Ev Express

by New Media Supply in Scripts and Addons


What is the EV Express addon?

EV Express is an add-on that speeds up tremendously the workflow setting up a scene in EEVEE to showcase your model.  No more hassle adjust all the render settings, shadows, contact shadows, probes, etc.  Per april 15 you can use the EV Express add-on also for Cycles, see FAQ. 

How does EV Express speeds up the workflow?

The core: Probably you know that when want to render quickly out your model, you need lights, a background and floor, irradiance volume probe and reflection probe.  For a quick job, there are to many settings to adjust. You need to line up the irradiance volume, change settings, change light settings, etc. Now with the EV Expres you can skip all that. Just click on one of the 32 thumbnails and it will place 11 lights in the scene, a backdrop and probes.  The lights consists of two light rigs.  And the backdrop is the parent for the irradiance volume and the probes. Everything (render, light, probes) have already the best setting known. Additionally in the core of EV Express, a global shader is included, more about that later. 

But the EV Express addon offers even more. Take a look at the diagram below.

EV Express overview

Next are the compositing nodes. This is a separate addon you get, that is included in the EV Express download. These are 9 useful node-groups you can use in the compositor. You don't need to append them. Instead, a press on a button will make these nodes available with Shift+A. Working with these node-groups save you time because you don't need to arrange nodes one by one yourself. See it a building blocks. You can just plug them in. More explanation of the node-groups is in the documentation. 

Then, I implemented some looks in Color-management. As you know we don't have many looks in Color-management. Only low, high, medium high, very high contrast, etc.  So we have now 8 more looks.  See last update on how you get this to work. 


Features: 

  • Add two light rigs with best settings known so far for shadow, contact shadow, etc.
  • All lights are adjustable in the EV Express (color, size). 
  • Colour presets for lights inspired by HDRI's from Greg Zaal.  Of course it's not possible to simulate HDRI's with lights in EEVEE but it is pretty handy to have some presets that are recognisable.  
  • Add volumetrics.  Ready to render, so no hassle to set up material (or find the material) but just press two buttons.  Adjust color of volume.
  • Add keying-set for all the settings for one of  the light-rigs.  This means that you can key-frame the rig and with that, you key-frame it's colors, position, scale, and focus.  Normally you have to key-frame each color for each light for example. now you can do it with one click.   
  • Settings related to camera which are normally spread out across several places like Lock to View, DOF, Focal Length, and with one button you place an empty for the Depth of Field. The depth of field with be automagically enabled. How convenient!  I love it. 
  • The global shader is now included (per 12 april update). This was a separate addon but I merged it in the EV Express addon.  See the global shader as a shader for the whole scene but has a colour scheme. With one button-click you can change the colour-scheme.  I stole these colour combinations from movies.  
  • Add nine useful Node-groups in the compositor.  There are common ones like vignette but also some unique node-groups like Logo-overlay and Normal-FX.
  • Eight looks in Color Management.  
  • Thirty two big thumbnails. When clicking on one of them it will place lights, probes, smoke (if it's included in the preset) and backdrop.  


The story of the EV Express addon  

It started with EEVEE, our real-time render engine in Blender. We were all happy to have this real-time render engine, but the community struggled to get things right. Many had and still have problems with light leaks, and not having the knowledge on how to work with probes, etc. One important things is that HDRI don't cast shadows! Still, up to now, I notice that many don't realise this. Because we can't use HDRI's (when baking) in EEVEE, we need to use lights. And there we had loads of questions (and still) about how to use the light settings, how to use settings for the probes and how to place them. 

Now, while EEVEE is a real-time engine, it is a big hassle to setup your lights and probes. Therefore I decided to make my life easier because I knew I would make a lot of use of the EEVEE render engine in the future. Even with my three GTX 1080 TI video-cards, I prefer to get the best out of the EEVEE engine, because it is as good as noise-free and you the real-time feedback you get with EEVEE makes it more productive.  So EV Express started as an addon with 1 simple light rig and probes parented to a backdrop. 

And from there the EV Express grew out to be more than just an addon. For example I wanted presets for colors of the light. And so I picked values from HDRI's and made presets for the lights of them. Then someone wanted a classic three point light rig.  I tried it out and found that this is the ultimate solution. We had one big light rig, more for ambient light, and a three point light to make more definition. 

Later, I noticed that I found it a hassle to find the camera settings all the time, so I implemented some camera settings like lock, unlock to view, DOF with one click.  Then I started to bother about the bake button and render settings, because those kind of settings, are often all over the place. 

So far, we didn't have the thumbnails, no presets for complete different setups, and I wanted to have that feature for a long time. But the coding of those big previews drove me nuts.  And so recently I decided to hire a developer (Ben Morisson), who wrote the thumbnails part. Those thumbnails are like having 32 scenes, with the difference that you keep your models in the scene, and all the rest will change: lights, backdrop, probes, smoke. It works quite like magic: you can save your scene and if you decide you want to have another look, just click on a thumbnail (and adjust a bit if need). So it doesn't matter much to care about lights, just do your modelling and save time not bothering about probes, lights, etc. 

And the very last update: we have now more looks in color management.  


Roadmap: 

  • Templates for the Logo Overlay Node-groups
  • Export Light-groups (renders) so you can import the renders as layers in GIMP for example.  


Update 05_04_2019: 

  • Improved UI, starting with options to add items to the scene to ensure a better workflow.  
  • Correct name of addon in the preferences and in the N-Panel's tab. 
  • Fixed an issue that a backdrop showed up invisible. 
  • The cube to bake indirect light is now hidden to it's easier to control the rig with the empties.  


Update 12_04_2019: 

Quite a huge update this week:

  •  Added common settings related to camera. 
  • Merged the addon Global Shader into this addon EV Express.  See documentation (and video later) what you can do with the Global Shader.  
  • Divided the menu with collapsible panels. This to make it better readable and settings you don't need for the moment you can collapse.  
  • The backdrops comes now with probes, and the probes are parented to it.  
  • A selection button to select both parents of the rig.  This is convenient manipulating the rig.  Try R and R again.  
  • Fix: Scaling and rotation of the two empties were not included in the keying set.


Update 18 April 2019: 

  • Fixed issue with making the global shader active. (it was only selected, not active)
    Now you just have to click the button: Select GS. and then go to the customer properties in the properties panel (tab object) to adjust the material.
  • Made a drop-down menu for the presets of the global shader so it takes less space.
  • There is now a menu for colour combinations and a menu to choose shaders.  So I added shader presets.
  • EV-Express goes TURBO. This is a blend-file where you just have to model and use the Global Shader.  Set output file, render and see 100 variations.  Pick the nice ones, and sent those to your client (for example). 
  • There was a bug in Blender, and removed the text inside the principled volume to prevent the bug to happen. Smoke/Fog is working again.  Meanwhile the bug in Blender is now solved as well.
  • Added more colour combinations, mainly based on Movies from Tim Burton and one colour combination from the movie Geisha.


Update April 26, 2019: 

  • Added a 3 Point Light Rig 
  • Added control for the smoke
  • Added settings for Color Management
  • Made menu's dynamic.
  • Added extensive documentation in-app. Meaning there is a button in the in the addon that opens documentation in the browser.  


Update May 3, 2019

  • Added node-groups for the compositor
  • Bug fix


Update May 15, 2019

  • In the latest build of Blender,  lights settings have been unified more between Cycles and Eevee.  Therefore EV Express had an update to adapt to these changes


Update May 17, 2019

  • After the update two days ago,  I found the lights to harsh. Then I found out: the stronger the lights are, you tend to place them further away. This make the lights look harsh (search for fall of). So I reduced the strength of lights and also gave them a bit soft shadow.  Overall the lights looks better and it improves user-experience. 
  • Tip: For the 3point Control, use the colorpicker instead of the Energy property. This works much faster. In the colorpicker, to change the strength of light use the vertical slider on the right.  


Update may 18, 2019

Due to changes in Blender's API on May 18, many functions broke related to: 

  • Additional lights
  • Smoke
  • Render Settings
  • Camera Settings  


These have been fixed.  Also when using one of the Render Settings buttons, the AO-pass and the Normal-pass will be enabled. This is handy for when you add the node-groups to the compositor. (The is the AO-mix node that uses the AO-pass and the Normal-FX nodes uses the Normal pass).  

Update may 29, 2019,

  • Tweaks to have softer shadow.
  • Added a panel so we can control also the 8 lights of the spotrig separately; select, color, strength, size.
  • Reorganisation of the addon files. The Visual Studio Code is now used for further development of the addon.  


Update July 05, 2019, 

  • Softer shadows thanks to research by Blender Guru. 
  • A set of Blend-files with thumbnails which are complete setups. You can load these in your favourite asset-manager. This way you don't have to setup lighting all over again.


Update October 18, 2019, 

compatibility with Blender 2.81.
  - Render settings (changes in shadow algorithm)
  - Lights and Additional lights (changes in shadow algorithm) 

improved:
- Render-settings to reduce light-leaks.  

Added:
- Transform View. Use this to calibrate your scene with False Color, especially if you are going to make a startup scene/file. See tips below.
- Select All button to select all the lights in the SpotRig.
  If we now press Alt and then change the Energy of 1 light, we do this for all the lights at the same time.

Update December 05, 2019,

- Finally hired a developer who implemented a new feature: Big Thumbnails. So it means that there are 32 presets of complete light-setups including: backdrop, spotright, 3 point light, materials, smoke.  All you have to do now, is choose a preset and tweak it with EV Express. 

Update December 12, 2019,

- Suprise Suprise!  I created some looks under color management with help from Troy.  To get it to work you need to download the config.ocio and replace it in your Blender installation. For example: C:\Users\YourName\Downloads\blender-2.81a-windows64\blender-2.81a-windows64\2.81\datafiles\colormanagement  First rename the original config.ocio to config_old.txt and move it somewhere as backup. 

- Also tweaked some backdrop, making them more generic. 

- And used a woman's bust from CGCookie for the thumbnails. The thumbnails looks much better. 

With every update I send out an e-mail. In case you didn't receive any e-mail let me know.  


Update January 15, 2020: 

- EV Express goes Archviz. This means I added 8 presets with buildings. And for each building lights, probes and materials are set up. 

- A render preset that has Lower light treshold. This means that weaker lights can contribute to lighting the scene. I added a bit more ambient occlussion in this preset.  

- Made it to work with Blender 2.82.