The story of Vermeer #1

BY

Alexander Riedel

|

08/06/2023

The whole story of Vermeer started several years ago when in our previous company (EVE Images) we had to face a lot of issues first hand in our own production. Image output quality, project working times and post production efforts were unsteady. Often enough images just didn’t look real enough.

As there are many aspects contributing to a nice image, it was hard to figure out where we should start to fix things. First we wanted to make sure that the light setups in our scenes were correct so we decided to clean up our HDRI library and only use a selection of the ones with the best quality available. We realized that this was already helpful, but there were still a lot of issues. We always had to adjust multipliers and gamma values to get proper brightness and contrast in our images.

Playing around with these values, trying to find the right mood for our images and setting up scenes just took a long time. Unfortunately even today the quality of HDRIs vastly fluctuate.

In the same time we also put a lot of effort in developing our own in-house asset libraries so by that our artists could set up scenes in a quick and efficient way. However we constantly had to realize, that still most of the objects just behaved differently in various scenes and needed adjustments over and over again. We came to the conclusion that the only way this would be able to happen was if the lighting was just off in all scenarios.

So it was time for us to come up with something different when it comes to HDRIs. Dynamic range, brightness and color needed to be correct while the resolution needed to be high enough to still produce sharp reflections and backgrounds (something most HDRIs can’t actually do).

With these two key arguments I started to dig into HDRI shooting for the first time. After all it would not only improve the realism and lighting of our scenes but hopefully would also solve the issue with strange looking 3D assets.

After some research and looking into possible solutions we purchased a Canon EOS 5DsR, a motorized spherical head (Roundshot VR) device and a high quality (color neutral) Breakthrough ND Filter.

This turned out to be an investment that payed out quickly. After the first couple shooting sessions we already saw a lot of benefits compared to other HDRIs available on the market at the time. One of those was that we actually were able to capture the sun properly and there was no need to paint it in by hand afterwards. Also we managed to remove the guesswork from setting up HDRIs, no gamma and brightness adjustments were necessary.

After some more shooting, research and development we had a little set of HDRIs that checked all the boxes mentioned above. At 24000×12000 px in size they were also super high res. It took a while to shoot them though. The motorized head needed to actuate to 11 positions and capture several brackets.

We were really happy with the results, but in the end, moving clouds and in general quickly changing weather situations most of the time still made things tricky.

I also developed a little sky system in 3DS Max on top where users could quickly select between the different HDRIs and rotate them in the scene using a helper object. I called it Lumiere.

Cover image: © View of Delft, painting by Johannes Vermeer

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