10 Tips to make Your 3D Render more Cinematic

In this video, Martin Klekner shares several tips that he learned throughout his career as a cinematic 3D artist. From composition, camera placement, lighting to final compositing and EEVEE rendering tricks, you will learn practical workflows to make your renders more cinematic.

Resources mentioned in this video:

Substance Painter Launch Pad

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Here’s what we will cover:

Scene Overview (01:28)

In this first part, Martin makes an overview of the example scene he’s using (you can download this Blender file and many other resources here). The 3d scene is pretty simple, no complicated geometries and shaders. This will help to understand the potential of composition and lighting. We can get a cinematic looking result, even if the project itself is really basic.

The project is pretty simple

Tip 1: How to place your camera (02:52)

The first thing you should think about to take this decision more easily is story! Which story you want to tell to the viewer?
Each kind of rendering, even if it’s supposed to be only technical, tells us something. You can decide that trough various choices, not only by adding elements to the scene, but also by placing the camera and lights. First you should decide what is your main focus of the image and what you want to express trough it? What sort of emotion do you want to achieve?

In his example Martin wanted to tell the story of this character, hiding from the other two ones. According to this, he chose a lower point of view, to achieve a slight unease feeling.

A lower point of view helps to achieve a slight unease feeling.

Tip 2: Aspect Ratio / Resolution (07:36)

Something we can do to make our image more cinematic is play with so-called aspect ratio. Martin here uses a 21:9 ratio that is wider than the classic 16:9 and gives to the image a more “epic” feeling.

Tip 3: Proper composition (09:40)

Knowing composition rules can really help you to achieve a nice-looking result. One of the most famous is the rule of thirds. This rule can be applied to many fields, from jewelry design and architecture, to graphic design and art composition. In our case it basically consists in splitting the image in 3 parts vertically and horizontally and try to put the important stuff in the intersection points of the lines splitting our image. We can do this by activating various guidelines in the camera settings in Blender.

In this image case, for example Martin choose to help himself with these guidelines.

Try to put the important stuff in the intersection points of the lines splitting the image.

Tip 4: Focal Length & Camera Roll (11:37)

Changing the focal length of our camera will help us to add more drama feeling to the scene, if needed. A 40-50 mm lens is pretty similar to how a human eye perceives the world. Martin decided to use a lower value: 25 mm. In this way we can see the image expanding, showing more elements of the environment and providing a slight perspective bending. In the way we add an unusual feeling to the image, slightly unsettling.
To increase the feeling of “something wrong” you can rotate your camera. By doing this, Martin also moved slightly the attention towards the blue characters.

To increase the feeling of "something wrong" you can change the focal lenght and rotate your camera.

Tip 5: Flipping the Composition (15:00)

Often, when working on a project for long time, we get used to its aspect and lose our critical eye.
Something that can help us to see the composition with fresh eyes is flipping it. Once done, you could notice something that you didn’t see before that needs to be changed. Once you checked it and you’re sure that everything is fine, you can flip the image back.

Tip 6: Basic Lighting (16:26)

Lighting is in general a pretty complex topic. It would take a whole new course to explain everything about it.
Something we can do is take a look to what Martin did in this scene to achieve the result he wanted. When you chose the light for your scene, it’s really important to keep in mind what do you want to communicate.
Martin wanted to achieve a mysterious feeling. That’s why he chose as first-light source the moonlight. To add some color contrast, he placed a warm light coming from the street lamp and the window of the building. This also helped to illuminate the blue characters. To add some mysteriousness to the red character, he added a less intense bluish light source coming from the back. 

Tip 7: Advanced Lighting (20:45)

To take the lighting a step further, Martin decided to add some more light sources here and there.
For example a light illuminating the palace in background to make it stand out a bit, adds more complexity to the scene.  Or streetlights, not only in the principal street, but also in the secondary one in background, to show that there’s something over there as well. Making the audience understand, that something is going on outside their sight, adds realism to the scene.

To make the blue characters stand out better from the background without really increasing the value of the first light source, Martin added two point lights behind them. This gave him a nice backlight with a cinematic feel.

To make the heroine stand out a little more, he added a little spotlight illuminating only her face and another bluish light pointing to the body from the opposite side.

Many lights here are physically incorrect, but as long as they’re justified by some elements of the scene, this will work for our brain.

Many lights are physically incorrect, but as long as they're justified by some elements of the scene, this will work.

Tip 8: Adding Fog and Bloom (25:08)

Adding a cube with a principled volume material in the background, and activating the Bloom option in EEVEE render settings will give to this scene even more mystery-like ambient.

Tip 9: Eevee Render Settings (26:30)

There are some options that will help you to achieve a better result in EEVEE. Like activating the soft shadows, to make them more realistic. If you have reflective materials in the scene, activating the screen space reflection option could be really helpful to get a better result. If you want go even further, activate Ambient occlusion option.

Tip 10: Basic Compositing (28:02)

When you’re done with rendering, you can bring your scene awesomeness to higher level with some compositing tricks.

In this case Martin added a vignette and lens grain to simulate lens imperfection, and a bit of color correction.

You can bring your scene awesomeness to higher level with some compositing tricks.

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