Barren waste land with fossils/skulls (Input greatly needed!!!)

I’m trying to make a setting for a show called the fossil hunter. I posted here a couple weeks ago for something more complicated, but i’m trying to keep it simple now. The thing is I need it to look realistic… and it’s not looking good so far. Here is a render with and without post processing.

The post processing seems to be working in my favor a bit, (by simply hiding how bad everything looks with the blur lol). But all in all, i’m very disappointed in the lack of realism I’ve been trying to achieve… I don’t really know where to start.

In my render, I have no sculpting applied on the skull (on layer 5 with the included .blend, you can see the sculpted model which, to me, isn’t adding a whole lot of detail-- definitely not worth the 5 minute increase in render time). I basically have been using textures with a NOR applied and it seems to make things look a bit better (I would say it makes it look almost on par to sculping, just without the long wait which is a win imo).

The environment, to say the least, sucks. Period. I’ve been hesitant to spend a lot of time on it considering how bad my skull looks with as MUCH time as I’ve spent on that.

I guess the point i’m getting at is this-- what is my problem? I’ve been using blender on and off for the past couple of years and my renders don’t really seem to be getting any better as far as realism goes. Is it the modelling? lighting? texturing? I’m just getting to a point where I feel that realism isn’t possible by the methods I am currently using. And I can’t blame it on blender or the blender internal renderer, cause I have seen some of the amazing work you guys have done on here. I can’t even get close to that sort of realism with a simple model!

If anyone has ANY input, I would be more than happy to listen and hopefully use it to get me out of this rut!

FYI layer 3 is my active layer that i’ve been working on

You would have to register for this tutorial but it’s excellent Blender ops to create a snow mountain landscape with nodes could also be applied for your needs:

There is also an excellent terrain modeling tutorial at CgMasters using texture paint:

BTW the first image shows a good start IMO.

If this were mine, one of the first things I’d do is work on the scene a little. I agree with chip4brains - the first image has some potential, but I feel like a few things are a bit off:

  1. Try altering the skull’s material a little. When bones lay out in the sun, they bleach out quite a lot. Try a white material. Here’s a reference image I found:

  2. I’m not sure what type of texture you’re using for the sand, but you should consider using a UV mapped texture. I found a pretty simple one here, but these are all over the place. You’re certain to find one you like.

  3. I would consider my sky color as well - when out in the high desert, the blue color of the sky is usually very intense (at least it is here in the western US). This happens because the atmosphere is thinner than it is at sea level, and there isn’t as much water vapor in the air to diffuse the light. See that first reference image as an example.

  4. Maybe thing about what else you’d like to see in your scene as well. Broken wagon wheel? An abandoned tent? Ruins of some description? An old weathered tree stump?

I really like your idea for the scene. There’s something about old bones slowly being eaten away by the desert. Keep it up!

Thanks for the input! I’ll have to check out those tutorials once I get some time, and I’ll definitely take your advice of adding some character to the environment! I’m thinking about adding some brush, and maybe a tumbleweed flying across the scene if I could get that to look legit. I’ll probably re-locate the skull and add some other desolate looking materials. I’m envisioning the skull being in the background and some random stuff being in the foreground, then the camera suddenly zooms in and focuses on the skull and the text “the fossil hunter” comes in after that. My idea is pretty vague right now, but once things start taking shape I should have a better idea of where this is going. Thanks again!

I dont know why its taken me so long to find this out for myself but, I would remove your light source, turn on ambient lighting, and ambient occlusion, (you may have to tweak the settings. blender 2.57 is what im using)or try dropping your camera angle, the run the image through gimp and try playing with the curves. also mist, and environmenal lighting colored redish or something is an option. add a slight cloud or cracked texture to the bone, with an alpha involved. also subdivide the landscape in the area close to the skull and pull it up just on the inside so it appears that soil has collected up inside against the roof of the mouth, and aslightly arond some of the outer edge, with bits of brush, seeds, add a beetle, ect. you might squash the bone a little, many times skulss get squeezed under siezmic pressure.

it could use some rocks, and maybe a sprinkling of desert plants

Well, here’s my go at tweaking your project.

Here’s what I did, I gave the landscape a sand texture, along with a bump texture(noise.) I messed with the colors and textures of the skull and teeth to give it a more sun baked look. I darkened the color of the sky as well as moved the sun to create some more dramatic shadows. Most of the work was tweaking your skull model. I’m not sure what some of the planes were, so I just disabled them from rendering. I made the Skull into two seperate objects and fully connected. I also extended the jaw section to make it more like what a jaw looks like, and made an underside to the mouth and made the skull more filled in, I’m not sure what all holes were for, so I kinda filed them in. In the compositor I got rid of the hue correction, the blur, and the extra color correction. Let me know what you think.

so here is what i had in mind, but added a wood tex to the skull and clouds to the ground, in addition to previously mentioned stuff.

Hey, I think it looks pretty good! The holes were there cause I modeled it off of this fossil —
Low res platycarpus

– Heres another pic, but there is some stuff in the rear of the skull I didn’t bother with

Here is a good idea of the landscape where the show took place.


This is a pic I found off of the internet of close to where we hunted. The main difference is, you could imagine the rock formations being a gradual hill, and that is where we would find the fossils. So the look of the texture (at least color wise) should closer resemble the pale whiteish yellow rock substance, than sand. And I was working on the brush you can see in this last picture, using particles. I think that’s something that will add a lot to the picture, hopefully adding more variety to the image.

If you guys are dying to see the promotion for the show that my brother and law and my family are working on, here it is on youtube; it’s just a short one minute clip. The reason I chose the platycarpus as the skull, is because it is supposed to be the big find- worth a couple of grand up to 10 grand from what I understand! So I figured if I am supposed to do the text, having it involved would be kinda cool, considering the show is somewhat based around us hopefully finding one ourselves. And if I can’t get the text scene to look good enough (which is why I’m here :slight_smile: ), then it looks like he’ll probably stick with 2D text :-).

Just wanted to say thanks again for the responses, and thanks r6srider for the good mock up. That is definitely MUCH closer to what I would have it look like-- it is a big step in the right direction. I want to ask you (r6srider) though, how did you blur the background without bluring everything except what you were focused on???

And springwater, I can’t really say anything other than can you upload a higher res render??? :-). Thanks for trying to help out man!

That was all through the compositor, I got rid of the blur node, and changed the fstop setting on the defocus node to 100, and the defocus, I added a sharpen node to give a little more detail on the textures in focus. I have some stuff I need to do, but when I get down I’ll post the blend file so you can look at what I did,(the wife is giving me the eye cause she wants to leave and I’m still on my computer.)

Sounds great, thanks!

I would definitely add some plants, even if only a couple small ones.

Also, the skull model is too “good”, meaning it needs imperfections: cracks, missing bits, etc. It’s old! It needs to look old.

The sky also needs work. It looks very stretched.

Edit: Your lighting isn’t really working either. Try this:

Hopefully that works, I’ve never used mediafire before.

i’m sorry i know the pic was ridiculously small, but i was pressed for time and unfamiliar with how to get it on here, at first the page was telling me my post was 170,k words long or something, and so I sized it down,(it was like football feild big, then i noticed the insert photo button above and abandoned my paste technique, somehow I closed the eBlend file without saving in the process and resigned myself to saying here it is,and knowing it has some really nice elements about it, hoping you would get the image some how and enlarge it artifically through something less coplicated than a printscreen/ cropping session. but I’ll try again, I went into paint with it, doubled it in stretch/skew and saved it if it doesnt work, trust me when I say it looks nice and I lost the file, but give the techniques a shot.

ok it didnt seem to work but if you click on the photo it opens in another window large enogh to see that there may be merit in my techniques. good luck

Ok, after doing some slight tweaking, here is my update. I feel like most of the work I did was changing the materials and adding some shrubs, and a little more nodes. If feel like it’s a HUGE improvement over the picture at the top of the page, thanks to all the input I’ve received! I plan on tweaking it more as I feel like it still has a lot of room for improvement, but it is a good start and i’m feeling much better about it. I know, the colors are a little overblown, but I kind of like the exaggerated look to it, although I might change it in the future. Let me know what you guys think! Thanks again everyone for all the help, I appreciate it!

One thing that strikes me, is the environment looks kind of crappy and low res, especially noticeable in the background even though there is a slight blur to it. And i’m still thinking I need to find a way around the sandy look, cause that’s not the REAL environment the show takes place in, but who said it needed to be? Anyways, let me know what you think and please point out anything you notice that might help! I’ll try to continue to implement some of the idea’s you’ve all given me as I continue on

I agree its an improvement for sure!

i too agree that this a major improvement from your first renders. However, i think the one thing that takes away from the realism of the render is the terrain.

Take a look at some pictures of deserts on google or any search engine Do u notice anything that separates your picture from them? Well ill tell you. Its the bumpiness of the terrain. In most, if not all, desserts the sand has a sense of direction, because there is wind constantly pushing the sand in a relatively constant direction. In your render, your sand and terrain has no direction.

So, im not too sure how u would achieve this look in blender, but one way you could go about doing this is make a sand texture in Gimp or photoshop (or get one offline, but you need to make sure it has a CC license or something similar) then use that texture in blender and there u go, more realism. Another way you might be able to get this effect is sculpting the terrain to have those waves in the sand, but that would be a very tedious task, and not one that most people would have patience for.
Also, i wouldnt add as many plants as you have in your scene, because it takes away form the focus, which is the skull i presume.
Those are my opinions and you may choose to change or leave the scene as it is, but i do believe it will help improve your render. Good luck.

Wow, your update looks very impressive.