First Attempt at Cycles Photo-realism

I’ve been busy learning Cycles and translating a character over from BI. Here’s my best shot to date. Critiques?

Here’s an update. If anyone is inclined to give feedback on materials or the pose or whatever, please do.

The character isn’t too bad, though the gloss on the arms and legs gives them a plastic look (though that may be what you are going for). The wall on the other hand needs work.

You have a good base for the brick texture, but it looks completely diffuse to me. Even brick has some glossyness (feed the glossiness with the same bump/normal, and don;t be afraid to give it a low value. The bump will roughen it just nicely).

Thanks for the feedback, Roken.

I was looking at real bricks around our neighbourhood the other day and didn’t pick up on any glossiness, but that may be because it was a cloudy day. I’ll have another look.

And yes, I was going for a plastic look for the character. The idea is that he’s one of a set of toys, sort of a build-a-ball character from the Sackadoo Ball Company (fictional).

You said he’s “not too bad.” Can you elaborate, please? Improvements to the pose? The materials? The modeling?

And here’s an updated render with gloss on the bricks. I see what you mean; it brings them to life.

In the second image, what I think you can improve is the shadow: make it sharper! Right now it looks as if there were two sources of light, like two suns. Also what Roken said: work on bump maps, for me specially with the gray floor texture.

I don’t think that there is anything obviously wrong with the character itself. I’m going to hazard a guess that the wall and floor is a simply three sided object, which basically means that the three sides off camera are just empty space. This means that any reflections are restricted to the light and that empty space.

I’d be tempted to add an HDRI to give the character something to reflect. Any reflective surface needs something to reflect to give it that air of realism.

Thanks, @Roken and @Tiduo. Your comments are helping a lot.

I forgot to subdivide the floor (forehead slap), so micro-displacement wasn’t actually working.

So far, I’ve been lighting with a single sun lamp. Any idea why the shadows aren’t sharp? Or is this just the way the sun lamp behaves in Cycles? In BI, I always got sharp shadows from a sun lamp. I switched to a hemi to get them there’s something odd going on because that notice appears whenever hemi is selected (not supported, interpreted as sun lamp). So both hemi and sun should yield the same results, shouldn’t they?

Yes, the wall is just a plane, duplicated to get the corner.

I added an HDR map, something with a brick wall (although it’s yellow brick, not red) and cobblestones.

I watched a video tutorial on HDR by Andrew Price and HDR map behaviour seems to have changed since the video was made. He was using Blender v. 2.75, but I’m of course using 2.78c. He added a math/multiple node to get sharp shadows, but it didn’t work that way for me.

So, I put the hemi lamp back in as well. Here’s the result:

Or do you think it looks better with a slight bluish tinge to the lamp like this:

rontarrant, looks better! The shadow looks more natural, also I can now see the bump mapping on the floor.

I can’t see much difference betwen the normal lighting and the bluish tinge. You can definitely experiment some more with lighting. Maybe take a look at a tutorial on 3-point lighting?

Thanks. I assumed since it’s an outdoor scene, I wouldn’t use three-point lighting. Isn’t HDR supposed to be take the place of fill/back lights in situations like this?