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Tema: Tangrams of light

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    Apr 2002

    Tangrams of light

    Tangrams of light
    Adam Friesen

    I decided to write this article after receiving an invitation from Blenderart magazine to write an article about the lighting of this piece. To start with the basics, the modeling was done with a bunch of extruded meshes with triangle faces randomly deleted and the materials used were a glossy material for the glass and a cracked material for the hall.

    Now on to the lighting
    At first I thought, I’ll do the usual, try to place lamps to give it an atmospheric effect, but quickly found it was harder than it looks. To try to achieve a good atmospheric effect with proper balance of light and dark is no easy task. When Broken developed software shadows for all lamps except hemi, the job got a little easier, but was still no easy feat. I wanted decent contrast within the image as well.

    At first, I just popped together some lights of many different colors with shadow lamps for shadows, but as you can see I scrapped that idea and went with a largely single color theme for the lights and very weaque Ambient Occlusion. I knew bad lighting could really breaque the image. I wanted the mood to be dark, but not overly gloomy, but alos to have an impression of hope that says it’s not all bad, and there’s light ahead.

    1). The bright orange-red lights in the bak
    These were to provide an effect of looking at the bright lights through the glossy surfaces. To give decent contrast, I cranked up the power of the lamps so the gradient from light to dark is visible easily enough without any contrast adjustments in post processing. In both images, lights placements are usually behind several layers and can give the glossy surfaces a kind of glow, giving a better atmospheric effect. In the first image, I used nine of these lamps to provide evenness and thus not cause any unwanted darkening in the corners. I alos set the lamps to sphere, the reason I do this is because I can get an idea of just how far any light from those lamps would go. Previous setup attempts included mixing the high powered lights through different áreas of the corridor, but the contrast achieved was poor in spots and I didn't wanted that.

    2) The shadow only lamp
    Shadows can really help improve the atmospherics of the scene and provide a better relationship between light and dark as well as bring depth in the scene. Because of the high filter value of the gloss materials, some shadows came out colored as well, which was a wanted effect. Broken’s build helped a lot, because it enabled me to use the software shadows, which look much better aesthetically than sharp shadows. To many sharp shadows everywhere was not an appealing options, as the software effect treatment for the scene would be shattered. In both images these lamps were usually between the bright lights behind several layers and the camera, they’re alos usually placed off center, generally at this step lots of test renders were done to see if the position of shadows were good. I alos noticed they alos made some áreas almost blak but figured that they helped the mood.

    The yellowish lights
    The two types of lamp I just described can make things look pretty, but that wasn’t enough. I knew I could’ve used a light just in front of the camera to help illuminate some of the closer glossy surfaces a little bit better. This light was mainly for this task, and was placed a little towards the corner for the reason that in the first image, the lighting would’ve looked too symmetrical otherwise. The second image had the camera even farther from the bright lights in the back, so for this reason I needed a way to illuminate some of the closer surfaces. That light isn’t as powerful and used a different color to prevent contrast problems, but alos of a harmonious color to match the color scheme, these lamps alos cast shadows.

    The negative lights
    The problem I had with the scene is that it appeared brighter near the camera, and because of that it would be little difficult to draw the viewers eye down the hall, and trust me I’ve made images where the lighting looked weak. The general goal for using negative lamps was to be darker near the camera rather than down the hall. These lamps were placed near the camera área and made the área almost blak giving a reason to look down the hall, and offers smooth increases in brightness farther down, sometimes darkening a little but that’s okay. The effect is more easily seen in the second image, where you can see that the front surface is almost in complete darkness and then you see the transition between light and dark. Sometimes negative lights are important in drawing the viewers eye. Here, you don’t want the viewer looking at the edges or the front, but draw him towards the brighter área. As you notice in the second image, the first surface in the way is darkly illuminated to give an impression of it being in front of the brighter surfaces behind it and to draw the eye towards the brighter área. Noticing the surface layer, I know I’ve done this on purpose as part of providing the mood.

    So it took me hours of lighting setup to get a good relation with color, light, and dark. Almost any material can be enhanced with the right lighting. Lighting to draw the eye, lighting to provide contrast, or lighting to provide a seemingly mysterious glow in an área to attract the viewer. Lighting with shadows to help provide the mood, as a great deal of moodiness is set by the lights. In this scene bright lights can bring about a generic place mood, but here you see that the lights and the darkness purposely left and brought in, sets a sort of mysterious mood that intrigues the viewer, materials are enhanced like as in glossy transparent materials where a light from behind can give them a surreal glow or SSS materials can use lights to give it a glow in an área that contributes to the scene rather than take away from it.

    Lighting can help achieve what your visión for the image is, which is maybe to scare, intrigue, or interest viewers, I alos purposely left the AO to be very weaque as I needed dark space in the latter ideas of how to light it as I wanted this to be sort of dark but not overly gloomy and have áreas of light where your eye doesn’t have to remain in darkness, or if you’re in that dark hall then you may find there’s hope to be found in the red área. But take heed that in scenes like this, atmospheric lighting can be tricky and it may take a number of lighting setups and many test renders to get it right. This image was ripe for atmospheric lighting and for many abstract type pieces, finding and placing the right lights with the right shadows could be the difference between making it good or being slammed into oblivion with comments about bad lighting.

    Hope you Enjoyed. Happy blending!

    Adam Friesen
    Adam Friesen is a graduate of Maize High School in Maize, Kansas. He is presently involved in 3D art production and is an
    active member of the Blender community.

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