Mandelbulb 3D ~ Light it up!

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This journal is really not so much a tutorial as it is a workflow discussion on final composing and lighting of a Mandelbulb 3D scene. And I realize there will always be a difference of opinion on something being too dark, too bright, too foggy or just too much something in one way or the other. But to me, that's what can make the difference between a regular image, and one that really sets a mood and has more impact than a plain vanilla piece. So below I cover my thought process on a recent image I posted. Maybe this journal will encourage you to look for that little something extra that can make a difference in your final results. For the format here, I'll show you an image, and then discuss the image directly below it. A further note, except for the final image, these were all rendered at 2880 X 1972, and uploaded at 1000 X 685. The final image was rendered at 7000 X 4793. I hope I don't bore you to death~

01 by HalTenny

I liked the image above just like it is. It has just the right amount of detail. Tipping the camera at an angle gives it character, and the point of view gives it depth. The lighting is ok, but a little hot on the bottom right. Still, there's good separation of details deeper into the image, and perhaps a sense that this is only a small section of a very large structure. With a higher resolution render, I could have posted this as is. But I'm looking for more, almost always more... I want to try to make this something more recognizable, something you can more easily relate to in the real world.

02 by HalTenny

Above you can see a vast difference from the starting image. I have already decided what I wanted to try to do here, so I needed a floor or ground, and a wall to tighten up the scene. So I added two heightmaps. The floor has a plain texture, and the wall has a real brick texture. When adding something like a brick wall, you should pay attention to details, like scale. If you want your image to look real, then your bricks should fit the scale of the image. I admit my scale is a little off here. Four standard bricks will equal a foot in height. But in this image that would only make the wall height under the overhang area around six feet tall. It should be closer to eight feet tall. It's probably something no one would ever notice. I mean how often have you ever counted bricks in an image? However, in this image, I think the scale looks pretty good, and when I made it smaller, it looked too busy. So I left it as is. But it is something you should keep in mind if you are more anal than I am about perfection. :) This image has also obviously lost that sense of depth and 'big' area feeling that the previous image had, but that can be brought back through different means. I think the lighting is still pretty good, and this could also be posted as a finished image if I wanted. And while the detail is still there, it just doesn't really set a mood or satisfy me much. There are plenty of tools left in the bag yet!

03 by HalTenny

Above is the first stage of setting a mood. No need to tell me it's dark and has lost a lot of definition. This is just a starting point. I am already thinking night scene here, so it has to be dark. I have three global lights on, one blue, one dark brown and one kind of a pale orange. I lowered the far plane setting and boosted the depth slider in the lighting panel to put a little depth fog in the image to give it back some of the depth. I also have a little fog in this one. If you use the depth slider to get some depth fog, then the dynamic fog setting can be used to give the depth fog a little detail. It's not really as noticeable here, but it can be quite useful if used in moderation.

04 by HalTenny

In the image above I added a positional light located in the top mid area off screen. I wanted to accentuate some of the details that were lost with the depth and fog settings. And it also makes the structure appear more solid to me and better defines the closed in look I'm shooting for. I also did some additional light adjustments because I felt it was a little darker than I intended. Now that I've got the image framed and lit just about how I like, it's time for the finishing touches.

05 by HalTenny

Hard shadows. Because of what I have decided this image is going to be, and the time of day, I decided hard shadows would help complete the mood. My vision is that this is an alley way and it is lit by either a street light, or a private light that is up around the second floor area. Lights and hard shadows kind of go hand in hand to set up a more realistically lighted area. Soft shadows are nice too, and I use them as well, but because of the next lighting goodie that I'm going to add, I felt a hard shadow would look better. The hard shadow also helped tone down the front bottom right area that was overly bright.

06 by HalTenny

Volumetric lights. They really completed the mood I was trying to emulate. A dark misty evening in an alley. Now I feel there is a well represented mood to this. There is a nice sense of depth with good structural definition in the shadows. A very obvious light source that brings the air itself into being as it reflects off the moisture content in the evening breeze. And you can almost hear the car horns and traffic passing by.

Here's a little trick I use sometimes when the VL is the same light that casts the hard shadows. Sometimes the VL overpowers the hard shadows or it's difficult to get a good balance between the two. So first I duplicate the VL to another light slot. Then I select the hard shadow setting for the new light number slot instead of the VL. Then I  turn the actual positional light off that generates the VL. Now you can independently adjust the strength of the VL and hard shadows. As long as you have already generated the VL once in your preview window, you do not have to generate it again for your final render. You have to leave the VL under the color tab enabled, and only turn off the actual light itself. Warning!!! If you do this, and then save your parameters, you will get an error the next time you open those parameters. You have to remember to turn the VL positional light back on! Or turn it back on before saving... You have been warned~ :)

That pretty much concludes this episode of "Hal likes to hear the sound of his own voice." :) However, if you are feeling particularly adventurous, have a look at the last image!

07 by HalTenny

This is not for everyone, and obviously, this is no longer a raw fractal. But you can further enhance your images with some extra props and effects added in with the post editing program of your choice. Here I added a door, the closed sign, two windows and the broken shutter, the fire hydrant and two wooden barrels. And a little grate under the window. If you do this, I would highly recommend taking your time to get your additions to look natural, like they actually belong there and weren't added as an afterthought. Get your colors to blend properly. If something you add breaks a shadow, then fix it. You can see where I had to make the shadow continuous over the window I added in the center. You will feel much better about your work if you take your time. I also added an edge blur here. I know I probably use it entirely too much, but it's what I like.

I hope this has inspired you. My work here is done. Have a nice day from the Mandelbulb 3D group.

PS: "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2" comes out in theaters today in the US! It has a whole slew of Mandelbulb 3D imagery in it by yours truly, Hal Tenny! Several people messaged me that have seen my name in the credits, on the right hand side of the screen under concept artists, very early on in the credit sequence. I am so humbled and sincerely appreciate all the support over the years! Hope you all enjoy the film!
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Paleo3D's avatar
I am relatively new with MB3D and I hope I am not too late to ask a question.
You said "So I added two heightmaps. The floor has a plain texture, and the wall has a real brick texture. "
The map number in HeightMapIFS refers to the height displacement associated with the grayscale intensity of that map
and there is no mention of texture here  that know of.
The question then becomes : how did you manage two distinct textures maps on the two different HeightMaps.
I'm sure that there is a simple explanation for this, but I can't see it.:) (Smile) 
HalTenny's avatar
The first variable in the HeightMapIFS formula is the map number. It points to the displacement map that creates the bricks pattern, or whatever pattern you choose. So I used one HeightMapIFS for the brick wall as it points to my brick displacement map, and the second HeightMapIFS is set to 0 so it doesn't load any displacement map. It's just used as a flat plane for the floor or road surface. The texture map is applied to everything in the image actually, and is set by selecting the "use a map for diffuse color" under the object tab in the lighting panel.

So in this sense, a texture can be just a plain 2d image texture, or a 3d displacement map texture. And also of note, if you have two HeightMapIFS formulas, you can point each of them to 2 different displacement maps as well. So for instance I could have used brick for the wall and stone pavers for the road, or sand, grass, anything at all really.

Sorry for the late response!
Paleo3D's avatar
Two HeightMaps.
One set to zero displacement.
The other to brick.jpg displacement.
Both have the same color texture ("use a map for diffuse color")
Brilliant!   Trophy 
fraterchaos's avatar
awesome journal my friend, great tips!

also wanted to say I saw GotG last Monday and it was very good. I'd have to say I thought the movie itself was not quite as good as the first one, but the graphics were certainly better!

Even waited out the first few credits at the end, to make sure I saw your name!
janhein's avatar
Thanks very much for this journal/tuto, Hal! :clap: I'm going to try out your VL trick, sounds interesting! :hug: Happy Gumball 
HalTenny's avatar
You're are most welcome!
Gigantor's avatar
HalTenny's avatar
DsyneGrafix's avatar
I know my art has not lived up to it's potential. I can only blame myself for being lazy and resisting change! But this will hopefully spark a renewed interest that I really need and improve my art in a dramatic way! I have claimed you as my mentor for years but I feel I have not represented you and your talents very well, much less mine. However you still inspire me on a daily basis and I am truly grateful for all the tips, tricks and tuts you provide! 

Congrat's again on the movie! 
HalTenny's avatar
Thanks a lot Ricky, some very kind words. And you know, I wouldn't be where I am with my art today if I hadn't had an extraordinary amount of time to put into it. I'm not much of a motivational speaker, but we all do what we can with the time we have, and you don't want to make it a chore. As long as we have fun, there's satisfaction and fulfillment in that. And as long as we're still learning, then that's something to look forward to. And thanks about the movie too! 
krompulos's avatar
Thank you for the knowledge.
I will be using some of these tips to step my game up.

I have been focusing on forms lately, and it is high time to lurk in the shadows once more.
Perhaps a walk through the fog in search of some indescribable horror from beyond, a la H.P. Lovecraft
HalTenny's avatar
Absolutely! And you're welcome~
krompulos's avatar
As promised, here it is, in all its twisted glory.
Exquisite Imbalance 005 - Seed of Cthulu by krompulos
Thank you again for the motivation, and sharing your creative process.
HalTenny's avatar
krompulos's avatar
I am glad you like it.
You are one of the artists I look up to.
Your approval means a lot to me.
HalTenny's avatar
That's nice of you to say, I appreciate it, and am always glad to help if I can.
Undead-Academy's avatar
Those are amazing lights Hal :)
HalTenny's avatar
Thank you~ It's one of my favorites as far as a mood setting scene.
Undead-Academy's avatar
You are very welcomed Hal . I really like it , it gives the render a mysterious flow , like your watching television and there is a scene where the lights are coming down , awesome work .
marijeberting's avatar
Thanks very much for sharing your knowledge Hal :happybounce: :happybounce: :happybounce: 
HalTenny's avatar
You're welcome Marije! I really appreciate the comment and am always glad to spread the knowledge~
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