How To Do A Great Storytelling Render In 3Delight

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Not everyone agreed with what I said in the How To Do A Quality Female Pinup journal, but I DID have a major spike in my page traffic the day it went up, so clearly a lot of people read it.  Let's do another one!

Today I'm going to talk about a challenging subject for any render engine, although my focus is 3Delight - the storytelling render.  More than just a single character looking cool or sexy, this type of scene is meant to suggest a captured moment in time, an instant in the lives of its characters and universe.  Above all, it suggests that those characters and that universe have a life beyond this image.

I've done a small number of these that I was happy with in my career as a DAZ Published Artist; but I'm not going to brag on my own work today.  No, today I'm going to use the example of a render called A Song Against the Dark by storypilot.  Any render I dissect in a journal will only be used with the artist's permission, both with this and valzheimer's render from the other entry. 

My focus here is on 3Delight and its pluses and minuses, because that's my area of interest and greatest experience.  All of this is completely my own subjective opinion.  You have every right to disagree, and in fact I may learn something interesting from your comments.

So with that out of the way, here's what this render does right:

1.  Posing and setup is thorough and realistic.  Characters' feet sit solidly on the ground, where relevant; their bodies are solidly in contact with surfaces.  Hair moves basically as hair should.  I don't think a lot of people realize just how much the dull work of tweaking the poses of characters, clothing and hair makes or breaks a render.  There's a difference between using coherent stylization and completely breaking the viewer's suspension of disbelief with hovering toes or stiff-looking hair.  (The man in the red tunic has some slight clipping on his thigh, but it took me a long time to notice that.)  Your purchasing choices affect this, too - if you buy hairs that just can't handle the poses you want to do, your renders will suffer for it.

2.  Composition.  The camera is tilted just enough to help the eye travel from left to right across the figures - and look at how the arrangement of figures themselves lures the eye along the line from bottom to top, left to right.  We're meant to notice the bard as well as the dancer.  The placement of that background figure makes it almost impossible to notice on first look - it's there to reward continued scrutiny of the image.  The camera's slight distortion in the foreground adds an additional sense of dynamic movement to the elf doing her seated dance on the bar.

3.  Clutter.  The scene is cluttered, but not at random.  Objects are placed so that they enhance the story - the litter of mugs around the drunk at the bar says he's been here for some time, probably why he's passed out face-down.  The elf's cutlass lies forgotten on a bar stool, telling us how absorbed she is in what she's doing - she's forgotten everything, including this obviously well-used weapon that she must carry everywhere.  The stacks of crates and barrels make this tavern look like a place that's constantly in use.  When you want to set up a larger scene like this, you have to ask yourself: what would I expect to see in a place like this?  How much? Where?  How do I make that work with and not against my planned composition?  How can I tell more small stories within my larger story?

4.  Costumes tell their own stories.  The characters' clothes and hair aren't random either.  The lady on the far left has not only the scantiest but the most colorful outfit, and by that and the fact that she's fondling the thigh of the man to her left we can guess she may be a lady of the evening looking to ply her trade.  The dancing elf may be showing some skin, but her clothes are plain brown leather, and her tattoos look bold and aggressive - with that plus her forgotten cutlass we can guess that she's a warrior.  And I could go on.  Every character in this scene has something to tell us about themselves just by the way the artist has arranged their appearance.

5.Lighting and postwork work together.  It's very difficult, nearly impossible, to get good-looking fire and smoke effects in the render itself in DAZ Studio (there are one or two products that can help, but they are very resource-intensive). So while I don't know what storypilot has done in Pixelmator, I would guess that the fire and smoke is a lot of it.  That being the case, there's a lot of forethought here in the position of lights where fire would later be put - from the torches, on the wall by the bigger fire pit, the orange glow cast on the dancer's face.  This is all very deliberate and contributes further to the scene's atmosphere of a warm tavern on a dark night.

Overall this scene shows tremendous attention to a lot of details, and that really adds up.  Hopefully this analysis is helpful to you as you compose your own renders with your own stories to tell.  If you're new to 3Delight and DAZ Studio, feel free to contact me with questions as well; I don't claim to be the best, but I can certainly help you get started.
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tora-no-shi1369's avatar
Thanks a lot. Yet another great set of information For both newbies, and those who have been at it a while . I know some who need to remember this. They seem to have forgotten that there is always something to learn.