My me­dieval dun­geon scene needs light­ing. Can you help?

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Ilya replies

I be­lieve that an in­ter­est­ing and be­liev­able de­sign must also look func­tional. Here, I de­cide that my char­ac­ter wears this head­gear when tak­ing part in fu­tur­is­tic races, so it must fea­ture head­phones, a mi­cro­phone and gog­gles. Do­ing this back­ground work will help to put the scope of the de­sign within a de­fined frame­work, and en­able me to fo­cus on its func­tion­al­ity.

Af­ter paint­ing a girl’s head, I out­line the main forms and el­e­ments of the head­gear. The mi­cro­phone is built into the jaw el­e­ment, while the head­phones, in ad­di­tion to en­abling com­mu­ni­ca­tion and act­ing as a built-in an­tenna, is also re­spon­si­ble for rais­ing and low­er­ing the gog­gles. I avoid de­pict­ing wires, rea­son­ing that an in­ter­nal bat­tery would make for a stream­lined pro­file. I imag­ine that the races don’t last long and so the bat­tery can be quite small.

This head­gear is de­signed for the mass mar­ket, per­haps specif­i­cally for fe­male nav­i­ga­tors, so I de­cided to avoid sharp cor­ners, work­ing in­stead with smoother forms. All my ma­te­ri­als have a matte fin­ish.

I de­cide to use a two-colour pal­ette, which is typ­i­cal for the de­sign of rac­ing cars. How­ever, I choose to con­struct the head­gear from a range of ma­te­ri­als: alu­minium al­loys on the ears and in the gog­gles, plas­tic in the chin and ear’s tech­ni­cal el­e­ments, as well as rub­ber and glass in her gog­gles.

Els­beth Hoffman, Eng­land

Tony replies

Dun­geons were ini­tially built in tow­ers, but those ar­eas be­came used for living quar­ters (for the same rea­son the prisons were ini­tially there: se­cu­rity) and the dun­geons were moved to the un­der­ground lev­els. This means they’re too low for win­dows and gen­er­ally the shab­bi­est place in the cas­tle.

With­out sun­light, we’re left with ar­ti­fi­cial forms of light­ing. With­out elec­tric­ity, that means fire. Can­dles were a com­mon way of il­lu­mi­nat­ing rooms dur­ing the me­dieval pe­riod, along with oil lamps, torches and bra­ziers (fire pits). Since we don’t want a dun­geon to feel invit­ing, I sug­gest torches and a bra­zier.

Fire­light has a high drop-off rate, mean­ing it doesn’t travel far. Each torch and bra­zier will give off light in all di­rec­tions equally, and the amount of light is pro­por­tional to the size of the flame. If you look up some ref­er­ence, you’ll see that small torches leave an ob­vi­ous cir­cle of light on the wall, which you can use to get an idea of how far their light stretches. The bra­zier works as more of a fill light, and is re­spon­si­ble for most of the il­lu­mi­na­tion in this setup.

Au­gust 2015

Since both your main light source (bra­zier) and the ac­cent lights (torches) are us­ing fire, the only colours you’ll see in the room are fire colours.

Start by paint­ing the dun­geon with a lit­tle low, am­bi­ent light (the bounce light from the bra­zier). This helps keep things or­gan­ised as you plan your light­ing.

It’s im­por­tant to think about how mov­ing parts in­ter­act with fixed parts: in this in­stance I de­cide on the func­tional and rest­ing po­si­tions of the gog­gles.

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