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10 Tips on 3D Rendering

Updated: May 5



 

A blog on the tips and tricks of getting good quality 3D renderings.


1. Select Right Renderer


With all the renderer choices, how do you pick the right one? In order to choose the right rendering engine, it is important to consider a lot of factors. Speed and quality are two of the most important considerations. You may have a beautiful scene set up with great lighting, but if your computer can’t render it in time for your deadline, then you will not benefit from that beauty. Also, if there are objects in your scene with certain types of materials (like glass), some rendering engines handle those better than others. If you have an issue rendering glass or translucent materials then try another rendering engine or even consider using a plug-in.


2. Lighting - The Most Important Part Of Rendering


Lighting is by far the most important part of a realistic render. If you have a good lighting setup and an okay material, chances are that your render will look decent. On the other hand, if you have excellent materials but poor lighting, your render will not be pleasant.


There are plenty of ways to light up a scene. It can be done in the rendering software (in-built lights) or in dedicated software like Vray, Maxwell Render, etc...


Physical renderers need to have the lighting set up properly in order for it to produce photorealistic results. You can use a combination of environment maps and point/area lights to get a good result but you should avoid using too many lights as it may become inefficient and cause flickering if not set up properly. Make sure to use high dynamic range (HDR) images for environment maps as it produces more realistic results than simple studio images or basic sky maps.


3. Use Real-World Units For Accurate Lighting


You can get a better sense of the scale of your scene and lights by using real-world units. If you are using a physical renderer like V-Ray or Corona Renderer, make sure to use real-world units in your scene. For example, if you’re creating an interior scene with dimensions 6x10x8 meters, make sure to set up your scene using those values. This will allow the renderer to calculate proper light intensities based on the actual sun and other light sources in our world. If you are using a renderer that uses arbitrary units such as mental ray, Arnold, and Octane Render, try to use a scale that resembles real-world values. The same logic applies: it’s easier for our brain to process images when we can grasp their scale from what we know in real life - so ideally you want to model everything as close as possible to a 1:1 ratio with reality.



4. Don't Go Overboard With Particle Systems


A rendering featuring particle systems can be very demanding. We suggest that you take a load off your renderings by reducing the number of particles you use in your scene.

Particles should be used only when absolutely necessary, and even then they should be used sparingly.


For example, if you need subtle variations in grass or trees, try using a few instances and altering the objects slightly to save on processing time. You can also try using emitter objects that are not visible in the final render (for example, an invisible plane).


5. Automate and Script


The human element of renderings is very important in determining how effective they are. Your goal in creating renderings should be to best share your ideas with your audience. The purpose of automation and scripting is not to replace the skills and creativity you bring to the table, but rather, to augment them so you can focus on more important tasks.


Automation and scripting can be used for a variety of things, including:

  • Creating daylight studies for your design

  • Ensuring consistent and appropriate rendering settings across an entire project or firm-wide library of content

  • Customizing your user interface for a specific rendering workflow (like placing objects in your 3D model)

The benefits of these types of systems include:

  • Saving time by eliminating repetitive work that doesn't require human input or judgment (e.g., organizing file paths and naming conventions)

  • Minimizing errors caused by manual data entry (e.g., forgetting a step in the rendering process)


6. Use Hi-Res Textures and Shaders


Your best bet is to splurge on high-quality textures, shaders, and displacement maps. This will allow you to create more realistic surfaces with depth and detail. High-resolution textures can be used for bump, displacement, and normal and specular maps. If your rendering software supports them, you might even consider using normal or displacement maps on smaller-scale details like screws or dirt (a trick for adding realism without bogging down the render). There are plenty of sites out there selling materials, with prices ranging from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars. Many of those hi-res textures can be re-used on multiple materials as well — making them an investment rather than just an expense.


Just remember that more data takes time to calculate. Add too many displacements and you could find yourself waiting days before rendering a single frame!


7. Use Caustics As Little As Possible.

*Takeaway: The render effects can be more realistic, but render times can go up considerably.

Using caustics in your render can be an easy way to make it look more natural and realistic. However, these effects are not easy for a computer to understand or reproduce. Caustics represent the bending of light as it passes through or reflects off of surfaces such as glass or water. In other words, when you're rendering a scene that includes a glass object, your computer is trying to calculate how light bends around and through the curves of that object. The more complex (and the more caustics) you add to your scene, the longer your render will take.


You can use caustics without slowing down your render time too much if you stick to a few simple rules:


1. Use as few curved surfaces as possible.


2. Set the minimum number of photons in your scene (the default value is 1 million).


3. Use a low number for photon bounces (one or two will do).


4. Set the sample limit for each pixel to one or two samples per pixel (this will speed up your render).


8. Camera Position and Object Placement.

*Takeaway: The last thing you want is for your rendering to look like a flat 2D image.

As you may know, the placement of objects in a scene can radically alter how it looks. But did you know that this also applies to the camera’s position? While thinking about your camera position and object placement separately will get you far (and is a great place to start), you can add an extra layer of depth by considering how the two influence each other.


Consider using a 3D camera: To create a 3D scene, a good place to begin would be with a 3D camera. This type of camera has many features that will help build layers and depth into your rendering. As with any new software feature, there are some aspects that might feel like they're too complex or confusing at first, but taking time to learn them will pay off down the road!


Place objects relative to each other: When placing objects in your scene, think about where they would naturally appear relative to one another. If you don't place them correctly, your viewer's eyes might not know where to look—or worse yet—your whole rendering could appear flat instead!


Don’t forget about shadows: No matter what kind of light source you use for your rendering, shadows are an important part of creating realistic-looking images.


9. Think How To Use Your Rendering.

*Takeaway: This is extra important if you don't have an unlimited budget or time frame.

When starting out, it's important to think about how you'll use your rendering. Will it be used as a background for a website, for print, or for a video? Will it be used in a small format or blown up to billboard size? Does it need to be animated? These are all important considerations that will help you make the right decisions throughout your project. For example, if you're planning on using your rendering as part of a video, then there's no point wasting time on putting in lots of tiny little details that no one will see when the image is moving. Instead, focus on getting more depth and contrast where possible so that the animation looks great. Alternatively, if the rendering is going to take center stage on the cover of a magazine spread then you should probably spend some extra time making sure everything is perfect!


10. Keep Experimenting

*Takeaway: You might get a great result but didn't expect it!

Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things. As long as you save your files before starting this, there’s nothing to lose. Maybe you’ll learn something new about the software that works for your image. Or maybe you’ll find a specific look that works well with a certain material or lighting situation. Either way, if you don’t save multiple variations of your images, then there is no way to learn from your mistakes. You might get a great result, but didn't expect it!


When I start a rendering project, I always have several iterations of the same file in different stages of completion. Some will have different lighting setups, some will have different materials or textures applied, some will have different backgrounds or environments applied, etc... A couple of my favorite ways to save out multiple variations are:


1- Save out separate files with the same name followed by numbers (ie; room_01.jpeg)


2- Save out files with descriptive names for each variation (ie lamp_scene_001a_lamp_off_sunset)




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