In the past I’ve done a lot of product rendering, taking 3D shots using a standard studio environment. Having tested Stingray on a number of architectural projects now, I’m eager to try it out to see how it handles a product design visualization. Let’s see what’s involved.
First, we’ll need to get rid of the default blue sky and clouds to replace it with a simple studio scene. For most artists, this would mean simply loading an .HDR file. Unfortunately, the HDR format isn’t supported by Stingray which uses .DDS cube map files.
So in order to create our basic HDR studio environment, we’ll first need to convert a file. For this project, I’ve created a simple HDR file in Photoshop and then saved it as a .DDS file using the settings shown below. Note that you’ll first need to install the free Nvidia Texture tools in order to be able to export a .DDS file.
We’ll also need a physical background for our scene: a typical chamfer cylinder should do. We should set its dimensions large enough to be able to fit our object inside, but we can always adjust the scale of the cylinder later in Stingray if necessary. Let’s flip the polygon normals to turn the cylinder inside-out.
Next, we’ll need an object to test our studio setup. Let’s quickly create a teapot and a podium for it to sit on. We’ll then apply a Standard material with a basic grey color to the cylinder and podium. For the teapot, we’ll use another material: something metallic to validate the lighting and reflection effects.
Now, let’s send the cylinder, podium, and teapot to Stingray. Once connected using Stingray Live Link, use the Send Selection option in the Stingray menu in 3ds Max. I prefer to send the objects one by one to have separated units in Stingray, but you can send the entire scene at once if you want. Once they’re all in the scene, enter 0,0,0 as the coordinates of each object to align them.
Now let’s import the .DDS image file again. Because the file is large, it may take some time. Once done, the file will appear in the Asset Browser along with the other imported assets.
In the Property Editor panel, under Default Shading Environment > Global Lighting, change the Skydome Map to our .DDS image. The image now replaces the blue Skydome. However, by turning off the Sun Light, the background is no longer producing lights nor being reflected. To fix this, we’ll need a Global Diffuse Map and a Global Specular Map. Let’s use Stingray to create them.
First we’ll position a Reflection probe in the center of the scene, which is found in the Create panel under Rendering. We’ll need to bake the Reflection probe, but before that delete everything else besides the probe in the Level viewport.
It’s now time to bake it. Select Windows > Lighting > Bake Reflection Probes. Once done, Stingray creates a folder in the root of the project, in this case: */studio_setup_01-cubemaps. In this folder, you’ll conveniently find a diffuse and a specular cubemap. Let’s hook them up in the Shading Environment.
We’ll replace our objects in the scene using the same coordinates (0,0,0). Let’s now edit the teapot material to get a nice metallic effect.
We’re done! We now can control the result simply by editing the Baked Diffuse Tint and the Reflections Tint. And we can also drop another model in the scene, tweak the materials, and it will look just as beautiful!