High quality snapshots will put the finishing touches on your home design project presentations. To get that extra sparkle in your images will take some forethought, some testing and some patience, but you’ll notice the difference and so will your viewers.
You have several choices that you can decide on before you start the rendering and even more when it’s finished. I’ll be describing what the choices are and showing examples, so you’ll become more confident as you go through the process. Check out the blog post on creating a Normal quality snapshot for the basics.
To get started, click on the Camera tool which is the same as for a Normal quality snapshot (blue arrow).
Next I want to switch from Normal to High quality, so I’ll click on the right-facing arrow at the bottom of the page (blue arrow). To switch back to Normal quality just click the left arrow.
This brings up a menu on the left with three pre-render choices that I can make: Radiosity (Normal or Partial), Soft Shadow and Anti aliasing level. For my first test renders, I render the image without changing anything except if I’ve added lights. In that case I’ll click on Radiosity and set it to Normal.
Since the final rendering will take longer (depending on my settings, my computer hardware and my internet connection), I want to do as much of my setup in the beginning as possible.
1 – First I get my view very close to what I want. If I’m doing an interior view, I make sure that the avatar is inside the room and that no part of the avatar is inside a wall, window or door frame. If I’m doing an exterior overall shot, the avatar will still determine the position of my view. In both cases the avatar will not appear in the actual snapshot.
2 – With my view chosen, I next carefully adjust my lighting date and time. I can always turn the Camera tool off and make fixes, but it’s faster to get the basics right beforehand.
3 – I always do a quick High quality render right away to quickly check the basics. Just click on the red button and rendering will start immediately. As it runs, I go through my list:
- Is the view right?
- Does my ceiling appear (on indoor renderings)?
- Is the lighting right?
- Is the cropping good? Did I compensate correctly for the cropping of the image on the left and right)?
- Can I tweak the position of items in the view slightly to make the overall view even better?
- Are all the perimeter edges free of awkward- looking space and angles?
If I like what I’m seeing, I’ll let the render finish and save a copy for reference using the Share button which will appear along with the final render. The movement of the progress bar (big yellow ellipse) gives me a good sense of how much progress is being made. If I notice that something is wrong or it is taking too long, I just click on the CANCEL RENDERING button (blue arrow). It can take a few seconds for the rendering to stop as the code disentangles itself. Then I make my fixes and run another test render. Most of the time I’ll do at least four or five tests before I make my final render.
Now let’s discuss those pre-rendering options. They can have a big effect on my results. After my rendering is complete I’ll have additional options to further improve the image.
Ambient light is always on in your snapshots. It is the global fixed-intensity and fixed-color light that renders all the objects in the scene with a specified intensity and color. When I put in lights, they are in addition to the ambient light. The purpose of Radiosity is to simulate how light reflects off one one surface and onto another. These reflections help create soft shadows and realistic color reflections from one object to another.
If you leave Radiosity off, the effects of your lights will not appear. Normal Radiosity shows the full effects of your lighting plus the always present ambient light. Radiosity can also be set in the Partial mode to reduce the amount of light generated. Partial Radiosity take longer to render, but it gives better soft shadow results. If I see that important bright parts of my images are entirely white and without any details using Normal Radiosity, I’ll reduce the Radiosity to Partial. It can make a big difference. The image on the left is a Normal quality snapshot and on the right is a High quality snapshot with Partial Radiosity, Soft Shadow on and the Anti aliasing level at 6. There’s quite a difference!
Turning on the Soft Shadow option realistically reduces the contrast between shadows and full light. Selecting the Partial radiosity setting will give the best Soft Shadow results. The top image was created using Normal Radiosity and Soft Shadow was on. Notice how much more subtle the shadows are in the lower image where Partial Radiosity was used. In particular the shadows on the top of the stack of parts bins and inside the bin holding the two oval parts is much nicer and more realistic. The extra time is worth it when you need the best.
Anti aliasing level:
The Anti aliasing level setting is used to progressively improve the “jaggies” – the stair step effect that keeps your images from looking smooth. HomeByMe Anti aliasing levels can be set in increments of one from 1 to 6. As the increment goes up so does the rendering time, so only use the highest increments when you need them. While writing this post, the placeholder images I use are usually rendered with the level set at 1 and then I do the final images at a higher setting. I mostly use 4-5, since the images are only 600 pixels wide and the screen resolution is fixed at 72. For printing I always use the max setting of 6 even though the renders can take quite awhile.
When my render is complete I have six post-render options to work with to make the image even better. Whichever option I choose, I’ll be careful to move the sliders very slowly (or click close to one side of the button or the other) because the image is being quickly re-rendered with each new slider position. If I move slowly I’ll have a chance to see the results before making another adjustment. Each post-render option is explained below.
This is the overall amount of light in my rendering – it is the exposure level. As I move the slider to the right it will get brighter (left image) and if I move it to the left it will get darker (right image). The default setting is quite good in most cases.
The amount of contrast in your image is controlled by the Gamma setting. In the left image you can see that it is much lighter, less color saturated and there is very little contrast. The right image is quite dark, over-saturated and the contrast is too strong. I usually darken the Gamma just a little, but that really depends on the exposure, so I work with both until I’m happy.
Aperture & Focus:
I put these two controls together because I’ll have to use both to change the focus of the image. Our own eyes do an incredible job of re-focusing constantly as we change our view. To take a snapshot I can decide where I want the focal point to be since it gives a great sense of depth and allows me to draw attention to the area of the image that I want to. The default settings are great at providing an image that is in focus from the foreground to the background. If I want the background to be a little softer, slightly out of focus, I’ll leave the Focus where it is and move the Aperture to the left slightly past the focus. If I want the foreground slightly soft, I’ll move the Focus all the way to the right and the Aperture even further to the left. If I start seeing little black stars or bunches of black points (blue ellipses), I know that I’m at the limit and may need to back up a little.
Random changes in the accuracy of pixel rendering/grain distribution generates Noise. In film photography, the distribution of the film grains combined with low light exposure produces more Noise. Digital sensors are also susceptible to Noise, again more so in low light situations. Usually Noise is considered something to be filtered out and eliminated, but if I want that effect I can add or reduce Noise in any snapshot by simply moving the slider to the left or right. The image on the left has has some Noise added and the image on the right has quite a bit.
Extremely bright light in an image will cause Bloom. Sometimes it can be desirable if you are trying to create a fuzzy, dream-like image. It can also be used to keep details from changing the intended point of interest in my image, like the door and handle in the left blue ellipse. Bloom can also cause the dreaded “black stars” (right hand blue ellipse) which make an image look odd. Most often I prefer to keep Bloom to a minimum by reducing the exposure setting or changing from Normal Radiosity to Partial Radiosity.
Now that you have a good background on all the amazing things that HomeByMe can do as it renders High quality snapshots, don’t keep the results to yourself! We have four ways to share our images: Facebook (1), Twitter (2), saving the file (3) and printing it (4). Even High quality snapshot file sizes are only a little over 100 KB, which is great for sharing in just about every way. The files are in *.jpeg format and are a generous 1200 x 800 pixels in size. It’s a good idea to keep dated copies of the stages of my project designs in case I need to go back and recreate something. Comparing the same project with different interior design treatments is also easier when I have multiple images to look at.
Thanks for going through the details! There are plenty of choices for you to explore and see what works the best for you. The more High quality snapshots you make the better you’ll get at matching the right choice with just the right creative situation. Have fun trying out the various tools and the people you share with will be surprised how good your results are!
Now it’s your turn!