More importantly for now, I have been working on lighting methods for my scene. Lighting is something I'm trying to push and concentrate on this project, making full-use of more advanced options as well as plans for post-production. Below is a quick look at how my lighting is coming along, as well as how it has so far been accomplished.
Firstly, I tried an approach at lighting the scene using Portal lights in conjunction with Mental Ray's Final Gather, which will more realistically spread the light throughout a scene and make the ambience and spread more believable. The first test with this is here:
This seemed a bit 'undramatic' and the lighting seemed a bit washed out. Obviously I'm only working on a empty-ish test scene, but the render time was far too high and although using Final Gather may make the lighting much smoother, the render times are a problem.
I decided to try lighting the scene without FG, still using Portal Lights but this time using an image-based node, which would typically project a HDR map throughout the scene. After some tests, this once again raised the render time above 3-minutes, and would take quite a lot of tweaking to lower it. The process I sued instead, was to project solid colour from the IBL-node, using a ramp, this would carry the colours of the sky, without having to calculate a large HDR image. The result of this is here:
The scene seemed much darker, but the light inside the scene did seem stronger and more dramatic. I then used a method I learned in a Digital Tutor's tutorial - projecting light straight into the scene using a Mental Ray Ambient Occlusion node and an area light, allowing the colours of a ramp to flood the environment. As shown below:
To project the right colours in the right areas will take some tweaking, but it seems to improve the quality of the lighting, at very small render cost. Below is the current result I have using more realistic colours.
The task now is to fill the environment, whilst tweaking the lighting and hopefully have a optimized and well-lit scene over the next week.