Let's talk about something I worked on recently. An unnamed candy bar with peanuts on it....
Start with good Reference
Reference images are so important when doing anything realistic. I looked at lots of photos of peanutsand candy bars before getting started. I analyzed them, and kept them up on my second monitor as I worked. Keep in mind that I made this image to be more idealistic than realistic. Sometimes true realism is somewhat ugly.
There are a few things that really make this image look realistic and not computer generated. Let's go over them.
- The peanuts
- The caramel
- The salt
- The depth of field
I think this corner of the bar is what really sells the whole image. Particularly the way the peanut presses into the caramel, and the little bit of peanut casing that is left on that one peanut.
The first thing I did is make the half peanut. I made a quick model in 3ds Max, laid out some UV coordinates and exported that over to Mudbox. From there I added the little details that make it look realistic, the dent in the middle, added a little waviness and finally the dimple at the end. I did this 4 times on different layers so that I had 4 slightly different models, all sharing the same UV layout. I then exported 4 different normal maps for use back in 3ds Max. After that, I took my photos of peanuts and textured them right onto the model. Again, I did this 4 times. I now have 4 different models, 4 different normal maps and 4 different texture maps. Do the math, I now have a bunch of different peanuts I can work with.
This bar was not made with some scatter tool, or with a particle placement algorithm. I hand placed each peanut, again, looking at real reference. When there were too many halves facing upwards, I would flip one over showing the round side. It's amazing how often people try to cheat this part of CG by trying to scatter things with randomization tools. Once I placed all the peanuts over the bar model, I then exported all of it back to Mudbox where I sculpted the caramel around the peanuts to look like they were pressed into it. The result works really well.
I'm skipping over alot of the actual rendering setup. I used Vray to render this, and lighting and shading was very key and it looked great, but the final thing I wanted to add for realism was a salt pass. To do this I decided that just specs of white on top of the peanuts wasn't enough. I wanted to see the salt in the sillouette of each peanut so I decided to do a salt pass with displacement. Normally I tell all my TD's to avoid displacement because it can be overused and also can kill render times. But used well, displacement can do amazing things. (To be honest, a simple white fleck pass might have worked fine.) I set up a noise to create the displacement and used it ever so slightly. Here's the salt pass before compositing.
Depth of Field
And finally, a little DOF makes everything look fantastic. I did this DOF within Nuke not After Effects's. After Effects Lens Blur is shit. If you don't have a good post package to do DOF then do it in Vray. It will look a hell of a lot better even if your render takes a while.