the health hazards of being cynical

I’m a cynic when it comes to 3D content (not only that, of course, but other aspects of my cynicism aren’t relevant for this post).
I will buy stuff I need from a vendor whose other products are clearly aimed at pinup artists, to put it mildly (two words: Perfect V4). I will download freebies of the sort I’ll never pay money for (I don’t buy pose presets, but I do have quite a few free packs installed, and I don’t mind bundled pose packs either; I will even use them for tests/studies, although I always tweak).

But there is one particular freebie outlet that makes my blood boil, and that’s the ‘DS Creative’ fanzine.

If anything, I should vow to dl their freebies and then delete the PDFs immediately, sans flipping through the pages, like, EVAH. Or better yet, abstain from partaking of said darned freebies. ‘Tis not like my runtime is lacking in something, y’know.

There is a thousand little reasons for my disliking that mag (one being their inability to filter out the instances where newcomers call DS ‘DAZ’ for short… DAZ is the company, y’know), but some things totally tick me off, and that’s… Correct. Ignorance.

Amazing self-aggrandizing ignorance.

Whenever someone starts talking ‘serious render stuff’ on those pages, I’m left with two options: facepalm and headdesk.

Example: “Shadows are by nature sharp”.

I mean… on the Moon, maybe! And that’s not entirely true because the Sun will still occupy a non-infinitesimal area of the sky… and hence shadows will be soft, if just a little bit.

It’s not only bounce/IDL that softens shadows (that, actually, does more like lighten them than soften). It’s the emitter geometry. Why no-one takes glamour portraits with a tiny diode lamp that’s so cheap and easy to carry, but rather with a giant, unwieldy and often expensive softbox, huh?

I have a degree in physics. I am not a Hawking, I’m a very average, regular researcher, but I do it for real. If I weren’t queer and anti-government (and hence paranoid), I wouldn’t be shy about pointing you to my real-world publications. Yup I specialise in continuum mechanics, but the principles of wave diffraction/interference/what have you are much the same; and here in Russia, we study all branches of physics before specialising, so I’m no stranger to optics.

I’m also a wannabe traditional ‘artist’ who has invested a lot of time and money into studying trad art technique manuals, where behaviour of light is explained in ‘less techie’ words, but still according to the same principles (cuz the ‘real world’ is kinda shared).

I don’t know who that guy is by trade, how old he is and what country he comes from, or if he has dyslexia or whatever; all I know that each and every ‘tutorial’ of his is riddled with mistakes like that.

And then, he has the audacity to condemn a heavy portion of Iray-related forum posts as ‘wrong, very wrong or just plain stupid’.

It’s not like I could take this personally – I don’t post in Iray threads on the DAZ forums.

But man… A Duke Crocker quote comes to mind: hey pot, that’s the kettle calling!

Or that ‘there are no he-mice and no she-mice’ scene from one of the Witcher books.

PS Actually, a lot of posts on DAZ forums are rather… misguided. One of the reasons I avoid the forums outside of my threads and free stuff (and it’s hopeless trying to fight that unless you have traction, like being a prominent ‘pinup artist’ or a PA; those unfortunately will often spread misconceptions around, though). But still.

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15 thoughts on “the health hazards of being cynical

  1. I’ve downloaded those PDFs and a number of the freebies, but I haven’t yet read much. I appreciate the generosity of the freebie providers; there are some very nice freebies. I liked the G3F texture.

    I think the magazine’s creators are well-intentioned, but, as with so much related to DS and Poser, people are terribly opinionated and so there are often competing views on things that are important to producing good renders. Lighting and postwork can really bring out the heated arguments.

    Experimenting and sharing are helpful, but sometimes I get the impression it’s more a case of the blind leading than blind, as the saying goes.

    As a hobbyist of merely average abilities, I don’t know what to think most of the time. I rarely try for photorealism, for me it’s just about getting a certain “look” and if I have to do multiple render passes and postwork to achieve that, then so be it. For some, that’s a bad thing, but then so is using a dialed character rather than one sculpted in a different program.

    Most of the really nice Iray renders I see are of static objects. It’s a great way to show off the power of the render engine and surface materials. But I render people, and while I’ve seen a few impressive figure renders too, most haven’t stood out as remarkably different or better to my eye. I understand it’s the skill of the user that makes all the difference but, as we’ve touched on before, the lack of documentation makes this more complicated than it should be, imo.

    I think I know what article you’re referring to; I skimmed it over, looking at the example images. I’m all for giving Iray a go, but it’s going to take a lot of extra work and sometimes I’m just too lazy to bother. :)

    1. Yeah, the blind leading the blind, that’s a good one you brought up.

      The Digital Lighting and Rendering book I mentioned a few posts earlier is expensive, but judging by the snippets that the author adapted for his freely accessible website, it’s truly essential. If just the website alone were made compulsory reading for a new 3D hobbyist, it could settle a load of debates.

      I’m thinking of putting together some down-to-earth introduction to the very (misunderstood) basics of how CG rendering actually works behind the scenes (regardless of ‘biased’/’unbiased’ algos or whatever), but I don’t think it’s really worth investi g time in – I’m a damn slow writer. Moreover… I have that SSS tutorial out that covers a lot of stuff beside SSS as well, but it seems that even all those people who dl’ed it won’t read it because it’s too long or something.

      I don’t think you’re ‘average’. You’re definitely way above that. Your work is comparable to what I see in TV productions, 3D concept shots, etc. You are ‘oldschool’ in your rendering approach, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It just means more artist involvement, be it postprocessing, compositing render passes or using speedy shortcuts like ambient/AO instead of ‘rendertime-expensive’ effects like SSS or IDL. It’s been the preferred way big VFX/CGI studios work, for years. And even these days, when the trend is toward physically based shading because computer power finally allows it, this approach still has a place.

      And the only thing that matters as an example to follow/learn from, is how the pros do it. Real pros. They have to be good artistically and efficient at the same time; it’s their livelihood. Not some random bragging contest.

      Movies colour-grade live footage. Games postprocess colour output in real time. That alone renders the ‘no postwork’ badge meaningless.

      1. I DL’s your SSS tutorial and will look it over tonight (I only read at night; I’m just peculiar that way!) I’d probably be fine using newer techniques but old habits really do die hard, especially if that’s the way you’ve been doing it for years…

        I never understood the no postwork purists; it made no sense to me. Same for the anti-dial character people.

        I appreciate your comment on my renders. Still think I’m pretty average in comparison to others, but that’s okay. I have fun at it. I always viewed renders much in the same was as stock photography, the main difference being that it took more work on my end than just paying X of money for a photo. :D

        1. Night is a good time for reading/thinking. It tends to be somewhat quiet… =)

          I think that dials were made for dialing. What could be wrong with using them to make your own characters? A commercial character that is dial-only, no custom injection, now that’s what I’m less likely to _buy_ – because I just think, ‘I have these morph packs which means I can get this face the same way…’ But I mostly buy for the textures.

          But you can’t get a stock photo of a living dragon, can you =) only a stock painting… or a render by someone else… I’d say that’s the greatest thing, being able to portray stuff that doesn’t exist in our world. Like a surfing zombie =)

          1. Finished reading your SSS PDF and there’s a lot of info in there, good job! If I didn’t already know you were in the sciences, I’d have guessed it by how you wrote this. The geometry shells thing sounds like something that would be fun to play with.

            Still think skin settings need to be more simpler and more uniform. It’s like every PA does their own thing, and sometimes when I render I get blood red people or the lights blow them out so bad they’re nearly all white. Mind you, I’m talking about characters with DS materials…

            I almost never buy character for the morphs, just textures. Sometimes I’ll use a morph though; some of Morris’s guy were nice, and if I buy a pretty man from Raiya I’m going to use his pretty face. But yeah, dials are awesome. Sometimes I think people who scorn them are just too cheap to buy the various packages.

            It is true I can’t get stock photos of certain things, which is why 3D is so useful. OTOH, if I need a realistic closeup of a human face, I’m more likely to go stock. Cheaper and easier than DS.

            1. Thank you! =) Actually a large part of why I sat down and wrote that all was that I, too, was really tired of all those PAs doing their thing that made (and still makes) very little sense… all that eyeball work that only works with equally arbitrary promo lights… so I figured that maybe, just maybe, someone who wants to be a PA and wants to use SSS reads that PDF and adopts a more consistent approach.
              Once you have the scientifically plausible background (and it’s a must for SSS, it’s too heavy on physics; doing it haphazardly will result in something like trying to run dynamic cloth with parameters for steel LOL), you have a solid basis that needs very little tweaking.

              Speaking of closeups, I keep planning to try LAMH for eyelashes. Those transmapped ones are what kills a lot of “realism”, for me. But the question is, will the DAZ geometry accomodate that… or will I need to make some morphs… and that makes me put the idea away again.

    2. Oh yeah: there is the NVIDIA MDL handbook website that I find to be the best documentation for using Iray, but: a) it’s a WIP still; b) you will need to go to the source code of the material because DAZ renamed some stuff in the user frontend… and reading code may not be for everyone.

      1. TBH, I’m not sure I’d have the patience to read through something like that, which is why I’d expect DAZ to at least provide a workable summary to get people up and running — correctly.

        But they can’t even do a simple manual on all their advanced features. I’m at the point where I’m just going to start clicking on icons and see what they do. I figure the worst that can happen is that I blow up my DS and have to download it again.

        1. DAZ have a page on the Iray Uber base up, but it does not really explain anything despite it being a huge wall of text. It just got me confused. And it has no pictures, while the MDL handbook does =)

          The worst thing isn’t the icons even, but all the menu entries (all the ten thousand little commands some of which are hidden in tab-specific menus and nowhere else!). I wish, too, that there were some sort of documentation beyond ‘so here is our new awesome figure, click this or that preset now’.
          For instance… here is a blog post in Japanese: app.f.m-cocolog.jp/t/typecast/1202443/1222561/91530648 – if you googletranslate it, it will teach you a very useful thing about one of these mysterious DS features. But how many non-Japanese users will ever find this post??

            1. And then there is right-click in the viewport with various tools… It’s only been recently that I discovered how many very useful things the surface selection tool can now do when right-clicking in the viewport… Have you noticed that?

              1. Nope! But now I’ll start randomly right-clicking to see what pops up. It’ll be like a treasure hunt. Or something.

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