AFTERNOON MAGIC-HOUR LIGHTING
Once again the HDR dome light is the best place to start. If you find a good, accurate sky you will be able to use the colour and exposure cues to build the lighting environment. If you can, separate the sun from the sky on your dome light so that you don’t have to worry about increasing the fill light and annoyingly increasing your sun light at the same time – better to have them separate.
So much of daylighting depends on the height of the sun from the horizon and the angle the light hits the character. Try playing around with these values to get something that conveys the right mood. In this scene the sunlight contribution is made up of a directional light rotated -20 in x to give an afternoon low-light look. The colour was taken from the sun in the HDRI.
The next setting to perfect is the aiangle on the directional light in Maya, which will define how sharp the shadows of the light will be. I chose an aiangle of 15 to get something close to how the sun would cast shadows at that angle from the Earth. If you were to opt for a higher sun the angle would be less and therefore shadows would be sharper.
Once you are happy with the broad lighting, it’s time to light the character. You may find that having a sun and sky are enough for most shots – especially if the character is travelling through a vast valley or large area. In this scene we will add an extra spotlight to shape the character and give more definition to his face. Try to keep the rotations and aiangle of the spotlight the same as your directional light so that you don’t
start casting extra shadows and ruining the illusion.
Most likely casting all the light at such a harsh angle will result in quite heavy shadows, so to counter that we would add an extra fill light on the opposite side of the character’s face to lift the dark shadows a little bit.
Another helpful trick is to add an extra Area light or softer light near the spotlight to give a kind of light wrap around the face. This will soften any edges and give a more pleasing overall look to the face. You will find if the character should look attractive or likeable, you won’t get away with harsh shadows on their face. You’ll need to soften the natural edges with an extra light but hold onto the definition from the sunlight.
Extra steps can be to add more spotlights on the background to highlight pockets of the environment or even to use light blockers to shade areas you would rather not see.
For sunlit scenes it is also nice to play around with Arnold’s ai atmosphere volume and use the spotlights to cast interesting shapes through the volume. This can give a very romantic feel to an otherwise harsh environment.
“TO COUNTER THE HEAVY SHADOWS ADD AN EXTRA FILL LIGHT ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE FACE”