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Creating Depth with Volumetrics

How to Create Depth and Add Texture with Volumetrics.

In this tutorial, we're going to explore how to use volumetrics. You'll learn:

  • How to use volumetrics to soften harsh lighting
  • How to hide looping scenes with atmosphere
  • How to composite in extra passes to boost volumetrics in post
  • How to find and use high quality VDBs for clouds, smoke, and fire

Follow Along to Create Depth with Volumetrics

In addition to the video, we've created a custom PDF with these tips so you never have to search for answers. Download the free file below so you can follow along, and for your future reference.

Grab our free PDF on Volumetric tips and resources!

How to use volumetrics to soften harsh lighting

c4d-render-bettter-volumetrics-1.jpg

Volumetrics, also known as atmospherics or aerial perspective, is the effect that the atmosphere has over great distances. In the real world, this is caused by the atmosphere absorbing light,  causing colors to get more desaturated and blue over those distances. This can also be caused by spooky fog over shorter distances.

Creating atmospheric effects softens the light and really convinces the eye that we’re no longer looking at harsh CG, but something real.

c4d-render-bettter-volumetrics-2.jpg

For example, here’s a scene I put together using Megascans, and the sunlight is nice but it’s also pretty harsh. Once I add in the patchy fog volume, the light quality gets much softer and more pleasing to the eye.

How to hide a looping scene

Here’s a shot from some concert visuals I created for Zedd, and you can see that without volumetrics, all the repetitions of the environment are noticeable because I needed the shot to loop while moving in the Z direction. Without volumetrics, this wouldn’t have been possible. Also the haze makes the air feel so much colder and more believable.

Here’s the cyberpunk scene with volumetrics, and without. Even though it’s only really affecting the far background, it makes a big difference and implies the world is larger than it is. Here’s how I’d go about this. We just create a standard fog volume box, and then I push it back into the scene so all the foreground stays contrasty.

How to composite volumetric passes

I’ve got another good example here from a music video I did a couple years back featuring ice caves. In the last couple shots I added haze to make the scale feel a lot bigger, and I even did a separate pass of just volumetrics by turning all the materials to diffuse black. This renders super fast this way too, and here you can see me adjusting the amount up and down in AE with curves, and duplicating the pass to get even more direct godrays in the shot, as well as masking out the opening so it doesn’t blow out too much.

Clouds smoke and fire

There are several options available when it comes to utilizing volumetrics and they’re not just fog or dust. Clouds, smoke and fire are also considered volumetrics. There are a lot of ways you can implement them into your scene.

If you’re looking to build them yourself, check out these tools:

If you’re looking for pre-made assets to work with you’ll want to dig into some of these VDBs, or Volume Databases:

Wrap up

With volumetrics, you can add depth and texture to your scenes, enhance the realism for computer-generated assets, and affect the mood for the entire project. Experiment with these tools and you'll find what fits your style best.

Want professional guidance on how to render better?

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This course will teach you all of the invaluable skills that make up the core of cinematography, helping to propel your career to the next level. You’ll not only learn how to create a high-end professional render every time by mastering cinematic concepts, but you’ll be introduced to valuable assets, tools, and best practices that are critical to creating stunning work that will wow your clients!

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Tutorial Full Transcript Below 👇:

David Ariew (00:00): Volumetrics create atmosphere and sell a sense of depth and can trick the viewer into thinking they're looking at a photo,

David Ariew (00:14): Hey, what's up? I'm David Ariew and I'm a 3d motion designer and educator, and I'm going to help you make your renders better. In this video, you'll learn to use volume metrics to soften harsh lighting, hide looping scenes with atmosphere, create a fog volume and tweak settings to add mood in depth, composite in extra volumetric passes to boost the volume metrics in posts and find and use high quality VDBS for cloud smoke and fire. If you want more ideas to improve your vendors, make sure to grab our PDF of 10 tips in the description. Now let's get started. Volumetrics also known as atmospherics or aerial perspective is the effect that the atmosphere has over great distances by absorbing light and causing colors to get more de-saturated and blue over those distances. Biometrics can also be cases where a scene is full of fog or haze or just clouds.

David Ariew (00:59): Creating atmosphere can soften the light and really convince the eye that we're no longer looking at harsh CG, but something real. For example, here's a scene that I put together using mega scans and the sunlight is nice, but it's also pretty harsh. Once I add in the patchy fog volume, the light quality gets much softer and more pleasing to the eye. Here's the shot from some concert visuals I created for Zed, and you can see that without volume metrics, all the repetitions of the environment are noticeable because I needed the shot to loop while moving in the Z direction without volume metrics, this just wouldn't have been possible. Also, the haze makes the air feels so much colder and more believable. Here's that cyber punk scene again with volumetrics and here it is without even though it's only really affecting the far background, it makes a big difference and implies the world is larger than it is.

David Ariew (01:41): Here's how I'd go about this. We just create a standard fog volume box and scale it up. Then I put a white color into the absorption and scattering and bring the density way down. Then I push it back into the scene. So all the foreground stays contrast and we get the best of both worlds with a nice contrast foreground and a Hayes background. I've got another good example here from a music video. I did a couple of years back featuring ice caves in the last couple of shots. I added some Hayes in to make the scale feel a lot bigger, and I even did a separate passive just volumetrics by turning all the materials to diffuse black. This renders super fast this way too. And here you can see me adjusting the amount of volume metrics up and down and after effects with curves and duplicating the past to get even more direct God raised in the shot as well as masking out the opening.

David Ariew (02:23): So it doesn't blow out too much. Finally, cloud smoke and fire or other types of volume metrics that can add a lot of life to your scenes. And there's some great software out there for creating these and see 4d like turbulence, FD, X particles, exposure, and Jenga effects. Amber, Jen, if you don't want to jump into simulating though, you can just buy a pack of VDBS. VDB just stands for volume database or depending on who you ask volumetric data blocks or just whatever helps you remember it like very dope best friend. And you can pull these into octane directly here using the octane VDB volume object.

David Ariew (02:59): These ones from Travis David's are a great starting point for only $2. And then there are these sets from my buddy Mitch Meyers and some very unique ones by the French monkey, as well as some interesting ones from production create like this mega tornado. And finally, the pixel lab has a ton of PACS, including animated VDBS, which are otherwise very hard to come by and can save you from having to do sins. There's also a very cool and massive VDB from Disney that you can download for free here. That's great to experiment with, by keeping these tips in mind, you'll be well on your way to consistently creating awesome renders. If you want to learn more ways to improve your renders, make sure to subscribe to this channel, hit the bell icon. So you'll be notified when we drop the next tip.