SketchUp). Not because it’s better than Max, but I find it super fast for building design process. Because we do architecture, SU is very good with boxes and simple shapes. If you want to get into character modeling, Max or Mudbox is better for that.
backface culling is un-checked so I can render both sides of a mesh. If I have a single plane of glass then I check Thin walls. If my glass is a box or has thickness, then I leave it as solid/thick. I find the real magic behind getting realistic renders lay in the material reflections. I usually have a reflection map that drives how much reflection takes place. In this tile material, the grout lines are black meaning no reflection, and the tile is more white meaning a lot of reflection. I use the same map for a bump effect. I almost always have my glossy reflections lower than 1.0. For this example I have it set to 0.4 – meaning the reflection is scattered at 60%, in this case with 8 samples.
mr sky portals, for a total of 315 lights in my scene. This many lights in a scene would typically be brutal. However, for my photometric lights, I opted to use Point for my Shadow type. It doesn’t look as good as the other options (Line, Rectangle, Disc, Sphere), but renders much faster than the others at their default setting. For every shadow that Point renders, the other options render 32 samples per shadow. So this is a big render saver. For my photometric lights, I usually use the default light levels, and switch to photometric web using an IES file for the distribution. As for the mr sky portals, I try to limit their use to just where the large windows are. Render times take a big hit from mr sky portal shadows as well.
This is the Ambient Occlusion Pass. If you want to know how to do this, check this post out.
This is a flare pass for the lights. This can be created in 3ds max, or in post. I usually create this image in PS, it’s faster and gives me greater control on what the flares look like.
This image is a dummy people pass. I rendered this one out to give me correct scale for adding people in PS later. This way my people won’t look like giants or elves when I scale them.
These are the people that replace the dummy people. To each person I add motion blur, reflections, shadows etc. Then I save this as a .png file and add it to my beauty pass.
Lastly, I render a Z depth pass. Depending on the rendering I sometimes use this. If there really isn’t an object in the foreground then often I don’t use this at all, and rather just manually blur the edges of my image.
With all of these passes combined in PS, AE or other compositing photo/video editing software, you can take your original image and turn it into something much stronger visually. This quick video should give you an idea of how I add all of these elements together using color correcting, layers, levels, to transform a raw rendering into a finished rendering.
If you would like to see all of my renderings from the KHS project, click here.