Outdoor scene rendering

I am looking for a way to render outdoor scenes as realistic as possible. It seems that some rendering engines are more suited to large landscape/scenes than others.

I would like to know what you would recommend I should use. I was looking at POV-ray as one solution due mainly to the fact that its gallery contains some pretty detailed outdoor scenes with trees and water. What about Yafaray? As far as I could gather it is more of a indoor renderer. Any other suggestions?

Could I manage rendering realistic landscape scenes with the internal renderer of Blender?

I know there are programs like Vue 9 that has optimal render engines and incorporated functions to achieve this goal a lot easier and faster but I am aiming to get some kind of work flow going with Blender as my main landscape builder/renderer. So far I have only settled on Geoscope2 to create the outdoor terrains.

I short: How and with what would you approach a realistic landscape within the limited capabilities of what Blender has to offer.

Thank you for your time!

Hey Gustav,

I too am creating a landscape scene for my short film. For lansdcape scenes, I originally used Bryce, however I switched over to Blender, since Blender seemed to give me more control over how I wanted my scenes to look and also allowed me to add extra features such as character animation, particles and things like that… From my understanding, these features are not implemented(or a lack-of) in Bryce, Vue, and other landscape generating software. Some people have also complained that Blender’s internal renderer was slow, talk about Bryce…Not sure about Vue though. Also Bryce gave me a fake and cartoony feel and was not so realistic or nice on the eye.

So anyways, how I would go about creating an outdoor landscape scene in Blender, is by using the Blender internal render engine. You could try Yafaray and Luxrender, if process is followed carefully, you could create ultra-realistic landscapes, however I haven’t tried this. I’ve managed to get a better result in comparison to some of Bryce and Vue’s renders IMO using Blender internal (I don’t get why ppl keep dissing the internal, I’m actually a fan of it…)

These are the steps of how I would create a somewhat realistic landscape:

  1. Go to File->User Preferences and in the Add-Ons tab, activate the ‘ANT Landscape’ option. Close the window afterwards.
    (optionally, for more control, you could add a plane and go into Edit Mode, then W->Subdivide 10 times. You can modify the fractals value for more realism.)
  2. Change from Object mode to Sculpt Mode and sculpt the terrain mesh however you want. There are a variety of brushes you can use or download.
  3. Apply materials. (Since you want realism, you should spend more time on this step, trying to find high resolution images and UV mapping the terrain. You could also try stenciling, but then again, this stage should be a tutorial on its own…)
  4. Setup lighting (If it’s a sunny outdoor scene, I usually use a Sun lamp with a light yellowish-white colour, with intensity 2, Samples 5, Soft Size 4. I would also have a hemi lamp with a light blue colour with intensity 0.5 or instead thanks to Blender 2.5, you could turn on Environment Lighting, and choose the sky texture, provided you have set up your sky and it will act like HDRI lighting. Set the intensity of Environment Lighting to about 0.5. Environment lighting can also highlight shadows better than a hemi lamp. )
  5. Render the scene, it should look somewhat photorealistic but not quite. To make the scene more photorealistic, you can go into the node editor, and add effects like DoF to make the landscape look ultra large or even ultra small, change the colour, brightness, make the sun look very bright, hot, dull, whatever. There are tutorials on this or you can ask me since I’m working on this currently.

To add trees, you can download simple tree generators like ‘treed’ and import the obj file into Blender. If you want to populate the entire landscape with trees, select your tree and parent it to the detailed terrain. Then select your mesh and in the Properties panel to the right, select the ‘Object’ tab, and then select Duplication->Verts.
If you want to control where you want to place your trees, then instead of the above, select your terrain, and in the Properties panel, go to the ‘Object Data’ tab and create a new Vertex Group and name it watever you want. Then go into Weight paint mode, and paint on where you want to put your trees (blue areas mean no trees, red areas mean more trees). Go back to object mode and create a particle system of type hair. Set the amount to however many trees you want. Then scroll down to the Vertex Groups and select the vertex group you just created. Enter this for length, density. In the Render panel, you’ll see buttons with ‘None, Path, Object, Group’. Click object and type in your tree. If you have a variety of trees, you can put them in a group and select ‘Group’ instead. There are options to randomize which tree in the group is selected adding variety to your landscape.

For water, I basically make a plane and give it a water material. Try to get realistic water material according to the lighting of your scene. For my scene, I found making the water a black-ish colour looked better than a typical water blue. Give the IOR a 1.30 and add some transparency and mirror (adds to render times, YafaRay renders this much faster I found). Then create a texture with type ‘clouds’. (size of your clouds will vary and according to your scenes, you would need to test this.) Turn off col and select normal with a value suited to your scene. You should then have realistic water and you can modify as necessary and even animate the clouds texture if you want to give the illusion that the water is swaying.

That’s pretty much how I’ve approached a realistic landscape. I’ve also done some final texture painting on the landscape, esp around where the water hits the landscape and created a sand like texture to mimic reality a little more.

Hope this helps.