Master MODO portraits: Lighting, render outputs and post work

In this part of the tutorial series, we'll take a look at the lighting, Render Outputs and post work to finalize a 3D portrait

In this part of the tutorial series, we'll take a look at the lighting, Render Outputs and post work to finalize a 3D portrait

3D Artist Bert Heynderickx - aka Alberto Ezzy - discusses the lighting setup of this stunning 3D female portrait, as well as how different Render Outputs can be applied in post-production

Part 1: Improve your geometry in MODO
Part 2: Create perfect image maps with MARI
Part 3: Master skin, hair and fur

In the first part of this mini-series, we began with a look at the creation of a female portrait, 'My Kiwi Friend', in MODO. We then went on to discover how to create the various image maps needed to texture the female model, using MARI for the most part, with a little Photoshop as well. Then in the third part we looked at how to import those previously made image maps into MODO's Shader Tree, as well as the Hair and Fur settings.

So in this instalment, we're going to take a look at the scene setup now, lighting by Area lights, as well as using a custom HDRI map. We'll also see how different Render Outputs from MODO can come in handy in Photoshop. As with all the previous parts, I am using an AMD FirePro™ W9000 for the workflow featured, which I personally find to be a great solution for high-res character creation.

You can download a free trial of MODO to follow along with this tutorial.

Step 1: Scene setup

In this scene I'm using both direct and indirect lighting. As I'm working with a studio shot, there's no sunlight or physically based daylight involved. The direct lighting is instead done with two Area lights, and the indirect lighting is done with an HDRI map that I have created using HDR Light Studio.

I'm using a camera with a focal length of 80mm. Let's have a look at the simple scene setup:

This setup seems deceptively simple, but there's a lot more lighting going on by the custom HDRI!

This setup seems deceptively simple, but there's a lot more lighting going on by the custom HDRI!

Step 2: Area lights

My main Area Light on the left has a radiance of 3.0 W/srm2. The fill Area light on the right (and closer to the top) is set to 0.6 W/srm2. The Area light type is similar to a studio soft box style light, often used in professional photography because of the soft shadows they produce. These are excellent for creating photorealistic lighting effects, as they create a very natural light emission and smooth shading.

Let's isolate these two lights and see how they contribute to the lighting of this scene:

<h5>I chose Area Lights as the Direct Light Types because of their natural light emission and smooth shading</h5>

I chose Area Lights as the Direct Light Types because of their natural light emission and smooth shading

Step 3: Reflection in the eyes

I had a specific point in mind for the highlights of the eyes. A great tool to handle this job effortlessly was the HDR Light Studio software (please see my Top Tip at the end of this tutorial). In Reflection LightPaint Mode, it lets you click on your 3D model in the MODO viewport to move the active light to a new location that will be reflected in that part of your 3D model. Amazing stuff! It's mostly used for product and automotive shots, but I also like to use it in this kind of portrait shot, too.

<h5>Reflections at a specific point is literally one click away with HDR Light Studio</h5>

Reflections at a specific point is literally one click away with HDR Light Studio

Step 4: Painting light

Now in Illumination LightPaint Mode, I place some soft boxes that will nicely light the left arm and bring out the anatomy of the upper body. Visually, I also like to play with a very subtle warm side, and an opposing cold side in the image, so I place two colored lights (blue and yellow) accordingly. HDR Light Studio helped me to place these - I simply clicked in the viewport where I wanted the illumination to be.

Create or edit HDRI maps in real time for a quick way to edit image-based lighting effects within a MODO scene

Create or edit HDRI maps in real time for a quick way to edit image-based lighting effects within a MODO scene

Step 5: Render Output - Depth pass

The Depth output is useful for calculating depth of field in an external application. When Remap Pixel Values is enabled, users can alternately define a Maximum Depth distance. I enabled this feature and entered a distance of 1.55m. This gives me a nice map that I will use in Photoshop to create a subtle depth-of-field effect.

This map will serve as the source for the Lens Blur filter in Photoshop

This map will serve as the source for the Lens Blur filter in Photoshop

Step 6: Render Output - Illumination (Direct)

There is an important Render Output found under Add Layer > Render Outputs > Lighting > Illumination (Direct). It generates a channel exclusive to the illumination in a scene from all direct light items, such as the Area lights in this scene, independent of all other illumination types and surfacing attributes. I like to use it with Soft Light blending mode on top of my Final Color Output.

<h5>This Direct Illumination Render Output is great for enriching the Final Color Output</h5>

This Direct Illumination Render Output is great for enriching the Final Color Output

Step 7: Render Output - Illumination (Indirect)

This Render Output is found directly under the previous one. Its output generates an image exclusive to the illumination in a scene from all indirect sources, such as image-based lighting and luminous polygons, independent of all other illumination types and surfacing attributes. Next I will show you how I use these Render Outputs in the final Photoshop composition.

<h5>It looks like there is some voodoo going on here, but it's just another Render Output from MODO!</h5>

It looks like there is some voodoo going on here, but it's just another Render Output from MODO!

Step 8: Post-production - Part 1

We begin the post-production with the Final Color Output. Take it into Photoshop now for some fine-tuning...

Before I evaluate the final result, I always try to take some time away from a project, so as to approach any post work with a clear mind

Before I evaluate the final result, I always try to take some time away from a project, so as to approach any post work with a clear mind

First of all, I find the cloth fabric has come out a bit too light, so I'm going to darken it here. This is where the Surface ID comes in handy. I select a little piece of the color of the cloth part and then choose Select > Similar. Then I select my base render layer and hit Ctrl/Command and the J shortcut key. This creates a new layer on top with a copy of this selection. I give this layer a Soft Light blending mode.

Next, I address the color difference between the face skin and body skin. Again, I use the Surface ID render output to select the body skin part and use that as a mask for a Color Balance layer.

I then realize that /My Kiwi Friend/'s lips should be a touch shinier. So I do a quick Region render in MODO of only the lips region with a higher specular amount setting, and lay that on top in Photoshop.

The Surface ID output is great for isolating areas and then creating masks

The Surface ID output is great for isolating areas and then creating masks

Step 9: Post-production - Part 1

Next I use my other Render Outputs to take this image to the next level. First, the Ambient Occlusion is applied at 33%, set to Multiply. Then I mask out the parts of the face that I find a bit too dark.

I then apply the AO again, but only where the cloth meets the skin, which is also done with a mask. Next the two illumination outputs (direct and indirect) are applied at 22% with a Soft Light blending mode. This technique gives the image an attractive richness when it comes to the lighting.

I just love this part… everything comes together

I just love this part… everything comes together

Step 10: Post-production - Part 1

I apply a subtle depth-of-field (DOF) effect by using my Depth render output with the Lens Blur filter. I then jump to Magic Bullet Looks to apply a subtle Chromatic Aberration effect.

Finally, I like to add a Max Diffusion filter, which is a combination of Contrast/Saturation/Curves/Diffusion effects. This output from Magic Bullet Looks is quite extreme, so I apply it at only 10% with the Soft Light blending mode, but it does give a beautiful warmth to the final image.

Magic Bullet Looks has a great set of Presets, but you're free to create your own Looks from scratch with a wide range of controls!

Magic Bullet Looks has a great set of Presets, but you're free to create your own Looks from scratch with a wide range of controls!

Subtlety is key in post work. A layer opacity of 10% might seem low, but here it does the trick

Subtlety is key in post work. A layer opacity of 10% might seem low, but here it does the trick

Top Tip: HDR Light Studio - Revolutionize your lighting

Using HDR Light Studio, you can light your shots by placing light and reflections directly onto the 3D view – with a dynamic HDRI map generated on the fly. This revolutionary lighting technique allows 3D artists to light their shots faster, and produces stunning final renders.

To complete this tutorial series, here is a video covering all the stages we have looked at over the last 4 tutorials. My Kiwi Friend has been created entirely using an AMD FirePro™ W9000 graphics card.

Download a free trial of MODO
Download a free trial of MARI
Discover more free tutorials for MODO from The Foundry
Find out more about the AMD FirePro™ W9000
See Part 1 of the My Kiwi Friend tutorial series: Improve your geometry in MODO
See Part 2 of the My Kiwi Friend tutorial series: Create perfect image maps with MARI
See Part 3 of the My Kiwi Friend tutorial series: Master skin, hair and fur
See the full tutorial series for The Fisherman 3D character portrait