What are these white pixels … ?

What white pixels ?

These, there, flickering at the cliff wall !

Ummhh …

… I do not know why this has slipped through my countless screenings, but here they were. Full bright white, sometimes colorful, single hot pixels.

What follows now is an anecdote, highlighting the various adventures you sometimes face, when dealing with problems which seem so trivial at first sight. It is almost nostalgic, as these problem patterns tended to appear throughout the whole production and they persist right to the end 🙂

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Glimpses at the Production

Confirmed by comments on my recent post, I will try to refrain as much as possible from displaying potential spoiler images.

As this would mean, to cease showing any images from now on, I thought I could give you some look ‘behind the scenes’ of the type of work I am mainly involved right now concerning Ara’s Tale.

This is especially for you, the small but constant number of followers of this project 😉

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Shot Breakdown

As announced in my previous post I present here a shot compositing breakdown from a frame of shot 3 of Ara’s Tale.

This is a medium shot with emphasis on Ara and the environment does only act as nice blurry backdrop to the frame. So the main focus lies on the foreground with the background representing one renderlayer with a simple light setup (1 spotlight with shadow buffers for the moon and 2 hemilights for the ambient lighting).

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Compositing and Composting

These words are not only similar orthographically, but bear some kind of other relationship too.

It’s sometimes necessary to apply the latter to the outcome of the former.

For me this ‘sometimes’ was even more frequent during my work on Ara’s Tale through the last days.

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Z and Alpha, so similar and yet so different

In this post I try to portray the things I have learned and experimented with about combining image layers having both transparency information (alpha) as well as z information.

The starting point for me was quite simple. Up to now I had done the compositing work for the background, Ara and the cage. As I had not yet settled on the exact look of my cage lights I decided to add them later. This shouldn’t be so hard after all.

Well, somehow it is.

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Layers upon Layers (of life, obstacles and exr files)

Sometimes it seems, that the sole purpose of this project is to test my patience, motivation and capacity for suffering.

Setting up a workflow for offline compositing, ( i.e. compositing not directly after rendering but from saved multilayer exr files ),  sent me on a journey through storage demands, SSS deficencies, the current state of blender 2.5, back to 2.49,  down into the source code of compositor nodes and finally to a somehow (shakily) working solution.

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Fake lighting tests


I started a project which I had in my mind for quite some time now. Triggered by an article about product visualization, which uses fake lighting, I decided to finally give it a try myself.

I created a thread in blenderartists to show the various stages of my progress and will probably post a tutorial, if anything useful come out of this.

Right now this technique seems only applicable for studio setups and animations, where no camera movement is involved, but maybe I can come up with extended applications.

Here is a quick animation to show the technique

Fake Lighting Test from loramel on Vimeo.

Linear Workflow in Blender

While working on my current project to explore the differences between luxrender and blender I came in touch with setting up a linear workflow.

Until now I knew what it was and never found it necessary to test or use it in one of my projects. The steps involved using it in blender especially under linux seemed too tedious.

As this project was aiming at photorealism, it was a good opportunity to actually try a linear workflow.

And I have to say I am a convert now. There won’t be any serious projects done without applying a linear workflow.

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First tests with luxrender

I decided to give luxrender a try and get accustomed with its material setup. For those who have not yet came across this new renderer see here for more info.

I find it a highly promising project with after one year of healthy development showing quite an impressive functionality already.

As with all unbiased renderer out there, you pay a high price in terms of render times and turn around cycles. I just recently upgraded to a AMD Phenom quad core system, running about 20 times faster than my old one. This finally gave me the basis to dare to tackle luxrender.

Getting all the material settings right was quite a tedious experience. For the poppy flower i.e. I realize after 2 hours of rendering, that the material was not quite right, so I had to restart again. I think one will have to gather quite some experience until the material

setup get more straight forward and thus faster.

The image you see here is a theme I wanted to do for quite some time, but was not really satisfied with the blenders internal renderer and knew this would be an ideal candidate for an unbiased renderer.

The image is titled ‘The Other Side’. The blend file is available from my Showroom.

Its actually a composite ( done in blender of course ) of the two following separately rendered images.

Render time for each of the images was around 6 hours, with about 3000 samples/pixel.

You will never want to do an animation with luxrender, but for certain setups this is a very good tool to have.