Nearly There!

Last month I ended with:

If all goes according to plan, next month’s Dev Log will be about how smoothly everything went 🙂

… smoothly is not exactly how I’d describe the last few weeks.

We’ve decided to push the launch back another two weeks to June 15th. We don’t take this decision lightly, but since the three existing Haven sites are still functional, we feel more comfortable taking our time to polish things off a bit more rather than rush to meet an imaginary deadline.

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Remember when I promised to launch at the end of April? Wait, that’s today?!

Closed Beta

Things are not quite ready yet, but they’re at least in a state we can now share with Patrons and members of our community.

Most of the core infrastructure is finally set up (which for someone like me was no small task apparently), and all the remaining major tasks have a solid plan laid out. Now it should simply be a matter of implementing those plans over the next few weeks and we’ll have a platform ready for release.

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Is it nearly April already?!

Web Rabbit Hole

Apart from some tax and bureaucratic nonsense, I’ve spent most of this month testing and researching further into various front and back-end options for the new site.

Things are looking a little tight if we’re still going to have a soft launch at the end of April, but since I’ve basically built this kind of site 5 times before in the past I’m fairly confident I can have a working beta by then at least.

I mentioned the 80TB bandwidth challenge last month, and our solution for that seems to be working wonderfully so far.

But apart from just bandwidth, there’s also the challenge of building a stable system that can handle hundreds of millions of requests, many of which need to go to a database to get lists and information about our assets. This is actually the biggest issue with our current sites and a major cause of stability problems recently.

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Welcome back!

It’s been a busy month for Poly Haven and there’s a lot to talk about 🙂

GPU go brrr

Thanks to your donations on Patreon, a new RTX 3090 joins the family!

We’ve decided to make 16k the new standard resolution for texture maps going forward, and to achieve this we need some serious hardware.

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Welcome to Poly Haven’s first Development log 🙂

This is the start of a new monthly (?) series that summarizes progress of our work creating assets for polyhaven.com (or, currently: hdrihaven.com, texturehaven.com and 3dmodelhaven.com).

General progress & state

We’ve hired Rico Cilliers and James Ray Cock as full time 3D artists, who are now spending most of their time creating 3d models for our Pawn Shop project which I’ll explain below.

Dimitrios Savva (“Meat”), an experienced camera operator, also joins the team part-time to work on more texture scans.

Andreas and Sergej continue to work on HDRIs every month.

Rob continues making texture scans regularly and helps the rest of the team figure out good workflows.

I (Greg) work on web development, project planning, quality control, and business things.

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My goal with this series of articles is to explain everything I’ve learnt about creating HDRIs in order to try and raise the standard of quality of HDRIs shared online.

It’s not difficult to make an HDRI that’s good enough for your own use, but if you want to make really good HDRIs that provide accurate and dependable lighting no matter the use case, you need to thoroughly understand every step of the process and how it will affect the outcome.

I’m only going to cover only the basics here, and then follow up with a number of smaller articles for specific situations in order to avoid going on too many tangents. A list of these articles can be found at the end, though some of the articles will be linked to throughout as well.

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As you know, it is absolutely imperative that the light sources in an HDRI are not clipped.

In some indoor cases, this is fairly easy to achieve even accidentally, but as soon as you go outdoors and try to shoot the sun directly you’ll realize how absurdly bright it really is, and how difficult it is to shoot without careful thought and planning.

Even at my camera’s darkest exposure settings – 1/4000, F/22 and ISO 100 – the sun is still far too bright to capture without overexposing (clipping) it:

1/4000, F/22, ISO 100

We need to go darker.

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Perhaps one of the most common questions I get asked is “What camera do you use?”.

Usually with any kind of art or industry when people ask what specific brand or model of tool you use, the answer is often “It doesn’t matter, use whatever you’re comfortable with”.

While it’s true that you can create an HDRI with almost any camera, including the one in your phone, if you want to create HDRIs at an acceptable resolution with unlimited dynamic range, there are actually some very specific requirements that not all cameras meet, even really expensive ones.

Apart from the obvious requirements like being able to shoot in RAW with full manual control, there are some aspects of your camera gear that have significant influence over the types of HDRIs you can create, what resolution your HDRIs will be, how long they will take to shoot, or if you can even shoot them at all.

This article will attempt to explain all these aspects and what difference they make.

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If you understand the difference between using a JPG file and a HDR/EXR file for an HDRI, then you already understand clipping 🙂

“Clipping” is when the brightest part of an HDRI is “cut off”, or “burnt out”.

This is usually seen on light sources, like the sun or a bright lamp, and is the result of the HDRI photographer not using a dark enough exposure to capture the light completely.

If you’re an HDRI photographer and you want to learn how to avoid clipping, read this article next.

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The busy first month of the new site has already passed with outstanding and unexpected success. In fact, it was so unexpectedly successful and busy that the second month is almost over too!

The first four goals on Patreon were reached in short succession: 16k versions of each HDRI were added, the first Vault was unlocked, and I promised to publish one two HDRIs every single week.

As I’ve said before, I totally did not expect this kind of support. I was fairly sure people would like the new site (who doesn’t like free stuff), but to actually throw money at me to help me keep it going was just a pipe dream. Of course I worked hard to try and make that dream a reality, but there was no way to know if it would actually work.

Well, luckily for all of us, it did 🙂 At least so far as to cover all of its own costs and provide a reasonable budget to keep producing HDRIs regularly. It’s not enough for me to live off yet, I still need to do freelance work and find other sources of income, but it is a most excellent start.

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