Hey everyone, and welcome back to the Affect3D Artist Guide! In this series we’re teaching you the basics of being a 3DX artist, in conjunction with a series of corresponding video tutorials. In our upcoming video tutorial, we’ll take a look at environmental lighting. So in order to get you primed for that, today we’ll talk a bit about scenery and atmosphere.
A room is like a girl’s clothes
Imagine James Bond. Now imagine that, instead of spending his time in villains’ secret lairs, expensive casinos and resorts, and exotic locations, he spent his time at a local dive bar. He’d still be a secret service agent, but instead of meeting remotely with M or Q through some techy gadget, he’d use a dial phone at the nearby gas station. Following that, he’d go outside to step into his station wagon so that he could drive to the bad guy’s hiding place: a perfectly acceptable middle-class home in a residential neighborhood. What defines the bad guy’s home is the collection of comic books stacked against his bedroom wall.
If this had been James Bond from day one, the character would’ve been a little underwhelming. For a visual artist, it is important to understand that a character wears the environment like a set of clothes. Bond is more than a secret service agent. He’s the martini cocktails he drinks at resorts you don’t go to. He’s the vehicles he drives that you can only dream of. He is the penthouse apartment hideout that you couldn’t afford on what you’re making. Is this relevant to us as porn producers? You bet.
Hotness comes at room temperature
We have a big library of content available for us as starting 3DX artists, because we’re mostly working with pre-made assets. At the same time, we’re on a limited budget. So we see something we like, and we might be inclined to go with it if it’s cheap. Say you’re browsing the Daz Store looking to expand your environments library, and there’s a 19th century German town street for sale. Only ten dollars instead of the usual forty! Now that looks like a steal. But stop for a moment to consider: why would your characters be having sex in a 19th century German town? Are they 19th century Germans? Are they exhibitionists? Perhaps you’re creating monster genre 3DX, then it might be easier to work with this location than if you were doing a modern or sci-fi set-up.
This, by the way, is how Star Trek incorporated a lot of out-of-context sets in its episodes. So it can be made to work, but only if the reason why you’re using something is integral to the story you’re already telling. Otherwise you’re constantly patching things on, and the end result will be a setting that lacks cohesion. This goes at the expensive of the eroticism of your sex scenes, because the audience isn’t suspending disbelief.
It’s easy to lay narrative concerns aside and say “it’s just porn, who cares?” Well, you’re not necessarily wrong. When no one knows better, they might not. But if your goal is to make quality porn worth buying, then the difference is made by the details you concern yourself with. When you do care, the quality of your work will attract a following that appreciates it. You acquire a signature style as an artist. And then you have something to market, something to sell.
Of course, it’s easy to justify your purchase after the fact. “Well, what if my characters are in a theme park that happens to look like a 19th century German town, but isn’t actually? And what if they’re having sex because of X and Y reason, and that’s how I can tie it into the story.” Sure, but that is never the same thing as having a fixed aesthetic/stylistic idea beforehand. There is nothing wrong with making the most of scarce resources, but even then it’s still best to have a good idea of where you want it all to go.
Make it all fall into place
The reason environments are important to me as an artist is because it ties into what we discussed last month: Lighting. Indeed, lighting a scene properly is just as important as lighting a character, because the two play into each other. In my case, I have a very clear idea of what I’m making: glam. So I look for glam settings like luxury bedrooms, marble halls, museum locales or exotic resorts. I colour it in with a lighting style that’s tonally consistent. What do you find in areas like these? Pastel tones, atmospheric cone lighting, or a noir-style glow just to name a few things. That ends up creating my visual signature, and it keeps me from having to invent the wheel each time I produce a new set. Consider how Penthouse lights their scenes compared to Brazzers. You can tell the two apart at a mere glance.
There are a few things that I want my sets to exude: a sense of material wealth, a sense of uncommon beauty, and a sense of temperature. Wait, temperature? Yes. I want my environments to look like a place that’s comfortable to have sex in. Where a girl won’t freeze the moment she takes her clothes off. Good lighting will accomplish that, but it falls flat if there’s dissonance between the temperature you’re trying to establish and the environment your set takes place in. Could you truly convince the audience that it’s nice and comfy in a musky dungeon? You can place whatever lights you want in whatever environment you’re using, but there’s a limit to suspension of disbelief.
Stay tuned for the video tutorial!
So this is the theory behind it. In our upcoming video tutorial, we’ll take a look at the specifics behind lighting a simple scene in Daz Studio. If you’ve watched last month’s episode where we lit Breanna, you’ll already know a lot of the basics, so I mostly wrote this article to give you an idea about why, not the how. The how is the easy part.
Join us next month for a discussion about a very important feature in porn: skin! Do we go for photorealism, or do we embrace a more stylised look? See you then!
Want to learn more about creating 3DX? Check out the 3DX Artist Resource, today!