While many artists create breathtaking scenes with post-production effects, we posed one question: Can you create cool depth of field and particle effects in Daz Studio without outrageous render times? Absolutely!
In this In the Studio Breakdown, we’ll lay out everything you need to use versatile effects from the Daz store — and even show you how to create your own.
To follow along with Jay Versluis in the recorded livestream, check out the video below.
Setting up the Camera and MMX Particles
Using the Tree Giant Mega Bundle, Jay has already set up his character and given him a pose. Next, let’s set up the camera and particles.
- In the top left corner, click Create > New Camera, and in the new dialog box, click Copy Active View > Accept. This will make it so when you change your viewport to Camera, it will look very similar to your Perspective View.
- Click the icon to the right of the viewport dropdown and select Show Aspect Frame. Let’s say you’re using a square.
- With the camera selected, go to the Parameters tab and Camera settings. Change the Focal Length from the default 65 to something like 200. The longer your focal length is, the shallower your depth of field gets, and that’s what’s going to make your particle effects more pronounced. Then, adjust where your character sits in the frame to get the shot you want.
- Switch back to Perspective View (you can also turn off the aspect frame if you’d like). You can also select both the character and camera and press CTRL+F to frame up both objects in your viewport (or use the second to last icon on your viewport, the one that looks like a square).
- Click the Smart Content tab and navigate to your particles. Jay uses the FS Ember Large Scatter in MMX Fire and Smoke for Iray, which consists of a single particle on a plane with multiple instances, making it easy on the geometry. The embers load in a large container, which you can move or scale if you’d like to adjust where the particles sit around your character.
At this point, you can change your viewport to Iray to see how the character will render out, but keep in mind that you won’t be able to see the effect of the longer focal length yet because, by default, the cameras don’t render depth of field.
Creating the Depth of Field Effect
So let’s go ahead and turn on depth of field.
- Go back to the Parameters tab to your Camera settings and turn Depth of Field ON.
- Next, we need to set the focal plane — the area that’s supposed to be in focus. In the top left corner, go to Window > Viewports > Top and Bottom. By keeping one viewport on your camera and the other in perspective view, you can see what your camera is capturing while you adjust it.
- On the right-hand side, select both your camera and character and press CTRL+F. In your perspective view, you’ll see where the focal plane is. Select the Camera, and in your Camera settings, adjust the focal distance so the green line lines up with the part of your character you want in focus.
- You can also adjust the F/Stop to give you a shallower or wider depth of field — this is similar to adjusting a camera’s aperture. A larger F/Stop value results in less depth of field, and a smaller value results in more depth of field.
Note: If you’re having trouble seeing the green line, make sure your camera is selected and go to Parameters > Display > Scene View. Turn up the Sight Line Opacity and Focal Point Scale, and you should see the green line brighten and lengthen. If you still need help, click the gear icon for the Focal Point Scale > Parameter Settings, uncheck the Use Limits box, and click Accept. This means you can lengthen the green line even further.
Super Simple Particle Animation
If you’d like the particles to move around your character, you can easily create a simple particle animation.
- In the bottom left corner, click the Timeline tab and update the Total value to 120 frames. Then in your Rotation settings, update Y Rotate to 0.
- Back in the Timeline tab, drag the vertical line from the first frame to the last frame and set the Y Rotate to something small, like 30. This will only rotate 30 degrees for a nice and slow animation.
- Right click on the first keyframe, select Set Key Interpolation, and set it to Linear. Then, looking through your camera in the viewport, click the play button in the bottom center of Daz Studio to watch your particles rotate.
Note: Don’t be afraid to play around with the Y Rotate setting to find the speed you like best.
Using KA Forest Effect Particles
Another product in the Tree Giant Mega Bundle is KA Forest FX. Unlike the single particle with instances in MMX Fire and Smoke for Iray, this product is basically a full, solid volume without access to the instances. But, like the other product, you can go to the Surfaces tab and customize the attributes.
If you prefer the distribution of particles in this set, you can add even more of the same particles in a few simple steps.
- With the fireflies selected in the Scene tab, click Edit > Duplicate > Duplicate (Node). The duplicate fireflies will show up in the Scene tab directly under your first firefly burst.
- However, you won’t see them in the viewport just yet because they’re sitting directly on top of the first one. Select the second burst in the Scene tab, then go Parameters > Scale and use the dials to move the fireflies wherever you’d like.
- Like earlier, you can also adjust the F/Stop value in the Camera settings to blur the fireflies a bit more.
It may be helpful to see how your scene looks with a backdrop to determine if your particles need more or less depth of field.
- Go to the Environment tab and change the Type to Backdrop.
- Click Background and choose a color. For the most dramatic look, choose a dark color like gray, black, navy, etc. and adjust your F/Stop value accordingly.
- If you want the background in your render, make sure the Visible in Render setting is turned on. If it’s switched off, it’ll come out as a transparent render.
Using VDB Effects
KA Forest FX also comes with a rolling fog VDB for your scene. In the livestream, Jay loads this directly onto the Tree Giant, moves it higher up so the VDB container covers his face, and the viewport in Iray shows fog around his legs. He then switches it out for a smoke cloud VDB behind the Tree Giant.
Don’t be afraid to play with the other VDB objects in KA Forest FX! It comes with multiple density presets, but you can also make your fog more or less opaque using the Density Multiplier in the Volume settings in the Surfaces tab.
Jay even adds a point light to the smoke cloud and changes the color to give the smoke a fiery look. When you add your fireflies on top of it, it looks absolutely stunning with the depth of field effect. Here’s how to do it:
- At the top of your screen, click Create and New Point Light. Then click Accept on the dialog box.
- In the viewport, click and drag your new light into the volume for your smoke cloud, positioning it wherever you feel looks best.
- If you’d like to make your light brighter, go to the Parameters tab > Light > Photometrics. From there you can adjust the Luminous Flux value.
- You can even change the light geometry (Parameters > Light > Area) if you’d like. Jay changes it to a sphere in the livestream, makes the Height value larger, and turns off the Render Emitter.
- Then, go to the Light settings to change the color.
Using MMX Fire Planes
Perhaps you’d like to try a different way of emulating fire. In the Scene tab, click the little eye icon next to your fireflies, point light, and VDB container to hide them.
Note: As shown in the livestream, sometimes the products you hide still render in the Iray viewport. If this happens, just restart the preview and it should fix itself.
- Going back to MMX Fire and Smoke for Iray, load the MMX FS Plane into your scene. This will load in the center of your scene, but if you hold Alt + left click on the plane in your Smart Content, you can drag the plane wherever you want.
- Jay then goes to Edit > Duplicate > Duplicate Node Hierarchies to duplicate the plane. Move both planes around the scene until you like how it looks, and check out your viewport in Iray. It’ll give a nice glow to your character, and the depth of field keeps the focus on the character.
- Go back to your scene tab and turn your particles back on for an even cooler effect! If the fire looks too hot, go to the Emission settings in the Surfaces tab and adjust the Luminous Efficacy dial. You can also dim them in the Geometry settings by turning down the Cutout Opacity.
- You can even change the base color of the flames. Go to the Base settings, click on the white bar under Base Color, and choose a new color.
Creating Your Own Particles With UltraScatter
There’s an endless variety of particle effects in the Daz store, but you can also make your own in Daz Studio.
Creating the Particle
- Click Create > New Primitive, and in the dialog box, select Sphere in the Type drop-down and adjust the diameter, segments, and sides as you see fit. In the livestream, Jay sets it to 10 cm, 3, and 3.
- Use CTRL+F to find your sphere, and flatten or widen it to your liking.
- Then, it’s time to add materials. In the Surfaces tab, adjust the Base Color to match the kind of particle you’d like to create. Jay uses a beige to emulate dust. Then, in the Glossy settings, you can tone down the glossiness by bumping up the Glossy Roughness.
Creating the Container
- Now, you need a container to replicate your particle in. Click Create > New Primitive, and you can select whichever type you like. Cubes tend to be easier to work with, so Jay chooses that and sets the size to 10 m and divisions to 1.
- In the Surface tab, in the Geometry settings, you can lower the Cutout Opacity so you can still see the rest of the objects in your scene. If you decide the cube is too large or small, you can also easily adjust it.
- With the particle selected, find UltraScatterPro in the Smart Content tab and double-click the script. In the dialog box, select Volume and set the target object as the container you just made. Set the number of instances as high or as low as you want (Jay sets it to 500 to start), and click Volume Scatter.
- Once the script runs, you’ll notice that the instances are all the same size and rotation, which doesn’t look as natural. To fix this, make sure the instances are selected and double-click the script again.
- Go to the Scaling tab and adjust the settings there. Jay sets the scaling range from 30% to 100%. Then, in the Rotation tab, set the first column of X, Y, and Z rotation values to random numbers and leave the second column set to 0. Click Volume Scatter again to see your new instances.
- If you switch your viewport to Iray, you’ll see them through your camera with the depth of field applied.
Adjusting Minor Details
Now, what do you do if one particle is in focus and doesn’t blend with the others?
- With the instances selected, you can rotate them to potentially move the out-of-place particle somewhere else. If that doesn’t work, double-click the UltraScatterPro script and re-scatter your particles after adjusting the Seed value under the Rotation and Scaling tabs.
- If there’s still a particle that looks too boxy and in-focus, select your single particle in the scene tab and click Edit > Object > Geometry > Convert to SubD. This will round out the particles a bit more.
- If you want to round them out further, go to the Parameters tab > Mesh Resolution, and increase the View SubD Level value.
Is there anything we missed? Leave a comment with more topics you’d like covered, and check out our guide on how to work with and create HDRIs.
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