Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Experimenting with volumetric lighting

Since the designing stage of this module I've known I want to put a lot of time into creating an eerie, mysterious atmosphere. I'd like the lighting, shadows, colour scheme, mise en scene etc. to all be relevant and express a specific 'feeling'.

I want the lighting of my scene to be dark and tinted blue, with blue-turqoise 'edge' lighting to add more definition. 

The results of some experimentation:

Although I like this outcome, it seems a little too harsh. (On a side-note, you can see here how much the bump map is brought out in these lighting situations.) 
My tutor suggested I look into volumetric shadows, so I followed a couple of tutorials.

This type of lighting makes it appear as if the atmosphere is foggy, and creates interesting varied shadows which effect the surrounding fog depending on the shape of the object. Essentially you just add a spotlight to the scene, and enable 'light fog' under the 'light effects' tab in the attributes, and also enable depth map shadows. You can then vary the intensity of the light, the fog and the fog shadows to get the result you want. For some reason I haven't looked into yet, it only works using the Maya software renderer, not mental ray.

When I replaced the sphere with my model and tweaked all the attributes a bit, it definitely began to create the softly lit, enigmatic feel I'm going for. 

I couldn't quite recreate this exact lighting within my landscape - at the moment the volumetric shadows look a little grainy and difficult to notice. I will be tweaking these further before rendering. I also added in the harsher edge light to emphasise the form and significance of the alien and prevent him from just fading away into the background.

Before I added the edge light:

And just to show how it looks with intense fog and fog shadows (in this case the spotlight is angled slightly lower behind the alien):

This is something approaching the final lighting result (before I tweak the grainy fog shadows)

Here you can notice the flash light which comes from the actor's perspective. The alien will otherwise be a dark silhouette. This is all to make him appear more foreboding, though not necessarily intimidating - I'd like it to be fairly ambiguous whether or not the alien is malevolent. The main theme here is his mystery.

Something I've noticed throughout this course is that I actually really enjoy creating the lighting in a scene, and generally adding those final touches to the ambience. It's a surprisingly time-consuming part of a project, but drastically changes the outcome. I'd perhaps like to look into this a little more as part of PPP. 


  1. How did you get volumetric lighting to work in Maya? REVEAL TO ME YOUR SECRETS!

  2. thank thank thank you, you just solved something so arbitrary I had a huge/stupid problem with X