Cre­ate re­al­is­tic light­ing for Games and Movies

Pi­etro Chio­varo demon­strates the full cre­ation process for achiev­ing re­al­is­tic light­ing

3D World - - CONTENTS -

Pi­etro Chio­varo takes us through the process of cre­at­ing a real­is­ti­cally lit scene in Blender, with ad­vice on how to use dif­fer­ent types of light­ing to pro­duce the in­tended at­mos­phere

When it comes to cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment there are many el­e­ments that will help us to achieve a par­tic­u­lar ef­fect and a re­al­is­tic-look­ing scene. There are ar­guably three most im­por­tant el­e­ments: firstly there is the con­trast be­tween light and shadow, se­condly there is the depth of field, and fi­nally there are the im­per­fec­tions, in the scene and mod­els – like cracks in the walls, dirt, rust, stains and so on – and in the com­posit­ing part – like lens dis­tor­tions, glare and fog.

For ex­am­ple, for this par­tic­u­lar in­te­rior I chose to give more im­por­tance to the cen­tre of the scene, and to do that, I shaded the sides and con­cen­trated the light at the cen­tre.

In ad­di­tion to this an­other key el­e­ment is the way in which ev­ery ob­ject of the scene is com­bined. For ex­am­ple, it’s im­por­tant that the meshes are not du­pli­cated too much and placed in the same place, leav­ing parts to­tally empty in the room. At the same time it can also be use­ful to put a part of the scene in re­lief – it all de­pends on the fi­nal re­sult that we have in mind. Af­ter all, the prin­ci­pal el­e­ment that can to­tally change the con­cep­tion of an scene is surely the light. In fact, thanks to the light, we can give more em­pha­sis to the en­vi­ron­ment and can com­pletely change the at­mos­phere of the scene.

01 Con­cept

The cre­ation of the main con­cept is the very first part of the process; once you’ve made some sketches and cre­ated a planime­try of the struc­ture you will have a clearer view for the cre­ation of the 3D scene. This way you can un­der­stand from where the light will come through, so it’s im­por­tant in this step to de­fine all the pos­si­ble lo­ca­tions of the lights.

02 Cre­ate the 3D en­vi­ron­ment

At this point you can start to cre­ate the 3D mod­els of the in­te­rior in­clud­ing all the dif­fer­ent ob­jects, fur­ni­ture, doors, win­dows and veg­e­ta­tion that make up the scene. For this part the con­cepts you cre­ated in the first step will be very use­ful as a ref­er­ence for help­ing us cre­ate a good and faith­ful 3D en­vi­ron­ment.

Once all the meshes are placed in the scene, the next stage of the process is to fix the colour man­age­ment.

03 man­age scene Colour

One el­e­ment that will con­sid­er­ably in­flu­ence the fi­nal look is the colour man­age­ment of the scene. Open the Scene panel in the Prop­er­ties win­dow and select Filmic in the Ren­der View in­side Color Man­age­ment. This will give you a huge amount of light in­for­ma­tion to use, achiev­ing a high dy­namic range. Try to ren­der the scene in both De­fault and Filmic in or­der to see the dif­fer­ence.

04 take some ref­er­ences

At this point it’s re­ally use­ful to search for some ref­er­ences of in­te­ri­ors with the light ef­fects we want to achieve. In this case I ref­er­enced a ren­der that I did be­fore for an­other project. How­ever, if you don’t own any pho­to­graphs with the char­ac­ter­is­tics you need, you can search on Google and base the re­pro­duc­tion of the lights of your scene on the re­sources you find.

05 light tem­per­a­ture/colour

When cre­at­ing light­ing through lamps, it's a re­ally im­por­tant as­pect of realism to change the colour tem­per­a­ture of the light. Along with in­ten­sity and size, colour is one of the main things that makes light­ing look re­al­is­tic to the hu­man eye. So in­stead of us­ing plain white light, try us­ing a phys­i­cally ac­cu­rate colour based on the type of light­ing you're try­ing to pro­duce.

06 Choose the right lights

Now it’s time to choose the lights for the en­vi­ron­ment. There are five types of lights in Blender: Point light, Spot light, Di­rec­tional light (or Sun light), Area light and Hemi light.

For an in­te­rior scene like this, I prin­ci­pally used the Point lights for ob­jects like the can­dles, and a Sun light. I avoided the use of the Area light since this is mainly used in or­der to sim­u­late the emission of light orig­i­nat­ing from a rec­tan­gu­lar sur­face (like a TV screen or smart­phone).

07 Di­rect light/sun light

Be­fore we place the lights in the scene it’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand the cor­rect us­age of the lights we in­tend to use. Di­rect light, or com­monly called Sun light, is for the ‘per­fect’ sim­u­la­tion of the nat­u­ral light of the sun – in fact it is pro­duced by a light source at in­fi­nite dis­tance from the scene. This type of light oc­curs in ev­ery soft­ware; in Blender it is called Sun light.

08 Point light

The other type of lamp that I used in this scene is the Point light. This one is a light that em­anates the same quan­tity of light in all directions (with a spher­i­cal emission). In a scene like this it’s use­ful to light up some parts of the en­vi­ron­ment, like for the can­dles, or other parts in­side the in­te­rior that may look too dark, like the cor­ner of the room or the other room at the side.

09 PLACE the lights

In this scene there are three prin­ci­pal el­e­ments where we can place th­ese lights, the two can­dles on the sides (on the box and at the top of the dresser), and the ex­ter­nal light that en­ters through the win­dows. For the two lamps on the sides we can use the Point light (given their re­spec­tive prop­er­ties). Un­like with the ex­ter­nal light, here we don’t want the source of the light to be placed at the ori­gin. We can place an­other Point light at the cen­tre of the scene to give more em­pha­sis to the cen­tral part.

10 hdri maps

HDRI images con­tain bright­ness data. Once we have cre­ated (through the pho­to­graphic process) our HDRI map or have bought or down­loaded a free map, we need to open the World panel, and in Color select En­vi­ron­ment Tex­tures. Now we can im­port the HDRI maps. If you have speck­ling on the sur­face, you can ad­just Blender’s Clamp set­ting in the Ren­der tab (in Sam­pling).

11 set Pa­ram­e­ters

Once we have placed the lights and cho­sen the HDRI map, we must set them. Go to the Prop­er­ties win­dow and select the light that we want to set, and here we can change the val­ues of colour, shadow, dis­tance and en­ergy as we pre­fer. The pa­ram­e­ters I set for this light are the fol­low­ing: 100.000 for the Point lights and be­tween 2.000 for the Sun light . As for the colour, I have given a yel­low­ish colour to each light, and for the HDRI map I sim­ply leave it at the de­fault val­ues.

12 mesh ma­te­ri­als

Now we can start the 3D wrap­ping process for ev­ery sin­gle mesh, cre­at­ing all the ma­te­ri­als and as­sign­ing all the tex­tures. At this point by se­lect­ing Ren­dered in View­port Shad­ing (in­side the 3D view­port) we can see a pre­view of the scene, and if nec­es­sary fix any of the pa­ram­e­ters of the lights and ma­te­ri­als that we’ve al­ready cre­ated.

13 emis­sive ma­te­rial

In the pre­vi­ous step I talked about the cre­ation of ma­te­ri­als and the wrap­ping process for ev­ery sin­gle el­e­ment of the project. It’s im­por­tant for me to un­der­line the way that I cre­ate cer­tain parts of the mesh (like the can­dles) that need an emis­sive prop­erty. In par­tic­u­lar, for the flames of the can­dles I used the Emission Shader linked to the tex­ture of the flame that I cre­ated. In this way the flame will not be in­flu­enced by other shad­ows or by the light of the Point light we placed, and in­stead it will emit its own light.

14 Cre­ate A new scene

An­other el­e­ment that is im­por­tant in the cre­ation of re­al­is­tic light­ing is the use of sun beams. In or­der to cre­ate th­ese sun beams, we need to first go ahead and cre­ate a new scene by click­ing at the top of the 3D view­port (scene) and se­lect­ing the Full Copy op­tion. Once we’ve done this, we can add more ‘den­sity’ to the world.

15 world Den­sity

At this point we need to select the World panel in the Prop­er­ties win­dow, and by click­ing Vol­ume we have to select Vol­ume Scat­ter and change the pa­ram­e­ters of den­sity with a value be­tween 10 and 90. This process un­for­tu­nately in­creases the ren­der­ing time but is es­sen­tial for the cre­ation of this light ef­fect. The lower the value of the vol­ume den­sity, the faster the ren­der­ing.

16 Cam­era fo­cus

To set up the cam­era fo­cus, you have to select the cam­era that you are us­ing to ren­der the scene, and in the Prop­er­ties win­dow, select the panel data (the one with the cam­era icon). Here you can set the Depth of Field of the cam­era. In this project I fo­cused the cam­era to a spe­cific ob­ject, in this case the dresser. An­other way to set the cam­era fo­cus is through the Dis­tance value.

17 light Beams

Now we are ready to set the light of this new scene. We need to delete the Sun light we pre­vi­ously cre­ated, as we will use a Spot light that will sim­u­late sun beams. We need to place this Spot light out­side the room, be­hind the win­dows. In or­der to have clear con­trol over the di­rec­tion of this light I sug­gest you ac­ti­vate the Cone by click­ing Show Cone in Spot Shape (Spot light prop­er­ties).

18 ren­der the first scene

Now we need to re­turn to the first scene we made, the one with the Sun light placed in the scene. Here we can start to ren­der the scene and save the fi­nal re­sult. To do this, we need to open the Ren­der panel in the Prop­er­ties win­dow (the first panel to the left). Now we have to set some pa­ram­e­ters. I set a 4K res­o­lu­tion for the fi­nal ren­der X 3840 – Y 2160 and in the Sam­pling panel I set a value of 300 for Sam­ples and a value of 1.0 for the Clamp In­di­rect. The higher the Sam­ples value, the less noise there will be in the fi­nal ren­der.

19 ren­der the sec­ond scene

Once we have ren­dered the first scene we can now start the ren­der of the sec­ond en­vi­ron­ment. In this step it’s im­por­tant to use the same value of res­o­lu­tion that we used in the pre­vi­ous step. This way we can avoid a com­mon pro­por­tional er­ror dur­ing the blend­ing step. Dif­fer­ently from the pre­vi­ous step I set a value of 1000 sam­ples, since the world den­sity made a lot of noise.

20 Denoiser

Since the sec­ond scene will pro­duce a lot of noise, I sug­gest you ac­ti­vate the Denoiser, a fea­ture of Blender 2.79 that will de­crease con­sid­er­ably the amount of noise present in the fi­nal ren­der. To ac­ti­vate this fea­ture, you need to open the Ren­der Lay­ers panel and ac­ti­vate the last panel at the bot­tom of the page, Denois­ing. You can leave the de­fault pa­ram­e­ters since they work pretty well. Of course you can also use this fea­ture in the first scene, even if it will in­crease the ren­der time.

21 Post-pro­cess­ing

Now we have to start the com­posit­ing process, which will give us the pos­si­bil­ity to blend the two ren­ders we did be­fore.

To start this process we need to open the Node Ed­i­tor panel, and here we have to select the Com­posit­ing panel, the one to the right of the Shader panel. Now we have to en­able Use Nodes.

22 Blend the two ren­ders

Once we have ren­dered the two scenes in two dif­fer­ent images, we need to blend the two ren­ders in or­der to achieve a sun beam ef­fect. So we need to open the Com­posit­ing panel and once we’ve im­ported the two images, we need to add the Color Mix. Here we need to select the blend­ing type that we want for the fi­nal ren­der. In this case I select the Add type and set the Fac. value to 0.100, in or­der to give more rel­e­vance to the first scene, the one with­out the world den­sity.

23 ADD glare/fog

One of the nodes that will help to give a re­al­is­tic look to the fi­nal ren­der is the Glare fil­ter. In or­der to use this fil­ter we have to press Shift + Add in the Com­posit­ing panel and select Add in the fil­ter sec­tion. For this fil­ter I se­lected the Fog Glow, the High Qual­ity op­tion, a value of 0.600 for the Mix, a value of 0.000 for the Thresh­old and 8 for the Size. You can set the pa­ram­e­ters that will give more em­pha­sis to your scene and that will help you to achieve your de­sired fi­nal look.

24 lens Dis­tor­tion

Now the last el­e­ment that I add to the scene is the Lens Dis­tor­tion. This fil­ter is used to sim­u­late the dis­tor­tions that real cam­era lenses pro­duce. For this apocalyptic in­te­rior I en­abled the Side Pro­jec­tion Mode (pro­jec­tor) and set a value of 0.100 for the Dis­per­sion. Now I run the ren­der again in or­der to ap­ply all the nodes and see the fi­nal re­sult.

APOCALYPTIC Jour­ney Adding re­al­is­tic light­ing is es­sen­tial for set­ting the de­sired mood and at­mos­phere of your scenes

Au­thor Pi­etro Chio­varo Pi­etro is a free­lance 3D artist and Youtu­ber. An ex­pert in the cre­ation of game as­sets and en­vi­ron­ments, he shares many of his cre­ations on his chan­nel. pietro­chio­varo. art­sta­tion.com

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