such an effect isn’t all that difficult; the material setup is pretty much straight
forward, but a few additional elements can be introduced to give your scene a
little edge in the realism stakes. As always, when trying to emulate something
in real life, albeit something viewed using a piece of equipment, is to obtain
as much source imagery as possible. Troll the net to find as many electron microscope
images as you can; there are lots out there, and some damn fine examples of CG
re-touching and / or emulation, which is what we are going to attempt.
analysing these images, we can determine how we are going to attempt to design
the base material and camera setup. Electron microscope images normally take the
form of either a black and white (or green) image, or faux-coloured image, which
is easy to do in post (simple colour blending layer in Photoshop for example),
and relatively easy to produce in the Material Editor. We can also determine that
slight shadows are also cast onto other objects as electron “light” behaves similarly
to normal light.
material should typically be an Oren-Nayar Blinn standard material with diffuse
and ambient set to black. Also, to avoid any additional lighting, the environment
ambient light to be set to 0. Create a Falloff map in the self-illumination slot
and set it to Perpendicular/Parallel; you can amend the falloff’s Mix Curve if
so required to add more intensity to the self illumination. To fade the self-illumination
down slightly when a shadow is cast on the object, add an additional Falloff map
in the white slot of the first Falloff map. Change the falloff type to shadow/light
and amend the Mix Curve if so required. Open the black colour swatch and change
it to a mid-grey; just to bring down the side self illumination a touch when receiving
shadows as self-illuminated materials do not show shadows! A copy of this map
tree could also be copied into the diffuse slot to add extra illumination and
to create additional effects.
we should add a slight texture to the material; a slight bump (or displacement)
map should be added to add some irregularity to the material. A simple noise map
will suffice, but a smoke procedural map would be better. Both of these should
have a relatively small size and high iterations (for the smoke) to add fine detail.
combinations of this type of material should be created to assign to various elements
in the scene; simply assigning one global material will not suffice to create
a decent effect. Try amending the self-illumination of the material to give a
slight translucent effect to the material. Don’t add things like raytracing or
refraction; by viewing the source images you will see that reflections (etc) do
not occur, so would affect the overall effect of your image.
be afraid to add copious amounts of Depth of Field! This effect can make or break
your image and can breathe life into a scene where the was previously none. Granted,
multi-pass renders can take forever to render as each pass has to be individually
rendered then composited together, but the end effect is much more worthwhile.
Don’t consider using a post effect as although Max’s Depth of Field effect is
easy to set up and use, the end result is quite poor and leaves artefacts in the
image. Use the multi-pass render technique; set-up settings can be found in a
camera’s rollout. Use a low radius of about 10 and high amount of passes; something
around 20-50 should give a decent result. The higher the passes, the better the
effect, especially if the dither strength is upped slightly to break up any harsh
lines that may occur when the images are composited together.
your scene and computer permits it, try to use as much geometry refinement as
possible. The self-illumination will hilight these extra refined details and add
more realism to the scene. One quick and easy method is to use meshsmooth and
displacement modifiers, with the displacement using a procedural map as the displacement
map, so we can get as close to the object as required without losing detail. Also,
if Nurbs surfaces are used, extra tessellation depending on the size of the object
in the frame can be used to add extra detail. Obviously, this will be at the cost
of render times.
should you wish, you could create a false-coloured render by adding a falloff
map in the diffuse and self-illumination slots to colorize the illuminated falloff
effect. Additionally, you may want to add some slight feathering to the image.
Simply clone the relevant objects and apply the self-illumination only to these
cloned objects. If you add a noise controller to them and set the entire motion
cycle to one frame, with motion blur added to them they will appear to be slightly
furry, thanks to the smearing and diffusing of the motion blur. Again, this will
add to the rendering times.
a decent emulation of a scene can be obtained if you have enough source material,
break down every element into it’s core components and work out how to do each
one, thus completing the entire scene this way to achieve the end result.
depth of field effects can add extra realism to the effect, especially if coupled
with scene motion blur to create a feathered effect.|
simply amending the diffuse and self-illumination maps, the same scene can be
coloured to simulate faux colouring by the ‘electron microscope’.|
material setup is straight forward, yet can be tweaked, refined and added upon
to add extra detail such as displacement and diffuse maps.|
be afraid to go mental with polygons! With this type of effect, polygons are king
and extra refinement at render time can be brought out with the self-illuminated
this effect, even simple scenes like this can be made to look interesting. Have
a look at any electron microscope gallery and try to emulate an image!|
3D World magazine, Issue
22, February 2002.
Draper, February 2002. Reproduction
without permission prohibited.