Leg­endary light­ing

Djordje Ilic shares his pro­fes­sional tech­niques for en­sur­ing your light­ing truly shines

3D World - - CONTENTS - Djordje Ilic Djordje works as a gen­er­al­ist TD at Dou­ble Neg­a­tive, usu­ally fo­cussed on light­ing and the de­vel­op­ment of how projects look. When not work­ing, he is be­ing in­spired by films, es­pe­cially Korean cin­e­matog­ra­phy, and mu­sic. djord­jeil­icvfx.com

Take your stu­dio style ren­ders to the next level with Djordje Ilic’s tips for dra­matic light­ing, in­clud­ing adding con­trast and se­lec­tive high­lights

Light­ing is fun­da­men­tal in any project you work on. At the most ba­sic level, it’s a way of mak­ing ob­jects vis­i­ble. But speak to any cin­e­matog­ra­pher, and they will tell you how light­ing is much more. Light­ing en­ables you to bring mood to a piece and set the tone. It al­lows you to sub­tly ma­nip­u­late the viewer to look where you want them to and draw at­ten­tion to spe­cific ar­eas. It is also a way to el­e­vate your work out of the 3D realm, giv­ing the warmth of an oil paint­ing or the feel of a pho­to­graph. And if you are mod­el­ling a real-world ob­ject – such as the highly de­sir­able Porsche Leg­end 964 – it is es­sen­tial you get the light­ing cor­rect if you are to stand any chance of achiev­ing a pho­to­re­al­is­tic fin­ish.

I worked on this project for a pe­riod of roughly four years, mostly at the week­ends. It be­gan life as a blue­print, but this only ex­tended as far as the gen­eral shape. I was able to cre­ate a base model, but then had to em­ploy var­i­ous tech­niques and soft­ware to gen­er­ate all the ex­te­rior and in­te­rior de­tails. Light­ing be­came es­sen­tial in mak­ing sense of these sep­a­rate el­e­ments and helped en­sure there was con­ti­nu­ity from shot to shot.

But it wasn’t all prac­ti­cal – I had a lot of fun play­ing with dif­fer­ent light­ing con­di­tions, from to­tal dark­ness all the way to a scorch­ing sunny desert. Light­ing was also use­ful with cre­at­ing the tex­tures, as dif­fer­ent shad­ing meth­ods helped em­u­late all the dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als found in a Porsche.

Read on and dis­cover some of the light­ing tech­niques I em­ploy in my work to en­sure that I get the ex­act re­sult I want. Im­prove your light­ing and you’ll quickly im­prove your work!

ref­er­ences, ref­er­ences and More ref­er­ences

It doesn’t mat­ter how good you think your vis­ual mem­ory is, do not at­tempt any light­ing with­out hav­ing a good stock of ref­er­ence ma­te­rial to work from. If you are mod­el­ling some­thing from the real world, find pho­tos of it that you can use. If this isn’t pos­si­ble, or you are cre­at­ing some­thing from your imag­i­na­tion, take your own light­ing ref­er­ence pho­tos. Place an ob­ject on a plain sur­face and on a plain back­ground, light it from one di­rec­tion and take your photo. Keep mov­ing the light and pho­tograph­ing the re­sult and you will soon have a com­pre­hen­sive photo ref­er­ence bank for where to ap­ply high­lights and shad­ows for dif­fer­ent light sources. Do the same with a trans­par­ent ob­ject, and also place more than one ob­ject in a scene so you can see how light be­haves when it hits mul­ti­ple ob­jects.

use Masks to light Mod­els

For this im­age, I cre­ated a low poly model that was as sim­ple as pos­si­ble. To do this, pre­pare the UV and then im­port the model into Zbrush. Make sure that the SUV (Smooth UV) is turned on and then smooth ge­om­e­try as much as you think is nec­es­sary.

Now pre­pare a black-andwhite mask in Pho­to­shop and im­port it into Zbrush as Al­pha Mask. After that, use the masks to se­lect only the parts you need. For ex­trud­ing the de­tails use in­flate(de­for­ma­tion).

Pre­pare a Dome Light setup with an hdri and then check how your model looks. In this ex­am­ple here, I have used a sim­ple ma­te­rial with­out bump, be­cause all the de­tails came from dis­place­ment.

com­po­si­tion is your friend

Com­po­si­tion works with light­ing when it comes to ma­nip­u­lat­ing the viewer’s eye and di­rect­ing the at­ten­tion where you want. The model and tex­tures can be per­fect, but if the com­po­si­tion is not good ev­ery­thing falls into the wa­ter. If you are strug­gling with com­po­si­tion, in­ves­ti­gate some tra­di­tional art the­ory. Artists

and pho­tog­ra­phers have de­vised all sorts of rules for suc­cess­ful com­po­si­tion, from the Rule of Thirds, to the Golden Ra­tio (seen here). By know­ing the route your viewer’s eye will take, you can then use light­ing to work as sup­port for the com­po­si­tion.

add drama with strong con­trast

This is an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of how you can fo­cus all the at­ten­tion on one part of the im­age by us­ing strong con­trast to cre­ate a sil­hou­ette. In this ex­am­ple, there is also a clear sep­a­ra­tion of pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive space, which helps em­u­late a high-end pho­to­graphic qual­ity and de­liver some­thing a bit more in­ter­est­ing and dy­namic than just a car model.

ex­per­i­ment with lenses

Do not limit your­self to nor­mal lenses (50mm). Have the free­dom to com­bine dif­fer­ent lenses, an­gles, cam­era move­ment, speed and du­ra­tion. The height of the cam­era can change a lot and give a com­pletely dif­fer­ent im­pres­sion, which in turn will help open new light­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties you might not have con­sid­ered.

the Main light

If there was no sound in a film, you would be still able to tell a story or convey the at­mos­phere and mood only by us­ing lights and shad­ows. The main light needs to be po­si­tioned well and its shad­ows need to ex­plain the shape and the struc­ture of the scene. It can ad­di­tion­ally in­flu­ence the com­po­si­tion sep­a­rat­ing the pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive space.

Here, it would have been easy to fill the in­te­rior with light, but by plac­ing the main light where I did, I’ve made it feel as though the viewer is in­side the car, peer­ing through the front seats. There is a feel­ing of depth and the light fall­ing where it does ac­cen­tu­ates the ma­te­ri­als.

Build up your light

Depend­ing on the sit­u­a­tion and re­quire­ments, other lights are help­ing us to fill some­thing else or to jus­tify the bounce of the light… with the ad­di­tional light.

“IT’S re­ally TEMPT­ING To GET car­ried away WITH EF­FECTS such as bokeh AND glow” Djordje Ilic

Try to de­scribe the ar­eas you are light­ing as much as pos­si­ble. It's best to start out of to­tal dark­ness. You don't have al­ways to be guided by a stan­dard ‘hdri’, setup but by clumsy us­age you will get ‘washed’ light, which is hard to con­trol. Play with the lights but al­ways have in mind why that par­tic­u­lar light is on that par­tic­u­lar place.

clean up in com­posit­ing

Com­posit­ing is the last phase of an im­age and al­lows you to quickly and eas­ily com­bine many dif­fer­ent lay­ers, to in­flu­ence the con­trast, colour, depth of field, mo­tion blur, lens breath­ing and ev­ery­thing else that's nec­es­sary to make your pic­ture look like it was filmed with a movie cam­era.

It is nec­es­sary to be aware that some things are eas­ier left for the com­posit­ing stage, rather than wast­ing your time try­ing to do it in 3D. For ex­am­ple, in this ren­der we can clearly see re­flec­tion of the wheel on the door, which needs to be re­moved. The plan is to paint out the spot­light on the floor be­low the wheel, to in­crease the high­light on the rear tyre and to gen­er­ally re­duce the high­lights.

use ef­fects to di­rect the Viewer’s gaze

It’s re­ally tempt­ing to get car­ried away with shiny light ef­fects such as bokeh and glow, but use them too much and all you do is lose any kind of im­pact. Re­strict these to strong high­lights on cer­tain parts of the im­age, such as metal and glass, in ad­di­tion to any strong light sources.

Al­though this im­age is only a sec­tion of the Porsche, at­ten­tion is drawn to­wards a di­ag­o­nal slice in the mid­dle thanks to the glow and bokeh ef­fects. I be­gan by us­ing lines to work out the com­po­si­tion of the im­age, and then ap­plied the ef­fects fol­low­ing those lines.

se­lec­tive high­lights

Us­ing pho­to­graphic tech­niques, such as a shal­low depth of field, is a re­ally use­ful way of draw­ing at­ten­tion to an area, but high­lights can also help achieve the same re­sult. The prob­lem with a shal­low depth of field is that be­cause all of the de­tail in fo­cus is right at the front of the im­age, the viewer can find it dif­fi­cult to know where to look. In our ex­am­ple here, high­lights are used to pick out the tex­ture on the head­light and Porsche logo. Not only does this give a tac­tile qual­ity to the im­age, but it helps avoid the im­age look flat.

light Mul­ti­ple Ma­te­ri­als

Play with the an­gle of the source light to make the most of tex­tures. The light­ing in this im­age is placed to ac­cen­tu­ate the tex­tures. If it was placed in a dif­fer­ent po­si­tion, some of this de­tail would have been lost. When you are aim­ing for pho­to­re­al­ism, it is by em­pha­sis­ing recog­nis­able el­e­ments that you will achieve your goal.

light a scene

Of course, at its most ba­sic, light­ing is a way of set­ting the scene for your im­age. If you are deal­ing with a real-world ob­ject, think about how light­ing might be used in a real-life set­ting. For ex­am­ple, mo­tor shows will of­ten use dark back­grounds, with a strong spot­light on the car be­ing un­veiled. It isn’t com­pli­cated, but it is a recog­nis­able setup, and will there­fore aid in mak­ing your im­age feel be­liev­able.

get your search mus­cles flex­ing to find the most suit­able ref­er­ences.

Mod­el­ling de­tails with maps rather than try­ing to poly model is a more ef­fi­cient method.

use light to block as well as draw at­ten­tion to ar­eas.

the suc­cess of this im­age is all about lead­ing the eye and us­ing depth to help guide the viewer’s at­ten­tion.

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