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Realistically Light and Render Interior Scenes using 3ds Max and Vray

Discover the secrets behind properly lighting and rendering interior scenes with 3ds Max and Vray in this easy to follow, step by step walkthrough.  Scene setup, modeling, texturing, lighting, and rendering for realistic output will all be discussed, so there is literally something in here for everyone!

Additional Files/ Plugins:

In this tutorial, we’ll be using real units, so the first thing would be to open the menu "Customize > Units Setup > US" and choose "Standard > Feet w/Decimal Inches" as the unit.

When you are trying to get a photorealistic quality it is very important to make sure that your object scale is accurate. This will play an important role in achieving a good render.  Also, as you can see the scene is quite simple... just a small lobby (mostly modeled with boxes).  Note: It is important that it is a closed room, and there are no openings for the light from environment to enter.

Press f10, and from the "assign renderer" tab choose "Vray". This will enable "Vray" as your renderer, and also enable Vray materials in your material editor.

Assign a simple Vray material to all the objects in the scene, and set up basic scene lighting and render settings. This is to finalize the lighting and render settings and save time, since a plain material renders much faster than reflective and glossy materials which will be added later.

Now to work on the lighting and render settings to achieve the final result.

Add a Vray physical camera to the scene by going to "Create Tab > Camera > Vray > Physical Camera".

The settings for a physical camera are:

  • Type - Determines the type of the camera.  Set it to "Still".

  • Film Gate - Specifies the horizontal size of the film gate in millimeters.  Set it according to your scene.

  • Focal Length - Specifies the equivalent focal length of the camera lens.

  • f-number - The width of the camera aperture and (indirectly) exposure.  If the Exposure option is checked, changing the f-number will affect the image brightness.

  • Vignetting - When this option is on, the optical vignetting effect of a real-world cameras is simulated.

  • White Balance - Allows additional modification of the image output according to the color or preset chosen.

  • Shutter Speed - The shutter speed (in inverse seconds) for the still photographic camera.  For example, a shutter speed of 1/50 s corresponds to a value of 50 for this parameter.

  • Film Speed (ISO) - Determines the film power (sensitivity).  Smaller values make the image darker, while larger values make it brighter.

Now to place the various Vray lights.  Lights 1-4 affect the scene directly, whereas light 5 has been placed in a downward direction, and will affect the scene in an indirect (in the
form of bounced light).

The basic parameters of the Vray lights are:

  • Color - The color of the light.

  • Multiplier - The multiplier for the light color. This is also the light intensity determined by the Intensity units parameter.

  • Invisible - This setting controls whether the shape of the VRay light source is visible in the render result. When this option is turned off the source is rendered in the current light color. Otherwise it is not visible in the scene.

  • Subdivs - Defines the samples, or the quality of the light.  8-10 should be used for test renders, and 15-20 for final renders.  Increasing the samples will significantly increase your render time.

IES stands for "Illuminating Engineering Society".  The photometric data is stored in these files.  A photometric web is a 3D representation of the light intensity distribution of a light source. Web definitions are stored in files. Many lighting manufacturers provide web files that model their products, and these are often available on the Internet. We as artists can use them to replicate the real life phenomena of light in 3d.

Go to the "Lights" tab, choose "Vray" from the drop down list, and create a "Vray ies" in the right view.  Then instance it below all four steel holders.

The main settings for the ies lights are:

  • Browse Button - Click it and browse for the ies file that you want to use.

  • Color Mode - If you choose this option, you can change and affect the light intensity through the color picker.

  • Temperature Mode - Allows you to accurately change the light intensity through the color temperature.

  • Power - Determines how bright the light will be.

Through the following steps, you will configure the rendering settings in Vray.  Press F10, then under "Global Switches", uncheck "Default Lights".  This will cause the default lights in the scene to be switched off.  For the Image Sampler type select "Adaptive DMC", and "Catmull Rom" as the filter.  Also, change the min and max subdivs as shown.

Lastly, change the "Color Mapping" type to "Exponential".  This mode will saturate the colors based on their brightness, and therefore, will not clip bright colors, but saturate them instead. This can be useful to prevent Burn-outs in the very bright areas (for example around light sources etc).

Under the "Indirect Illumination" select "Irradiance Map" and use "Light Cache" as the primary and secondary engine.  Also, change the Preset to "High", "hsph subdivs" to 50, and "interp samples" to 20.

  • Irradiance Map - Computes the indirect illumination only at some points in the scene, and interpolates for the rest of the points. The Irradiance Map is very fast compared to direct computation, especially for scenes with large flat areas.

  • Current Preset - Allows you to choose from several presets for some of the irradiance map parameters.

  • Hemispheric Subdivs (HSph. subdivs) - Controls the quality of individual GI samples. Smaller values makes things faster, but may produce blotchy results. Higher values produce smoother images.

With a Light Cache, the light map is built by tracing many eye paths from the camera. Each of the bounces in the path stores the illumination from the rest of the path into a 3d structure (very similar to the photon map).  In the Light Cache put 1500 for subdivs and 8 for no of passes.

The Subdivs determines how many paths are traced from the camera.  The actual number of paths is the square of the subdivs (the default 1000 subdivs mean that 1 000 000 paths will be traced from the camera).

Your settings for the test render are done. If you hit render now, you should see the same image that was shown before.  Now all you need to do is apply the materials, and increase the Irradiance Map and Light Cache samples for the final render.

Now to texture the scene (actually it's quite simple).  The basic parameters that will be used in materials are:

  • Diffuse - The diffuse color of the material.

  • Roughness - Can be used to simulate rough surfaces or surfaces covered with dust.

  • Reflect - The reflection color.

  • Reflection Glossiness - Controls the sharpness of the reflections.  A value of 1.0 means perfect mirror-like reflections; lower values produce blurry or glossy reflections. Use the Subdivs parameter below to control the quality of the glossy reflections.

The shader for the tiles on the base is a simple vray material with a de-saturated texture in the diffuse and a noise map in bump.

The wood rack is also made of a Vray material with slight reflections and glossiness.

The material for the wall is again just simple cream and black colors with no reflections.

The shader on the wall on which the paintings are hanging is made of steel and white wall. The wall part also has a grainy texture assigned to it.

Your scene is now textured! You can add any other props or objects you like to fill up the scene.  The above rendering settings are good for test renders, but for production quality you will need to increase the samples for the image sampler, Light Cache, and Irradiance map.

Here is the final result! Hope you learned something new!!.



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