What’s with the HDRIs?

I’ve been shooting HDRIs for a while now, and every now and then putting some of them on this blog for you folks to download.

Since the beginning of this year they’ve been downloaded 6861 times, and we’re only halfway through it!

I’ve only released the 2048×1024 sizes for free, but all of them could be at least 16384×8192. The problem is, the 16k HDRIs are about 500MB each, and if people downloaded those 6861 times every 6 months, that’d be almost 7 terabytes of data going through the server every year.

That kind of data would easily cost me $600 per year (based on Amazon S3 hosting), and that’s assuming I never publish another HDR ever again.

As it stands right now, I’ve spent $800 on my camera, $400 on the wide-angle lens I use specifically to shoot the HDRIs, $200 on a panoramic head, and $400 on enough RAM to actually be able to process the images in a reasonable amount of time.
That’s $1800 I’ve already spent on equipment alone just for these HDRIs I give out for free.

Holy crap I didn’t know it was that much O_o

Well, as you can imagine, I’ve now realized that it’s not really practical to keep giving them out for free. At least not the full-resolution versions.

I plan to keep releasing the low-res versions for free, but I do need to make a little bit of money from this otherwise I might not be able to continue doing so.

That brings me to….

You may or may not have noticed that I’ve put out a pack of five 16k HDRIs for $3.95 on the Blender Market a few days ago. This is a sort of test to see if anyone is interested in paying a tiny bit of money for the high-res versions. The grand plan is to start something like CG Textures for these HDRIs, asking for a tiny monthly membership fee to allow me to keep creating more of them.

The keyword there is tiny. Most other HDRIs will cost you somewhere between $7 and $20 each. Now I’m a cheap bastard to be honest. I rarely buy anything online unless it’s on sale, and you’ve really got to convince me your product is worth every goddamn penny before I’ll even consider getting out my wallet.

Maybe that’s just me and I’m a terrible human being, but either way, I won’t try to sell you anything unless I would buy it myself.

The teaser pack for HDRI Haven is $3.95 – that’s less than 80c per HDRI. If there is enough interest in this, I plan to ask even less than that for the monthly membership fee of the main site, which would give you access to dozens of HDRIs.

Oh and let’s not forget that both the free 2k versions and paid 16k versions are licenced as CC-BY, meaning you’re free to use them for any purpose and share them around as much as you like.

So what am I waiting for?

You!

So far, the teaser pack has had a grand total of 6 sales, and that’s not enough to make me want to spend any more time or money on shooting HDRIs. So if you’d like me to keep doing this, please consider helping me out by buying the teaser pack :)

  • Alejandro

    You could use Google Drive or Dropbox as No emotion’s web page, they have their free HDRIs on those servers and they don’t have to pay extra money for it (Google Drive has 15 GB of free space) that you could use for your free ones, I’m not against of the idea you are suggesting, but you could consider this one so you don’t have to pay money to give away your free HDRIs.

    • Google Drive is a possibility yes. Dropbox doesn’t seem to want you to host anything, if you get too much traffic they suspend your account.

  • Will definitely be buying this once I’m home tonight. I was literally just looking for some nice general use HDRI with lax licensing or good prices and stopped by to see if you sold yours. Hope you keep it up even at higher prices.

    • Thanks man!
      I’m guessing the low price has had the “if it’s cheap, it sucks” sort of effect.

      • Np, was an easy buy. Personally I had seen a fair amount of pricey HDRI around, but had never bought one. Was a bit gunshy after having some very mixed results in other 3D assets for what you see in preview on a store page vs the quality/setup you get.

        I knew you had great work from being able to toy around with free versions of ones you had up here, so checking if you sold them or packed them up or whatnot was the logical choice. I hadn’t seen if you had announced it anywhere else, and would hope nobody would judge it harshly for the price since the other work you have is so easily accessible to prove itself.

        Keep it up!

  • Mark

    Did you consider starting a patreon? It seems like a perfect match for this.

    • I was wondering about this. I’ve always thought patreon is more suited to comics and whatnot, but it might work here too.

  • I just bought the pack and it wold be great to know if, and when you do start the subscription service.
    I’d love to spread the word so I guess you should make a mail list or something to keep us in the loop.
    ;)

  • I’ll totally support HDR Haven if you go for it, but I wonder why not just use the Blender Market? Starting your own store is going to cost some serious time and money, you’ll have to do all the promotion, bug hunting, refunding and support -in addition- to making the HDRs.
    I’ve tried adding a store to my site some years ago, but I eventually found that having someone else do all the promo, hosting, SEO, support, etc is well worth their cut of each sale.

    • I definitely wouldn’t do it on my own, that’s for sure. Half the point of this teaser pack was to see who’s interested. The other half, was to raise money to hire a developer who would take care of building the site.
      But it doesn’t have to be done like that. I’ve been looking into Patreon a bit (as Mark suggested) which would take care of some of those problems implicitly.

  • “Maybe that’s just me and I’m a terrible human being”
    I’m the same way, I’ve actually on spent $1 towards Art related products online. :P

    Problem with me is, the 2K versions are plenty of Pixels for me. In fact, my PC can’t handle much more for view-port rendering. Plus, I almost never render things over 2k 16:9.

    But believe me, if I ever need (or want) to use higher than 2k res, I will buy yours in a millisecond.

    Maybe the key is to stop giving the 2k ones out for free. Even if it does make you a terrible human being.

    :P

    -Johnson

    • 2k is definitely plenty for lighting purposes. Even 1k is fine (that’s what openfootage.net gives out for free), and depending on the particular HDRI, 256×128 can be almost identical too.

      Really the only reason you’d want anything higher-res than that is if the HDRI is visible in the background. If you’re rendering at 720p with a 35mm focal length, your HDRI needs to be at least 8000×4000, otherwise it’ll be pixelated.

      I’d rather be a broke human being than a terrible one ;) Besides, I think the Blender/open-source community are generally really kind people, so at the moment I’m leaning towards a donation model like Patreon rather than outright selling things.

  • Awesome work! Any idea roughly what the monthly cost will be for the subscription?

  • Mark C

    Hey Greg – just wandered over here after seeing your work on Blender Guru. I have popped my email on the HDRIhaven page. I would definitely be interested. And, for the record, I think you’re an awesome human being for giving away what you already have. There’s nothing wrong with asking for a little something back toward the production costs at least! Keep up the amazing work. I will be jumping on that teaser pack as soon as I get home :D

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