10 simple steps for rendering in V-Ray 5 for SketchUp. Part 7 of 10

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Make It Believable

🚩 Believability, too, is more of a general aesthetic principle than a discrete rendering step. It should inform all stages of creative work. Believability is simply the properties of an image that make it worth discovering. Form gives some properties, content give others. But people often ignore it, and when they do, the result always suffers. The sea of aesthetics runs deep. Here, we will merely brush the surface.

💡 A common source of ruin for render results is the thoughtless mixing of visual styles. Beginners often make this mistake. For many 3d scenes, especially large ones, it is nigh impossible to create all assets from scratch yourself. The solution is to combine assets from multiple external authors and sources. The problem is that they lack stylistic coherence. This breaks the spell.

⚡ Stick to one visual style. One simple style is better than any two.

💡 It is possible to attain full photorealism in V-Ray. Photorealism is a great resource. It is a style and technique that all professional rendering artists should master. More than anything else, it is materials and their application that create it. Photorealism costs considerable effort to attain and sustain, especially for complex and outdoor scenes. Use it when it is needed. But also understand that photorealism remains one expressive tool among many. 

⚡ First make your work believable. Believability always trumps photorealism.

💡 When The Walt Disney Company remade its 1994 animated classic The Lion King in a photorealistic computer graphics style, the result was a triumph technically – but its hand-drawn original from 20 years ago is better. Beware of letting photorealism occlude more important aspects of your work – such as what you are trying to say.

Photorealism definitely has its place, for instance in architectural and product visualisation, catalogues and so on. As a means of artistic expression, photorealism is overrated. Our goal is to create believability. Photographic realism is just one means to this end. Sometimes it is the best way. Sometimes it acceptable. Sometimes it is just a burden. As an artist, you should make viewers willingly suspend their disbelief, forget the fact that they are staring at a bunch of pixels, and start entering your world. 

The reason photorealism is appealing is not that it is technologically advanced. It is because its rarity creates immediate believability. It is just a question of time before photoreal rendering is within reach for the masses. When within everyman’s reach, photoreal rendering will have lost its attraction. But an image worth believing in will remain forever desired.

Technical brilliance is great, but it is a tool, not an end in itself. We have seen hundreds of »photoreal« renderings that are worthless, because they say nothing and ask nothing. The truth is that 99 % of all renderings out there are derivative. Rendering attracts people who like pushing buttons. If your work is derivative, it probably is because you think like a technician rather than as an artist. Technicians obsess over control of parameters and noise levels, which is expected, subordinate and safe. Artists obsess over how form and content create meaning, which is untamed, sovereign and dangerous.

⚡ Create believability out of aesthetic coherence, striking style, and meaning.

🦉 On a philosophical level, it is a misconception that »the world is photoreal«. It was a historic circumstance – the photograph – that made people start thinking that the world would be photoreal. It is absurd that a camera – which one, by the way – and not our own vision should decide what is real. The world is not photoreal. More accurate would be to say that the world is eye-real or mind-real. So why settle for less?

Once you understand that reality is not photoreal, it is easier to see photorealism as one form of realism among many, and realism as one form of expression among many. These insights are not new. They have been known by painters and artists for centuries. In any case, while render engines are often marketed by realist imagery, their technology can and should be put to use for an wealth of non-realist styles.

⚡ Let the question be your master.

😔 Anyone can make an image that grabs attention. But it takes an artist to make one that earns it. A great image must be convincing on its own. Autonomy is attainable independently of style. The image should evoke a mood that induces viewers to willingly suspend disbelief. An accomplished work should unveil an idea, tell a fascinating story, evoke emotions, perhaps open something closed and even touch a mystery, and raise a question.

Until next week!

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