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hbeach

Renderworks & Spotlight - Stumped.

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Hi all,

 

I've spent the last 10 months working with a small production design group as their draftsman, concept artist, and creative graphics lead. My typical workflow is to take a client's concept, build a clear rendering using Capture Sweden, then upon a confirmed contract I will develop all necessary plots in Vectorworks. I often touch up my Capture renderings in Photoshop and add necessary elements that I couldn't otherwise do in Capture. 

 

I love Capture, and it's freakishly easy to use for my purpose of developing concept renderings, as well as building pre-viz files to share with any programmers that come through our space. But I just can't help but feeling like I could improve not only my workflow, but the quality of my renderings through Renderworks and Spotlight. I have spoken with @EAlexander who has been incredibly helpful in opening my eyes to Cinema4D where I have been learning the basics of its rendering engine by bringing in some of my 3D rigs from Vectorworks into C4D. But I am limited by my free educational license which won't allow me to utilize the Hantmade Stage plugin, which is really the bread and butter of using C4D for lighting concept renderings (from my understanding - feel free to show me I'm wrong). I may have given up too soon, but without the capabilities of Hantmade's Stage, I really don't see how else to create beams and accurately display shadows of gobos, accurate intensities, etc. and feel as though I am at a dead end. 

 

I guess what I'm getting at is I've found myself coming back over and over again to Renderworks with a desire to keep my entire workflow under the Vectorworks umbrella, but haven't found any solid documentation or resources on how to accomplish clean, realistic renderings of stage lighting. Every attempt I've made show's me how little I know about the UI, the process, and techniques and there is truly no start-to-finish guide anywhere detailing how to create a quality render of my stage concepts (without otherwise purchasing a seminar training course). 

 

Attached are some of my renderings done in Capture 2018. I would greatly appreciate hearing from you all on how you learned how to use Renderworks for stage lighting concepts, whether I am better off staying within Capture to create my renderings, and if not, what the best approach towards learning Renderworks for Spotlight would be. 

 

Thanks,

Henry

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Personally, I will say that volumetrics in VW have become very disappointing since VW2011 was realeased. It is even more frustrating that the rendering engine introduced in 2011 is the C4D rendering engine. The issue is that VW really does not allow any reasonable control of volumetric beam properties. Also, there is no sense of origination scale of the beam using Spotlight instruments.

 

The latter can be worked around by building custom lighting instruments which is my solution. By doing that, you can have a beam of light that originated at the diameter of the lens. The former, however, is exceptionally problematic. The beams follow no law of squares and instead become brighter based solely on the diameter of the beam. That means, the beam starts off almost non existent and then gets brighter the further it goes. 

 

Ive been harping on this for years now to no avail. 

 

Most visualization packages produce really great looking beams, but the geometry of the scenic is often lacking which is how they accommodate real time functionality.  Most will not include reflections. C4D will do all of that, but I find that I just don’t have time in my workflow to utilize two programs. Typically, I’ll need to produce shop drawings as quickly as the client signs off on a rendering. 

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@scottmoore I really appreciate hearing this. Lack of control in some areas and too much control in others has been my biggest challenge with rendering in VW. I'm still conflicted on where to lean towards - do I stay within Capture for purely rendering, causing me to re-texture, place lights all over again, and communicate changes between two different programs, or do I look for another solution? The quality of the renderings in Capture don't frustrate me as much as lack of specific control, and the fact that the software is lacking in performance in many ways. But I would love to be able to achieve a higher quality of renderings, and it seems that Vectorworks can't satisfy that need without its own sacrifices. 

 

Thanks for your input. 

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22 hours ago, scottmoore said:

Personally, I will say that volumetrics in VW have become very disappointing since VW2011 was realeased. It is even more frustrating that the rendering engine introduced in 2011 is the C4D rendering engine. The issue is that VW really does not allow any reasonable control of volumetric beam properties. Also, there is no sense of origination scale of the beam using Spotlight instruments.

 

The latter can be worked around by building custom lighting instruments which is my solution. By doing that, you can have a beam of light that originated at the diameter of the lens. The former, however, is exceptionally problematic. The beams follow no law of squares and instead become brighter based solely on the diameter of the beam. That means, the beam starts off almost non existent and then gets brighter the further it goes. 

 

Ive been harping on this for years now to no avail. 

 

Most visualization packages produce really great looking beams, but the geometry of the scenic is often lacking which is how they accommodate real time functionality.  Most will not include reflections. C4D will do all of that, but I find that I just don’t have time in my workflow to utilize two programs. Typically, I’ll need to produce shop drawings as quickly as the client signs off on a rendering. 

 

Yup, unfortunately my experience mirrors Scott, and it's been a problem for way too long.

 

I remember seeing a couple forum posts that nicely illustrated the problems with rendering beams within VW, and after searching of course they were both written by @scottmoore

 

 

 

@hbeach Those Capture renders look great! Nice job!

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@LJ TMS I too dug through @scottmoore's posts and comments and I have to say, he's fighting for our cause! I had a feeling it wasn't just me... the beams I produce in Renderworks never look right and Scott has explained countless times where the engine is lacking. 

 

I've also found this thread very informative on the matter:

 

Then my mind turned to Vision for a last breath of hope, when I discovered Scott had already done the investigation for me:

 

I don't see where else to go from here. I have begun looking into upgrading my free student license of Cinema4D so that I can acquire a license of the Hantmade Stage plugin, but that still scatters my workflow between 2 programs (albeit C4D is far more compatible with VWX than other alternatives). 

 

I wish the Vectorworks team would take action in the coming months to provide the proper toolset for this style of rendering. 

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To me the problem is both VW & Vision excel at what the other is not very good at. Vision for volumetric rendering. VW for the rest (environmental & indirect lighting, textures with reflectivity and transparency, etc). While some might say that makes them complementary, I'd argue it makes it impossible to produce a great entertainment lighting render from either software.

 

Ideally I'd love for VW to make some huge strides in volumetric lighting so VW is the solution for concept renders & lighting plots. Vision should stay focused on real-time rendering for previz where performance is the most important aspect (although I'd love texture transparency & reflectivity).

 

I've considered adding C4D to my arsenal, but like Scott, I rarely have enough time to incorporate yet another software into my workflow for most shows.

 

@hbeach How's your experience working with Capture? Can you export your VW model w/ fixtures into it? Or are you recreating everything from scratch? Your renders look great!

 

Edited by LJ TMS

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@LJ TMS I’ll second all of that ^

 

And thank you!

 

That majority of the time I start in capture if it’s just a rough concept - when absolutely nothing is set in stone. Otherwise I model the entire rig in VW, including fixture placement. Export to dwg and prepare myself to do a lot of tidying up in capture. Textures never transfer over, and certain shapes occasionally won’t cooperate so I usually have to retexture and touch up objects. 

 

Lights only transfer as shapes. I have to delete and replace all fixtures. 

 

All in all it’s a massive headache but once it’s all built, rendering is a snap, and I automatically patch to Vista on PC allowing me to program looks from my second monitor very quickly. (This is a feature included in Hantmade Stage for C4D that is a game changer)

 

Any models I don’t have time to build I usually pull off 3D warehouse since Sketchup imports are super smooth. 

 

I love Capture and it’s served me well! But I have an itch for more realistic looks, more fine tuning and control. It’s a fantastic pre-viz program. But rendering massive looks feels like painting a mural with a crayon. 

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Hi Henry,

 

A few more random thoughts from my side.  I've been chasing a good volumetric system for a few years now.  I don't think there is a one software solution for this - be it CAD or 3D.  As for VW working on this over the next few months - I don't know.  There are so many other things on the radar it would seem, but I don't want to speak for the company.

 

1. You can do the volumetrics in vanilla Cinema without the STAGE plug in.  Yes - the plug in makes it easier and more like a Grand MA Board control, but it's not necessary.  In the past, I have put a Cinema Spotlight right at the barrel of my movers (you can control the start point of the beam to make it look like it is starting from a lens and not a point).  If your fixture is a symbol and you have instances all around your stage, you can just add this Spotlight once and it will populate to all instances - the problem there, of course, is focus.  So you'll have to do a fair amount of focusing to get the look you want (again, this is where Stage probably saves tons of time).

 

Usually I will do my render without volumetrics and then do a separate render of just the volumetric lights with a matte black material applied to all objects and then comp those together in Photoshop.  Not great, but gets it done.

 

2. There are other render engines for Cinema that would handle this better - Redshift comes to mind - where you can control volumetrics per light as well as overall atmospheric haze.  But this is, another software plugin to buy and learn.  Unreal Engine seems to do a nice job of volumetrics as well, but that is a whole other workflow.

 

3. Video Copilot makes a add on plug in for After Effects call Optical Flares and it is possible to simulate volumetrics there as well.

https://www.videocopilot.net/products/opticalflares/

 

In action: 

 

I have also used opticals flares to make myself a library of hi res cones and flares against a black background that I can just screen into a comp in Photoshop to add lights in - though for big rigs, this can be tedious and labor intensive.

 

I think at this time - the path of least resistance for you is going to be upgrading your Cinema (you should anyway now that you are doing commercial work) and try the STAGE plug in.  It's designed for just what you are talking about - though it's not perfect - full disclosure - I have never used it myself.  Hopefully NNA will address this in the future, but these things take time and I assume there are higher priorities on the list.

 

Hope that helps some - following this thread with interest.

 

e.

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@EAlexander great to hear you chime in on this topic to make it less of us pointing out things that are missing. I think the frustration comes from the fact that Vectorworks continues to advertise, on their site and in all promo videos up to the release of 2019, that among all its other features, Vectorworks Spotlight is an industry leading conceptual rendering tool for stage and lighting design - when clearly its real-world users find it lacking in so many areas with solutions present in sister softwares. It's all on our wishlists to see them deliver a solid fix to this and make Vectorworks a one-stop shop for all sides of lighting design. 

 

Several of the other methods you just listed I had never even heard of, so I'm looking forward to trying them out. What's your experience with Unreal Engine? 

 

As for Cinema4D - I am in a tricky situation. Before I can convince my office to purchase a full seat, I am tasked with showing them it is a viable solution for higher quality renderings, in both rate of turn around and visual quality. My learning curve has been pretty hard in C4D and I've had to hold strong to the free educational license as I power through tutorials, guides, and trial/error. I am not there yet and so no, I have not made any professional work with my educational C4D license and I obtained the license when I was still a student. I do feel though that with Stage, I could find my bearings a bit more since (from what I have read and seen) it is comparable to Capture in pre-viz control and build. 

 

I am going to take a stab at dropping Cinema Spotlights into moving light objects and keep chipping away at the beast Cinema4D has proven to be, but I am fairly confident that it will never be the ideal solution for generating concept renderings with a quick turn-around at a higher quality than Capture. 

 

I appreciate hearing from you.

 

 

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@EAlexander I always appreciate your insight. My current workaround for this conundrum is to render beams against a “black model” in the same way you mentioned. I use custom built lights that allow for solving the pinpoint issue. It’s a little time consuming but not that bad and the learning curve is pretty much 0. I start comping images together while the next set of beams is rendering so that’s how I manage the time issue. 

 

It’s far from ideal but not terrible. 

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Nice Wesley!  Not an easy venue in which to work by ANY stretch of the imagination, but I am glad you were able to work our Edgelight product into the design!  Your renders look great. 

 

At some point I need to spend some time with you guys to figure out what I would need to get up to speed in C4D if I decide to take the leap. 

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Hi Henry,

 

I use VW, C4D, Stage, Corona and PS. I am still waiting for a 'one solution fits all' but in all honesty, I have given up as I don't think it will happen anytime soon 🙂

 

I change my workflow depending on the client and what they want but currently I am moving more to this:

Starting in VW or C4D using stage plugin.

Get everything built and then render with Corona but don't use any beams.

Take various passes into PS and finish.

 

Below is an image that is about 20% Cinema/Stage and the rest is PS. This was before I started using Corona. Whilst there is no VW in this, there is nothing to say that I could not have started the build using VW. I have in fact taken the C4D and imported in VW for CAD drawings.Concert_Concept_01_FOH_2K.thumb.png.92181df1834370611fab3897396a2e33.png

 

 

This is now the same Cinema file with loads more work put into it, mainly from Stage.It is about 80% C4d/Stage and the rest is PS. Again, this was before I started using Corona.

1669499315_ConcertRender_FOH.thumb.png.aa56696579e5461564746a7b27a02ecb.png

 

Some more images from the above way of working.

90269408_ConcertRender_LookUp.thumb.png.105cbc7ca9e01a160e6d908809363e75.png

 

407993008_ConcertRender_Drums.thumb.png.cd84df49432828d478bf52c7929d43bd.png

 

As you can see, there is a bit of a difference but the first method was way faster that the second. The second also allows for me to start animating but that is a fair bit more work to say the least.

I would say the first method gives a more "conceptual" look whereas the second method gives a more polished look. I tend to prefer something that sits between the two though!

 

If I did these again, I would have a slightly different approach in that I would use Corona and would end up photoshopping more beams, lens flares and atmospherics in.

 

Another big factor is what render power you have and the timeline you are up against and that will often dictate which route I take.

Stage is great to get set built and nice looking renders in a very fast way.  Of course C4D can run a bit slow when you start trying to render hundreds of beams though 🙂

I did try rendering in VW but had the same frustrations other people mention.

 

The stuff Evan and Wesley show are great examples of what can be achieved with different workflows and I recommend you take a look at the images on Evans website as there are many stunning examples. Seeing these is what got me looking at Corona (Thanks Evan!) and I have really enjoyed using it....but ask me again in 6 months and it maybe that I am using Octane or Redshift etc etc! In fact, a lot of the decision to go with Corona was because of my hardware...but if Apple produce another Pro let down then I am heading to Windows...but that is another story.

 

 

I would say, looking at your renders that it is definitely worth trying to take them through PS before you make any decisions about other purchases though. I think if you held back on adding in all the beams and atmosphere in Capture and tried to add them in PS you may be pleasantly surprised with what you can achieve.

 

I hope this info helps in some way but as long as you are prepared to pick the workflow that best suits the job and be open to learn new workflows, then you are off to a good start.

 

Cheers 

Simon

 

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@Simon Allan Thank you so much for giving me a look into your workflow! Excellent renderings.

 

Photoshop seems to always be the missing link for me and is constantly being pushed back to the top of my list of programs to prioritize. I've started adopting photoshop into my renderings recently, but mostly to clean up reflection errors within Capture, or to make my crowds look more realistic. 

 

I'd have to say that turn around times are the biggest factor in deciding my workflow. Right now, if a client is looking to have a rendering by the next morning I almost always work solely within Capture. Now, if I a have a few days before delivering, I will model in VWX, render in Capture, and clean/refine in Photoshop - and that is my preferred workflow for now. Rendering power is not an issue as my workstation is capable for the next 4-5 years. The only thing limiting me is learning curve. The longer it takes to learn a new method and to implement the new method, the less likely my office is willing to invest in said method. 

 

Seeing what @Wesley Burrows and Evan have been capable of achieving with the native C4D engine has given me a bit of a new wave of inspiration and I will be attempting some more renderings this weekend, but I can't help but still be eager to get my hands on the Stage plugin. The way this thread has developed has given me a TON of insight on what is out there and what might be best for me - in a perfect world this would all fit under one platform. 

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Great work Wes and Simon!  Thanks for sharing - and thank you for the kind words Simon.

 

I think the take away from this is that there isn't a one stop solution for these kinds of renders, so you have to find the right toolkit that works for you and works for the specific project.  Like Simon says - every project is different in scope and approach.  

 

I also agree that time spent learning more Photoshop is one of the more important things to focus on.  I did rock and roll renders for years without any volumtrics and did it all in photoshop.  You can get big looks quickly and they can be fast to change or modify as there is no rendering in that part of the process.  I'll report back more when I've had a chance to dig into Redshift more.

 

e.

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Hey - I don't want to derail this thread with more info outside of the original posts intent, but if you want to see some work I've been doing on volumtrics with Redshift, you can see some examples on my blog:

 

http://www.evanalexander.com/blog/2019/3/1/volumetric-lighting

 

It's pretty great and renders super fast.  All images are under 30 seconds to render and no photoshop.

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21 hours ago, EAlexander said:

Hey - I don't want to derail this thread with more info outside of the original posts intent, but if you want to see some work I've been doing on volumtrics with Redshift, you can see some examples on my blog:

 

http://www.evanalexander.com/blog/2019/3/1/volumetric-lighting

 

It's pretty great and renders super fast.  All images are under 30 seconds to render and no photoshop.

Holy hazy heck BatEvan; that stuff looks amazing.  

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After viewing Evan's Redshift renders, I excitedly registered and downloaded the demo, only then to notice the Nvidia GPU requirement <sadface>, as my MBP drives an AMD chip. Maybe next machine.

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You do brilliant work Evan!  I am about to give up on VW for rendering....I think. 

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, mjm said:

After viewing Evan's Redshift renders, I excitedly registered and downloaded the demo, only then to notice the Nvidia GPU requirement <sadface>, as my MBP drives an AMD chip. Maybe next machine.

Hey, take a look at Corona. The Volumetrics aren't as cool, but over all its an amazing render engine.  In fact, I think the best and its My go to render engine for most of the work you see on my site. It's CPU based so works a treat on a Mac. 

Edited by EAlexander

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