In April I decided to take part in the DAZ3D newbie challenge, which was kindly co-sponsored by Eva1. Eva is one of the professional shader creators, so the contest was to apply shaders to one or more surfaces in your render.
These newbie challenges are great because more experienced users are on hand to share advice. Even when the feedback is on someone else’s work, it’s often something everyone can learn from.
Obviously, I was delighted that my render was one of the winning entries (I did blink a few times to see my name in first place). However, it was the process of creating my final render step by step that was valuable, regardless of the judge’s decision.
I think I’ll enter more contests and challenges, even those where I don’t have a hope of being a finalist, just for the learning experience. Besides, all of the contests seem good-natured and a lot of fun! If you are starting out in 3D too, why not join me and give one a go?
Of course, some of the people who stop by here haven’t ever used 3D software and don’t plan to do so. All the same, maybe you will interested to see what goes into creating a 3D scene before hitting the render button?
With that in mind, here’s my contest entry with a few of the many stages it went through. I am sure you will see things that could have been improved on in the final render. I use it only as an example of my own creative process, not as a recommendation to do things in any particular way.
Step 1: Playing with the Idea
There were many ways to approach this challenge, and it was by no means necessary to begin with all objects untextured. I just thought it would be fun to do that, and it shows those of you who haven’t seen this before what an untextured model object looks like.
At this point, I was playing with the general theme. As chance would have it, I’d recently bought Maclean’s morphing primitives (a March Madness release that was both useful and incredibly good value). These load untextured and then you morph them into the shape you want and apply one of Maclean’s included shader presets. It’s also possible to apply different shader presets to them, making them ideal for the challenge.
Without a specific composition in mind, the primitives looks like a jumble of odds and ends. Hence my ‘yard sale’ theme of unwanted household goods being heaped on a table outdoors. To add interest, I loaded 2 Genesis figures to the scene, one with a large head to be a doll, and one using a dance pose to act as a figurine.
Step 2: Putting it Together
For this to work as a scene, it needed a story. I liked the idea of a passing child being tempted by an item on the table. The Millennium Horse (LE) was perfect for this. Unfortunately the horse doesn’t have a tail. I was able to make a convincing one with Look at My Hair but a last minute technical hitch meant I went with a quick fix — using a human wig carefully positioned to look like a horse’s tail! I later also changed it to be a white horse.
I began adding shaders to all of the objects. Maclean’s own presets work well with his primitives, naturally, but that seemed a bit too easy so I also applied some from Mariah’s Fabricator and used a free glass shader (courtesy of MorganRLewis – thanks!) to create a glass vase.
Step 3: Choosing a Perspective
I had most of the elements I needed, but the scene didn’t make a connection with the viewer. It wasn’t essential to get the whole of the little girl in the frame but I did want to get the idea that she was calling her dad back to show off her find. To achieve that, I played with different angles and at the same time worked on lighting the scene. Although I couldn’t see it in the viewport, when I did a trial render from a particular angle (with lighting in the right place) there was a nice reflection of the girl and her dad in the glass. This helped me to tell the story while going in close.
Step 4: Deciding What Matters
This step involved stripping away all the things that were distracting from the main point of the scene. I’d decided this was the girl’s reaction to the horse, which was best shown in the reflection. Of course, the reflection was quite hard to see even in my much larger image. I helped it out by adding a mirror. This meant I didn’t need to even see the girl’s head and could instead just include her arm. At the same time, it made room for the lady behind the stall so that we could reveal more of this story.
Now it was time for the finishing touches, such as adding hair to the characters. I changed their outfits using The Fabricator to give them a new look. I also moved things around slightly, gave that horse its tail, and added another doll.
When I was happy with everything, I set the quality on a high setting and rendered the final scene. Postwork was done in GIMP to bring out some of the detail lost to shadows and give it the bright, sunny look I was after.
And here we have the finished scene: