Re: how to create highlights in a car body?
Hmm.. modos rendering system seems a bit simpler. Mental Ray isn't all bad. It's just irritating and even over many years of integration still has issues and quirks with what it will and will not accept. Maya probably has better rigging tools than modo. It has particle generators and physics simulations, built in fluid and cloth simulations, etc.
While I do like some things, the only stuff thing really motivated the choice was what is common around my own market. Maya really is a very unintuitive piece of software with some of its tools hidden in far corners and some tools present in almost every other piece of 3d software just missing. The other thing that makes it irritating is that if you're looking for or at training material including books or whatever (I've owned several books on the topic, although I haven't found any I really liked), you can't find enough looking at only stuff from the current year (unless you take a course where the instructor is really up to date and very open to questions), and if you look at older material, much of it is dated. They completely overhauled the cloth system. Fur didn't always render properly in Mental Ray (and it still has trouble with raytracing enabled for shadows). Materials and the way they're displayed in the hypershade changed over time. They hid the split polygon tool to encourage use of the newer variant which is in many ways inferior. The nurbs tools are really out of date in many ways, which is sad because if you're building anything like architecture, furniture, etc. for a scene, they're absolutely amazing and you can output a loft or birail directly into a typically clean polygon object. Unfortunately documentation on those tools can be pretty weak. If you're trying to figure out why something isn't working, the error scripts aren't always helpful either. Extrude has some weird behavior if you aren't careful as hell with it. You can end up generating extra faces and edges. Unlike some programs maya will not tolerate orphaned border edges, so you have to work within that limitation. The sculpting tools are quite dated. They're useful for basic functions like relax, but anyone who does any heavy sculpting tends to use zbrush or mudbox. Modo's out of the box tools are definitely more usable there (sculpting), but not like something like zbrush. Basically modo has fairly usable tools in some areas where you'd (often) rely on a plugin or another piece of software in maya.
I think the main issues are that some of the modeling and retopology tools could use a similar treatment to what max received when they bought out the polyboost developer, an inset function for the extrude tool, and it could use some improvements on UV workflow. It's not unworkable at all. It's just that some of this stuff is so far behind other programs, yet it's entrenched in the workflows of many studios, and that isn't going to change over the issues that I mentioned.
In their lighting system, it can be quite a lot to learn. There are a lot of shaders used specifically to alter light pattern and temperature via black body shaders. You have lens shaders and a couple gamma viewing options for materials if you're outputting for a linear workflow.
I looked at places that do the best retouching for what they used as their choice of 3d software. These are places that primarily handle advertising. One used Max. The rest used maya. I'm sure I haven't been through all of them, but I either looked up this stuff on them or called and asked.
You know... most of the time they go the other direction. Much of the time the environments are photographic, and the cars are cg. Even if they're building a cg environment, they're probably using photographic texture maps for much of it. If they have to UV the thing, that's also a factor. With photographic environments they'll typically have a backplate and a spherical hdri, basically a 360 panorama with full hdr data so that it can be used to help facilitate lighting of the cg object. It doesn't mean that's their entire lighting setup, but some amount of ibl for a controlled reflection can help ground it in the scene. It just requires some subtlety, and computers are fast enough to where you can make a number of passes for different details much like you'd see with a still photograph. Car photos in general have a massive amount of illustration and composite work even on the simple setups.
Re: how to create highlights in a car body?
Automotive photographers combine a lot of exposures. If you put your camera on a tripod and you walk around the car with a strobe or fluor you'll get a lot of diffrent exposures. You combine the exposures you want to use and use those parts of the photo you need to get the right effect. Ofcourse there are professional retouchers who can add gradients, but I think most automotive photographers use the technique I described above.
One of my photo's, which shows the light from the fluor above the car and it's reflections in the bodywork. I am sure it would be an easy job for a pro retoucher to straighten the reflections in the panels. I used about 15 diffrent photo's to create this photo.
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