Creating the rays

ex270.jpg - 15kbFirst we will deal with the glare of light on the water. On the water control panel, lower both direct sunlight and reflection spread. The precise levels will depend on the terrain, water and sun position in any individual picture, and you will need to experiment to find the settings for your own pictures. For this one I also raised the visibility effect too, to help to keep the waves from looking too exaggerated in the foreground on a big rendering of the final picture.

For a fuller explanation of the water control settings, see PAGE 2.

ex271.jpg - 57kbThese are the settings I used on the cloud control. Again, they are not set in stone and you may need to vary them for another image. Details of the cloud controller and its settings are on PAGE 15.

First I generated new clouds, and on the generator set the maximum cloud size to one step to the right of the normal default position. Persistence and Occurrence I left at the normal default settings.

Density contrast and density shift are taken higher than the defaults, and the darkening setting I took to 86%, but made no changes to cloud colour.

3d clouds was checked, and I raised the altitude and cloud thickness settings. I start with these at 100 and 10 respectively, and experiment to find the settings which are best for a picture, but they will need to be higher than the defaults. The levels in the illustration were the ones I finally settled on for this one. I then generated clouds, previewed them, generated again, changed the altitude and thickness settings until I got clouds where I wanted them, in the top right corner, and showing sunbeams. At this stage, patience and perseverance are needed because it can be quite difficult to get the clouds in the right place and with the right density to generate the beams.

ex272.jpg - 5kbThis is the preview of the clouds I settled for. You can see too that the glare is gone from the water. But the overall scene is still dark, it is not yet a sunset scene and the rays are not very well defined. The illustrations below show the settings I used on the atmosphere control to change the scene to a sunset. Details of atmosphere settings begin on PAGE 6.

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The colour settings shown here were only applied to simple haze. All other colour settings were left at the default. The sunset effect was achieved by the simple means of raising the decay value.

The next group of illustrations show the settings on the various tabs of the sun/light generator. Details of the sun and light settings begin on PAGE 4. No further changes were made to the Sun's Appearance settings.

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The sunlight strength was taken to 700%. This sort of level needs to be combined with lowering the glow amount and glow power, or the clouds will be over-lit. But having a stronger sunlight will not only help the sunbeams to show, it will also help to light this very dark scene a little. You need to preview when setting all these levels, to make sure that you have not overdone the sunlight strength and washed out the sunbeams, but on the whole, quite high settings are needed. The effect of atmosphere was raised and the cloud cover lowered. The realistic sunlight penetration system needs to be checked.

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Shadow lightness is taken to 100% for this scene because of the heavy shadows on all the mountains, especially the foreground one. It will lift them out of blackness, while still leaving them in shadow. Multi-directional shadow lighting is checked.

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Glow amount and power are reduced to compensate for the sunlight strength. These two settings control the sun's light in the atmospheres and the clouds. The high sunlight strength will light them too, but will also cast light into the scene helping to improve the over-darkness.

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These two final groups of settings are on the render control. On the left are the camera settings. The exposure is raised a little, again to help with the excessive darkness of the scene. High contrast film is checked.

On the right are the quality settings I used for the render, accessed by the Settings button below the preview. I used these settings mainly because my computer is old and slow. I would strongly recommend taking the two sliders to maximum and checking ultra if you have a fast machine. They will improve the quality of the render. But I should then have to leave the render all night to get a 640x480 image, so I accept the slight reduction in quality in return for a render taking about an hour. Exposure settings are described on PAGE 14 and render quality settings on PAGE 16.

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Here is a reduced size render of the final scene. You can see that there is heavy banding in the dark part of the cloud, and in the final render I took the image into Paint Shop Pro and smudged that area to remove the banding. I also smudged the very pointed shadows in the water beside the left hand mountain, because they looked too geometrical and unnatural to me. You can view the full size scene here

On the next page we shall look at some alternative renders of this scene, and also at another scene and its settings - different levels in many areas, because there is no one set of parameters which will produce sunbeams. You have to be prepared to experiment to find the ones that suit the scene you are rendering.