It’s Halloween! Celebrate with Pumpkin Hill!

(It’s not Jonah Hill or Winston Churchill!)

Hiii! Happy Halloween! Or All Hallows’ Eve! Or Allhalloween! Or All Saints’ Eve! Or Saints Row Eve! Not that last one! πŸ˜›

How’s your day been? If you’re a kid, I hope you obtained/will obtain many free sweets from creepy strangers! And if you’re an adult, I hope you successfully make it through your evening without any kids ringing your doorbell. πŸ˜€ Me? Well, I bought a box of treat-size sweets with the words “ideal for trick-or-treat” on it. And then began to eat them all. πŸ˜› Like hell am I givin’ out sweets to random kids that interrupt my evening! Not like anyone’s ever buzzed my doorbell on Halloween, anyway, and not like I’d answer it if they did. πŸ˜›

Ah, seeing as it’s Halloween, I’ve got a spooky story about something that happened recently. Well, it’s not really spooky. Or particularly interesting. πŸ˜› But anyway, for some reason that I can’t quite figure out, one of my videos on YouTube – just one – has seemingly gone viral, because the view count on it has exploded. It’s the last stage in my Streets of Goong series, Stage 8. I finished that series about 9 years ago now, and although it didn’t get a monstrous amount of attention, I was still really humbled by the response. It got far more views than I ever expected it to, around 5K-14K per video. However, all of a sudden, Stage 8 has gotten a monstrous amount of attention, achieving more views than all of my shitey videos combined: 636K, and it’s still rising. :O What shocks/scares/confuses me the most is that seemingly because of this, my subscriber count has jumped from about 100 (which I was genuinely amazed by) to 2,000 (which completely blows my mind), and it’s still going up! I don’t get it! That series is 9 years old! Why’d I get so many subscribers from it now? What’m I gonna do with them?! And why is everyone only watching the last video in the series?! That’s not even the best one in my opinion! πŸ˜›

Heh… typical, ain’t it? Back then, I had a ton of free time, so I used to post crap on YouTube fairly frequently, but it only got a relatively small amount of attention. Now I barely post one video a year, and suddenly I’ve got this massive audience for the stuff I posted ages ago. πŸ˜›

Y’know, talking about this viral explosion has just reminded me of another one I had a while ago, when a Starbound dev used one of my videos in a news post on their blog for a reason that didn’t really make any sense. The difference was that that ended up being very annoying, mainly because of the fanboyish comments I got which were directed straight past me as if it wasn’t even my video they were commenting on. Instead, most of the comments on the video were directed at the dev who shared the video, in a tone that falsely insinuated that they were bestest buddies, and in a way that made it sound that they believed the dev created the video or something. I didn’t mind much at the time, because I felt honoured that one of the Starbound devs thought my video was funny and random enough to share on their blog for a joke, but now I just get super pissed off when I think about it. Because Starbound, that borderline scam of a game that I backed when its first round of crowdfunding opened (with three others, and I was the one who suggested it, which made me feel bad when it was delayed to the point where we nearly forgot it existed), turned out to be a gigantic pile of turd and one of my most hated games of all time, easily described with words such as “slog”, “dull”, “untested”, “late” and “iwannaplayterrariainstead”. I know that last word isn’t a word. That just symbolises the developers’ lies. I don’t want anything to do with the shithead company who created it and if they shared any of my videos again I would immediately take down the video and re-upload it with external sharing disabled, like a kind of Chucklefish exorcism. Lmao “Chucklefish”, more like “Chucklefuck“. πŸ˜› I encourage everyone to pirate every goddamn thing that has their name on it, and here is a gif just for those shithead devs:

A looping, cartoon-style gif showing a middle finger being wiped over someone's face repeatedly.
PAY YOUR HARD-WORKING CONTENT CREATORS YOU TIGHTWADS

ANYWAY, off-topic, MongMaster, VERY off topic and very ranty. The readers don’t care because they’re too cool for that, so get back to Halloween. πŸ˜› Yes, despite the start of this post looking like some kind of trick, I didn’t come here to do that. I came to give you a treat*, in a kind of Soviet Russia-esque trick-or-treat! And that treat* is… a Halloween render! πŸ˜€

*your perception of whether this “treat” really is a treat may vary πŸ˜›

I didn’t do a Halloween render last year for some reason. In fact, I didn’t even realise I hadn’t done one last year until this year. πŸ˜› Maybe I didn’t have any ideas for it, or maybe I was busy. To be honest, at first, I wasn’t sure if I was gonna create one this year, either. I wanted to, but couldn’t think of any ideas for days. It was probably just because my brain was a bit fuzzy, cuz when I decided to get serious, sit down, and brainstorm some ideas, I got one quite quickly just by thinking of stuff associated with Halloween. πŸ˜€

I ended up writing down “pumpkins”, “the Moon”, “werewolves” and “witches”. I didn’t feel that a pumpkin carving scene was good enough, and I felt like I’d already used the Moon in my last Halloween render, Ghost Stories, with its “ghost stories under the moonlight” theme. I liked the werewolf idea, but decided to put that on the back-burner in favour of a scene based on witches. πŸ˜€ And of course, you can’t really think of witches without thinking of the famous “Song of the Witches” scene from Macbeth, which I ended up using as inspiration:

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Blahdeblahdeblah.

I’d say it’s more of a “poem” than a “song”, and that’s only part of it; it goes on for three verses, which is about two verses too long, and the second verse (written above) is the least annoying and most readable of the three. πŸ˜› IMHO, of course. I really hate poetry like this, and I’m not a fan of Shakespeare and his broken English (yes I know how stupid and ironic that sounds πŸ˜› ), but I can’t deny that it’s a classic scene.

Anyway, so I finally had a solid idea in my head, but I still felt kinda unsure whether it would come out good or not. The mini-Arnold in my head said yelled “STAHP WHINING AND DOOEET NAOO”, so I picked a weekend (the only weekend left before Halloween :P), sat my ass down, accidentally stayed up until what was effectively 6AM (because of daylight savings πŸ˜› ) and came up with THIS!

A render of three dragon witches stood around a cauldron with glowing green contents. The central witch is stirring the cauldron and looking at the viewer. The left witch is holding a jar of newts' eyes and adding some of them to the cauldron. The right witch is referring to a book (presumably the recipe) with a confused look on her face.

As always, there’re more flavours here!
(1080p) (2K) (4K)

DRAGON WITCHES, BITCHES! WOOOOO! πŸ˜€

Ahhh, this one came out so gooooood! XD Honestly, I thought I was going to Fail It because My Skill Was Not Enough, but the basic composition of it turned out to be really close to how it appeared in my head. πŸ˜€ Beyond that, the little details and pose decisions, such as the jar of eyes and the right witch looking unsure about the recipe, just happened on the fly, as they tend to do. πŸ˜€

Not much went wrong during the process, this time. In fact, things went unusually well, which made a nice change after all the difficulties and indecisions I had while creating The One True Egg. πŸ˜€ Despite not having a clue about how to create textures properly and not having any of the tools for the job, I created a relatively decent (for me πŸ˜› ) texture for the eyes in the jar. Stacking up about 40 of them in that jar also went really well; it wasn’t too painful, and it turned out great, especially since I thought they wouldn’t show up very clearly in the final render.

After having the central witch stir the cauldron and the left witch add ingredients, I was struggling to think of what the right witch would do at first. I came up with two ideas, and posed both of them to compare and decide:

A screenshot of the first pose idea. It shows three dragons, the central one stirring a cauldron, the left one adding newts' eyes to it, and the right one looking shocked and surprised at what was being added.
My first idea was that the witch on the right was younger and hadn’t really done anything like this before, and so was a bit shocked/disgusted to see one of the others drop in some newts’ eyes. πŸ˜€
A screenshot of the second pose idea. Like the first, it shows three dragons: the central one stirring a cauldron and the left one adding newts' eyes to it, but this time, the right one is looking at a book, presumably a recipe book, and looking confused.
My second idea was that the witch on the right was a bit more sensible or experienced than the other two. As the newts’ eyes are added, she can’t help but check the recipe again, feeling increasingly unsure about its accuracy.

I ended up going with the second one, because I liked the pose more, it matched up with the rest of the scene a bit better, and I felt that it had a bit more humour to it, in a subtle kind of way. πŸ˜€

The only technical problems I came across were pretty easily fixed. The first issue was with the “Instancing Optimisation” setting, which I’ve had a problem with before, back when creating Monster. Hunter. (see right). For some unfathomable reason, when set to “Memory”, it mangled the texture of the Dragon 3’s left eye, even though both eyes used the same material!

Render of "Monster. Hunter.", showing a dragon with a completely black eye, a result of a problem I had with the Instancing Optimisation setting.

Turns out that this time, it was caused by having Instancing Optimisation set to “Auto”, whatever the fuck that means. πŸ˜› I would’ve expected that “Auto” would select between “Speed” and “Memory” depending on how much memory the scene was eating, but no, it appears that Auto does something completely different to the other two options!

An render of a dragon with Instancing Optimisation set to "Memory". It looks fine.
This is what you get when you pick “Memory”…
An render of a dragon with Instancing Optimisation set to "Speed". It looks exactly the same as it does when set to "Memory": fine.
… this is what you get when you pick “Speed”…
An render of a dragon with Instancing Optimisation set to "Auto". The eye is partially black.
…and this is what you get when you pick “Auto”. Wtf.

This “Auto” option seems to have been added in DAZ Studio 4.12.. or it might’ve been 4.11, but I never actually clicked the dropdown for that option in 4.11 because I never had a problem with it while using that version. Anyway, it was a minor annoyance. I just picked “Speed” and everything was fine. πŸ™‚

The second problem was that I wanted to try dForce, DAZ Studio’s cloth simulation, to get some realistic collision on the hats. I’ve never really used it before because I only render things that don’t wear clothes (that’s dragons, dinosaurs, and the occasional mammal, before you go and make a funny πŸ˜› ), but seeing as I got a dForce-compatible witch outfit so I could have the dragons wear the traditional witch hat, I thought I’d try dForce out. Turns out that the hat, despite being part of the “dForce-compatible outfit”… wasn’t actually compatible. Trying to make it compatible by Doing Stuff(tm) ended in a funny way:

A screenshot of a dragon with a collapsed and crumpled witches' hat lying over her face, captioned with "lol".

So, yep. I didn’t bother using dForce after all. πŸ˜€ I just placed the hats as best I could, and did some morphing in ZBrush where necessary. πŸ™‚ Part of me thinks I should have at least tried to dress them up in the witch robes, but it would’ve probably taken an immense amount of time to get right, and I only had one weekend to finish the scene. I can’t bring myself to pose after work; I feel way too tired and unmotivated. πŸ˜›

Also, I was originally planning to use an emissive material for the contents of the cauldron, but I actually found that using a point light and placing it inside the cauldron contents created a massively better effect. Probably because the emissive material just made the whole mesh glow with the same intensity, whereas putting a physical ball of light in the middle of the mesh caused some smexy refraction and stuff. It was a nice surprise. πŸ˜€

Anyway, now for the render stats! This was kind of an odd one. At Quality 2, the 4K render took 14 hours 14 minutes 28.57 seconds to reach its iteration limit of 25,000, getting to 73.11% convergence, which was about 22% shy of the target. That’s never happened before! Normally, a render at least gets close to the convergence target before it hits that many iterations, but this time, it was way off! I might have to do another render both overnight and while I’m at work to see if the outcome is any better, but hell, even at 73% convergence, it came out well! UPDATE: Before this post was scheduled to go live, I did another render, and this time it went on for about 27 hours before hitting a doubled iteration limit of 50,000, reaching a convergence ratio of 83.76%. It was increasing by about 0.01% per minute by the time it ended, and as convergence increases slower the higher it gets, it would probably take several more days to reach the target of 95%. πŸ˜› The result of all that extra GPU burning was a microscopic increase in quality that I only noticed by flicking back and forth between the old render and the new one, so I felt that it was pointless to update the final image. πŸ™‚

As for postwork, there was quite a lot this time. I added motion blur to the eyes falling into the cauldron, corrected a massive blunder with the front of the cauldron (there was a very obvious seam caused by the smoke effect from the cauldron, so I had to do some colour tweaks to mask it), did my best to try and make the dragons look more female (painting dark lines around their eyes, it was the only thing I could think of, and I really don’t think it worked πŸ˜› ), removed some nose horns and minor light distractions, added a subtle fake bloom effect, smoothed out some noisy areas, added a vignette, and did some levels and brightness tweaks. πŸ™‚

So… what do you think? Do you like it? Spotted something that looks off? Know an easyish way to make a Dragon 3 look more female? Lemme know! πŸ˜€ Honestly, I’ve done it before, but I don’t know how. I’m pretty sure it was a miracle that I made Emerald look as female as she did when I created Amai. πŸ˜›

As is now tradition, I created a timelapse of the process behind this render for you to peruse, set to vaguely relevant music. πŸ˜€ I had a hard time choosing tracks this time, because none of them would really “go” together. πŸ˜› Anyway, first off, there’s Pumpkin Hill by Sonic4ever, from their incredible #1 album Sonic Adventure 2 Greatest Hits Revisited. The post title is a reference to that song, by the way. πŸ˜€ After that’s warmed you up, you should be able to get through the next track, This Is Halloween, by Danny Elfman, from The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack. No, it’s not the Marilyn Manson version; that’s even more annoying. πŸ˜› Don’t worry though, because I’ve added some metal near the end of the video: a cover of Aaveratsastajat, by Hevisaurus (Aaveratsastajat being a Finnish cover of “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend”). πŸ˜€ I was gonna put Thriller by Michael Jackson in there, but I ended up dropping it because it was a bit too long, and I couldn’t bring myself to drop one of the others. πŸ˜› Anyway, you can check out the timelapse HEEAH! πŸ™‚

Hmmm… I’m not sure why I use OneDrive to share my timelapses. Maybe I should put them on YouTube… πŸ˜› Oh no no no, I know why, because if I put them on YouTube, I’d get slapped for using copyrighteted musics. πŸ˜›

Ah, also, as is also now tradition, I drew notes over my prototype and preliminary renders to keep my thoughts straight and to try and prevent me from forgetting anything, which makes a nice little history of how the render evolved. πŸ™‚ Here it is:

An image consisting of 13 renders complete with redlines, showing how the render evolved with each iteration.

Anyway, I think that’s enough from me for now. I hope you enjoy the render, and the rest of your Halloween! I’m off to trick or treat myself again. πŸ˜› Bye!

Ghosts in the sky…

Heyaaa. How was everyone’s Halloween? Yeah… it’s not really one of those things that people do any more. Well, not me, anyway. When I was a kid, sure. But to be honest, I don’t really get it. It’s supposed to be a religious thing, and I ain’t, but people went ahead and commercialised it and now it’s not reallyΒ a religious thing any more. In some parts of the world, sure, but not ‘ere. πŸ˜›

Anyway, it’s the day of scary shit, right? That, and it’s the only time it’s okay for children to go around and get strangers to give them sweets. πŸ˜› Thankfully I don’t get any kids buzzing my flat. Not like I ever answer my buzzer unless I’m expecting someone, anyway, but still. It’s nice.

I had an idea for a Halloween render about a couple of months before, and I wrote it down in OneNote, ending the description with “Halloween’s on October 31st so we got about 3000 years to get this done. Give or take.” When Halloween came around, I opened up OneNote, not to read what I’d written down in August, but to keep track of how many meals and stuff were in my grocery shop as I was doing it. πŸ˜› After finishing the shop, my brain seemed to autopilot me into the Render Scene Ideas section and I went “OH SHI CRAP DAMN ARGH I FORGOT”, leaving me with 6 hours until Halloween ended, and if I posted a Halloween render after then I would look stupid. I mean jeez it’s not even Halloween any more how dumb would that look for someone to post something for Halloween after it was over.

So without further ado, here is a Halloween render!

Ghost Stories - DracoIndomita
(Available in these flavours: 1080p,Β QHD/2K, UHD/4K)

Hahah! Honestly, I…Β lovedΒ this idea. πŸ˜€ It was my first genuinely decent idea since Dueling Dragons. My vision was a bit different from the result, but I think this is way better than what I envisioned.

I used Iray again, if you didn’t already know. πŸ™‚ I’ve been trying to battle past the total idiocy of it, because I reallyΒ really like it. Er, what it can come up with, that is. Don’t like much else about it. πŸ˜› I used a combination of emissive lighting and standard lighting, the latter of which I never really used because I didn’t think it worked with Iray. I thought that all Iray lighting had to have some kind of physical presence in the scene, but nope, you can use standard lights. I just never tried giving the standard lights unrealistic values like Iray seems to want. πŸ˜› Finding that out was pretty much a godsend. The spotlight of the torch wasn’t possible with emissive lighting, and the light from the campfire wasn’t lighting the correct side of the younger dragons on the left. I fixed that with another spotlight. πŸ™‚

And hey, as a nice pat-myself-on-the-head-and-give-myself-a-peanut bonus, this is actually my first ever good quality render containing three subjects! My good renders have only ever contained a maximum of two before. Sure, some test renders I’ve done contained up to four, but they… weren’t good. πŸ˜›

Now, render statz! This was a LONG render, probably the longest I’ve done so far. In 2K at quality 2 with a target convergence of 98%, it took 5 hours 51 minutes 3.68 seconds. I’m expecting the 4K render to take around 13 hours. D:Β Looks like I am an estimation winner! It tookΒ 13 hours 14 minutes 54.38 seconds. Yikes. πŸ˜›Β Postwork consists of a slight bloom effect, grain reduction, a levels adjustment and manual removal of some background distractions. There was a thin layer of light along the ground, and it looked really weird.

The post title is a reference to one of the songs I listened to while making this: a cover of a song called Aaveratsastajat, by Hevisaurus. That link goes to Spotify; I can’t seem to find it on YouTube. Anyway, it’s a repeated lyric in the chorus: “Aaveet taivahan”, which means “ghosts in the sky”. Maybe. I used Google Translate, of course. I can’t speak Finnish. πŸ˜› If you remove the capital “A” it becomes “ghosts to heaven”. So I have no idea. πŸ˜›

Anyway, hope you like the image! If you’d like it in a different resolution, don’t be afraid to ask. πŸ™‚ Well, as long as it’s not much higher than 8K. DS can’t render images with either dimension exceeding 10,000px. πŸ˜›

UPDATE!!
Wow! This sure got some love; WordPress tells me that it was my best day for likes! Thanks so much, everyone! πŸ™‚

There were a couple of little things that bugged me about the render, so I made some changes. Namely, I thought the blue dragon’s neck looked weird and distracting, so I adjusted it. I did a couple of tweaks to the black dragon’s eyes, too: they’re a bit more open to make him look scarier, and his gaze is more focused on the other dragons.

Also, I’ve added a link to the UHD/4K version of the render. πŸ™‚ Funny story: before I went to bed, I started the render with the hopes that it’d be at least nearly done overnight. When I woke up and checked the PC, it turned out that DAZ Studio had decided to ask the CPU to do the render, instead of using my two GPUs like I asked. So it burned the hell out of my CPU for about nine hours, just to reach an iteration count of about 900-odd, something that my GPUs can reach in ONE hour. Thanks, DAZ. -.- I cancelled it, restarted DAZ Studio and tried rendering again, and it started using the GPUs. Probably a dumb memory leak. Jeeesus, I mean, if the scene doesn’t fit in GPU memory, why can’t it do something intelligent for once? Like, if “CPU” isn’t checked in the Advanced tab of Render settings, throw up a dialog saying “oh there’s not enough GPU memory to do this with the GPUs”, then STOP rendering? I think that’s better than silently attempting to complete a render that will take the CPU about 143 hours. Not exaggerating. πŸ˜›

UPDATE 2!!
I’ve added a link to the 1080p version. For some reason, it still took more than five hours to render, even though it’s a fair bit smaller than 2K. Shrug. πŸ˜›

UPDATE 3!!
MAN, I wish I’d spend more time looking into stuff that inspires me.

Nearly half a year after this render, I learned after literally two minutes of research that Aaveratsastajat is effectively a translation. It’s probably not a direct translation, butΒ Aaveratsastajat isΒ the Finnish version of a seemingly ridiculously well-known country and western song from 1948 called “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend”. “Aaveet taivahan” is where “Ghost riders in the sky” appears in the original song, so I assume that’s what it’s supposed to mean. Or maybe the Finnish swapped it for ghosts?

Well, whether it’s ghost riders or just ghosts, BOOM! The post title turned out to be at least mostly accurate, despite the fact I don’t understand a word of Finnish. πŸ˜€