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On 1/24/2017 at 10:45 AM, TheKitchenAbode said:

Scott - Here's a 3 renderings of the exact same scene. This is just a test room I use to play with things so excuse the odd mix of items. If you flip through them you can see that the differences are minor. Yes, the 75 pass one is better but you can see that the improvement is just in a slightly less grainy appearance, most notably in the painted wall surface by the TV.


What you should be using your computers power for is to run higher resolution pics. The sample you posted was run at 2400 X 1024, the equivalent of a 2 mega pixel camera. If you want to zoom in on your pics then you need a bigger camera. My last posted scene was run at 4800 X 2284, the equivalent of an 11 mega pixel camera. Although it is only a 10 pass run it looks sharper than the 75 pass 3rd scene and you can zoom in to see more detail. However as you can see, running many passes or at much higher resolution does not significantly change the overall look of the scene, this is dictated by the lighting set-up, materials and their properties.


These are 1200 X 571, photon mapping "on".


1st scene - 10 passes, 2 min.

2nd scene - 35 passes, 7 min.

3rd scene - 75 passes, 15 min.

4th scene - 10 passes, 30 min, 4800 X 2284


Test_10 pass_2min.jpg

Test_35 pass_7min.jpg

Test_75 pass_15min.jpg

Test_10 pass_30 min_4800 x 2284.jpg



Great practical advice, thanks!

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9 hours ago, MPDesign said:

...Does anyone have a suggested site for stock photos to import for backdrops?


Depending on what you are after you can always shoot

your own backdrop photos. If that's not an option I often

search Google Images to get what I'm looking for. You

want to start with an image that has a believable horizon

line and sun shadow angles that match your model. To get

an image to display correctly for a particular background

you can adjust the point where the horizon line crosses

your image up or down using image editing software. It

also helps to position elements of your model and terrain

so that they tend to blur the distinction between what is the

model and what is the background.  

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Here is my updated "all chief raytrace"

Its getting better, found a better grass texture. Also added a small roof shadow board to give the edge a better look.

Chief doesn't extend the roofing past the face of the fascia if there is no shadow board it looks funny. see the previous image. post #25

Linden II_render.jpg

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2 hours ago, MPDesign said:

Here is my updated "all chief raytrace"

Its getting better, found a better grass texture. Also added a small roof shadow board to give the edge a better look.

Chief doesn't extend the roofing past the face of the fascia if there is no shadow board it looks funny. see the previous image. post #25

Linden II_render.jpg

This is really nice. Clean and simple.

The tree shadow created by a hidden 3D tree is a nice effect. 

What do we have to do to get our grubby little hands on your awesome grass texture?

Is asking nicely sufficient?


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2 hours ago, MPDesign said:

Here is my updated "all chief raytrace"

Its getting better, found a better grass texture. Also added a small roof shadow board to give the edge a better look.

Chief doesn't extend the roofing past the face of the fascia if there is no shadow board it looks funny. see the previous image. post #25

Linden II_render.jpg



the shadowboards make make a huge difference in realism. Also a much better backdrop. This is another area to fine tune  in making RT as realistic as possible. 


Have you done done anything with Lumion? The one drawback I have found is "model importing". Lumion, as far as my exposure has shown, does not reflect the model as realistic as a RT. Perhaps this will change in the future.

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1 hour ago, michaelgia said:

What do we have to do to get our grubby little hands on your awesome grass texture?

I was about to ask the same thing. I don't know where you came up with this one Michael but I like it; better than any I have found to date for my taste. I have been using one for years I got from the Design Diva (I think that's what she went by). Pretty good but yours is better.

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Hi Gang,

I actually scored these while searching the forum for grass, from a link posted by Alan Lehman here on the forum January 2015. Thank you Alan for finding this and sharing in the first place! 

here is the link,


Also here is the grass that I used, plus the bump map.

Happy raytracing :)



I have not used Lumion, I used to use Artlantis several years ago when chief was using povray engine.

I am glad that Chief is getting better results and in way less time than it used to. That and lighting was the primary reason for the switch initially.



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Hi all - I just found this post and read it all - very interesting!  I do raytraces for every job I have.  I only raytrace in Chief, though I usually do a quick bit of adjusting in a photo program afterwards, mainly because I have found it is usually quicker to brighten up the overall light or the shadows that way, than to spend more time adjusting lights and running additional raytraces.  I'll share a few things that I do for my raytraces. 


Regarding the comments about number of passes to run... I also tested the differences between numbers of passes and decided it is rarely ever worth running more than 10.  I set all my raytrace configurations to 10 as the default.  I find it much more effective for the time involved to enlarge the scene.  I make most of my finals at least 4,000 pixels wide.  At least on my computer, which is a couple years old now, I find that more efficient.  Most of the raytraces on my computer take about 10min for overviews, 20-25min for exteriors with only sunlight, and about an hour for interior views that have a couple lights.  I also like the larger sizes because in addition to printing out copies for my clients, I always give them digital copies too, and I want the images to have enough resolution to look good on a large monitor.  When I raytrace final panoramas, I do those at 8,000 to 10,000 wide. 


I also like to have shadows on windows for interest.  If I don't have any that are already in the plan, I sometimes will add a few trees just out of view of the camera, but set so they will reflect in the windows.  I really liked the house view where someone set partially transparent tree shadows on the windows - never thought about that - looked very good! 


When I take photos on a jobsite, I always try to get a front view that might work for "inserting" a raytrace later.  (I do almost all remodels/additions).  I also try to take backyard photos that I can turn into a backdrop so if I am taking an interior raytrace view, they can see their actual backyard view out the windows.  If I am shooting a front view raytrace to insert in an actual photo, I use a solid blue backdrop so I can easily remove it in the photo program.  One photo below shows a very quick one (10 minute raytrace, 15 minutes adjustment in photo program) that I did just this week for first stage preliminary options.  If the project was farther along, I would get fancier with the landscaping instead of leaving the existing and would make the house not "pop" so much.  The other is a busy deck scene I also did this past week, again a quick preliminary pass, I think with all Chief materials except for the sky, which I got free on some site with panorama skies.  I find that taking the time to collect a few good "sky with clouds" backgrounds are really helpful for exterior raytraces. 


In the last 6 months, I find I am spending less time setting up single viewpoint raytraces and more time doing raytraced panoramas, if they are suitable for the project.  I show those to the clients on a tablet that they stand up and spin around to view, and they get very excited about seeing their project that way.  The prep time spent is probably about even since I reduce the number of time intensive raytraces in a critical space like a kitchen . Here is one of my first raytraced panos  that I did for a kitchen that saved me at least 3 regular raytraces.  (btw - I found the backsplash online, but I think the rest of the materials are Chiefs) Here's a raytraced pano of the deck project.  


I have found that adjusting the size of materials can be effective in getting a good look in different situations.  For example, in an overview, I might significantly enlarge a carpet pattern so there can be some sense of texture.  The overview below, which I did yesterday, has the beige carpet enlarged (Textures tab of the Define Materials dbx) to 98"x98", otherwise it looked just like a solid paint color from the camera height needed to show the overview.  The hassle is sizing it back down for regular interior views, but that is quick.  Playing with the texture sizes of grasses, dirt, fabrics and other textures, can also be helpful in adjusting the look.  In overviews, I often turn materials to "matte" so they don't have odd reflections.  I had to do that with the wood flooring in that interior overview. 


I typically set up 3 raytrace configurations each for Indoor High Quality, Outdoor High Quality and Panoramas.  I have window size (about 1800 pixels wide), 3,000 wide and 4,000 wide for indoor and outdoor configs.  Then I set up window size, 4,000 wide and 8,000 wide for panoramas.  All set to 10 passes as default, though on some panoramas, I will set them to 6 passes so they don't take so long when I am running multiple raytraces in sequence over night. 


My last "go-to" help for raytracing, is a chart of sun angles which I have posted in the past, but I still refer to it all the time to figure out where I want the sun coming from.  I used to try to match real sun angles to each project, but realized it wasn't worth the extra time and effort except in special cases.  So my goal with sun angles/lighting is to do what will make the scene show well. 


So nothing fancy to post, but hope something might be helpful. 



OV Front Left.jpg

2017 02 06 Front View3.jpg

h5 1h17 e1.jpg

k1 41min e1.jpg


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2 hours ago, Christina_Girerd said:

I will set them to 6 passes so they don't take so long when I am running multiple raytraces in sequence over night


Christina, very nice work. kudo's to you!


I was curious if I missed something about running multiple ray traces, in sequence? How'd you do that?


My fav is the overhead view of the backyard veranda design!  I really like your design & layout! It feels like a fun place to be on a summers evening! :) 

I also like the pano of the kitchen, it does take the place of at least 3 view point renders! 

oh and thank you again for the sun angle map, I remember when you shared it last time! thx again :)

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Time-saving tips:

Keep in mind that these tips help save time, but there are more advanced things you can do to improve the final quality of your image that would counteract these time-saving methods. But in most cases, some of these are appropriate because you don't want to spend processing power on what you are not showing in the image.


1. Caustics are a heavy hitter when it comes to overall ray trace time. I generally don't turn these on unless there is glass in the scene that will be catching the light. Adding caustic effects will add a little more realism but sacrifice time. One caveat, the windows in Chief Architect don't count. When Chief creates the sunlight effect through the windows, it is doing so without caustics.


So, if you are rendering a scene that doesn't have any additional glass such as, glass shower walls, vases, etc. There is no need to turn on the 'Compute Caustics' option.


2. Limit the number of light sources you use when possible. Lights can add a great deal of time to a render and in many cases don't add to the scene. An example would be, a daytime exterior scene. You don't need all the lights inside and outside of the house to be on. It generally takes away from the realism and just looks 'off' to the eye in most cases. The sun is shining bright and the details of the house are clearly visible, so you don't need all those extra lights taking up processing time to achieve a nice looking result.


This is completely subjective of course, you should do what you think look best, for example, if a covered patio is being shaded by the sun, then turning on the porch lights may look nicer than a completely dark area.


For example(Settings attached in

Also, don't turn on lights that don't directly add to the result you are going for. This is where experimentation comes in, Try a quick low-quality low resolution render to see how the lights are affecting the scene, and turn off any that don't add any real impact or don't produce the result you are looking for. Just because a light fixture is visible, doesn't mean that it must be turned on. It's OK to use just natural light.


For example(Settings attached in


3. For Interior scenes, you don't generally need to keep the rest of the building. If I'm rendering a bedroom, I typically stand the camera at the door looking in, so I don't need to keep the hallway or the other rooms in the house.



For example(Settings attached in


Hope these are helpful to you all, I love seeing threads like this getting started by users and discussed by users. It's the best way to learn.


P.S. Don't under-value the art of post processing. or bringing in outside symbols and textures. But perhaps that is better done on a separate thread.

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Michael - thanks, and regarding how to run multiple raytraces...


Once you set one raytrace up and it starts, click back to the plan and open another camera view or go to a view already open.  Then select raytrace for that view and follow normal setup for a raytrace.  The only difference is when this second one starts, it just opens a new window, shows the checkered background and at the bottom of the window says "Ray Trace Queued."  You can repeat this multiple times.  It can get fairly confusing though, if you have a lot of windows open because once a "queued" window is set up, there is no way to match it back to a particular view.  Once I couldn't remember which view I had just added to a queue, and didn't want to come back in the morning and find two of the same thing, so I had to close it and start again to make sure.


A couple things to keep in mind.  Make sure you have set a definite number of passes or a time limit for each view.  You may also want to put a name in the "Save Image to File" option in case you run a multi-hour raytrace, your computer crashes later, or you accidentally close the program in the morning, etc.  However, the problem is Chief can only save one name at a time automatically for a given configuration.  If you have two raytraces both running the same configuration, say Indoor High Quality, it will save the first image file, but when it is ready to save the second, you will get a dbx asking if you want to save with a new name and meanwhile that image doesn't get saved.  One way I get around this is to duplicate the raytrace configuration and then change the "save image" file name and then the second queued raytrace will be raytraced with a different config so it will get saved with a different name.  And you can do that multiple times - at least until Chief adjust the program to automatically increment the file name if it already exists (which I have already asked for). 


I have also asked for a better system to set up queued raytraces so I could make changes on a plan, and with one step run a sequence of overviews, interior & exterior raytraces to reflect the changes and it would automatically name the images and save them to a folder, and work in the background so I don't have to have all those camera view windows and their queued raytraces windows cluttering up my tabs as I continue working...  but that's another issue.


And just as a fun note from the past, in case anyone is frustrated having to wait 15 or 20 minutes or an hour with a raytrace, I remember when they first started, I would run a single raytrace for 15-20 hours to get a good, large image, such as the attached image from 10 years ago.  We might have even still been using Pov-ray then, in conjunction with Chief - I don't remember exactly when we switched all the raytracing to Chief, but that alone was a big step.  I certainly appreciate all the speed increase and other improvements!

2007Sep14 BalconyView.jpg

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Thanks.  It was a remodel - mostly changing the pew locations and the podium/choir areas.  I remember having to learn how to make a bunch of custom items too.  I think the sharp shadow lines are one of the tell-tale signs of it's age.  One fun part of that project was realizing I didn't have a photo of a certain area I had to model, and then looking through my wedding album and finding a photo that showed the area I needed!  It was my home church for many years. 

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