How to Create Depth Maps

Written by daniel ketchum
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Depth maps are used, as you might expect, to give the illusion of depth to a rendered image. If you would like to give a greater measure of added realism to your renders, you can import depth maps generated by your renderer and apply them to your image. In this article Vue Infinite will generate the render and the depth map (but you can use any renderer), and the freeware graphics program GIMP will be used to apply the depth map to the image (though Photoshop can do it too).

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Open Vue. Then open a scene you want to create a depth map for. For demonstration purposes, you might just want to have a small scene with a few objects scattered in it at varying distances from the camera.

  2. 2

    Select the "Camera" in the panel on then right, and in the options above apply a slight blur (20 per cent or so) and adjust the focus so that the nearest object is fully in focus. Click on the "Display View" icon at the top to expand the view to full screen.

  3. 3

    Select the "Render Options" icon, and choose "Final." Make sure it is set to "Render to View." Then click "Render." After render finishes, click on the little "Save" icon above the view. Then change the type of render to "Z" (or Depth). Save that as a separate image file.

  4. 4

    Open GIMP. Then open both the image render and the depth map render. With the depth map selected, select "Edit" and then "Select All" and "Copy." Close the depth map image.

  5. 5

    Click on the "Duplicate" icon to make a copy of render image layer. Select the new layer, right-click on it, and click "Add Layer Mask." Right-click and select "Show Layer Mask." Select "Edit" and then "Paste." At the bottom of the layer panel click on the "Anchor" button. Right-click and click "Show Layer Mask" again.

  6. 6

    Select the "Background" layer. Select "Filters," then "Blur" and click "Gaussian Blur." Adjust the Gaussian settings to get the effect you want in the preview.

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