Today we begin part two of a series about how to create a digital “set” for your portrait photographs. You can place your portrait subject in any setting imaginable, using any of several 3D packages currently available, saving yourself a fortune on expensive backdrops and props. In part one, I showed you two images, one nightime and one daytime. Using Vue Infinite, it’s easy to change time of day and weather conditions by just selecting a different “atmosphere.” Today we’ll create the daytime image (left). In order to follow along, you’ll need a copy of the Vue software. You can download a copy of the Personal Learning Edition for free here.
After starting up Vue, go to File>New. Vue will prompt you to choose an atmosphere for your new image (if it doesn’t, hit F5, or go Atmosphere>Load Atmosphere). Choose the “Godrays” sky, as shown here.
Next, from the menu pick Object>Create>Add Water (or Shift + W). Before I go any further, I need to talk about an online community and resource that I find invaluable when working with Vue. It’s a commerical site called Cornucopia 3D, which is run by the same folks who make Vue, E-on software. For me, one of the nicest things about being a Vue user is Cornucopia. It contains a gallery to share your work with others, a forum to talk about all things Vue, and a store which sells a large number of high-quality 3D models saved as Vue objects (.vob files). The reason I mention this is that several of the elements in this image come from the Cornucopia store. The water material comes from a vendor named Gill Brooks, and it’s called Water Pack 2. I purchased Gill’s materials because they do a much better job evoking real-life water than the water materials that come with Vue. For this project, feel free to use any calm, reflective water material you like. I used the “Pond Ripples” material from Water Pack 2.
If you’d like to see how your image is looking at any point, run a Quick Render in the Main Camera viewport. To do so, click on the button second from the left (buttons are in the upper right of the viewport window – see below).
Now we’re ready to add a dock for our subject to sit on. The dock I used comes from Cornucopia, and costs all of seventy-five cents. (Most objects cost a bit more than that, but they’re all very reasonable.) Here’s what the dock looks like on the Cornucopia site.
To add an object, go to File>Load Object. Browse until you find the dock object , and click OK. This loads the dock into your image. We need to rotate it exactly 180 degrees, so enter 180 in the “yaw” field of the Numerics window, as shown.
Drag the camera closer to the dock, and turn it slightly left (see below). We need to mimic the angle and placement of the camera in the original stock photo. This way, when we place our cut-out figure into the scene, she will look like she’s sitting on the dock. Move the camera up a bit so that you can see just a little of the dock’s deck surface. Tilt the camera downward slightly. Here’s what you should have at this point:
Now we’re ready to place the subject into the setting. Go Object>Create>Alpha Plane, or hit Shift+H. This brings up a window which you use to tell Vue where your portrait file is. Back in part one, I created a PNG file containing our subject against a transparent background. Now I’ll browse to that file (click on the yellow arrow in the Color Picture portion) and select it. Vue “sees” the alpha information and creates a mask with it. You’ll want to click all three checkboxes. The billboard checkbox will make sure the image is always facing the camera straight on, Adjust Plane Proportions makes sure the image isn’t distorted, and Keep Vertical does just that. Now click OK.
This loads the portrait into the scene. By grabbing the sizing handles, the “billboard” shrinks proportionately. Shrink it down until the girl seems the right size in relation to the dock. Just use your judgement until it looks right. Place the alpha plane just in front of the dock, so that it looks like her hands are resting on the dock. From the camera’s perspective, it will look quite convincing that she is sitting there. You may need to adjust the camera angle to show more or less of the dock surface.
There are further tweaks necessary at this point, such as adding a spotlight to light the alpha plane, but my goal here is not to teach you how to use Vue, but rather to give you an idea of how the process works. The final step involves doing a final render, which creates a file you can further edit in either Photoshop or Painter. If you’re ready to get started with Vue, then I’d recommend picking up a copy of Vue 6 Revealed, by Richard Schrand. It’s a great book for beginners, and has very clear, step-by-step projects that will get you up to speed quickly.
Next up in this series, we’ll see how to change this scene into a nighttime image, lit by moonlight. See you then! (Part Three is up: see it here.)