User Tools

Site Tools


Secret Lake

Product: Secret Lake
Product Code: ca_sc005b
DAZ Original: No
Vendor: HowieFarkes (Store | Website)
Released: June 24, 2008

<br />

Product Information

  • Required Products: Carrara 3D Express, Carrara 6.2, Carrara 6.2 Pro

Secret Lake is the second scene released from the Harpwood County series. Products in the Harpwood County series include:

  1. Country Lane (released June 3, 2008)
  2. Secret Lake (released June 24, 2008)
  3. Stoney Creek (released August 11, 2008)
  4. Country Lane - Hedgerow (released September 16, 2008)
  5. Maple Meadows (released November 15, 2008)
  6. Secret Lake - Seasons (released January 15, 2009)
  7. Stoney Creek Beechdale (released June 29, 2009)
  8. Stoney Creek Sprucevale (released August 4, 2009)

<br />

Installation Notes

  1. The installer will ask for a location to install Secret Lake into. On Windows systems the correct place to install into is the Carrara application directory - typically C:\Program Files\DAZ\Carrara. On Macintosh systems you can install into any folder but will need to follow the Manual Installation Instructions below.
  2. If you are using render nodes in a render farm you will need to install the leaf files into the Plants Data folder of each render node. Please follow the first section of the Manual Installation Instructions below - Installing the Leaves.

<br />

Manual Installation Instructions

<div style="border: 1px solid black; background-color: #FFFFAA; padding: 10px; width: 60%; margin-bottom: 10px;">The following manual installation instructions are only needed if the installer is unable to automatically install the presets into the correct locations.</div>

Installing the Leaves

– VERY IMPORTANT - DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP – - install the leaf files into Carrara's Data folder. Do this before attempting to open any other file included with this package. The trees in this package use custom leaf objects and not installing them into the correct folder will result in Carrara substituting the default leaf in their place. Should you be using Carrara render nodes for network rendering you will also be required to install the leaves into each node. To install the leaves:

  1. Navigate to where “Secret Lake” was installed in your file system
  2. Locate the following folder inside the install folder:
    • Data:Plants:Secret Lake <br />
  3. Copy the “Secret Lake” folder and all its contents into Carrara's Plants Data folder (to find this folder see instructions below)

Locating the Plants Data Folder - Windows

The Plants Data folder for Carrara on Windows systems is located within the Carrara application folder. It therefore is typically located at the following path:

  • C:\Program Files\DAZ\Carrara 6 Pro\Data\Plants\

Locating the Plants Data Folder - Macintosh

The Plants Data folder for Carrara on Macintosh systems is located within the Carrara application package.

  1. Locate and navigate to your Carrara application file - usually located at:
    • Macintosh HD:Applications:Carrara 6 Pro
  2. Right-click on the Carrara application icon and select the menu item titled “Show Package Contents”. This should open a new Finder window containing a folder named “Content”
  3. Navigate through this folder to get to the Plants folder located at:
    • Content:MacOS:Data:Plants

<br />

Installing the Trees Presets

This is an optional step for those wanting to use the trees included in this package in their own landscapes.

  1. Navigate to where “Secret Lake” was installed in your file system
  2. Locate the following folder inside the install folder:
    • Presets:Plants:Secret Lake<br />
  3. Copy the “Secret Lake” folder and all its contents into Carrara's Plants Presets folder (to find this folder see instructions below)

Locating the Plants Presets Folder - Windows

The Plants Presets folder for Carrara on Windows systems is located within the Carrara application folder. It therefore is typically located at the following path:

  • C:\Program Files\DAZ\Carrara 6 Pro\Presets\Plants\

Locating the Plants Presets Folder - Macintosh

The Plants Presets folder for Carrara on Macintosh systems is located within the Carrara application package.

  1. Locate and navigate to your Carrara application file - usually located at:
    • Macintosh HD:Applications:Carrara 6 Pro
  2. Right-click on the Carrara application icon and select the menu item titled “Show Package Contents”. This should open a new Finder window containing a folder named “Content”
  3. Navigate through this folder to get to the Plants folder located at:
    • Content:MacOS:Presets:Plants

<br />

Installing the Scene Preset

This is an optional step for those wanting to have Secret Lake included as a preset in Carrara's Scene Wizard.

  1. Navigate to where “Secret Lake” was installed in your file system
  2. Locate the following folder inside the install folder:
    • Scenes:Secret Lake<br />
  3. Copy the “Secret Lake” folder and all its contents into Carrara's Scenes Presets folder (to find this folder see instructions below)

Locating the Scenes Presets Folder - Windows

The Scenes Presets folder for Carrara on Windows systems is located within the Carrara application folder. It therefore is typically located at the following path:

  • C:\Program Files\DAZ\Carrara 6 Pro\Scenes\

Locating the Scenes Presets Folder - Macintosh

The Scenes Presets folder for Carrara on Macintosh systems is located within the Carrara application package.

  1. Locate and navigate to your Carrara application file - usually located at:
    • Macintosh HD:Applications:Carrara 6 Pro
  2. Right-click on the Carrara application icon and select the menu item titled “Show Package Contents”. This should open a new Finder window containing a folder named “Content”
  3. Navigate through this folder to get to the Scenes folder located at:
    • Content:MacOS:Scenes

<br />

Installing the Realistic Sky Preset

This is an optional step for those wanting to have Secret Lake's Realistic Sky presets included in Carrara's Scene Wizard.

  1. Navigate to where “Secret Lake” was installed in your file system
  2. Locate the following folder inside the install folder:
    • Presets:Atmosphere:Realistic:Secret Lake<br />
  3. Copy the “Secret Lake” folder and all its contents into Carrara's Realistic Atmosphere Presets folder (to find this folder see instructions below)

Locating the Realistic Atmosphere Presets Folder - Windows

The Realistic Atmosphere Presets folder for Carrara on Windows systems is located within the Carrara application folder. It therefore is typically located at the following path:

  • C:\Program Files\DAZ\Carrara 6 Pro\Presets\Atmosphere\Realistic

Locating the Realistic Atmosphere Presets Folder - Macintosh

The Realistic Atmosphere Presets folder for Carrara on Macintosh systems is located within the Carrara application package.

  1. Locate and navigate to your Carrara application file - usually located at:
    • Macintosh HD:Applications:Carrara 6 Pro
  2. Right-click on the Carrara application icon and select the menu item titled “Show Package Contents”. This should open a new Finder window containing a folder named “Content”
  3. Navigate through this folder to get to the Plants folder located at:
    • Content:MacOS:Presets:Atmosphere:Realistic

<br />

Using the Scene and Content

Where to find your new Presets

Secret Lake Scene Preset

The Secret Lake scene is installed into the Scenes Presets folder of Carrara. To access the new scene select “Open Preset…” from the File menu to open the Scene Wizard.

Now you can choose Secret Lake from the Scene Wizard.

Finally, select the Secret Lake Scene and press the “OK” button to open the scene.

<br />

Tree Presets

There are five tree presets included in the Secret Lake package. They are:

  1. Red Spruce (Picea rubens)
  2. Sugar Maple Mature (Acer saccharum)
  3. Sugar Maple Sapling (Acer saccharum)
  4. Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)
  5. Tamarack Larch (Larix laracina)

The Tree presets are installed into the Plants Presets folder of Carrara. To access the new trees select “Plant” from the Insert menu.

Next, choose “Preset: Load” to launch the Plant Scene Wizard.

Now you can choose Secret Lake from the Plant Scene Wizard. Here you will find the four preset trees from the Secret Lake package. Select a tree then press the “OK” button to load the preset.

Finally, choose “OK” when prompted to import the tree's shader.

Your fully editable tree should be loaded now.

<br />

Leaf Presets

There are three leaf presets included in the Secret Lake package. They are:

  1. Larch Needles
  2. Sugar Maple Leaf
  3. Spruce Needles

The Leaf presets are installed into the Data folder of Carrara. To access the new leaves select “Plant” from the Insert menu.

Select the “Leaf” tab.

Next, click the “Choose a leaf” button to launch the Plant Scene Wizard.

Now you can choose Secret Lake from the Leaf Scene Wizard. Here you will find the three preset leaves from the Secret Lake package. Select a leaf then press the “OK” button to load the preset.

Finally, choose “OK” when prompted to import the leaf's shader.

Your tree should be adorned with the new leaf now.

<br />

Realistic Sky Preset

There are two Realistic Sky presets included in the Secret Lake package. They are titled:

  1. Late Afternoon
  2. Mid-Morning

The Realistic Sky presets are installed into the Presets folder of Carrara. To access a new Realistic Sky select choose “Realistic Sky” for the Atmosphere in the Scene's Effects Tab.

Click on the “Preset” icon to launch the Atmosphere Scene Wizard.

Now you can choose Secret Lake from the Atmosphere Scene Wizard. Here you will find the “Mid-Morning” and “Late Afternoon” presets from the Secret Lake package. Select a preset then press the “OK” button to load the preset.

Your scene should have the new Realistic Sky applied to it now.

<br />

Camera Positions

There are six included camera locations saved within the scene file. Using these pre-saved positions allows you to quickly navigate to some locations within the scene specially chosen for their appeal and composition.

Access to these camera positions is via the Camera menu at the top-left corner of the 3D View. The image below highlights their location.

<br />

Rendering

<div style="border: 1px solid black; background-color: #FFFFAA; padding: 10px; width: 60%; margin-bottom: 10px;">Please note: All example renders in this document were produced on an Apple Mac Pro, 2 x 2.66 GHz Dual-Core Xeon, 2GB RAM using Carrara 6.2. All quoted render times are relevant for this system and are provided for relative comparison purposes only.</div>

"I started a render but nothing seems to be happening!"

Relax! - this is normal. In Carrara 6.2 this scene will sometimes seem to pause for a few minutes immediately after starting a render. What is actually happening is that Carrara is pre-calculating all the replicated trees, shrubs and grasses. If you leave the program to finish this task it will eventually start rendering.

<br />

Raytrace Settings

This section contains notes about some of the Raytracing settings in Secret Lake and gives some advice on how to improve your renders. The image below shows the default settings for Secret Lake.

<br />

Full Raytracing (higher quality)

Carrara's Photorealistic render engine is a hybrid scanline and raytrace renderer. Scanline renderers are generally a little faster than a raytracing renderer but are unable to reproduce reflections and refractions. To overcome this limitation Carrara's render engine will utilize raytracing to produce those effects when needed. If you want to you can ensure that Carrara will always use raytracing for the whole render by selecting “Full Raytracing” in the render settings. Below are two renders showing the results of turning this setting first off, and then on.

There is no discernable increase in quality and only a small increase in render time when turning Full Raytracing on, due to the amount of relfection, refraction and ray-traced soft shadows in the scene. The default for Secret Lake is “off”.

<br />

Light Through Transparency

This setting can have a large impact on the look of your renders. When DAZ/Poser content is added to a Carrara scene Light Through Transparency will automatically be enabled in the Raytrace settings. This is necessary to allow sections of DAZ/Poser characters to render correctly, for example the eyes and hair. Unfortunately due to the way Carrara handles translucent objects it is not always ideal to have this setting enabled. However this can be quite a personal judgement so compare the images below.

We can see that having Light Through Transparency on pushes out the render times by nearly 400% in this scene. By default Secret Lake has Light Through Transparency turned off to facilitate faster render times and also for more realistic looking vegetation. You may however need to have it turned on to render correctly any content you have added.

<br />

AntiAliasing and Object Accuracy

Although an artist's first instinct is to push every setting to its best quality setting before rendering, it is wise to reflect on just what it is those settings affect, and just what they cost in terms of render times.

Below is an array of renders displaying every increment for the AntiAliasing and Object Accuracy settings in the Raytracing section of the Render room. Shown below each render is the amount of time it took for a Mac Pro workstation to complete the render.

  <style>   .rcomp { background-color: #EAEAEA; }   .rcomp td { background-color: black; color: white; font-size: 70%; text-align: center; }   .rcomp th { background-color: #EAEAEA; font-size: 85%; padding: 4px; font-weight: normal; }   </style> <table class="rcomp" cellspacing="1"> <tr> <th rowspan="7" align="center" valign="middle"><strong>Object<br />Accuracy</strong></th> <th colspan="5"><strong>AntiAliasing</strong></th> <th rowspan="7">&nbsp;</th> </tr> <tr> <th>&nbsp;</th> <th>none</th> <th>fast</th> <th>good</th> <th>best</th> </tr> <tr> <th valign="middle">4</th> <td><br />0:46</td> <td><br />1:16</td> <td><br />3:20</td> <td><br />11:12</td> </tr> <tr> <th valign="middle">2</th> <td><br />0:46</td> <td><br />1:17</td> <td><br />3:20</td> <td><br />11:11</td> </tr> <tr> <th valign="middle">1</th> <td><br />0:46</td> <td><br />1:18</td> <td><br />3:25</td> <td><br />11:31</td> </tr> <tr> <th valign="middle">0.5</th> <td><br />0:46</td> <td><br />2:14</td> <td><br />4:10</td> <td><br />11:55</td> </tr> <tr> <th colspan="5" align="right"><span style="font-size: 75%;">rendered on a Mac Pro, 2 x 2.66 GHz Dual-Core Xeon, 2GB RAM, Carrara 6.2</span></th> </tr> </table>

One interesting observation that can be made is that changing the Object Accuracy has only a negligible effect upon the render time (unless the object accuracy is set to 0.5 pixels), it is the AntiAliasing setting that has the biggest effect on both render quality and render time. Each increment of AntiAliasing can more than double the length of the render time - but with diminishing increases in picture quality.

So obviously setting AntiAliasing to “best” will give the absolute best result - but it comes at the expense of taking nearly three times longer to render than the “good” setting and the improvement actually gained is very subtle.

The default settings in Secret Lake for AntiAliasing and Object Accuracy are:

  • AntiAliasing - “fast”
  • Object Accuracy - 0.5 pixels

These settings were chosen as a good compromise between speed and quality, but are not really optimal for high quality renderings in which case better AntiAliasing settings will be required.

<br />

Shadow Accuracy

Increasing the shadow accuracy slightly increases the render times for a very small quality gain. This value has a default of 4 pixels in Secret Lake.

<br />

Skylight Global Illumination

In landscape rendering it is essential to use some sort of skylight global illumination to achieve a realistic result. Compare the two images below, the one on the left contains no skylight, whereas the one on the right does.

You can see that the image on the left has dark, black shadows with no detail. The image on the right is using skylight global illumination to give color and detail to the areas of the scene not directly lit by the sun light.

<br />

Ambient Brightness

So how do we get some light into those dark shadows? The easiest and fastest way is to set the Ambient Brightness in the Effects tab of the Assemble room to something higher than 0%.

Unfortunately as demonstrated below this will result in flat, uninspiring shadowed areas of the render.

Ambient Brightness just multiplies the shader of any object in shadow by the Brightness setting and color. There is no attenuation for the shape of the object or it's proximity to other objects. This results in a very flat looking render.

However, do not discount Ambient Brightness altogether. You rarely see completely black shadows in real life so it is a good idea to have at least a small value for the Brightness value. The default value in Secret Lake is 10%

<br />

Global Illumination

The next setting we can look at to improve the render is Global Illumination - Sky Light. This is sometimes known as Image Based Lighting in other 3D packages. For Sky Light to work the scene first needs either a Background Image/HDRI file or, in the case of Carrara, an Atmosphere. In Secret Lake a Realistic Sky Atmoshpere is being used.

Once the scene has been set-up to take advantage of Sky Light you will need to enable this feature in the Render room.

Sky Light produces lovely shadowed areas because it is emulating the way a scene is naturally lit by the environment surrounding it. Compare the Sky Light render to the Ambient Brightness render below.

Of course there is a price to pay for all this visual goodness, and that price is the time it takes to render. For example, of the full sized renders of the examples above, the Sky Light version took 1 hour and 32 minutes to render and the Ambient Brightness one took 9 minutes 24 seconds. So in this instance using Sky Light took nearly 10 times longer to render.

Another drawback of using Sky Light is memory usage. Secret Lake is a very detailed scene with a large amount of fine geometry. Calculating the Sky Light therefore requires huge demands upon your computer's resources. And these memory requirements climb when the render size is set larger. In fact, on a computer with 2GB of RAM, should you want to render an image larger than about 1500×1000 pixels you are taking a risk that Carrara will actually run out of memory and fail to complete the render.

So is there something else we can try? Yes there is.

<br />

Fake Global Illumination

A way to emulate, or fake, a Sky Light is to create a “Sky Dome”. This is the default method of lighting the Secret Lake scene so to use this method you do not need to change any lighting or render settings. The sky dome in Secret Lake is constructed of a hidden sphere with a number of low intensity spot-lights replicated over its surface.

The spot-lights on the sky-dome are therefore pointing into the scene from all angles, in a way replicating what the Sky Light does but in a much simpler fashion. However the effect can be quite convincing as demonstrated in the following renders.

o we can see that while the fake global illumination does not have quite the technical accuracy of the Sky Light it is a very good approximation and could be considered the superior render. Where the fake sky light really wins though is with render times and render size. The full sized “fake” render above took 41 minutes and 44 seconds - that is over 200% faster than the Sky Light. Plus with fake global illumination there are nowhere near the sort of limitations on render size. In testing Secret Lake, render sizes of above 8000×4500 pixels have successfully completed on a 2GB workstation.

<br />

"OK, that's great but I REALLY want to use the Sky Light!"

As mentioned previously, fake global illumination is enabled by default in Country Lane. There are two ways to disable it.

  1. Delete the “Fake GI” group from the Instances Tray in the Assemble Room, or
  2. Turn off the visibility of the “Fake GI” group and all its children in the Instances Tray in the Assemble Room<br />

<br />

Sky Light vs Fake Global Illumination

  <style> .vs { font-size:90%; border: 1px solid #CCCCCC; width: 500px; border-collapse: collapse; margin-left: 2em; }   .vs th, .vs td { border: 1px solid #CCCCCC; padding: 5px; } </style>   <table class="vs" cellspacing="0"> <thead> <tr style="background-color: #EAEAEA"> <th></th> <th width="25%">Sky Light</th> <th width="25%">Fake GI</th> <th></th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td bgcolor="#EAEAEA" valign="top">Quality</td> <td bgcolor="#FFFFAA" valign="middle" align="center">winner</td> <td></td> <td>Sky Light produces the more accurate and beautiful renders.</td> </tr> <tr> <td bgcolor="#EAEAEA" valign="top">Speed</td> <td></td> <td bgcolor="#FFFFAA" valign="middle" align="center">winner</td> <td>Fake GI images take only 1/3rd of the time to render.</td> </tr> <tr> <td bgcolor="#EAEAEA" valign="top">Size</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td bgcolor="#FFFFAA" valign="middle" align="center">winner</td> <td>The image size of a Sky Light render is limited by Carrara's use of system memory. Fake GI render sizes are essentially only limited to how long you're prepared to wait for it to finish.</td> </tr> </tbody> </table>

<br />

Postwork

While every endeavor has been made so that Secret Lake renders straight from Carrara in as realistic manner as possible, a little post-render work in Photoshop or equivalent paint program can yield even greater results. Compare the two images below.

The effect is quite subtle yet the image on the right certainly benefits from its extra post-work. The post-work involved only takes a minute or two, the steps taken in Photoshop are outlined below. Use the equivalent commands in your paint program of choice.

  1. Use a small amount of unsharp-mask to sharpen the image slightly. Set the amount to 60% and radius to 0.5 pixels<br />
  2. Next, desaturate the color of the image. Country Lane has been designed with slightly over-saturated colors to give a nice bright and colorful look. However extra realism requires us to bring the saturation back down a little. Set the saturation to -20.<br />
  3. The last step is to give the render a little more exposure and contrast. This is obtained by boosting the lighter tones in the image while leaving the shadow areas close to original. In Photoshop we can adjust the curves to achieve this effect. Add two points to the RGB curve and adjust as per the screenshot below.<br />

<br />

Resources

An HTML version of this ReadME can be downloaded for offline viewing here. (3.0Mb)

The Surface Replicator distribution maps for Secret Lake can be downloaded here. (236KB) <br />

Support

Visit our site for further technical support questions or concerns: http://daz.custhelp.com

Thank you and enjoy your new products!

DAZ Productions Technical Support
12637 South 265 West #300
Draper, UT 84020
Phone:(801) 495-1777
FAX:(801) 495-1787
TOLL-FREE 1-800-267-5170