Productivity Corner: The Master of Rendering

11 Jan, 2006 By: Joe Croser Cadalyst

This book can help you learn the master's tricks for rendering with MicroStation.

Rendering with MicroStationImagine learning to paint like a grand master. Do you have it in you to achieve that? What if your teacher was a great master, would that help?

Imagine Turner mixing your paint for you and Monet holding your hand and guiding it towards the canvas, applying just enough pressure to have you do the same while simultaneously controlling your coordinated hand and eye movement so a work of genius emerges that you never imagined. Alas, while it is not possible in the painting world, it now is in MicroStation.

Rendering with MicroStation was written by Jerry Flynn, a master of MicroStation visualization with nearly 20 years of rendering experience under his belt. Flynn is a popular figure on the seminar circuit attracting audiences from around the world whenever he presents. Ray Bentley, one of the creators of MicroStation and a big visualization fan, contributed the foreword to the book where he suggests that great art is often the product of inspiration combined with talent.

I wonder what makes one work of art better or more valuable than another. Is it the signature at the bottom of the piece, or the amount of money that it achieves at auction or even the position it holds in a gallery. Who can say for sure? It's so often debated that art is a point of view, a preference, rather than a fact of life. Some consider Van Gogh, Monet and Dali to be great masters and geniuses of their time. Others dislike their work and during their lifetime, considered their art to be against the grain, causing controversy and artistic revolution.

Rendering with MicroStation discusses that great visualization is underpinned with three tenets and sets about removing the mystic from each.

  1. Get the view right
  2. Light the scene
  3. Create and apply realistic materials

To better understand how these factors affect art, I turned to the Internet to learn a little more about famous artists and their movements. I found that the same tips and tricks that Jerry Flynn shares in his book are inherent in multi-million dollar paintings by Renoir, Dali, Rothko and Turner.

The best example of an artistic movement that I could find relating to the framing of a view or the creation of a sense of reality was something the French called trompe l'oeil or "trick of the eye." More formally referred to as illusionism or realism, the artists who followed this movement prided themselves on their ability to trick the observer into thinking that they were looking not at a painting but at the real thing.

Get the View Right
Jerry Flynn believes that selecting and fine tuning the view and getting it to a point where the model comes alive is the very first principle on the road to good rendering with MicroStation. In his book Flynn guides the reader into position for framing the perfect view and along the way introduces the right MicroStation tools for the job including photorealistic rendering with ray tracing techniques.

This home scene is a particle trace rendering. The creation of the realistic materials used to render this scene is covered in the book.

Light the Scene
Naturally the right view will provide perspective and scale, and the right rendering technique will provide a finish that someone may mistake for real life. But without light to highlight and subdue specific focal points within the scene, the depth of field is frequently lost. Surprisingly the finest example of light and its use in art is at the opposite end of the spectrum from realism. Impressionism focuses almost entirely on light and the way it affects a subject; artists include Monet, Renoir and Degas.

Impressionism favors the true view of the artist, celebrating light and life as it is experienced everyday. Impressionism excels in creating realistic shadows, light reflections and movement in a work of art. In Rendering with MicroStation Flynn harnesses the depth of lighting options available in MicroStation and explains each one in detailed step-by-step examples. Flynn wrote, "Lighting may be the single most important aspect of the rendering process." Therefore a considerable amount of the book is dedicated to making even the blandest model come alive with subtle lighting techniques.

Tips on lighting can help you illuminate night scenes.

Create and apply realistic materials
Another way to inject life into a model is through texture. My own favorite artistic movement is abstract expressionism and my favorite artist is Mark Rothko. In my opinion Rothko achieves the most compelling art possible by giving it a feeling of texture due to the sheer depth of color present in the work.

In MicroStation you can create materials that are stored in a palette (where you mix your paint) and each one can contain textures, bump maps and other variable properties such as diffuse, specular, translucency, transparency and reflection. In his book Flynn demonstrates how to mix the right ingredients so that you too can master the trickiest but most realistic materials such as water, glass, metals and grass.



These images demonstrate how incredible water can be created from MicroStation. Images courtesy of francisdesign Ltd.

Rendering with MicroStation is a 400+ page reference book that will take any amateur rendering wannabe and help them become a guru. Priced at $70, it also won't cost you an arm, a leg or even one of your ears.

About the Author: Joe Croser

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