The failed promise of HDR

The wonderful Stu strikes again, this time setting the record straight about some people’s obsession about HDR. Ever since it became more widely known and adapted based on Paul Debevec‘s work, it has become one of those mythical things of the 3D industry. His points about the pointlessness of capturing lighting this way are all too valid. The common belief is that image based lighting can make even the ugliest 3D scene look good and so there was quite some uproar when it didn’t come in Element 3D v2 for instance. Of course that’s nonsense since a crude model with badly tuned materials will not instantly look good with an HDR environment lighting it and reflecting off it.

Ironically I’ve never been a big advocate of this in the first place. I find many renderings using the ever same environments from the libraries of the respective programs actually quite dull and boring, be that design studies or architectural stuff since it’s often not actually “photo realism”, but a heightened “hyper realism”. For my own work of course I have always struggled with the fact that different shades of polished steel still look very much the same, so my strategy usually has been to use exaggerated manual lighting and not so real materials to get contrast plus the simple fact that even if you wanted to, you often cannot seem to find the HDR you need. Yepp, it’s always like when you actually could use a nice interior file you stumble upon that perfect sunset you could have needed half a year ago.

Well, whatever. The article is definitely worth reading and most importantly watching that clip with Denis Muren. Man does he look old, though….

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