Atmospheric Cameras for DAZ Studio

Contents

Aiko stepping into dark, damp ruins with swords at the ready. Introduction Common Settings Easy Volume - NEW! Depth Camera Fog Camera Volume Camera Animating Parameters Quick Tips Known Issues

Introduction

Volumetric atmosphere produced by custom shader camera.

The AoA Atmospheric Effects Cameras now include five, completely procedural, shader based cameras for DAZ Studio. While the primary purpose of these are to produce fog and light reacting volumetric atmospheres they also include fun extras such as vignette, color correction and contrast adjustment. All effects appear right in the render and do not require any post work.


Common Settings

Camera parameter settings in DAZ Stuido 3 and 4

The four original cameras have sliders to adjust color, contrast and vignette as well as a background transparency switch. These features add little or no time to the render process.

Note: The new, Easy Volume Camera does not include these common settings because it was designed to be as fast and as easy to use as possible. Having only the most necessary settings for volumetric light rays makes for a less cluttered user interface and the fastest running code.

Background

The background setting controls whether or not the scene's background is transparent when the final render is saved as a PNG or TIFF file. This should be set to 1 (on) if the scene has areas of no geometry and you are using a vignette or simple fog. This setting does not effect true volumetric effects which require the scene have some sort of geometry fill the frame. See volume camera notes.

background settings

Color

In general, color and contrast are best done as a post process rather than at render time as it is usually faster to make adjustments. These features have been included because some users may not have access to an image editor or may prefer not to do any post work.

Settings

Vignette

Vignette emulates the darkening near the corners of a photograph caused by inexpensive or wide angle lenses and cameras using long lens hoods. Vignettes can be used to add realism to a render, giving the feel of an actual photograph, or artistically to draw more attention to a subject in the "hot spot" near the center of the frame.

Settings

Default render versus sepia tone preset

Easy Volume Camera - NEW!

A victorian art studio with God rays streaming through the large windows.

Easy Volume is a completely new, faster rendering and easier to use camera. It has completely new code, written in RSL, and can recognize certain settings in lights. This allows the camera to selectively add volume only to the lights you choose!

There are only 5 volume dials on the camera. The first three are Volume Color, Strength and Quality. These are fairly self explanatory.

The other two parameters allow you to decide which lights produce "God rays". This is achieved by telling the camera to look at the settings of all the lights in the scene and only use those which either have a certain Intensity setting or those labeled with a category of "foglight".

By flagging only certain lights, you can easily avoid any unwanted flooding of light from distant, ambient or environment lights and obtain rays only from the lights you want.

The AoA Advanced lights, available at DAZ3d, were specifically coded to work with the Easy Volume Camera. Volumetric effects render much faster when used with the AoA Advanced Lights and their __category label.

A soldier searches an abandoned laboratory only to find it has been overrun by zombies.

Settings

Applying the foglight preset to the Easy Volume Camera and Advanced DAZ Studio Lights

Depth Camera

Focus blur added in Gimp using a depth mask

The depth camera is a utility for creating what is often called a Z-Depth mask. It produces a black and white render where nearer objects are brighter than further objects. The resulting image can be used as a mask for creating various fog or depth of field adjustments in an image editor such as Photoshop or Gimp.

Depth mask used for creating displacement maps.

Rendering depth masks can also be a handy method of creating displacement maps from geometry.

Settings

Tip: This camera needs no lighting to produce a depth mask so all lights should be turned off for faster rendering.

NOTES: The depth mask does not take opacity into account. If it were to render the depth value behind transparent objects then items such as the chess pieces pictured below would not blur properly in post while using this mask. An unfortunate drawback is that transparency mapped items, such as hair, render as solid objects in the depth mask. See Quick Tips for a solution using the fog camera.


Fog Camera

A light fog creates a sense of scale

A sense of scale and atmosphere can be produced quickly using the fog camera. This camera adds color over distance to create a haze effect or can darken the scene to give the look of overcast or smoke filled skies. This camera renders very quickly. There should be little noticeable increase in render times using this effect.

Presets are included for various atmospheric settings. These were made with large scenes in mind and may need some adjustment to the visibility setting to better suit your scene.

Settings

Tip: In nature, overcast skies generally produce softer shadows than clear skies. To make the effect more convincing I find using a pale blue ambient light with occlusion and a white distant light with soft shadows, both set to around 50% intensity, works fairly well for foggy daytime lighting. The foggier the scene the higher I set the ambient strength and lower the distant light.


Volume Camera

Camera automatically creates volumetric lights

A true volume camera, this atmosphere is automatically effected by light and shadows. It has two key components, opacity density which absorbs light over distance and a light density which brightens and scatters light. The opacity setting is like the darkening from smoke or thick fog. The light density produces light cones and "God rays." While these effects on high settings can increase render times quite a bit the end result is quite remarkable.

Settings

Eliminating select light cones using distance settings.

NOTES: Volume cameras must have some form of geometry in the background in order to be properly calculated. The geometry can be anything, a sky dome or simply a plane primitive so long as there are no blank areas in the frame. For instance, if you place a point light in a blank scene and render nothing will show. Place a plane primitive anywhere behind the point light and the render should show the volumetric glow from the light.

These effects react to all light sources in the scene including the default "Headlamp" DAZ Studio provides when no other lights are in the scene. I highly recommend setting up some lights for your scene before turning on these volumetric effects.

Use low render and volume settings while making adjustments to speed up test renders. Things to watch out for are high shadow or ambient occlusion samples, low shading rates and high quality settings on the volume camera. Light shining through transparent items may also increase render times.


Animating Parameters

All settings are key framable so can be animated. This allows for color, fog density, turbulence, depth of field or whatnot to be changed throughout your animation.

Off-On sliders are absolute so they would not be good candidates for animation. If one were to set Fog off at frame 1 and fog on at frame 48 the animation would show no fog for the first 24 frames then suddenly turn on for frames 25-48.

Because of how DAZ Studio treats 100% black or white some care should be taken when animating color values to or from black or white. To get an animated fade from, say, bright blue to black it is best to set the final frame to 0,0,1 (a very dark blue) than to use 0,0,0. This insures a smooth transition from blue to 99% black. The image below illustrates why this works best.

How to create an in-camera fade.

Quick Tips

General

Easy Volume Camera

Depth Camera

Fog Camera

Volume Camera


Known Issues

Update - March 2014 An update was issued to add the bonus Easy Volume Camera and fix an issue which caused the Contrast feature to have artifacts in DS 4.6 renders.

If, after loading and selecting the Easy Volume Camera, you notice no Volume Settings available in the parameters tab then the camera may not have installed correctly. Please see the Atmosphere Cameras Update thread in the DAZ3d forums for solutions.

In DS 4.6.0.18 the Volume Cameras may render with square artifacts around objects which are flagged by any Advanced Light to not be illuminated. These artifacts did not appear when testing the Easy Volume Camera in a later version of DAZ Studio.

You may see an error in the render message window similar to "3Delight message #145 (Severity 1): S2073: 'SceneMin' is not a parameter of shader 'brickyard/{ba652b84..." I believe it to be a minor DS/Shader Mixer internal token error which I have no control over. This should not cause any problems.

Do not use the Volume Camera with Shader Mixer created mesh lights in DS4.5 or earlier. A bug could cause DAZ Studio to crash when Shader Mixer created mesh lights are used with the Volume Camera.

The DAZ Studio Linear fall off point light may have some artifacts when using the Volume Camera in DS4.5 or earlier. This can be improved by setting the Falloff Start to 0.00 on the light.


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