Making of Balcony Pool – day and night
Hi, my name is Ricardo Cossoli. I am based in Argentina and primarily work in the area of architectural visualization, both 2D and 3D. This includes 3D modeling, photorealism, photomontages, studies of materials and lighting. I welcomed this opportunity to make this tutorial for SketchUpArtists and especially for James, who saw my finished images and wanted to learn more about them.
This tutorial is based on an outdoor day render (natural lighting) and a night time render (artificial lighting). The challenge I set myself was to assemble both different lighting scenes in the same model and configure all materials so they respond well in both cases (both day and night). I hope I’ve succeeded. The software I used in this tutorial was Google SketchUp, V-Ray for SketchUp and Photoshop. My 3D model is available for download here if you want to examine it closely and follow along with this tutorial.
This is how I basically model a scene. I try to keep it as simple as possible and optimize it always by using layers, which enable me to work more efficiently and keep things better organized (each group has a corresponding layer for components, such as furniture, floors, railings etc..). My workflow is pretty much the same steps each time, basic modeling is the first stage followed by lighting adjustments, adding textures and components (in this case all components are 3D Warehouse models or other download pages with free models). After these adjustments comes lighting and textures for materials which are suitably adjusted until the scene reflects what I’m looking for.
With components I tend to use free components and edit the materials and properties within them, thus making them more suitable for my scene. Often this process includes adjusting their geometry or some other necessary details.
In terms of materials and textures, the V-Ray materials are provided and configured by using SketchUp V-Ray vismats made by me (see following images showing some settings), always trying to set the channel Diffuse and Reflection for each material in a scene, which gives added twinkle to the area and improves realism for the set.
Material Settings – Water
Material Settings – Wood
Material Settings – Metal Table
A render result is not only an image but can also be an image with various support channels (render elements) that serve different functions such as the Alpha Channel, a channel with its own lighting, Ambient Occlusion, Depth of Field etc… Each scene also has different configurations, as we know, V-Ray has different configurations depending on the type of lighting and time of day you want to interpret.
V-Ray Daytime Light Values
As you can see I always use physical camera and V-Ray sky to naturally illuminate my scenes. I think it is the best and most accurate way to do this. We must also correctly handle the values of the physical camera, being careful not to force it. By this I mean not to force it to achieve a scene that is illuminated by just changing values, because by doing this you will only achieve unsatisfactory lighting and in such cases it is better to rely on some other type of lights or increase the values of ambient lighting.
V-Ray Night Time Light Values
Night lighting is very different, but only on aspects of global illumination and the physical camera settings. If you look at the following screenshots you will notice that I used HDRI in global illumination, color of the sky and the reflections of the channel environment. I could use only one color to give the tone I wanted in the scene, but in carrying out different tests to get better results, I found that the HDRI background provided much better colors and reflections in the final image.
The last step of an image for me is post-production, using photo editing software, in this particular case Photoshop. There are two important things for me in this part of the process. I think post production is very important in the image making work flow, because it enables us to be more individual and lets us add a unique defined style to our work, allowing us to differentiate our design creations from others (in case we want to achieve that of course!). Also keep in mind the result we want to achieve with our image as we begin and have yourself a target set if the end result is not expected.
In the following collection of different Photoshop screenshots I show the steps I used for editing the images for both the day scene and night scene. Also the different channels (Render Elements) used from the rendering (Depth of Field, Ambient Occlusion, etc.).
With the inclusion of rendering channels in my work flow, I chose to add these two in particular, because they are the ones that help me better define surfaces or edges (ambient occlusion) and different depths in the same scene (Z-depth for depth of field).
As for the Ambient Occlusion, I could have configured it directly in the scene but by also making it separately and then mounting it in Photoshop, you achieve much better results and better control.
With the Depth of Field you could blur it with brushes and Photoshop Blur, but the results are not always optimal and set it in the scene for rendering greatly increases render times.
Photoshop Post-Production – Daylight Scene
The Ambient Occlusion render element is on top of layer stack with original raw render under it. I set the Blend Mode to Multiply, Opacity to 50% and Fill to about 74%.
Next a suitable city landscape at the bottom of the Layer stack.
I added my sky next to the background.
Next some color adjustment on the original raw rendered image ( Layer 2 from the top) using Selective Color (Image>Adjustments>Selective Color). Here I adjust the greens.
I duplicated Layer 2, the original raw render image, and added some Gaussian Blur (Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur) to this new layer. I set the Radius value to 5.0 pixels.
I now add a Warming Filter to the Layer (Image>Adjustments>Photo Filter). Set the Blend Mode to Soft Light.
Next, a little Lens adjustment (Filter>Lens Correction).
In V-Ray, not only can we get the original color rendering image, we also get a variety of channels containing different information with different results. Two channels used for these images were the Self Illumination channel (for night scene) and the Z-depth channel for daytime and night time scene (It should be noted, to use these extra resources you should have some knowledge of Photoshop).
With the V-Ray Z-depth render element, this adds more depth to the image by focusing on a particular element or desired sector in it. When using this effect, care must be taken not to use to much blur in some areas because it can cause loss of image scale. I combined the Z-depth image by creating an Alpha channel and modifying the values through the Lens Blur Filter. Currently there are many plugins available to do this effect in Photoshop, with similar results to Lens Blur. This is an example tutorial which briefly gives an idea of what is involved in the process. The image below shows the Z-depth image and extra channel called Alpha 1.
The image below shows the effect with value settings for the Lens Blur Filter set at; Source alpha 1, Blur Focal Distance 65, Radius 9, Threshold 255 and Distribution set on Uniform. The focus is on the table and chairs.
Some final little tweaks and the completed daytime image.
Photoshop Post-Production – Night Time Scene
With the night time scene, I started with the colored night rendered image from V-Ray. You can see a close up of some of the lights in it.
These are the screenshots of the configuration of IES lights that appear in the spots. They show the values of light and a screen capture of the IES viewer where you see what kind of light cone I used.
The other image I used was the Self Illumination channel from the V-Ray render. I use this to enhance the brightness of the emitting materials.
With the Self Illumination image placed on top of the Layer stack, I use the following settings to combine the two images; Blending Mode set to Screen, Layer Transparency set to about 69% and Fill Opacity set to 91%. And the result is below. I also used the Diffuse Glow Filter to further enhance the effect.
Next some color adjustment on the original raw rendered color image using Selective Color (Image>Adjustments>Selective Color). Here I adjust the greens.
Following this, I selected the pool and adjusted the Brightness to +26 and the Contrast to -5 on the original colored Layer.
Next I used a vectorized image of a flashlight to give a gloss around the appliance, some rendering systems have this option built in, V-Ray for SketchUp currently does not have this option so is something we have had to add in post production.
For the candle glow effect I used a Star Brush, I thought best suited for the job with the Opacity set at 55%. The color I chose was #F7DB9C.
The Ambient Occlusion render element is combined (on top of ) the original color raw render image and the Blending Mode set to Multiply.
Now with my Layers merged together I copy Layer O and add some Gaussian Blur to this new Layer and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light with the following settings; Blend Mode Soft Light, Opacity 58% and Fill Opacity 31%. This is something I use to give contrast to the image.
With Layers merged again I add the Z-depth channel image on top. The V-Ray Z-depth render element will add more depth to the image. Again I combined the Z-depth to the image by creating an Alpha channel and modifying the values through the Lens Blur filter as I did in the daytime image.
Final image with Z-depth channel added.
Thanks for reading my tutorial and I hope it will help you in your own professional workflow.