If you are unfamiliar with 3D studio software, it's maybe something worth checking out. Ellixxier software produces a 3D pre-vis studio that hits the mark in terms of time-saving when in the studio, and the software has just received another upgrade, allowing more freedom when planning your shoots.
Set.a.light 3D V2.5.8 is the new free upgrade for the software, and with this, it has introduced some new features and objects to expand your virtual setup experience. New objects, new characters, and the ability to change the facial expressions of the characters should allow you to plan the studio sessions even better. I would also say that the whole process seems even more responsive and faster now, and the Mac version now natively supports the M1 chip, which is a bonus.
There is a new facial expressions panel, two in fact, that you can use to set the mood for your image and have fun along the way. I mention that because you have to remember that this is a piece of software and doesn't have the 43 facial muscles that we have and use to create our expressions. Some of the expressions are quite comical, while others can add that subtle adjustment to enhance the feel of your image. When I say image, I'm aware that this is not the final image but merely a lighting setup using characters and props to achieve the look you are going for in the studio.
The expressions can be controlled by either sliders or a face control option, seen below. There are also preset facial expressions to speed up the process. If you want to add further specific adjustments to these, you can again modify the expression by using the sliders or the face control option, both of which are good at adding a slight nuance to enhance the outcome. Individual adjustments include: raise eyebrows, widen eyes, close eyes, adjust cheeks, wrinkle nose, open mouth/shape lips, raise/lower chin. I had fun adjusting these but resorted to the more subtle looks when rendering out the final image.Another cool feature, although not a new one, is the ability to add your existing backdrops to your "picture wall," as it's titled in the software. Simply take a photo of your existing backdrop, resize the long edge to 2,048 pixels, and add it to the picture wall. This allows you to get a better idea of how your final photo may look once you set up your lights.
Some of the new props include mirrors, which allow you to visualize how they will look in the scene plus also allows you to mirror the light. They do say, however, that in the current build, reflecting light over several mirrors is not yet possible.
Another new prop is the experimental car, which is still in the beta phase in terms of the reflections in the paintwork, though as you see by the example below, even that does quite a nice job at this stage. I hope in time they add a few more models of automobiles, but for now, this was great to test out the lighting on.
Other additions include wall elements like doors and windows that can be set directly into the wall. You can decide the color of them and even open and close them depending on the scene you are creating. Not that you would have clear glass on a bathroom door as per the example below, but this created scene allowed me to show you that they have even added a toilet to the props section.
With more props added to make your experience using the software even more flexible, you can currently pre-visualize lots of different scene scenarios, allowing you to see how the lighting and reflected light react with the objects in the scene. You can keep it simple or go full-out to see where it takes you. What I like about the software is how quickly everything is achieved. The amount of time you save in the studio moving lights and props around certainly is worth the price of the software. Currently at 154 Euros for the Studio and 79 Euros for the basic version, you certainly see the benefits of 3D practice quickly.
The cameras have been updated with ND filter additions and an anamorphic lens for the video camera. More lenses have been added, as well as new ISO capabilities of ISO 3, 6, and 12.
The models have also been updated with new garments. The eyes look more realistic and the reflections in them improved. You can also save your style model as your own preset, ready for future use.
What I Liked
As you can probably tell, I am impressed by this software due to what you can do with it for a relatively low cost. I started using the software due to lockdown in 2020, not out of something to pass the time but out of teaching necessity. I needed to remotely show lighting scenarios using the Bowens studio lights we have and their effects on the students, as all teaching had gone online. This ticked every box, and for me, it continues to do so, especially with the new updates. I also use it as pre-visualization for the classes, as you can save the lighting setup as a pdf and pass it out to all the students before class.
What I Didn't Like
There is nothing to talk about here in terms of what I didn't like. This piece of software does everything I need it to do to help save time in the studio with the pre-visualization side of things.
If you are a studio photographer who has to book a studio for your shoots: time equals money, so you don't want to spend any more time than you have to get the shot right. This software will save you both and make the studio experience more rewarding. The same goes if you are new to studio photography, as this will allow you to practice and visualize your shots before even entering the studio.
It is well worth your time checking out the software, even if it's just to download the trial to see if it would suit your practice. You can find out more about the software here. And if you want to read another article written about it, you can check it out here.