The Fruits of Your Labors
Rendering is the process taking your 3D scene and converting it into a 2D image or animation. The whole point of DAZ Studio is to help you produce great artwork, in the form of renders. Rendering is the last step in your DAZ Studio workflow, and the point where you get to reap what you sow, so to speak.
When you render a scene the software calculates RGB values for each pixel based on light, surfaces, poses, shaping, etc. These pixels form your final image. There is more to rendering than just clicking the render button. Your render settings will determine the overall quality and appearance of the image. You may have a fantastic character with a great shape, texture, a pose that stuns and lighting to match, but if your render settings are not set correctly your final image will be poor in quality.
In this chapter we'll go over the basic render settings you will need to produce a high quality image. We'll talk about how to set your image size and aspect ratio. Finally, you'll learn how to render your image and save that image in a 2D file format that can be accessed later.
Note: In this chapter we'll be in the 'Render' activity using the Hollywood Blvd layout.
The Render Settings pane is where you can see and customize all of your render settings. The pane is located on the left hand side of the DAZ Studio interface. The pane is broken down into two pages - 'General' and 'Advanced.' The 'General' page contains basic render settings such as 'Quality', 'Render Style', and 'Dimensions'. The 'Advanced' page contains all of the settings found in the 'General' page but includes more advanced render settings. The following sections will go over the settings in the General page as well as a select few settings from the Advanced page.
The 'Render Quality' setting is available in both the General and Advanced pages of the Render Settings pane. This setting is fairly straight forward - Higher quality means a slower render and vice versa. With this setting you can choose to sacrifice quality for speed. This setting has a prominent location at the top of the Render Settings pane.
The highest quality render setting is 4. At this setting DAZ Studio uses the software render engine to render your scene. You will see the full effect of your surfaces, lights and shadows with this render setting. A software render uses your computer's processor to do the calculations required for the render. This means that your processor will be a big factor in how long the render takes.
The lowest quality setting is just an OpenGL preview. It is essentially a snapshot of what you see in the viewport. A render at this level will have lights at their lowest quality, and no shadows. This render setting is useful for creating a 2D image of what you see in your viewport. You will find that the render is quick - almost instantaneous.
The other two settings are a compromise between speed and quality. Settings 1, 2 and 3 all use your graphics card to do the render calculations. This means that the speed and quality are determined by your graphics card. However, no matter how nice your graphics card is, a software render will always be of higher quality. Levels 2 and 3 are good for previews, but final renders should always use the best quality.
The 'Render Style' render setting allows you to render your image using the existing material settings in the scene, or to render the image with a cartoon look. If the 'Render Style' setting is set to 'Cartoon' then DAZ Studio applies a toon version of the default surface shaders to all surfaces that used the DAZ Studio default surface shader. All of the settings from the default surface shader are carried over to the toon shader. When the 'Default' is chosen for this setting no change is made to the materials and they are rendered as is. Both shaders are great, and it is definitely worth rendering the same scene with both shaders just to see the difference.
The 'Dimensions' settings are available in both the General and Advanced pages. The settings in this section allow you to determine the overall size and aspect ratio of your rendered image. “Size” is determined by the number of 'Pixels', while the “Aspect Ratio” is determined by the 'Aspect.' DAZ Studio also provides a few preset aspect ratios commonly used in cinematography and photography, along with an ability to save your own.
By default the “Aspect Frame” is turned off. Turning the aspect frame on will allow you to see exactly what area of your scene will be rendered. To turn the aspect frame on, open the viewport options menu (see Section 2.4.3 for a review) and choose the 'Show Aspect Frame' option. You should see the aspect frame appear unless you have 'Active Viewport' as your aspect ratio setting.
The 'Preset' setting is a drop down menu that allows you to choose a preset aspect ratio. There are several available, such as 4:3, 16:9, Super 8mm and more. Click on the drop down menu to see all of the presets available. If you've created your own aspect ratio you can use the 'Save Preset…' button to save that aspect ratio for later. Once the preset is saved you will find it in the 'Preset' drop down list.
In the 'Pixels' fields you can enter the number of pixels you want in your final render. The first field is the height and the second field is the width. If the 'Constrain Proportions' option is checked, updating one field will automatically update the other field so that the proportions match. Keep in mind that the more pixels in your render the longer the render will take to complete.
The 'Aspect' fields allow you to determine the relative height and width of your image. The easiest way to set your aspect is to use one of the preset aspects from the preset drop down menu. If you'd like a custom aspect you can set it here. All you need to do is click in one of the fields and enter a numeric value. The first field represents the height, and the second field represents the width of the image. Changing the 'Aspect' values will update the aspect frame in the viewport if it is turned on.
Even when you have your quality setting at its highest there are still things you can do to improve the overall quality of your render. The render settings in the Advanced page of the Render Settings pane give you further control over the quality of your render. You can adjust these settings to increase speed or quality.
The render settings discussed in this section can be found in the Advanced page of the Render Settings pane when the render quality setting is 4. While there are many render settings that could be discussed we've chosen three of the most important settings in terms of quality. They are 'Max Ray Trace Depth', 'Shadow Samples', and 'Shading Rate.'
'Max Ray Trace Depth' determines the number of light bounces for a single ray calculated by the render engine. The default max ray trace depth is 2. This is sufficient for most renders. The only time you need to turn max ray trace depth up is if you have multiple reflective surfaces in your scene. Increasing max ray trace depth can drastically increase your render time, so make sure you need the added ray bounces before you increase the value.
'Shadow Samples' determines how many samples the render engine takes to create a shadow. More samples means a higher quality shadow but a longer render time. Lowering the number of samples will decrease render time but you may get grainy, low quality shadows.
The default number of samples is 16. Depending on the number of lights, the prominence of shadows in your scene and your shadow softness you can turn this value up or down.
Your 'Shading Rate' determines how detailed your render is. A higher shading rate means a faster render. However, with a faster render you sacrifice details. Your shading rate should be determined by your scene. If you are doing a close up portrait your shading rate should be low so you can capture as much detail as possible. On the other hand, if the subject of your scene isn't close up you can turn the shading rate up, as you won't be able to see the fine details anyway.
The default value for 'Shading Rate' is 1.00. This is a great baseline value, and most renders will be sufficient with this setting. However, if you find your render is taking far too long try turning the shading rate up. Does your render need finer detail? Turn the shading rate down.
Render Settings Presets allow you to save your existing render settings, or load previously saved render settings. The preset contains information for every setting in both the General and Advanced page of the Render Settings pane. When loaded, a Render Settings Preset will replace ALL of your current render settings, with the render settings contained in the preset.
Saving a Render Settings Preset is simple. First make sure your render settings are at the values you desire. Next, select File > Save As > Render Settings Preset… from the main menu bar. This will launch the 'Filtered Save' dialog. In the 'Filtered Save' dialog you can give your preset a name and choose the location you wish to save it to. Take note of your save location and the name of the preset so you can find it later. Once you've finalized your save location and name click 'Save' and DAZ Studio will save the preset.
You can load a Render Settings Preset from either the Content Library pane or the Smart Content pane. Simply browse through your content until you find the preset and double click the preset to load it. If you have just saved a Render Settings it can be found in the 'Uncategorized' category in the Smart Content pane.
You've got your scene set up, the lighting is just right, the materials look great, you're composition and framing are spot on, and you've got your render settings where you want them. Congratulations on building your scene, it's now time to start your final render.
Rendering is a resource intensive process. Depending on the power of your machine and the complexity of your scene your render could take a few seconds, minutes, hours, or even days. Because of the variability in hardware and scene complexity it is always a good idea to save your scene before beginning any render. That way if anything goes wrong you won't lose all of your hard work. To save your scene, go to File > Save.
Once your scene is saved and your render settings are finalized you can begin your final render. To start the render process you can click the 'Render' button at the top of the Render Settings pane, click the 'Render' button in the toolbar, choose Render?Render from the main menu bar, or use the hotkey Ctrl+R on the PC or Cmd+R on the MAC.
By default the render will open a new window. While the scene is rendering you won't be able to do anything else in DAZ Studio. You can watch the progress of the render in the “Render Window.” If at any time you need to cancel the render you can do so by clicking the 'Cancel' button in the bottom right corner of the render window. When the render is complete the cancel button will change to a 'Close' button.
Once your render is complete you still need to save the render. If you are satisfied with the results you can save the render from within the render window. If you'd like to discard the render simply click the 'Close' button.
To save the render you must first enter a name for the image in the 'Name' field. Next choose a file format from the drop down menu. You can choose from .jpg, .png, .tiff, and .bmp for still images.
After you've chosen a name and a file extension you'll need to choose a save location. By default the render will be saved to DAZ Studio's “Render Library” - which can be viewed from the Render Library pane. You can use the + key to add a folder within the render library. If you'd like to choose a different save location choose 'Folder' from the drop down menu on the left. You can then use the '…' button on the right to open a browsing dialog and choose a save location.
When your name, file format, and save location are finalized click 'Save' to save the render. DAZ Studio will save the 2D image in the location you have chosen. You can then share this image with friends and family or colleagues. You can open the image in a 2D editing software like Adobe® Photoshop®.
Congratulations on finishing your render. We love to see what our new users are doing with DAZ Studio and DAZ Content. Feel free to share your artwork in our forums and in our galleries. As your skills progress you may want to consider entering a render contest in one of our forums. We have contests available for every skill level. Whether you decide to share your art with the world, or keep it personal to you, don't stop rendering. Keep working in 3D and your skills will improve.