The Easy Settings 1-7 are a starting point for rendering. They attempt to do something "impossible", which is to find an optimum render setting for all scene cases and to do this in an "easy" to use format. They work well for this purpose, but there are always some tweaks one can make depending on the scene being rendered to improve speed or performance or quality.
Because they were created "for most cases", Easy Settings 1-7 need to begin with some assumptions in order to get to a goal of "optimum settings for most cases":
- Likely the scene being rendered is of an architectural nature. That is, that the scene is not "technical" requiring infinite reflections, or caustics of lasers being split into spectrum through some sort of dispersion diamond, SSS material, or a global fog-like medium.
- Can Twilight render a technical scene like that? Absolutely!
- Can it do it with an Easy setting? Sure. (Just set up scene properly and hit render with Easy 10)
- Are Easy 1-7 good for technical scenes? Not really. They are meant for architectural renderings. But they could surely be tweaked to render technical scenes.
- Likely the scene will be lit with sun and sky, or it will have around maximum 10 lights. (But wait - aren't there lots of architectural shots with more than 10 lights? Of course. But most people start rendering with a sun and sky system = 2 lights.)
- People rendering these scene are in a hurry, and they don't care for "super quality" as much as they care for "good quality in good render time" they want a good "value" render setting. (But wait - can't you get super quality from the Easy settings? Of course. Easiest is Easy 09. But You can also get great renderings with even Easy 02 - Low. It totally depends on what sort of scene one is trying to render. Living Room? Patient Room? Gymnasium? Museum? Cave? Product in a photo studio?)
- People want caustics to work out-of-the-box, they don't want to have to go find a special setting for making caustics work. People don't really notice or care if caustics are perfectly accurate or not, and since they care about shorter render times, pseudo-caustics will do fine in most situations. Can we get very accurate caustics? Sure. Does that increase render times? Yes.
- People want sub surface scattering effects like translucent rubber or glass to render without having to set any special settings for them. For this reason the SSS rendering (Volumetrics) works with Easy 3-7. Who wants to wait for those effects with a low setting?
- People want "good enough" Anti-aliasing (AA= elimination of the jaggies on lines that are slightly angled in relation to the camera view). Each Easy 1-7 setting varies its quality of AA in comparison to its name. It follows logically that the AA setting for Easy 02 Low will be of lower quality than the AA Setting for Easy 06 High. The + sign tells you that this setting is similar to the other setting of the same name but with the addition of a "little something extra". Generally this means it has increased photon shooting/mapping or increased final gather quality and increased AA quality and sampling.
Easy 1-7 employ 2 methods for calculating global illumination (that is, figuring out what the parts of the image are supposed to look like when they are lit only with bounced light, and not hit with direct light)
Photon Mapping refers to shooting, or tracing, virtual photon particles which start at a light source and bounce around until some of them reach the virtual camera sensor (the image plane). So when photons can easily find their way to the camera from a light source (in just a bounce or two) Photon Mapping is great - think: interior architectural renderings lit with lights close to the camera.
Final Gathering works from the other direction. It traces "importance particles" from the camera to the geometry of the scene. Then calculations for direct and bounced lighting are made based on the importance particles and not wasted trying to figure out "everything" at once. This is useful when the light source is distant from the camera. Think: interior lit only with external sun and sky.
Photon Map/Final Gather (PMFG) combines the two methods for a superior quality image.
So, first question when changing your PMFG settings:
Are my light sources close to my camera? If so, then more PM will be in order.
Are my light sources far from the camera? If so, then more FG will be in order.
What is a photon map? A photon map is a "storage box" for every photon shot. Those low on RAM would be wise to keep photon shooting low in order to avoid filling the ram quickly with all the photons of a large map. Lower photons will result also in faster rendering. But a low quality photon map will also result in low quality rendering. To save RAM and keep render times reasonable, try to keep a total of 10000 photons shot per scene (more is better, but above 1 million photons there are diminishing returns).
If trying to optimize your render settings, here are some tips:
So if there are 10 light sources, photon shooting should be at 10000/10=1000 photons per light source. If there are 100 light sources relatively close to the camera, then 100 photons could serve well. If there are over 1000 light sources, 10 photons could serve well. If there are lights in the scene which are contributing nothing to the final image, turn them off as they are still being calculated into the photon map for no reason.
To change a Render Setting for Twilight Render:
On your computer, navigate to the Folder:
...\Google\Google SketchUp X\Plugins\Twilight\RenderSettings\Express\1) Easy
Select and Copy the Easy 1-7 .xml files located there.
Navigate to the Folder:
...Google\Google SketchUp X\Plugins\Twilight\RenderSettings\Express\3) Custom
Paste the files into this folder. We suggest you ONLY modify these files in the Custom folder!
Open the render setting file you would like to modify using a text editor like Notepad or Notepad++,
Now you can make any changes to the file, save, being sure you do not convert the file extension to a .txt file or some other type of format. It must remain as type ".xml".
Let's change the number of photons per light source for Easy 03 Low+ as a "starter".
In the render settings file, this photon shooting number is located here (do a "find" in your text editor):
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<Parameter Name="Samples per Light" Type="Integer" Value="1000"/>
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<Parameter Name="Samples per Light" Type="Integer" Value="100"/>
Now try closing and re-opening only the Render Dialog in SketchUp, navigate to the render setting "03. Low+_100photons.xml" in the Custom folder, and hit render. Render speed should be significantly increased. If you do not have a lot of lights near the camera, quality may have also decreased.
Max Photon Tracing Depth should be left at 5 or can even be placed possibly as low as 3 for most architectural scenes. The exception is where reflections are being lost in the rendering. Then increasing the depth to 5, 6, or even 7 may be the case. The lower the value, the faster the render because fewer bounces or reflections of the photon are being calculated.
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<Parameter Name="Max Photon Tracing Depth" Type="Integer" Value="5"/>
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<Parameter Name="Mesh Detail" Type="Real" Value="0"/>