Some tips for getting the most out of Strata 3D CX
by Howard Prince
Date Added: 5/30/2004
Category: General
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!div style="display:none"!fjrigjwwe9r2content:tip!/div!!div style="display:none"!edf40wrjww2content:tip!/div!1. The new LightDome is amazing, but, what is REALLY cool is that you can now use the global light for keeping your scene lit during modeling in "solid" mode or better, but not having it affect rendering! Just make it "construction only" by checking that box in the Environment Palette!

2. The Strata LightDome is extremely flexible.. you can use it to light a scene with one image, then go to the "Background" tab of the Environment Palette and choose a completely different image for the environmental reflection, and yet another different image to be visible in the background! This is very powerful, affording the user the absolute highest flexibility in making the scene into exactly what he/she wants it to be.

3. The new LightDome works by wrapping images around it and uses that image's color, range and intensity information to direct light into the scene from 360 degrees around it's center. While Strata supports all file formats, including both popular HDRI formats (.hdr and .exr), you do NOT have to use only HDRI image formats to light scenes; the LightDome works quite well with regular 8, 16 and 32 bit images and formats (.jpg, bmp, pic, psd, tif, etc.. ), as well, so, make your own - the sky is the limit!

4. Contrary to popular misbelief, you CAN use the LightDome and render your scene with Raytracing.. the key is to 1) keep the global ambiant light on and turn it up substantially until the scene is correctly balanced.. and 2) Use a Reflection map in the Background tab! To find the right ambiant light level, it just takes a little experimentation. The reason for this is that unlike radiosity, which traces the bouncing of light around a scene off of the objects in that scene, raytracing sees no bounces at all, and, therefore, has no way to see the diffuse (bounced) light that is generated by the lightdome and that radiosity records. So, remember, when you raytrace a LightDome - lit scene, keep the ambiant light on, and turn it UP!

5. In direct contrast to #5 above, turn OFF the ambiant light when using the LightDome and Radiosity rendering! More often than not, the ambiant light will wash out the LightDome's diffused light.. so, unless that's the effect that you are looking for, turn it off by unchecking it's box in the Environment palette.

6. You can now set your default view when you open a new scene.. that setting is in the Edit.. Preferences menu.

7. For best efficiency in speed while you are modeling, set the display speed to "Auto" in your preferences.

8. You can now move a texture that is mapped with UV coordinates! Simply select the object and go to the "Texture" tab and select "position".. a window will pop up that will allow you to manually move the texture maps around and see them move on the object in real time before you accept the changes.

9. With all of the talk about the new LightDome.. try this: take a small sphere and place it in the middle of the room.. and map it with any HDRI image. Turn of all ambiant and other lights, and then render the scene with Radiosity! (Hint: you can even make that object invisible in the Project window!).

10. To get the best hi-lites and contrasting reflections from Lightdome renderings, use images with a few high contrasted areas and with an overall low light intensity for the rest of the image. Don't be afraid to crank the LightDome intenstiy to beyond 100% - many renderings will require much higher intensities.

11. As a general rule of thumb, LightDome images won't need more than one or 2 diffuse bounces, maximum. The reason is that the LightDome itself is providing so much natural light from all directions in the scene that more than 2 bounces can, more often than not, burn the image out.

12. To make sure that you are getting the best renders with the highest quality possible, increase the "Maximum Diffuse Light Samples" until your renders show no noticable difference if you increase any more. This setting is really the true "resolution" for