Adobe Project Felix: 3D Photorealism for the Novice or Non-3D Artist
Staff Writer By: M.D. McCallum (WarLord720)
Just imagine... you've never seen a 3D application. You have no idea what compositing is. You have an even more vague idea, if any at all, of rendering. What you want or need is to create near photo realistic images without a six-month learning curve and years to perfect. In times past we needed a miracle. Now... though it's not a miracle... we have Project Felix.
Strangely named, Adobe's Project Felix turned out to be a pleasant surprise to this reviewer with it's ease of use and near photorealistic quality rendering. Photo quality or photo real is concept that differs depending on how many people you ask but for the sake of this review let's just say it's a properly composited image that looks real to the average viewer. A trained or experienced digital artist may certainly spot the differences but the average viewer may not even consider it not being real.
Lining up the workbench photo with the horizon for object placement.
With Project Felix you are given a three dimensional workspace in which you can combine imported backgrounds with 3D models to create a near photorealistic image (let's call that an NPI). These NPIs can then be used for marketing a product or envisioning a concept. It means you don't need a studio or on site photography session plus it grants a tremendous amount of creative freedom to create that NPI. If you have a professionally created model of the product or concept it just gets better.
Using a photograph or photographic quality background does most of the work. In practice, it would seem that a background image with a distinguishable horizon is preferred. In the reference photo, a smart phone shot of my guitar workbench, I tried to line the bench up as horizontally as possible. Once imported into Project Felix as a background this horizon can usually be determined by the software which prompts you to click a button on the right-side menu to do so.
Not a lighting pro? Or maybe you are not even sure what lighting is? Project Felix takes care of that for you too with a single click of a button on the same right-side menu. This creates a wraparound environment of the scene that creates lighting based on the background image. A great concept for beginners to keep those images from looking too flat. Shadows sell composited images as much as any other feature so they are important to the photographic quality of the final render.
Different materials on the 3D bass model.
Materials (textures) are another important part of creating an NPI. The materials in Project Felix are drag and drop from a menu palette. These materials are robust and render well. The glass looks like glass... not low opacity grey or white. The plastic is bright and shiny. A materials library is provided and most likely will never be enough because one never has enough materials in any application. This one has enough to be helpful.
The strongest feature of this application is being able to use it without searching through a manual or the help section. As I have stated many times, for myself, this is an important aspect. What manual? That is my approach to software if at all possible. I'll crack open the manual after I get some hands-on experience with it but don't make me open it just to use it the first time or you've lost me. I'm not alone in this line of thought either. We creative folks can be a fickle bunch. Watch one short video and you have the basics then it's off to make your first composite.
As I stated in the opening of this review, Project Felix was a pleasant experience. There were no frustrations... other than a slow render on the best quality as expected and common in these apps. For this article composite I didn't take a lot of time or worry about placement like I normally would. I just loaded in a background image, model and tweaked as a 3D newbie might. Another plus is its part of the Creative Cloud so if you are already a CC user then you can download Project Felix from your account. While being far from perfect for professionals, these app can help the average 3D novice put together images their mother would think is real.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord is an international award winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. M.D. is currently working on VR projects and characters. You can learn more about MD at his website.