I’M ABOUT TO WIN WHAMMAGEDDON!!!

I AM! I haven’t heard even a hint of that stupid song yet! I can taste victory! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€
UPDATE!!: I WON!!

Anyway… harrooo! Merry incoming Christmas! Or whatever it is that you celebrate! πŸ˜€ Exactly like last year, when this is posted, I’ll be sliding down a snowy hill on a toboggan in an attempt to beat my sister to the bottom, and losing every time because my toboggan is crap! πŸ˜› Saw lots of people crashing and wall-riding last year because they were too dumb to slow down and/or turn for the corner, which was funny. Hopefully there’ll be more of the same this year. πŸ˜€ Oh, and we’ll be sitting in giant inflatable rings and sliding down some ice, too. πŸ˜€

I also went to Cadbury World in Bournville with the whole family a couple days ago. πŸ™‚ The best part was… well, I was gonna say the shop, but no, the best part was an accident that happened during one of the shows. One of the actors was sat on a barstool-style chair when the top cushion part of it kind of collapsed, allowing the frame of the stool to tear through the fabric and pelt him (seemingly) directly in the gonads. πŸ˜† He rolled with it so well that it almost felt like it was staged, but it can’t have been. That stool looked totally phwoacked afterwards, and the wicked witch completely fell out of character and could barely stop laughing. Understandably, of course. It was hilarious. πŸ˜€ The second best part was the shop, which is now my new favourite shop. I was expecting it to be a total ripoff, but holy crap, there were some really great deals in there. I ended up buying way more than I thought I would. πŸ˜€ The rest of Cadbury World? Nah. Don’t bother. Especially with kids. Unless you’re crazy about history or the Cadbury brand (as a company), it’s suuuuper-boring. πŸ˜›

Anyhoo, aye, despite having the uninteresting history of the Cadbury brand forced into my ears, it’s been fun. I hope you’ve all had fun so far, too, and I hope you get some nice presents tomorrow! πŸ˜€ And hey, I’ve got a slightly early present for you: a Christmas render! Whether it’s a nice present is totally up to you, but hey! PRESENT! Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth! Its breath is terrible! πŸ˜›

(where did that stupid saying even come from πŸ˜› )

So, this year, I was a bit worried, cuz I couldn’t think of a solid idea for ages. Usually I have something solid before I start working on a render, because I really don’t like scrabbling around in the dark, so to speak. It’s not fun to work on a vague idea for hours just to realise that it ain’t gonna work out well, or at all. πŸ˜› But I did eventually think of one, and amazingly, it was DeviantArt which kick-started the idea this time.

One day, when I decided to log in just to see if I’d happened to get any views on my work in the past few months (I hadn’t πŸ˜› ), I noticed that they were doing an event where they take Christmas cards made or decorated by artists and give them to people who are in hospital over Christmas. If you participated, they’d give you a free month of Core, too. This was interesting, because it felt like the first time I’d seen something on DeviantArt that I might actually be able to participate in. Normally all they do is competitions clearly aimed at high-level artists. But just as I was thinking about doing it, I realised. I don’t give a damn about DeviantArt’s stupid Core membership, I probably wouldn’t be able to get the render done in time, the price to send a letter overseas would probably be way more than I’d be willing to pay, and I don’t really consider myself to be an artist. They might’ve rejected it for being too weird or not arty enough. I dunno if they look gift horses in the mouth or not. πŸ˜›

But the event did make me think… why don’t I do it anyway? Why not base my scene on something that would look nice on a Christmas card? And hell, why don’t I make actual cards out of it and give them to people I know, people who will probably appreciate it? πŸ˜€ Kind of an odd idea, really, because I haven’t done Christmas cards since primary school. I think they’re a bit pointless. πŸ˜› Oh well, my brain works in odd ways, so I guess the idea isn’t so odd for me. πŸ˜›

So, I booked my remaining days off work, and when they came around, I used them to work on the render. Then the weekend, too. And the odd day after work the next week. Eventually, after tons of fannying about, I ended up with this! BEHOLD!

More flavours right here!
(1080p) (2K) (4K) (A5 Portrait)

MERRY DRAGONMAAAAASSS! πŸ˜€

Oh maaan, I’m so happy with this one. πŸ˜€ And I’m glad, because as you might’ve deduced from what I said up there, it took way longer than I was planning. I initially thought it was a simple enough idea that I’d be able to do it in two days, but nope! It ended up taking six. Not six whole days, of course. I had annoying things like “work” and “social life” that I had to deal with in-between. πŸ˜›

Although thinking about it, overall, it probably didn’t take that much longer than normal. I didn’t spend the entirety of every day doing the render, so… it probably only took about 4 whole days, as opposed to my usual 2-3. I think it took longer because of indecision and the need to keep adding things to the scene, not because of things that went wrong. πŸ˜› The worst thing was choosing the environment, and at first, I thought the render would never see the light of day because of it. I tried one which looked quite good and that I felt would work, but when I set it up and rendered it, I found that it didn’t look anything like the promo images… which is a very common occurrence, but still irritating. πŸ˜› The next environment I tried didn’t look bad, but it was mahoosive, and all the detail seemed to be focused on one small part of it that I didn’t plan on using. Thankfully, I got hold of another environment which was a much better fit. I ended up combining the HDRI from one of the other environments I’d tried with the geometry from the new environment, which worked very nicely. πŸ˜€

After that, it was just tweaks and mostly unnecessary experimentation. πŸ˜› The most time-consuming one was probably the custom morph I did for the wyverns. There’s a supermorph which transforms the Dragon 3 into a wyvern, but I’ve never properly used it because it never looked “right” to me. The body’s fine, and I don’t mind the bulkier muzzle (even if I do wish it was optional), but the feet really bug me for some reason. I always saw wyverns as having three front toes and optionally one rear toe, so they can grab things easily, kinda like a bird of prey. But this supermorph keeps him as a four-toed dragon, but with an inflated index toe tipped with an oversized talon, and it just makes him look stupid. Like some sort of deformed velociraptor. πŸ˜› So, I made a really rough extension to the morph in ZBrush, in which I scale his fourth toe down to zero (because one cannot simply remove it without rerigging the whole model, and I have no idea how to do that πŸ˜› ), and make all his talons big. Massive overkill, because I reckon no-one will give a damn, and the morph is rough as hell, but hey, I like it and I think it looks better, so shush. πŸ˜›

There were other annoying little things I had to do, too. Because the tree and decorations were all one big mesh (not separate), I had to extract some baubles from it to place in the claws (and maws πŸ˜› ) of the dragons, as well as in the decoration box. I ended up having to cut the top off a crate using DS’s lame-o geometry editing tool to make said decoration box, because I didn’t have one that could open. πŸ˜› It was also really tricky to make the tinsel look nicely shiny and metallic. I had to use glossy anisotropy and set the rotations just right to get the effect I wanted.

I got the A5 version done in a few days, and that was printed onto the cards I sent out to people, but it didn’t actually end up being the final version. Because of time pressure (I had to get something reasonably close, otherwise the cards wouldn’t be delivered in time), I’d forgotten to add mist into the background, which made it look like the foreground and background were melding together, even with depth of field. Also, I then realised that when I extended the picture to 16:9, the left and right sides looked… dead. There was no life outside the middle third of the image. So, yep. There was still more work to be done! πŸ˜›

I came up with some nice “scene extensions” for the left and right sides, and learned a way to add mist to the scene. I basically just used a bigass cube set to be completely refractive, with a refractive index of 1 (the refractive index of air), a high scattering distance, and a very, very faint light blue scattering colour. It pretty much doubled the render time, but it was worth it. πŸ˜€

Wow, that’s a lot of blabbing, but I’m done now! πŸ˜€ Lots of tweaking and additions, but I think it was worth it in the end. What about you? Do you like it? πŸ˜€

Now for the RENDER STATS! And… I don’t have them! πŸ˜› Not right now, anyway. I know that the render was done in 4K at Quality 3 (one more than I usually do) and it think it took about 12 hours. I’ll get the accurate numbers when I get home, and update later. πŸ™‚ UPDATE!!: Lmao oops. I completely forgot, and now the render time’s been truncated from the DAZ Studio log file. πŸ˜† I’ve also since deleted the raw footage used for the timelapse, so the only number I have is from the timelapse itself. Rendering in 4K, it took around 18Β½ hours to reach 95% convergence at Quality 3. Normally I do Quality 2, but this time, my early test renders were completing really quickly, so I thought I’d spend a bit more time for a tiny increase in quality. When I shifted to 4K, added the new dragons, and especially when I added the mist, the render time spiked, but I didn’t go back to Quality 2 in response. I was probably thinking “naaah it’ll be fine, placebo quality go go go”. And I was probably stupid-tired, too. πŸ˜›

As for postwork, there isn’t much, really. The main things are the subtle falling snow and the vignette, but I also removed/masked a few distractions and tiny mistakes, added a cooling filter, and tweaked the levels. I do want to tweak the vignette again because I think the desaturated corners are way more distracting than I intended, but that’ll have to wait until I get home. πŸ™‚

Since the render took longer than usual to create, I made a slightly longer timelapse for it, too. Sorry. πŸ˜› But if you’re still interested, you can watch it heeah! πŸ˜€ As always, it comes with vaguely related music. I didn’t put any crappy Christmas music in the video because I can’t stand it, and all the winter-related songs I could find were all friggin’ depressing, so I had to resort to using songs from games I’ve played. πŸ˜› First off, there’s a very wintry-sounding piece from PokΓ©mon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity’s final dungeon (I think): Glacier Palace (Great Spire). Spoilers. πŸ˜› After that, I stick with the wintry theme by playing Snowy Mountain from Sonic Adventure before kicking it up a notch with the snowboarding music from the same game: Be Cool, Be Wild and Be Groovy! πŸ˜› Then, there’s a song featured in Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F 2nd: Decorator by livetune(kz), which I chose because the name of the track describes exactly what’s going on in the scene. πŸ˜› I finish with Wonderful Dream (Holidays Are Coming) by Melanie Thornton, which is both full of cheese and just makes me think of the old Coca-Cola adverts, preventing me from taking the song seriously and making me laugh every time because I have a broken sense of humour. πŸ˜†

Also, here’s the progress history, too! You’ll probably need to click on it to enlarge if you wanna read any of my scribbles (unless you have eyes of GOD πŸ˜› ).

I think that’s all for now. Time to schedule this post… if I can figure out how to do it on this mobile app! πŸ˜› Have a great Christmas, and a happy new DECADE! πŸ˜€ See yaz!

UPDATE!!
I added a few bonus pics to the post in an attempt to make the huge, likely boring wall of text a bit more interesting and less eye-bleedy. πŸ˜›

One! Sleep! TILL BROOKLYN! No, wait – CHRISTMAS!

Heyooo! Merry incoming Christmas! If you’re reading this on the day I asked WordPress to post it (or any subsequent Christmas Eve), then it’s only one more day until Jesus Day! Yay! πŸ˜€ When this is posted, I’ll be sliding down a big snowy hill on a toboggan in an attempt to beat my sister to the bottom and losing every single time because MY TOBOGGAN IS CRAP! πŸ˜› I’ll also be laughing at everyone else having massive accidents, of course. πŸ˜›

Anyway, I hope you’re excited for Christmas! Me? Nope. I’m too old now. πŸ˜› Jayzuz, “too old”… I’m only 28. XD But yeah, I don’t really get excited for Christmas like I used to. But I am excited to share what I’ve made for y’all. A Christmas RENDER! πŸ˜€ “ERMAGERD WHAT?! IT’S BEEN SO LONG SINCE YOUR LAST CHRISTMASSY RENDER!”

Yeah, my last Christmas render was done back in 2011, so that’s a whole 7 years. I think the reason I stopped doing Christmas renders was because I was discouraged. All of them have just been “meh”, or worse. I did start work on a Christmas render in 2012, but I ended up scrapping it. I still have a test render of it, actually… should I? Ah, what the hell, since it’s Christmas, here it is:

Ahhh, the good old SubDragon. πŸ˜€ I tend not to share old test renders because they’re embarrassing as fuck, but hey, there it is πŸ˜› Honestly, though, looking back, I’m not sure why I gave up on that one. The execution is bad, sure, but the concept is nice. Maybe I’ll visit the idea again some time.

Even though I don’t really share test/failed/quick renders, I still like to keep hold of them. Why? Well, like I say on the MongMaster’s Turd page, why do you keep hold of that Defend Globe when it only affects bug types? πŸ˜› They’re nice reminders. Some remind me of how far I’ve come since I started rendering, others remind me of certain things I did that I might’ve otherwise forgotten, and others remind me of the PAIN that DS puts me through. Here’re some examples, while I’m at it (I’m also testing WordPress’ new editor by doing this πŸ˜› ):

DAZ Studio did this while I was doing DOF tests and trying to fix infinite rendering times because of subsurface scattering. Why does it do this to me.
Test render of The Third Breed in Iray before I started using Iray properly. The lighting it rendered wasn’t even close to the lighting I asked for. I genuinely didn’t understand what it was doing.
Made quickly as a bit of fun for someone on a not-very-popular forum. Wish I could remember the details. πŸ˜› I wonder how those guys are doing now.

Stock raytraced shadows in 3Delight were solid black unless some unknown conditions were met. Thankfully, I learned about UberEnvironment.
Dueling Dragons test render. One time only, DAZ Studio decided to shit this out for some now-unknown reason. Pretty much ruined my evening. πŸ˜›
One of my very first renders, from 2009. You have no idea how much I hesitated to put this here. It makes me cringe. πŸ˜›

Wow, WordPress’ new editor has only given me a mild headache, and I only swore three times while doing all that, so it’s not horribly bad. I still refuse to stop putting the “WordPress Is Shit” tag on every post I make, though. TRADITION NEVER DIES! πŸ˜›

Anyway, I’ve gone off on a tangent again. That’s enough crap for now! I didn’t come here to give you coal for Christmas. I came to give you DIAMONDS*! πŸ˜› (*cubic zirconia)

So yes, it’s been a long time since my last Christmas render. Since then, I’ve gotten hold of the DAZ Dragon 3, I’ve learned how to use Iray relatively well, my scene composition skillz are much better, and my lighting skillz have improved, too. I also tend to have ideas more rarely, but they’re much higher-quality. So, when I started this scene, I knew it was going to be a nice way to see how far I’ve come. Here’s the result:

(Available in these tasty flavours: 1080p2K, 4K)

DAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAAAAA SO CUUUUUUTE!! GAAAAH! I WANNA HUG HIM WHILE WEARING A SUBSTANTIAL AMOUNT OF PROTECTIVE CLOTHING SO I DON’T GET STABBED!

*ahem* Yes. I… think I’m a bit better at this than I was seven years ago. πŸ˜€ What do you think? Do you like? πŸ™‚

I’m not totally sure where the idea for this came from. I think it was partially inspired by my 2011 Christmas render, and I think “cozy” was the trigger word, but it was mostly a shower moment. πŸ˜› It was also the first time I’ve used the Crystal Dragon supermorph/geograft, which somehow worked way better in this scene than I was expecting. Using the regular Dragon 3 just… lacked something. The more “brutish” look of the Crystal Dragon somehow makes it cuter to see him like that. πŸ˜€ Oh, and of course, the ice crystals help with the wintery, Christmassy theme. Huh, what’s that? If he’s a dragon with ice crystals coming out of his scales, why is he sleeping next to a warm fire? Well, that’s because πŸ–•! πŸ˜›

Now, it’s render stats time! You remember that my previous render “Monster. Hunter.” took about 21 hours, right? Of course you don’t! πŸ˜› Anyway, at 4K, Rendering Quality 2, 98% convergence AND with Caustic and Architectual samplers on (something I’ve never done before because it increases render time), this one took… ooooohhh… 5 hours 52 minutes 11.1 seconds! Yeah. About 4 times faster, and one hour of that was the last 3% convergence. πŸ˜› The main reason it was so relatively fast is because the scene is quite a bit less complex. I didn’t have to faff around trying to get the scene memory usage below 4GB, because it only used 3.5GB. πŸ™‚ But another reason was becaaaause… I got a new GPU! AND IT’S A FRIGGIN’ MONSTER!!

GTX 1080Ti. I got it a couple months ago as a birthday present to myself. πŸ˜€ It’s got triple the VRAM of my old 970s, so I highly doubt I’ll run into any memory issues again, which is more than enough to make me happy. But of course, I was also expecting a bit more speed. πŸ˜€ I did some tests using the “Monster. Hunter.” scene and found that the 1080Ti is about 58% faster than TWO 970s, cutting render time by more than 4 hours! And then, amazingly, I found out that Iray can actually use any two GPUs to render! I tried putting one of my 970s alongside it, and it cut down the render time by an additional hour! :O So I’ve kept one of the 970s in, just to assist rendering. I’d’ve kept both of them in, but putting a 970 in the bottom PCIe slot covers up the motherboard’s USB 3 header. And I’m not sure if my PSU could handle it, anyway. πŸ˜›

Oh, and of course, the 1080Ti can run Monster Hunter: World at 90FPS. πŸ˜€ Just as long as you don’t put the volumetric fog too high, anyway. To be honest, I don’t even notice a difference past Low. πŸ˜›

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the render. And of course, I hope you have a great Christmas, or whatever it is you celebrate! πŸ˜€ I’ll see you again in the New Year! Probably the Chinese one! πŸ˜€