Placing an object in your HDRI environment would seem to be really easy, and actually it is. But when I decided to learn how to do it I googled it and got a lot of different solutions and most didn’t work. The tutorial that got me on track was actually really confusing and made it seem way harder than it really is. So first I’m going to show you how to get the effect of the object and it’s shadow and after you have that I can give some tips on how to tweak the scene.
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Ok make a sphere in 3ds Max. Create a plane and place the sphere on the plane. Make the plane pretty big so the shadow of the object (the sphere) fits on it. Your going to apply a material to the sphere and make the plane transparent while still showing the shadow of the sphere. So now you have the sphere sitting on the plane. It’s time to load your HDRI enviroment map. For now we’ll keep it simple. Go up top to the menu bar and go RENDERING—>ENVIROMENT.
As you can see on the top is where you’ll apply your map. Check USE MAP and load your HDRI by clicking the button under “enviroment map” and browse and load your HDRI map. Choose a good map with strong shadows for this. Now we just have to apply a material to the plane that will make it transparent and show just the shadow. This is so easy, the option is called Matte/Shadow. Go to the material editor (I still use the compact mode not the slate for this) and pick a slot and look for the button that will have the word “Standard” on it which is the default.
So click “Standard” and the Material/Map browser will pop up. Under “General” you’ll see Matte/Shadow. If you can’t find it go up top and search for it in the search box. So find it and load it and you will see this window pop up in the material editor.
Now your as good as done. In the picture above is the default selections. These are correct. All YOU need to do is check “Apply Atmosphere” and your done. The slot in the Material Editor will become transparent. Now just apply this material to the plane that the sphere is sitting on and bang your done. If your HDRI map is creating good shadows you will see the sphere and it’s shadow only. All you have to do is maneuver the sphere and plane together where you want it and render away. This will work with any object with any material. If you need a good HDRI look at the ones on this homepage under “Strong Shadows” That is what I used in my example pic. The map is totally free too. Now to be honest I’ve only gotten this to work with the ART Renderer. Arnold doesn’t sesem to want to make this happen. I’m sure Mental Ray will do it fine. I don’t have Vray so I can’t tell you for sure… Now hopefully I made this simple for you. There are a few things to do to tweak it if you want. Like make the background mirror (The loaded HDRI will be mirrored the wrong way by default) and if you want to move the background around for different lighting effects or make more of the background more visible. I can also show you how to make your HDRI create strong shadows if it doesn’t by itself. I’ll start working on those tutorials later today. So get this part right and good luck.Toggle panel: SmartCrawl