Published: 16th February 2018
My first project at Lightmap was to download a 3D watch model and texture, light and render within Maya and Arnold. Although the model was good, it was not smooth or detailed as required, so I re-modelled a large part of the watch to increase the detail required for a high quality render and optimised the remaining elements, tweaking and altering to achieve a smooth and detailed outcome.
Topics featured in this blog post:
A large challenge of this project was learning the Arnold shaders and understanding how to create realistic materials. The toughest materials were the gold and glass – the gold was difficult to find the perfect colour and shiny surface and the glass was difficult as the transparency and refraction was challenging to make the surface look as realistic as possible. To overcome this I found some incredibly helpful tutorials which guided me to achieve the desired effect.
The tutorials I used to guide me through the material process for Maya and Arnold were:
Below is an example of the material set-up for the watch within Maya:
Main elements to this material is using a diffuse texture file in the color node, adding a normal map in to the geometry then bump mapping node and a displacement in to the displacement mat node, (this is shown in more detail within this post).
The main aspect to this material is to disable the colour/diffuse node so that it is black or null. Another is to adjust the transmission nodes to the desired effect of the glass you want to achieve. The IOR within the specular tab is also very important for the glass effect. To get the realism of this material it is advised to use a IOR setting that represents real world glass, a site I found useful with a large list for different types of IOR settings for multiple materials can be found at: https://pixelandpoly.com/ior.html
Similar to the glass the colour/diffuse needs to be disabled with a black colour, the gold colour is added into the specular node and again the IOR is import for this material. (IOR settings: https://pixelandpoly.com/ior.html)
Another challenge was adding detail into the textures using the displacement node. This was a challenge because my technique for using displacements were different compared to the method in Arnold and Maya. I found that placing the displacement would result in the texture extruding outward, and I was not aware that there was a setting to control the displacement. To solve the issue I found a useful tutorial:
I have added an image below to show the process and settings I used in this project:
Open up the attribute editor (Ctrl+A) and locate the material, then press the next tab button which is a box with an arrow towards the right (as shown in the image above).
Within the next tab should be a tab called Shading Group Attributes, navigate to the next tab next to the Displacement Mat (as shown in the image above).
The next tab should have the Displacement Attributes tab which is were the settings are controlled for the displacement. I imported my displacement map and used the scale node to determine the size accordingly to my model, the setting for my model may not work for another so it is important to preview render the effect and adjust accordingly.
HDR Light Studio Lighting set-up
Using HDR Light Studio (HDRLS) in my first big project was a great experience, I automatically was able to see how powerful and effective the software was and the difference between using HDRLS and using lights within Maya. For all my renders I used HDRLS and was able to achieve a similar lighting outcome by painting the lights on to the model and choosing which areas to light, with flexible settings controlling size, amount and colour. Below is the set up I used for the Maya scene:
Maya and Arnold render results:
After achieving a high quality render in Arnold I had the challenge of exporting the watch into 3ds Max, Cinema 4D and Modo and attempted to achieve a similar result in these software packages. During this challenge I learnt how to adapt the knowledge I had gained in Arnold over to the other software packages and used tutorials to guide me through the process as each material setup had different names, methods and shader qualities.
Material Edtior: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zGxe8i9uuc
3ds Max tutorials:
Material editor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNaXrWcbQfw
Creating shaders: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oi4CRu-2ktM
I re-visited this project after learning and using the software packages in further depth and learning new techniques, which would result in a improved and higher quality render. My aim was to achieve a render in each software that were: very similar in results, high quality and influenced by advertisements.
I started this process by researching into watch photography and learning the rules, techniques and set-up used for advertising watches. The site I found most useful, with the information I wanted to find is available at:
The site lists 10 different tips for watch photography, and although it is not specific for 3D the methods can be used or transferred over. The tip I found extremely useful was the display of the watch itself, the site outlines that the majority of watch advertisements have the hands of the watch at 10 minutes past 10 with the minutes hand at plus or minus 30-33 seconds. This gives the watch a symmetrical display, dividing it into thirds which visually captures the audience. After learning this I adjusted the time on my watch face as the hands were not exact on my previous renders. I also wanted to improve the face as I noticed that it was not fully symmetrical after setting the hands which did not give the desired effect. I completely re-modelled the full face, including the gold metal holding the face using the new methods I gained since joining Lightmap.
The next step was composition. For this I gathered a range of reference material from advertisements of watches (shown below).
I also researched into composition and how to use perspective, I found a useful site demonstrating a range of composition techniques for photography to understand the methods in order to apply them in 3D. The site is available at:
Lastly I researched into watch photography and realistic rendering in 3D to combine the methods together to help me achieve a better outcome. The tutorials I used were:
3D Product 3ds Max rendering:
Photorealistic Rendering with V-Ray, 3ds Max:
Below are the render results that I achieved from each software after re-visiting this project:
Maya and Arnold:
Cinema 4D and Octane:
3ds Max and V-Ray:
Below are my first and second renders of the watch in each software to show the differences and improvements:
3ds Max renders:
From this first project I learnt a great amount of new skills, knowledge and techniques which helped me to gain an outcome which was already a large improvement from my previous work. I believe that using sources, tutorials and being within a professional environment enabled me to push myself and my work to the next level.