This milestone was about being too stubborn to quit.
My main goal was to address the huge render times of the stills by setting up a physical sun & sky and portal lights. I thought this might make my lighting more efficient and fix the skylight/ibl dome/FG ray problems I had when I built the scene.
I also wanted to fix the fur settings on the rug, so that it didn’t look ridiculous. There were also some texture issues with the countertop, and cabinets, and I definitely wanted to optimize the brushed steel material.
So I first tackled the lighting set up.
I kept failing. I’d get a decent lighting solution with noise and artifacts, then when I addressed those problems, my render times would creep up again. Using my actual materials kept pushing the render times into unacceptable territory (more than 40 minutes a frame). In an ideal world, this would render in 10 minutes at full size, but I’d accept anything in the 10-to-20 minute range. That seems reasonable for an architectural visualization that includes blurred reflections and indirect lighting (especially when rendering on my 3 year-old second-hand PC with 3gb of RAM).
So I just kept trying new things. I ditched a displacement map, tried several dozen different GI solutions, tried FG-only renders, branched out into importons/irradience particles, and then tweaked material settings. The biggest change in render time, after many different GI and FG adjustments, came when I scaled the scene to fit Mental Ray’s 1 unit = 1 cm assumption, and paid close attention to how much render time the rug was adding.
Using GI to drive the main lighting information and thinking of FG as a way to smooth that out really helped.
Eventually, through what felt like sheer force of will, I’ve gotten my half-frame render times to 2 minutes without Fur…and 17 with it. (Ha.) My full-frame render time with decent quality settings is under 10 minutes without fur, which matches my goal. For my actual rendering, I’m going to have to put the rug in a separate pass with the rasterizer instead of using raytracing on Fur, which I gather is the preferred method anyway.
As for the other parts of my milestone, I’m on par. I’m at the point of playing around with render layers, and working on setting up render passes for my breakdown shots – I think that’s more relevant than the geometry to my major interests.
Where to go from here: I have some more tweaking I’d like to do to some of the materials, and I’m hoping to do some quick sculpting on the chaise and add a couple of small objects (bowls, a vase, something along those lines) to the island or the countertop. A paper on a magnet hanging from the fridge would also be a nice touch, and of course, a dirtmap to break up the reflections would be great.