I have been using Environment shader intensively in my projects to fake reflections. There are a lot of reflective surfaces in my "Chicory 'n' Coffee" but I didn't use raytrace reflections even once! The "real" reflections just takes too long to render and the "fake ones" are easier to control and adjust (to make soft reflections- just blur the image. If you want to expose the bright parts of the reflections- just adjust the image... All the reflections on the glass, in the eyes (which is an important visual part of the movie) in my movie are made with this shader.
I "invented" a little tool which helped me a lot during the production. This little tool creates a full panoramic image of your scene in a shape of Spherical and cubic maps as an EXR image. EXR image is easy to adjust (depends on what kind of reflections you want- on glass, on metal...) and you could also use it to "fake" lighting with IBL (combined with AO). I didn't use more than 2 lights per scene in my movie. Other subtle lighting was achieved using IBL with a panoramic image of my scene.
I'm attaching the ZIP file for you to use.
Here are short instructions:
- UNZIP all files into the directory "HDRI mapping" on drive C
- Open "HDRI mapping. Prj" that you will find in this folder
- IMPORT the Choreography file with your scene into this "HDRI mapping.prj". Now you will have two Choreographies in this project. CHO with your scene and CHO named "base"
- Drag 'n' Drop the model "Shortcut to BASE FOR FILMING.mdl" directly from the "base" Choreography into your Choreography
- You may put the model "Shortcut to BASE FOR FILMING.mdl" wherever you like (or need) in your scene. For the start, put it in the middle of your scene
- Press "1" (Camera View) on numeric keyboard as long as you WILL
see your scene through the camera that is attached to the "Shortcut to BASE FOR FILMING.mdl"
- Then press "Render to File" and render the sequence. Except the resolution, you may not change anything "Output Settings" of the render dialogue!
- When A:M will finish rendering the sequence of five (squared) images, open the Action file named "HDRI spherical" and press "1" on Numpad so that you could see the spherical map through the camera. Now you can render out this spherical map (using this camera view) as an EXR image (or any other type) with any name you want...
I know it looks confusing as first, but just follow the instructions and you will get the results! Happy experimenting!
I hope this will help you with your projects! :-)
Please browse the second page in the BLOG section of my site: www.bugbrain.com/chicory
to se more examples (even couple of animations)
You should get something like this: