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Cloud Hidden

C4D...should I or shouldn't I?

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I'm trying to figure out if I should or should not get into Cinema4D or similar product for improved renderings. Don't have anyone else to talk it over with, so I figured I'd try here, be/c some of y'all understand and use these products a lot more than I do.

I use VW on a Mac to design round houses and clients and others have liked the renderings, be/c no one else was doing that in the little corner of the design world that I play in. But they look more cartoonish than realistic--trees have triangular leaves, grass isn't fuzzy, etc. sample VW rendering

Then someone does a rendering w/ 3D Studio/Photoshop (just one rendering of an existing design, not a floorplan or any new design) and people start drooling, and understandably so, because it looks real good.

Now my primary goal is creating a good design, floorplan, and prints. The renderings are just part of showing clients what they're gonna get. But.....but....it's the sizzle that goes with the steak, and something like sample 3ds rendering has more sizzle than what I can get out of VW alone.

So, the question I'm facing is....should I invest in C4D? I won't be able to charge more. The only benefit is I'd deliver higher quality pictures, and appearances count for something. If I'm creating renderings that look more like the VW sample above, am I not taking advantage of some of the features of VW or have I reached its rendering limits? And if C4D is the way to go, which of their products will make the necessary, but minimal, package (remember, I can't raise my fees for this)? Is their Advanced Rendering module worth the difference it will make? Will I need x-frogs for a nice background of trees? To get fuzzy grass, do I need Shave-and-a-Haircut? Too many choices and no clear idea of which are necessary and what the limits of the base package are. And they're all pricey, so I wanna be judicious.

Any insights? Have y'all found it made or didn't make a difference with your clients?

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Hello CloudHidden:

That is a very good comparison rendering; they are very similar scenes.

I think the biggest differences between these renderings is between the lighting, and the textures.

In my opinion the lighting is crucial for anything to not look fake/plasticky/flat. The subtleties in the 3DS Max rendering are mostly to do with simulating a sky dome that shows the contribution of the sky hemisphere to the lighting of the building surfaces. I don't think this example even requires radiosity per se, because the surfaces don't appear to interact with each other very much lighting-wise. If the sun were bright and lighting up some surfaces much more than others then radiosity might be needed for realism.

For lighting in RenderWorks, there are two (as yet undocumented) techniques that can help:

1. Skydome lights

You can create a hemisphere of low-powered directional lights to help show the contribution of the sky hemisphere. This has to be done manually, but I would like to automate this someday.

To create a skydome light symbol:

a. Create a hemisphere centered on the origin.

b. Convert to mesh to make a faceted hemisphere. The higher the 3D Conversion, the more lights you will have. This is a tradeoff between render time and lighting quality.

c. Place point lights (at about 1% brightness each) at each vertex on the mesh. Try a pale blue color.

d. Using the Object Info palette, select and convert each point light to a directional light. When converted, the direction is set using the vector between the point light's position to the origin.

e. Delete the hemisphere and create a symbol from the directional lights.

f. Adjust the brightness multiplier of the symbol instance so that the total brightness of all lights adds up to around 150%-200%. If you have 60 lights at 3% brightness that would be 180% total.

g. Turn off the layer ambient light (View->Set Layer Ambient...)

h. Render with high resolution shadow maps or with raytraced shadows.

extra credit: The light colors can be tweaked to match the pixel colors of the background. For example, in a sunset scene the lights near the horizon could be orange and the ones higher up can be purple-ish. This can really make the model fit in with its surroundings.

Examples:

-

-

My 30 secs attempt at a cool dome house:

-

2. To fake the effect that you get with radiosity when a bright surface is emitting light onto a neighboring surface (like if a sidewalk is brightly lit by the sun and "splashing" light up to an overhang or building wall):

a. Create a point light near the lit (source) surface. The light should be offset from the surface so that the light isn't blocked.

b. Set the light brightness to something high like 200%

c. Set the distance falloff to Sharp

d. Set the light color to the surface color. On a Mac, the color chooser has a magnifying glass that can be used to set the color to that of the rendered (source) surface.

Example:

-

For the textures, image-based ones almost always look more realistic. An image-based sky background would help it look more realistic too.

Also, image props would look better than the sparse DXF trees in the dome house rendering.

[ 08-14-2003, 11:30 AM: Message edited by: Dave Donley ]

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Hello again CloudHidden:

If you want to, send me the file that was the source for your rendering and I'll play around with it and see what I can get out of RW.

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Thanks for the answers. I'm studying them. Where'd the clouds/sky come from? The 3ds image was all I could find at the time. Here's a dome one: 3ds dome It is real nice, and if I can make RW do that, then I'm real happy. And If I need VW/C4D to do it, then I'm ok with that too. Right now, I don't know how far each can go and what combo of tools will provide the best bang for the buck. Most of my time is and will continue to be VW for designs and blueprints. The renderings are for "sizzle." They take time and I don't charge extra for them, so they're a kind of "loss leader." Wanna avoid other software if I can.

I have yet to mess with image props. Guess I should study up on them. Can I get good shadows from them. Can they be used to match the quality of the posted 3ds rendering? What about fuzzy grass?

The other thing that C4D does that I really could use is QTVR. Now, if VW could see fit to include that......

I'll send the file...be interesting to see what's possible with it.

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Kevin, it was 3d Studio

I've had good luck with RW and am in general quite happy with all the VW stuff. Maybe it's a function of what I came from--my prior software was severely limited. And I've received great response to the RW things like the one posted. But when the bar is raised such as with the one I just linked--even though it's just a one-angle rendering and not a design, floorplan, prints, or construction advice--I gotta either ante up or accept that my renderings will never look that good. Trying to figure out what really matters......there was a day when wireframes were the cat's meow!

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Here's one of my recient renderings

-

This was done in VWA/RW10 no post.

I think if you really want a high level of controll over your textures and lighting, C4D is the way to go. I always find it funny that people expect RW to operate at the same level as 3DS or C4D, when those programs cost 6 to 8 times more than RW. RW is very good at what its intended for, which are decient renderings that can be produced inside the VW environment.

That said I think RW is very capable, you just need to spend time developing your lighting and textures to get the overall effect you need. No rendering program will give you perfect renderings by itself, my favorite analogy for this is you cant simply give a man a Fender Strat and expect him to sound like Eric Clapton [Wink] .

Anyway

Good Luck

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Mike:

Your rendering is very nice, (as are all of your renderings). I seem to remember that you are creating these renderings from models that you build specifically for the rendering as opposed to creating a model for working drawings and then rendering that.

If you are so inclined, I would love to hear from you how you create this rendering.

Your analogy is very appropriate about the guitar. My analogy is that my guitar has a short circuit in it and sometimes it plays and sometimes it does not. It is tough enough trying to learn to play music without having to troubleshoot the inner workings of your instrument.

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quote:

Originally posted by Kevin:

Your analogy is very appropriate about the guitar. My analogy is that my guitar has a short circuit in it and sometimes it plays and sometimes it does not. It is tough enough trying to learn to play music without having to troubleshoot the inner workings of your instrument.

Good Point,

This model was actually a hybred, but I created my own door and window symbols with much more detail that the standard VW plugins have. I also spent alot of time on the textures to get them dynamic enough. I hardly ever use stock RW textures. For instance, I've found for metal, that the Chrome shader works well, it gives a gradation to the surface that seems more realistic for factory finished metal surfaces. In fact the more I look at reality the more I realize that the gradation of surface color is crutial to getting a realistic texture.

I don't know what to say about the problems you are having with RW. I have developed a workflow that operates really well for me. And since I upgraded to Win XP (on a 800 mhz P3) I don't have any stability issues with VW/RW.

Unfortunately the image I posted is kind of fuzzy, I'll see if I can find a sharper one tonight when I get home.

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quote:

Originally posted by Cloud Hidden:

But when the bar is raised such as with the one I just linked--even though it's just a one-angle rendering and not a design, floorplan, prints, or construction advice

But thats really the thing, isn't it? The intent of your rendering is very different from the intent of the link you posted. I've done alot of one-off models in VW/RW that were purely for the rendering. In these situations you have alot more freedom to tweek the model than if you are trying to stay in the hybred 2d/3d method of generating construction docs. I think the limitations of RW have as much to do with the intent of the VW drawing, as it is a deficiency in the rendering engine itself.

But I should also say that for now I've given up on the notion that I can do a 2d plan, and VW will automatically deliver a photoreal 3d model. I think we're still a few years away from that reality.

As I said earlier, if you want a fantastic rendering engine, and a greater ability to controll your textures ( and do true translucency [big Grin] ) than you cant do much better than C4D, its an amazing product. But I doubt you'll be able to simply import your drawing and "poof" have a perfect model, if you go this route you'll inevitably be doing more work than you are now. [Frown]

If you haven't already, you should down load the C4D demo, I've played with it some, and you can get a good sense of it capability relatively quickly. What I did was to import some DXF's from VW to expirment with.

my 2 Cents

[ 08-14-2003, 03:04 PM: Message edited by: MikeB ]

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I like using renderworks in conjuction with photoshop to do my presentations. I have spent so many hours with trying to get realistic trees, people, sky, etc. It seems a waste of time when you can just drop a rendered building into a real photo of the site and then monkey around with the file a little bit. I agree that lighting is key to getting a realistic looking rendering. It is important not only in renderworks but also in the photo of the site that you use in photoshop.

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quote:

Originally posted by Kurt Magness:

I like using renderworks in conjuction with photoshop to do my presentations. I have spent so many hours with trying to get realistic trees, people, sky, etc. It seems a waste of time when you can just drop a rendered building into a real photo of the site and then monkey around with the file a little bit. I agree that lighting is key to getting a realistic looking rendering. It is important not only in renderworks but also in the photo of the site that you use in photoshop.

Yea, I agree

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quote:

The intent of your rendering is very different from the intent of the link you posted.

Yup, but do prospective clients understand that? (That can be rhetorical.) Maybe I just have render-envy. :) Though I do fret that it's a distinction lost on many people. When the "competition" was hand water-colored images, the difference was clear. But with computer images, I wonder if "looks better" becomes "is better" even though it's a completely different service and purpose.

Your line about not importing to C4D and poof it's done is what I'm getting at--trying to figure out how long and twisted the path from 3D-design to photorealism is. Before I can set clients' expectations, I need to set my own. With what dave said about the lighting, and what you and he do with textures, if I could improve grass and plantings from what I've done before, it might be the right balance for now. Dunno...still learning.

[ 08-14-2003, 03:33 PM: Message edited by: Cloud Hidden ]

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quote:

It seems a waste of time when you can just drop a rendered building into a real photo of the site

Agree. It's kinda fun to match perspective, time of day, etc. [Though I wish the VW "camera" could be set parametrically. I know the distance, azimuth, lense, and elevation of the camera for the photo, but I have to mess around with all the fly-by tools to try to match it, and that's a pain.]

The problem with this kind of realism for me is that many of my projects are on uncleared sites. Was just on one that was so overgrown that I just left the digicam and digividcam in the truck. Made better use of a machete than a camera! On another an existing building blocks all camera angles. It'll be torn down, but not in time for the design. For those, it'd be nice to put the design into a photosurrealistic setting without triangular leaves. Need some fuzziness.

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Here's what I have with the images I have here at hand. This tree came from a Vue de Esprit screenshot or something. It can be easier to get suitable prop images by using rendered trees rather than trying to find a good photo. This is an all-season image: palm trees and fall colors in one!

I would tweak the lighting still more, and the reflectivity shaders seem still too artificial. If I had more time I would compose a background image that was a cobination of coulds and a treeline; for this the horizon should fall in the middle of the image since RW centers the image on the page. It would also be possible to place the dome in a photo of a meadow or something, delete the ground plane object and then fiddle with the view location, angle, etc. until it matches the photo, like the cool second dome example.

-

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quote:

Originally posted by Cloud Hidden:

So, the question I'm facing is....should I invest in C4D? I won't be able to charge more. The only benefit is I'd deliver higher quality pictures, and appearances count for something. ...

Is their Advanced Rendering module worth the difference it will make? ...[/QB]

Go!!

You will make better presentations, faster and with more control over materials, cameras and lights.

I use VW everyday but when it comes to render a quality image I go with Cinema 4D (the basic software + advanded render + the export plugins -CINEMA 4D R8 "VectorWorks Special Edition"-, thats all you need)

What the advanced render does is to give you control of "radiosity" and that kind of global illumination is what makes the complete difference in the appareance of the images. Unfortunatelly that is not an option in the render machine of RW.

You wont need shave or any other fancy plugin to make grass, or backgrounds the texture mapping control of Cinema -and some tricks you will learn on the way- is powerfull enough to deliver quality realistic effects.

[ 08-14-2003, 08:45 PM: Message edited by: parella ]

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Just when I was almost convinced I could do without, parella, you come along. Thanks a lot. At Dave's mention, I spent a few hours with Vue de Esprit, and it's pretty cool.

Do you have an example of something you've done with C4D? You answered the question about grass, thanks. What about trees/vegetation? Do you use x-frogs or is there a simpler or cheaper solution?

And the link didn't work. Do you have a link for a special price? Maxon would only offer a piddly discount off the list price of each module, but acted like it was a big deal. Made no mention of a special edition.

Still don't know which way to go, but soaking in all info.

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Cloud: What program created that second sample rendering that you show, the one in the desert-looking scene?

Dave: No matter how much time we put into Renderworks, I do not believe that we can hope to achieve the realism of the reference rendering Cloud has shown.

Personally I am very disappointed with Renderworks and in fact have given up on using it.I have spent around 50 to 60 hours trying to generate a rendering of a modern house and I still do not have a proper rendering. Some glass renders as glass but some renders solid white. The program frequently freezes on renderings and always freezes on animations.

The 50 to 60 hours represents the time spent on one project. That is in addition to the countless hours of trying to learn the program.

I would have interest in using Renderworks if it were a stable program. It reminds me of a vintage British sports car. It looks great and promises to be great fun to drive if only you could get the car to start and stay running.

In a recent post on this board about C4D, the author was disappointed in the Vectorworks C4D Plug-in performance. The promise of the Plug-in is seamless integration of VW with C4D.

Dave, I would love to hear your comments. I will also look forward to the results of your tinkering with Cloud's dome house file.

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Sorry about the link ( is: http://www.maxon.net/pages/products/c4d/vectorworks_edition/vw_specialedition_e.html

Here are some images I?ve made with VectorWorks (modelling) and C4D (rendering)

heres one,

another,

and this.

About the trees, realistic trees are always difficult, as they use to have many polygons to render on any software. I put them in Photoshop.

[ 08-15-2003, 03:14 AM: Message edited by: parella ]

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I'm using Art-lantis with very satisfying results. The light effects are very realistic and it has billboards of plants and trees (and people) that one can simply drag and drop in the model. However I like to mix plant billboards with 3d models from the modeler (VWorks)

(How do I put images in my messages?)

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Hello urimevs:

Get your browser to open the image in a window (in Safari you context-click for the menu for that option), then copy the link address. In the forum post reply window, click the IMAGE button, and paste the link address into the window that appears.

(The image has to be posted on the web somewhere first. I have been putting them in my .Mac iDisk folder.)

[ 08-15-2003, 10:32 AM: Message edited by: Dave Donley ]

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I just discovered personal web sharing. hope it works for the images. here are 2 examples

--

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O.K., my 2 cts:

(1) The plugin that regulates data transfer between VW and C4D is a first-timer. Maxon is currently developing the second version. The plugin cannot, and never will be able to, seamlessly exchange data. For instance, VW can use NURBS surfaces, C4D doesn't know NURBS surfaces. But what the plugin is really good at is letting you update your scene in C4D. Two of the most important things lacking is (a) support for symbols and (b) the possibility to set the scale when importing in C4D.

(2) C4D has about the fastest render engine currently available on the market. You can go faster with Mental Ray, but you wouldn't want to get into that. For the same result, C4D is faster than Artlantis.

(3) Artlantis is great if you want fast and decent results. It will improve your render results sigificantly. But it also has its limits. For instance, you cannot add 3D objects to the scene (trees, people, cars, ...) in Artlantis - you would have to do that in VW. This means that you get top-heavy scenes in Artlantis, rendering pretty slow, if you would add a couple of 3D-cars in VW.

(4) Artlantis isn't scalable. You cannot add 50 lights and expect it to stay stable. It doesn't always handle home-made textures well (missing references). Lots of polygons aren't handled well either.

(5) C4D is a professional solution, BUT it requiers more knowledge to get it working, it's more expensive (including libraries, Advanced Render, etc.), and if it isn't important for getting your proposal sold, you will not gain anything.

If you're interested: a couple of renderings made with C4D can be found at the following website - just follow the C4D-link:

La Place BaRa

Cheers,

BaRa

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I plan to upgrade to C4D myself as I tend to get frustrated sometimes with the limitations of Art-Lantis. It has a mission anf it does it very well. The renderings can be very easy to produce and its interface is extraordinary simple.

For the home-made textures, the solution is to put them in the Artlantis application folder or the folder that contains the .atl file (even if it means duplicating the texture files).

The billboards are not of the highest quality (I would like to make mine but i don't know how) and very often especially for the trees, you'll have a noticeable fringe effect.

You can get into trouble when exporting from VW to artlantis. I've found that the best solution is often to convert the whole scene into 3d polygons prior to exporting.

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quote:

For instance, VW can use NURBS surfaces, C4D doesn't know NURBS surfaces.

All of my models are NURBS-heavy. Without NURBS, I would not have bought VW. Seems like that will help make my decision...

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BaRa;

Very nice work on your website. You say that C4D does not handle NURBS. On your site you show a model titled Crosslite that says is modeled in VW NURBS. You then show the same light under your C4D gallery.

Could you clarify this for us?

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