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Starry Sky for Carrara

Thank you for your purchase of Starry Sky for Carrara. I hope you enjoy using this product nearly as much as I have enjoyed creating it. Although the product is incredibly simple to use, this document can help to give inspiration towards getting the most out of it for a variety of purposes – and will hopefully answer any questions that might pop up.

Getting Started

Installation When the product installer asks for an install location, point it to the Carrara Installation directory which, by default, is C:\Program Files\DAZ 3D\Carrara. You can find new icons for loading this product in the following Carrara folders:

Scenes: Space: Starry Sky

The Included Scene Files Within the 'Starry Sky' category you will find four scene files and a sub-category, 'Star Models (w Lens Flares)'.

+ Starry Sky” & “- Starry Sky” A very realistic representation of a starry sky wrapping 360° around your scene. + Starry Sky is scaled for scenes of Medium Size Magnitude (more info on Size Magnitudes in the next session: Setting Up Your Scene), while - Starry Sky is scaled for scenes using the Large Size Magnitude. Modeled in 3d using a very low polygon count (36 each), There are several sizes and slight color variations contained in four groups, which are then replicated over four, large and invisible globes. Each group is replicated using different techniques to help simulate as real-looking of a night sky as I could muster. The four groups, Inner Starfield, Pattern Stars, Earth-Like Constellations, and Outer Starfield are discussed further in the next session: Setting Up Your Scene. If all you require is a 360° field of stars around your star ship or space station, load the appropriate size and you're all set to aim those cameras and render! Although these files do not use lens flare lighting effects, like the following two, they have a slight aura applied giving an incredibly realistic scene, as if you were seeing it with your own eyes (under a dark, crisp night).

+ Starry Sky Flare” & “- Starry Sky Flare Everything said above regarding “+ Starry Sky” & “- Starry Sky” holds true with these two with the exception that these have special lighting effects applied to the brightest stars in the sky. These have been included to add that “Star Look” all over the sky. You'll see this effect in some photos of the night sky and in many SciFi and Comic style applications. + Starry Sky Flare is scaled for scenes of Medium Size Magnitude (more info on Size Magnitudes in the next session: Setting Up Your Scene), while - Starry Sky Flare is scaled for scenes using the Large Size Magnitude. The final chapter before the tutorials discusses in detail how to edit the effects yourself for even broader capabilities.

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“Star Models (w Lens Flares)” Sometimes, all we want to do is add one, or even a few stars in specific places within a scene. That's what these models are all about. Each of them has a fairly strong Star Effect and Lens Flare Effect applied to them, making them quite versatile. If you chose not to have the effect at all, simply select the “lens flare” and delete it – leaving the star in all its original glory. The last chapter of this “Instructions” section tells you all about editing the effects to your liking. These also work great for adding a bit of flare to just about any sort of scene or setting.

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Setting Up Your Scene

star_groups_vis.jpg Whether you're using Starry Sky to start off a new scene or to add stars to an existing scene, you will be hard-pressed to find an easier, more realistic looking solution toward adding stars to your sky. It truly is as simple as dragging it in from the browser and rendering out your image. But I needed this product to be fairly robust for my own purposes, so there are some features – simple features – that I'd like to briefly explain, so that you can use this set to create any type of starry sky that best suits your needs.

By default, all of the groups of stars will render. Each star is represented in the scene by a little white wireframe cube. You'll see them all around you. For most of my purposes, I don't need – or even want – all of the stars available. I have found, however, that the quickest and easiest way to use the set is to have everything on from the start, and turn things off as needed.

Here are the groups of stars:

Inner Starfield – Replicated using a map to ensure that they do not overlap the Pattern Stars or the Earth-like Constellation Stars, these little stars give excellent enhancement no matter what sort of star pattern you use. Try toggling them on and off to see what they do (Check/Un-Check Visibility).

Patterns – These are replicated using a map that I designed to give the impression of bright, constellation-like patterns, without being recognizable as Earth-Bound constellations. Realistically, you wouldn't see the same star patterns from the window of a distant starship as you would from Earth. For Earth-bound based renders, I suggest hiding this group. But if you like having a lot of stars, by all means, leave them lit!

Earth-Bound Constellations – This group is used to simulate realistic looking constellations as viewed from Earth. It is not scientifically accurate, by any means. But the look is quite convincing. When shooting renders from a deep space station, I'll often turn these off.

Outer Starfield – Relying only on settings within the surface replicator, this group has a lot of little stars, nicely clustering and expanding across the furthest sphere from view. Their glittering backdrop is what truly adds a lot of realism to this entire set.

Experiment by changing the visibility of different groups of stars for the look that your render needs.

inv_space.jpg Sometimes you may want to rotate your stars around – perhaps to get a specific constellation in the background. There are a few ways to do this to get the look you want. First of all, we should close the Stars group since we don't really want to rotate the replicators. For changing the size, rotation, or placement of the stars themselves, you want the Invisible Space group.

To rotate (or re-size or move) ALL of the spheres of stars at the same time, select the entire group. They may also be altered individually by selecting the appropriate Globe within the group. Remember, however, that these globes are invisible, so you need their stars to be set to “visible” to properly see what's going on within the scene.

Rotating the globes is easy enough through the render camera as long as it has a clear view of the Zero position of 3d space. There are many situations, however, where the 3d manipulation tools are not in view. For this I have included the Panorama Cam, which gives you a view from far away from the globes themselves, making it much easier for your own customization.

Panorama Cam View

A Note on Scene Size Magnitudes

size_mag.jpg Starry Sky for Carrara is delivered with four main file options

Two for Medium Scenes, Two for Large. These correspond with two of the Size Magnitudes in Carrara. To find out the Magnitude of your scene, have a look at the illustration to the right »> Highlighted in yellow, at the bottom, you'll see that “Scene” is selected. Then go to the top and choose the “Interface” tab. The last set of parameters in this tab is the Scene's Magnitude. It will be either Large, Medium or Small.

In most situations, for scenery-type scenes, it is not practical to use the Small size magnitude. If your scene uses this magnitude, use the Medium Size Starry Sky files. Some re-scaling may be required.

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Use the + MEDIUM + files for Medium Scenes

Use the - LARGE - files for Large Scenes

The Individual Stars work in any of the scene sizes.

Before getting Technical

Within the Scene Size Magnitudes there is still a lot of variation regarding the size of the actual scene to be rendered. With the different sizes of invisible globes, Starry Sky for Carrara creates an incredibly realistic looking night sky. If the camera is towards the center of the scene, many of the most distant stars will be faint – some may not show up at all. This is necessary to pull off any realistic looking night scene, since that is the way it works. If we could see all of the stars in the sky without optical aid (like a telescope), the sky would be so bright, we probably wouldn't see much of anything – ever!

If you are creating a scene and feel that you are not seeing enough stars in your render, the above explanation is probably why. To see more of the stars, switch your view to the Panorama Cam, select the Invisible Space group, and scale it down a bit. Tip: Hold down the SHIFT key as you scale to scale all axis at the same time, evenly.

Alternately, you may just want to have more stars than what Starry Sky for Carrara adds to your scene. I've run across this situation once or twice, where I just wanted a lot more stars. Simply add another Starry Sky for Carrara, select the Invisible Space group, and rotate the whole works to a desired position – one that adds to the first.

In using the above method, I've also added one instance of Starry Sky and another of Starry Sky Flare and changed the visibility on some of the globes to get the look I wanted. Now you have a lens flare version with the standard version. If this gives you too many of any one type of star, say, inner starfield, simply turn off the visibility on one of the sets – same with any of the other starfield globes.

You can also try adding one or more of the individual star models (which come with a strong lens flare effect, by default) to any of the four surface replicators to add your own, new batch of versatility!

The options are nearly endless.

For some of the promotional work I do for the local rock band that I play drums for, I'll add a few of the individual star models to corners of select letters in the promo. Looks really cool!

The main point here, is to have fun with every aspect of this set!

Changing the Number of Stars

A lot of time has gone into setting up the replicators to get a high level of realism out of this product. Changing around the ways that the stars are cast across the heavens can be fun, however, so here's how to do it. I must warn you ahead of time that the Earth-Like Constellation group uses a map with very specific placement of the stars, so that one can get some terrible results if you try changing it too much while still having it follow the map. The Patterns map is much more forgiving.

star_groups.jpg The groups within the “Stars” group are the surface replicators; Inner Starfield, Patterns, Earth-Like Constellations, and Outer Starfield.

Open a replicator by double-clicking it, or by selecting it and entering the model room.

Inside the replicator, the various settings are quite self-explanatory.

Source Object Since these are surface replicators, they ask for an object onto which they can apply your settings. In our situation, the source objects are the respective Globes located in the Invisible Space group.

Replicated Objects This is what is to be replicated. Although you may add objects here, within the replicator, it is a simple practice to simply drag the objects into the replicator in the assembly room. You would only need to do that if you wanted to add a type of object that is not already replicated.

Number of Objects Using this slider, or by entering an exact value, you control how many total replications are to be made. At the very bottom of the window, you'll see a read-out of how many objects are actually placed. Due to a placement shader or specific settings made on the right side of the window, it is sometimes possible that the surface replicator can only place a percentage of the objects. You will see this in both the Earth-Like Constellations and the Patterns replicators – where the value in this setting is very high, only to have a small amount replicated. You may still increase the replicated number by further increasing this slider value.

Create Real Instances Use with Caution; Carrara could become very slow. What this does is to replace all of the small white bounding boxes made by the replicator with actual models. Starry Sky stars are made of very low polygon count, so choosing this may not tax your system very much, but it is still recommended that you leave this alone.

Random Rotation Since our stars are spherical, it doesn't make any sense to add this calculation to our replicator.

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Random Scale This is where you can have the replicator randomly re-size replications of your objects. For some environments, it may be useful to experiment with this translation.

Align Objects to Normal We use this setting to have hair grow staight out from the scalp surface, for example. By not checking this, some hair would get replicated at funny angle to the scalp and wouldn't look much like hair. Since we just have spherical objects that look the same from all angles, it doesn't make any sense adding this calculation to our query.

Use Shader This will use the replicator's shader (not the source object shader) to distribute instances of the objects. Objects will get placed on brighter areas first, while black places will receive no objects. Some of you might find it to be a rewarding experience making your own placement maps for unique star distribution. I know that I do!

Minimum Distance Between Objects This does like it says. It keeps replications from getting closer than a specified minimum distance. We really need this one for Constellations – as the star placement is determined using white dots on a black background. If this parameter is not set, we would get many objects clumped into each white dot on the map. This is a very useful setting for when you are not using a map as well, and just wish to use settings parameters to place stars. For the inner and outer starfields, you'll see that my settings vary greatly from the Patterns or Earth-Like Constellations.

Objects try to Cluster Shortly after the Big Bang gravity was created. Or perhaps Gravity actually played an important role in the Big Bang? If it wasn't for the constant that nothing in the universe can ever achieve perfection, all matter and, therefore, stars, would be held uniformly throughout the universe – like dots on a grid. Galaxies would never have been able to form – nor would many other things. Thanks to this constant, gravity has played an important role through the existence of everything. It forms clusters.

We use this setting with great joy and consideration towards making our celestial spheres look like a real star tapestry. Using this and the above setting, minimum distance, you could have a great deal of fun making many different types of star layouts. Try making your own surface replicators without maps, using the stars from both an inner or outer sphere and those from either patterns or constellations. You'll be amazed at some of the different universe settings you can come up with!

Changing the Lens Flares

Lens Flares, in this product, can be used to simulate many things. I took care in trying to keep the settings subtle, yet exciting. Admittedly, since most of my use of this product is for outer space movie animations, I rarely use the lens flared scenes. I opt for adding one or several of the individual stars from the package and place them manually for an even more subtle effect. Nonetheless, I could see the need or want of such a set – especially for dreams or magical scenes, which I intend to play with further as time permits.

The ability to understand and change the special effects settings is key in getting the most out of the lens flared models. Since Carrara offers an extraordinary amount of options in this area, one needs to take care in not over-doing it. Before we get into the meat of the subject, I'd like to urge you to feel free to try everything that Carrara has to offer here, but save out your settings under a unique name to keep the original files intact for a starting point. The Carrara User's Manual contains information on effects. This manual only aims to work with the settings used in the product.

star_setting_1.jpg To locate the lens flare effects, you need to open a flared star group. In the illustration we're using one of the individual star models »>

The effects themselves are not actually applied to the model but, rather, a Bulb light that is parented to the star model. The Bulb light is named “Lens Flare”. Select it and go into the Effects tab.

Light Effects – Stars : This creates the visible “cross” effect. The individual star models included in this set have this setting at about the highest that I would ever set it under normal situations. But as you will notice, it is actually set very low as far as the effect itself is concerned. Size determines the overall length of the flares, Thickness widens the spike of the flare, Intensity determines the brightness of the effect. Angle (not used) allows you to rotate the effect, while Branches enables the number of spikes that occur.

Lens Flare : As you will notice, there is no check box to enable this setting. To turn it on or off, you must Edit the properties to either use the settings or not. Again, the settings used within this effect have been kept extremely subtle. While it is nice to have the ability to do what you want, over-doing it can create some incredibly unrealistic results. The only thing this setting is used for, by default in this product, is for a central glow which radiates color – depending upon which star it is used upon. So it's not actually being used as a lens flare at all! You might want to add a lens flare to your scene, which could create a beautifully realistic effect of using a camera toward a bright object – like a star. Try using one of the General Preset options (upper left of window) on an individual star to see what you can come up with. Caution – Using these on the replicated flares could cause bizarre, unwanted effects!!!

If you're the adventurous sort and want to have some fun, try experimenting with all of the various setting and effects available to you. I sure did when I was trying to create just the right effect for this product – over twenty combined hours!

Just keep in mind what your overall goal is. It is very easy to over saturate a scene with nonsensical effects. It can be difficult to produce a truly breathtaking, realistic effect. Whether you're looking for something silly or outlandish, or something more on the realistic side of things, only you can be the true judge of what you want – and Carrara is powerful enough to take you there. The main objective is that you have fun along the way!

Tutorials

To get a really great render using Starry Sky for Carrara, all you really need to do is open one of the scenes and render it. But let's take a moment to quickly demonstrate how easy it can be to add Starry Sky to an existing scene by walking you, step-by-step through loading one of Carrara's example landscape scenes, edit the Realistic Sky setting to get some atmospheric darkness going on, then we'll add some stars and even perform a few tweaks to help illustrate some of the artistic ways you can use Starry Sky for Carrara to really get what you want from your scenes.

After that, we'll animate a starship cruising through space using the included Panorama Cam to quickly place our vessel at each end of the starfield. We'll even cover setting up the camera to follow the ship using one of Carrara's modifiers to simplify some of the many things to come in your long hobby or profession in to the wonderful world of CGI.

Build a scene based on a Carrara Preset (with Realistic Sky)

In testing this product I was amazed at how much more versatile it is than what I had originally intended. The first time I performed a test render after forgetting to disable the realistic sky while using one of the example Landscape scenes in Carrara's browser, my jaw fell right to the floor! Now I find myself using the realistic sky regularly with Starry Sky for Carrara. I can't wait to try it out on some presets once the real realistic sky gurus, like Tim Payne, make some nighttime sky presets for this!

In the meantime, I'd like to showcase how simple it is to use this product using any of the example scenes found within the browser of the world's greatest 3d modeling and animation software package – DAZ 3D's Carrara!

Step 1 – Select and Open a Scene from the Browser Let's begin by simply picking out a scene and double-clicking it to open it. For our example here, I've chosen “Snow and Rocks”.

scene_1.jpg

Step 2 – Adjust the Realistic Sky To make a scene with stars in it, we don't want a noon sun – or even close. Let's see where the sun is in our scene.

Even though the sun is fairly low, I'd prefer it were still lower. Another option is to check the box entitled “Night”. We also want to see the moon – just for kicks!

By checking the “Night” box, we'd be all set for a star-filled sky, but we're not really showing off the realistic sky feature. Additionally, we'd lose any light that was coming from the sun. We could fix that by casting some light onto the terrain, but for this example we'll just leave the “Night” box alone and bring the sun lower.

I would be remiss to not mention that I had to play around with the position of the Moon in order to get it into view. This can take some time, but it gets easier with practice. Our sun is low, but I want it to be a bit more subtle. I'll use what I've learned positioning the Moon to bring the sun to a more rising or setting position. Why not add Phase and Tilt to the moon to reflect the new position of the sun as well.

Notice that the Moon now seems to get its light from the direction of the Sun. We have a fairly dark sky and a rather dramatic scattering of light on our terrain. I like to get this part set up as best I can before adding other scene features, since I enjoy using the Preview in the Realistic Sky Editor to help see what my adjustments have done. Let's do a test render.

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We're getting close. I admit that I am not a realistic sky guru. I am not yet experienced enough to know how to get rid of that pesky horizon line – just above the dip in the terrain. I know that a quick asking on the Carrara forums at DAZ 3D would teach me what I need to know… but instead, we'll just rotate our camera down a bit. Also, before doing another test render, I think I'd like to go back into the Realistic Sky Editor and lower the Global Brightness in this scene. Since I'm still in test render mode, I've also gone into the Render Room and disabled the “Sky Light” rendering option – Just takes too long for my test renders!

For the record, I didn't actually enter “9.91” into the Global Brightness Value field. I simply dragged the slider down a bit. That's all. Let's see what we have now.

scene_8_test2.jpg

Yeah… I'm liking this! Feel free to adjust sky settings all you like. You only get better at it with practice. Optionally you could look at some of the sky preset products at DAZ 3D Store. There is some excellent advice in the Carrara forums and some excellent sky freebies in the Carrara Freebies forums as well. However, with Starry Sky for Carrara, you don't even need to have a realistic sky. It looks beautiful without it.

Step 3 – Add Starry Sky for Carrara Most of the Landscape examples are scenes of the Large Size Magnitude. To know the size magnitude of your scene, select “Scene” (like you would to edit the sky), and choose the “Interface” tab on the top. The last heading in that section tells you the Size Magnitude of the scene. Drag in the Starry Sky of your choice from the appropriate sizes.

scene_9_addss.jpg

To help illustrate how easy it is to use Starry Sky for Carrara, I'll do a test render right away.

Beautiful! If the Moon wasn't in our scene, we could call it a day! But since we do have the moon showing in our realistic sky, let's fix the fact that a few stars are showing in front of it. Using the render cam, let's rotate all of the stars to the right, just a bit.

Now another test render.

As you can see, we've eliminated the stars from showing in front of the moon. We could call this one done. But if you want to go for the golden shot, let's add some balance to this by lifting the stars slightly so that those brighter ones are in the upper right corner.

Okay, now let's have another look.

Wow! Not only have we brought the three bright stars up, but we've also exposed a fourth bright star. One with a slightly brighter lens flare – Looks done to me! Save it and render it!

You may also notice that zooming the camera closer to the starfields will cause a higher number of stars to show up in the render. This really simulates real star shots. When you put it in motion by rendering an animation, this effect will actually cause some stars to twinkle. This was all part of the hundreds of hours of testing and tweaking. Play around with different scenes – but remember that, with Starry Sky for Carrara, you don't really need to edit anything to get great results.

In the next tutorial, we'll go through the process of animating a starship flying through space using Starry Sky for Carrara as its only environment.

Once again, this will demonstrate how incredibly simple it is to set up scenes and animations using this great set!

Build a Starship Animation

This is actually what really drove me into creating this product; animating starships. Using background images as my starfield not only looked unrealistic, but gave terrible results during intense animation sequences. Let's work together here and make a simple, but very cool starship fly-by animation just to show off how easy such a thing can be.

Step 1 – Begin with Starry Sky for Carrara This time we'll start off with Starry Sky. I have a starship pre-assembled and awaiting an animation sequence and it works nicely in a Medium Size Magnitude – So to open Starry Sky, I'll double-click one of the medium sized files.

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Step 2 – Add the Starship I'm using the Thunderbike, by Kibarreto, with Lorenzo Lowrez, by Predatron, as the pilot. During prep time I've posed Lorenzo into the cockpit and added the helmet that comes with the Thunderbike set. I've also lifted the landing gear, closed the hatches and the rear cockpit on the Thunderbike and added some necessary lighting.

For your scene, you can use whatever models you have available and follow along. Let's load that next.

To assist with the lighting, I've added a Target Helper Object that the lights can point at. If you haven't used this method, go ahead and Insert > Target Helper Object now, center it in your ship, and group it or parent it to your ship. You'll need it later for animation.

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Notice that I have 'Grouped' (Cntrl + G) The ship, pilot and lights together. This will allow me to simply move the entire group for animation purposes. Let's see what it all looks like so far.

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Excellent! We have our lit ship floating in a sea of stars – just what the Doctor ordered! Next we'll animate the ship itself. You could try another option by simply leaving the ship in place, and moving the camera. I've found that both methods have their advantages – depending upon your needs.

Step 3 – Animate the Starship Here is where the included “Panorama Cam” comes in handy. But first, let's take a look at the orientation of the starship. Select your ship with the Move tool selected (Top Arrow on Upper-Left corner of the window). Take note of how the ship is oriented. On mine, the Green Arrow is point forward. Now we'll look through the Panorama Cam.

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Okay, right now my ship is aimed toward me. I want a side-view, so I'll rotate the camera.

orient_2.jpg

There. Now, with my sequencer at the first frame, I'll drag my ship to the rear edge of space.

For mine, I'll have to take into account that my ship was not set up at zero 3d coordinates. This just means that I'll have an extra step involved when setting up my camera.

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Close enough. Now I'll set my End frame to 6 seconds – you can set yours however you like. Then I'll set the sequencer to the end frame, and drag my ship to the opposite side of space.

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We now have an animation. But before we can render it, we need to set up the camera.

Step 4 – Set Up the Camera In a fly-by animation, you need to consider what sort of shot you need. You could leave the camera still, and have the ship fly past it. You could aim the camera at the ship, parent the camera to the ship and film as the camera follows the ship. There are many possibilities. In this tutorial, I would like to actually have the ship fly past the camera. While doing so, we'll follow the path of the ship with our camera as it flies past and away.

cam_set_1.jpg cam_set_2.jpg Set your view back to your render camera. If you've done the steps as I have, you won't see your ship anymore. That's exactly what we want. In the scene tab, select your rendering camera. With the camera selected, choose the 'Modifiers' tab and hit the '+' sign and choose 'Point At'.

Locate the Target Helper Object that you've added earlier and select it – hit OK.

Your camera will now remain pointed at the helper object throughout the animation.

The next thing you'll want to do is to check how well the fly-by looks. Scrub through the timeline and watch your ship fly by. It should fly past the camera about halfway through the animation.

Since my ship wasn't in Zero 3d coordinates (remember my comments earlier?), I have to fix mine. My ship loaded into the scene very close to the end point of the animation. So we wouldn't see the fly-by until the end. To fix this, I'll go into the Panorama Cam view and, while the sequencer is on the first frame, select my render camera and drag it to the middle of the scene. Fixed!

I always check halfway through the timeline to see how the camera views the ship during the fly-by and tweak its position if need be. In this case, I made it look nearly side-on at the 3 second mark.

The only thing left to do here is to render out the animation. Here are some screen-shots of mine near the fly by zone. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial as well as Starry Sky for Carrara!

Sincerely, Dartanbeck

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