V-Ray in real life

A group of rockstar VFX artists has put together this bad-ass film for V-Ray's 10th anniversary.
It's not only entertaining as hell, but also very informative on the latest HDR-related features.

If all that talk about dome lights, importance sampling, biased vs. unbiased rendering sounds confusing to you, fear not! Just recently I have added clear, plain-speak explanations of exactly these topics to the The HDRI Handbook 2.0. I figured that those are vital features for modern render engines (not limited to V-Ray at all), and apparently these guys think so too.

And yeah, I kinda miss the chrome balls, too. But not too much.
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Back from the depths

Hey everybody,

This blog was awfully quiet lately, and the reason is that I poured every waking minute into finishing the book. Now it's done.

You read that right: The HDRI Handbook 2.0 is finally delivered. Yay! It's twice the pages of the first one, I spent twice the amount of time writing it (the last two years, in fact). So it really is a true version 2.0!

Right now the manuscript in the middle of the cycle of copy-editing, layout, and proof reading. It's definitely out on the shelves by Christmas, probably earlier. I will keep you updated.

While we wait I can get this website back into shape, starting with a new sIBL-of-the-month. That's one of my favorite traditions. This month I'm releasing a sunny jungle road from Barbados, on the Cherry Tree Hill to be exact. Check out the panorama!

And here is how this sIBL set looks in modo 601:

All I did was drag and drop it from the preset browser into the viewport. Done. And then rotated the render view (!) until I liked the framing. Reflections, lighting, even the ground shadow under the car - all that is built automatically, and it renders so efficiently that the Render Preview is actually realtime.
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Photomatix 4.2 update

The new Photomatix update has been out for a while, so it's about time to drop a few lines about the new features.

Most obvious is the revised Presets panel, which now has subcategories and more/better standard presets. Then there's a brand-new Finishing Touch panel. It opens right after tonemapping and offers the typical basic mix of contrast, color, and sharpness adjustment.

Well, it all works as expected and this certainly catches up with all the other tonemapping tools. However, I will still post-process all my images in Photoshop, just because that's more intuitive and gives me the flexibility to fix things up with layers and content-aware sorcery. Sometimes, when layers are not needed, I use Lightroom for post-processing. I'm sort of set in my ways there, so the new Finishing Touches may be fine in general but are not for me.

The new feature I find most important is actually hidden in the Preferences.

Previously, the Mac version of Photomatix relied on OSX's built-in OpenEXR support. And that was always buggy. See, OSX tends to clip all the highlights beyond the 1.0 value, and to prevent this Photomatix was aligning the base exposure of every EXR file to the brightest highlight (a method called Normalizing). While that may be fine for normal images (except that they may look unexpectedly dark in Photoshop), it throws a monkey wrench into a panorama stitching workflow. Each panorama sector had different exposure.

Now in Photomatix 4.2 you can simply uncheck the Save EXR files with Mac OS X API option and all EXR files will have consistent exposure. So now they stitch perfectly in PTGui.

Good stuff. Highly recommended update! Grab Photomatix 4.2 here.
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You live to learn

I know there's a gazillion news items to talk about, from Photoshop CS6 over Photomatix 4.2 to when my book is finally going to be done. But more to that later. This one is also urgent news:

My good friend and occasional co-blogger Michael James is holding a live webinar on Tuesday. (Recording: Part 1, Part 2)
As professional real-estate photographer on the sunny coast of Florida he faces worst-case scenarios of indoor/outdoor scenes with massive dynamic range on a daily basis. So he knows a trick or two. Ask him about his technique to correct white balance of conflicting light temperatures…

There's only 1000 seats, 600+ are already gone.


I heard that another 400 people signed up after reading this blog post. Crazy. Now I feel all powerful and stuff… Just in case you missed the show, here is the recording:

On a related note, I will also hold a seminar soon-ish, at the photoact 2012 conference.
Here the seats are more limited; only a few more than 100 tickets are available. There's an impressive line-up of speakers, so it promises to be a very interesting and intimate event. If you want to be part of it, I recommend to sign up before June 1.

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Real HDR support in Lightroom 4.1 RC2

Finally! A footnote on John Nack's blog tipped me off: The next Lightroom update can process real 32-bit TIFF images! Of course I had to put it to the test right away...

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Toning real HDR files in Lightroom needs some extreme slider settings.

This is my regular test image, with a vast dynamic range of more than 18 EVs. The result isn't bad at all, compared with the original and a few other tonemappers on the RealHDR page. I had to drag all the adjustment sliders to the full extreme, which is a sure sign that Lightroom is technically built to handle about as much dynamic range as you can expect in a single RAW file (current record is 14.4 EVs, held by the Nikon D800). Still, I'm pleasantly surprised how natural and free of artifacts the image turned out.

Download Lightroom 4.1RC and see for yourself.

Keep it coming, Adobe!
The next step should certainly be OpenEXR support. Full-on 32-bit TIFFs are annoyingly huge for no good reason. Seriously! For the image above it's 120 MB versus 30 MB in EXR, with absolutely no quality difference.

PS: According to ancient tradition I released a brand new sIBL-of-the-month. This time it's a Renaissance Cemetery, spiced up with an extra dose of cinematic mood.
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The Big 5

Thank you so much for coming here! Love you all. Every one of you 5 million! Wow. That number doesn't even include the community forum, because I have it excluded from visitor tracking for better privacy protection of the members.

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Coincidentally, I'm also delivering chapter 5 to the awesome editorial staff at RockyNook. Major milestone. If you've read the first HDRI-Handbook you will know that I have only 2 more chapters to go: Panostitching and 3D. Huge parts of those are already re-written. And since I'm playing tag race with my bad ass layouter Petra, that means The HDRI Handbook 2.0 is possibly on your shelf in July/August.

In the meantime, I can offer you some eye candy in my new sIBL-of-the-month:

Highslide JS

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