The Forefront – More real than reality

Heya folks this piece is building upon my previous entry from “The Forefront” series where I look at some recent developments in CG and comment on how they have shaped aspects of the project. This particular entry has more to do with CG renders, texturing and materials, but feel free to stick around for a peak behind the curtains.

Ever noticed how sometimes you can render a perfectly accurate object like a metallic ball in an environment and realize it just doesn’t look as good as you’d hoped? You’ve got your lights set up, materials using values from scientific papers on refraction and roughness studies, 8k textures with crisp details – but that scene just doesn’t look as good as what you saw on the big screen a few days ago.
If you have experienced this you may have arrived at the dilemma that you have a choice… make something look good ooor make something accurate.

Now this does build upon some of points in the previous “The Forefront” post, but in essence a great deal of our assumptions on how things are supposed to look come from film. This in turn means that when you use the light information from a HDRI map of a room your results will look vastly different from a film scene shot in the same room.
That is because in the film industry it is a director’s job to make ever shot of every angle look good – this means that there are a ton of small subtle light sources off-screen aimed at bringing out (OR HIDING!) small subtle details that make the shot look good while still making it look “realistic” (at relatively fluid term in the last “The Forefront” post).

Moreover VFX heavy films like Transformers use a ton of VFX to enhance, add or remove effects or artifacts that fall perfectly into the every shot.
On top of the physically based materials (or BPR shaders) are always modified to either emit, reflect or absorb light in an inaccurate manner so that a particular shot of a robot’s face has clear reflections or is well lit in a dark environment.

(Example of metal with Fresnel effect – “Technically, applying fresnel falloff to metal material isn’t physically correct. But who cares?” – Gleb Alexandov)

This philosophy can be extended into other effect like light caustics as well to great effect.

(Example of metal with Fresnel effect – “You rarely get cool caustics. Fake it.” – Gleb Alexandov)

This philosophy of exaggerating effects is by no means a negative aspect of CGI, if just something to be aware of, Gleb Alexandov is an amazing artist who regularly pushes his work to the next level with very subtle changes that add a massive amount of depth to his work. Other still like J.J.Abrams have used effects like multiple lens flare types (maybe a bit too much sometimes) which is an effect that is dictated by the lens of a camera and not the light source type… (that not who the world works)

In games titles like Mass Effect have completely inaccurate lens flare models where different sprites will spawn from different places in the environment so that the effects of 5 lights don’t fill up your screen completely.
Other titles like Dark Souls 3 always have 3 invisible lights following your character so that he remains well lit with a combination of warm and cold lights that highlight your silhouette and give that shiny armor something to reflect even when in complete darkness.

In the end while we currently do have the means to easily create realistic assets I believe the job of an artist is currently more important than ever as anyone can make a realistic object or any type, but it take an extra imaginative spark to make people care about it.

Gleb, A. (2017). Create Realistic Ice and Awesome Refraction in Blender. [online] Creative Shrimp. Available at: [Accessed 11 Apr. 2017].

Gleb, A. (2017). How to Make Metal Material in Blender? • Creative Shrimp. [online] Creative Shrimp. Available at: [Accessed 10 Apr. 2017].


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