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Basic Lighting

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Date Added: 9th December 2009
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Still looks quite good no? That's basically all you need to know to get your scene well-lit. Of course, you can add more lights, move them, different colors, intensities, ... it'll always look good. But, there are some other lighting solutions I'd like to show you. First of all, a solution to shadows even better than this one, but with less control.

Download Scene File here.

As you can see, the amount of light in the scene had significantly increased. This is because I added a skylight on top of the scene (hovering in the center of the world, and a bit above the scene). After doing that, I checked "Cast Shadows" and used 20 Rays per Sample and a ray Bias of 0.005. This gives for a nice overall lighting of your scene as you can see. Also, depending on the Rays per Sample you use, the solution will overall be way better than the solution you get using omnis. The only problem is, that you're shadows won't show up that well anymore and that all objects will already have some kind of "lightness" to them. You can decrease the intensity, but the surfaces will always be lighted a tad bit. It does look way better though!

Download Scene File here.

In this render, I turned off our omni lights and as you can see the scene looks pretty good. It is equally lit everywhere and shows shadows where needed. It doesn't use any of the information of our previous lights though. In some renders, this may be the look you're looking for. Up to now, I've been telling you we were working on the lighting, but actually we have been working on the opposite all the time: the shadows. Of course, these 2 things are actually the same, since shadows are created by light. But, we only made the dark spots look right for now. Another thing 3D Max will allow us to do, is to calculate how the light will be scattered all over the surfaces. This process is called radiosity. I'll show you a quick example of it.

Download Scene File here.

Here is a render where I used radiosity. To be honest, it's not pure radiosity. I turned off the skylight, turned the omni lights back on and made 3D Max calculate the scene's radiosity. This can be done by going to "Rendering" -> "Advanced Lighting" -> "Radiosity". There, you can specify the quality and perform the calculations. I chose to go with the default: 85%. You may be wondering... "You said Radiosity is a solution for the lighting distribution, not a shadow system, then why am I seeing shadows?" Well, I kept the shadow settings for the omni light activated. This means, we are using both a system for lighting distribution and one for shadow calculation at once, making this probably the most accurate shadows we can get in this scene. Of course, you can still improve the quality, by adapting the settings for both solvers.

Download Scene File here.

Here, I changed the radiosity quality to 98% and changed the shadow quality to 15. As you can see, it's just a minor improvement, and when you are looking for a decent render speed, you don't want to go for this. But it may just give your scene that extra bit of detail you are looking for. Those are pretty much the basics of getting your scene well lit in 3D Studio Max. Of course, these same principals can be used for any kind of scenes. You'll just need to adjust the settings accordingly to get everything to look right. Also, when you are making test renders, you may want to reduce the quality of the solutions, inorder to be able to render frequently at a decent speed. For your final render, you'd best go with the best settings your computer can handle.

Download Scene File here.

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