproduction of perfection. Next time, it'll be just like the image in your mind. And if not? Well, you can keep trying and trying again.

"Plan on rendering out different passes for anything that is either reflective, incandescent or translucent, this will allow you to reshape these passes in compositing using rotos and gradients” Francesco Giroldini

Related links – check out the sites of our top tip artists:
Francesco Giroldini
Carlos Ortega Elizalde
Andrew Hickinbottom
Luca Nemolato
José Alves da Silva
Sérgio Merêces
Toni Bratincevic
Pascal Blanché

For even more tips, try these:
10 top lighting tips
10 top 3D texturing tips
10 top 3D modeling tips

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