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by Rodrigo Duarte

Enlightenment
in Strata 3D CX

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Unlocking the power of Strata Software

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Co te ts
C
Contents

Contents
Light: ....................................................1
Lights in Strata 3D ....................................................19
Let there... ..................................................................2
Types of lights in Strata 3D.......................................19
The nature of light.....................................................2
General properties ....................................................20
Wave or Particle, and why should I care? ................2
Ambient Color.........................................................20
Wave .......................................................................2
Intensity ..................................................................21
Particle....................................................................3
Color .......................................................................23
The middle ground .................................................3
Applying color temperatures ................................23
How does that affect us? .......................................3
Falloff ......................................................................24
Properties of light .......................................................4
Full Intensity Radius .............................................24
Intensity ....................................................................4
Total Falloff Distance ............................................24
Falloff ........................................................................4
Fall-Off ..................................................................25
Shadows ...................................................................5
Light Source Radius ...............................................26
Interaction with objects ..............................................7
Gels .......................................................................27
Reflection..................................................................7
Colors and Images ...............................................28
Specular reflection ..................................................8
Specular Reflectance Scale .................................29
Diffuse reflection .....................................................8
Diffuse Reflectance Scale.....................................29
Diffuse interillumination ..........................................9
Volumetrics .............................................................30
Transmission ...........................................................10
Fog .......................................................................30
Absorption ............................................................12
Mist .......................................................................31
Refraction ...............................................................12
FX ...........................................................................32
Some common Refraction indices .........................13
Hotspot .................................................................32
Fresnel Effect ........................................................14
Lens Flare .............................................................33
Caustics ..................................................................14
Global lights..............................................................35
Transmission caustics ..........................................14
Point lights ................................................................37
Reflection caustics ...................................................15
Spotlights .................................................................38
Color temperature and light types ............................16
The Spotlight window .............................................38
Color and Temperature .............................................17
Area lights .............................................................39
Moving On ................................................................17
Lightdomes...............................................................41
Lights in Strata 3D: ....................18 HDR v/s LDR ..........................................................41

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Contents

Creating HDR images .............................................42 Adding a “sun” .....................................................75


Moving on... ..............................................................43 Adding a gel and moving the camera...................76

Exteriors: ....................................... 44 Optional volumetrics.............................................76

The color of sunlight .................................................45 Nighttime ..............................................................77

Default Strata 3D light ...........................................46 Raydiosity ...............................................................78

Adding a Skylight ...................................................47 Collected light amplifier ........................................79

Light Dome skylight ..............................................47 Diffuse bounces ....................................................79

Clear day: Morning .................................................48 General tips ............................................................80

Clear day: Noon......................................................49 Beveling ................................................................80

Clear Day: Sunset ...................................................50 Estimating light intensities using Photoshop........81

Clear Day: Dusk ......................................................52


Partly Cloudy ..........................................................52
Rendering considerations for soft shadows .........54
Hazy/foggy day ......................................................56
Sunny day, shady spot ...........................................58
Volumetrics and shadows ....................................59
Overcast .................................................................60
Clusters ................................................................60
Night time ...............................................................62

Interiors:........................................63
Lighting a simple interior ........................................64
The first light .........................................................65
Lighting the scene more evenly ............................68
Textures and objects ............................................69
Adding lamps .........................................................70
The starting point..................................................71
Adding and adjusting a lamp................................71
Adding a floor lamp ..............................................73
Modeling the lamp ................................................73
The main light .......................................................73
Simulating a bounced light ...................................74
Exterior light ...........................................................74
Creating the “window”..........................................74

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Light:
HOW LIGHT BEHAVES IN
THE REAL WORLD

Light interacts with matter in certain ways.


We will begin by reviewing this behavior
prior to applying it to Strata 3D.

Chapter Content Specular reflection ............................... 8

Let there... .......................................... 2 Diffuse reflection .................................. 8


Diffuse interillumination ........................ 9
The nature of light ............................ 2
Wave or Particle, and why should I Transmission .................................. 10
care? ................................................ 2 Absorption .......................................... 12
Wave .................................................... 2 Refraction ....................................... 12
Particle ................................................. 3 Some common Refraction indices . 13
The middle ground ............................... 3 Fresnel Effect ..................................... 14
How does that affect us? ..................... 3 Caustics ......................................... 14
Properties of light ............................... 4 Transmission caustics ........................ 14
Intensity ............................................ 4 Reflection caustics ............................. 15
Falloff ............................................... 4 Color temperature and light types ... 16
Shadows .......................................... 5 Color and Temperature .................. 17
Interaction with objects ...................... 7 Moving On ........................................ 17
Reflection ......................................... 7
1 Light
Light

Let there...
This document is all about lighting, so a very good way to start would be an
approach at what light is and how light behaves, the different ways in which
it interacts with objects and which properties and interactions of light will be
useful to us in our work in Strata 3D.

The nature of light


Light enables us to see things.
It is not by chance that light has been linked to manifestations of the divine
from as far as we can reach into our past. The intangible nature of light and
its power to make us aware of our surroundings is nothing short of magi-
cal.
Light is an elusive phenomenon, and has been studied extensively, so we
now have a pretty good idea about how it works, but not too good an idea
about what it is.
One thing we are fairly certain of is that light is a form of energy, emitted from
different objects for different causes, each of them with certain properties.
Among these causes we can name:
• Flames
• Hot objects (red-hot, white hot, etc.)
• Chemical reactions
• Fluorescence
• Bioluminescence (glowworms, fireflies, abyssal fish, etc.)
• Lightning
• Etc.
There is a very wide range of possible light emitters; more than enough to
keep us entertained exploring their representation in our digital art for a life-
time, or more.

Wave or Particle, and why should I care?


From —at least— the time of the ancient Greeks, there has been an ongo-
ing discussion about the nature —and behavior— of light. One of the most
heated aspects of this discussion has been whether light behaves as a par-
ticle (the particle of light is called a photon), or as a wave.

Wave
To those who think light behaves as an electromagnetic wave, light is some-
thing similar to a radio wave, only with a higher vibration frequency that
enables them to travel farther.
Wave-like behaviors of light include:
• Reflection
• Refraction

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1 Light
Light

• Interference (not used in Strata 3D)


• Correspondence between wavelengths and light color

Particle
Those who believe in the particle behavior of light think that light is com-
posed of tiny billiard ball-like particles that interact with each other more or
less as billiard balls do, colliding and bouncing off objects.
Particle-like behaviors of light include:
• Reflection (just like billiard balls)
• Traveling in a straight line
Different physicists have taken different stands on this discussion: Newton,
for example, defended the particle view, while other physicists (or Natural
Philosophers as they were called at the time) such as Young, spoused the
opposite view. Both sides have had experimental and theoretical evidence
to support their claims

The middle ground


In 1923, the French physicist Louis de Broglie found a middle ground that
proved that photons and other particles have a dual nature: partly particle
and partly wave. This may not be a once and for all solution to the problem
but at least has appeased the discussion quite a bit.
It is now a consensus that all electromagnetic radiation (and even subatomic
particles) has a dual nature. Sometimes it behaves as a particle, and some-
times it behaves as a wave. The higher the energy of the entity, the more
particle-like it will behave. The lower the energy, the more wave-like its be-
havior

How does that affect us?


Strata 3D handles light in a simplified way, using only those properties of
light that are relevant to most 3D scenes.
Sometimes, some properties or phenomena are not handled directly by
Strata 3D and we have to simulate them ourselves.
Most of the properties we are concerned with have to do with the way in
which light interacts with objects and surfaces.

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1 Light
Light

Properties of light
Some properties of light are its own: properties such as intensity, color (and
composition) have nothing to do with any interaction between light and oth-
er objects but rather with how the light was produced.

Intensity
Light is energy.
A burning match does not hold a candle to a floodlight and even less to the
nuclear reactions that cause the light of the stars.
The more energy that is released, the more intense the light is.

Falloff
The farther way we get from a light source, the less lighting we get from that
light. Indeed, the intensity received from a light source decreases very rap-
idly as we increase the distance to the light source.
The reason for falloff is that a certain amount of energy is produced and as
it does away from the light source that same energy has to cover larger and
larger surfaces.

The strength with which a light illuminates decreases rapidly as it moves away from
the source
Let us suppose that 10 units of energy are emitted from a light source.
When the light is 10 inches away from the source the 10 units of light cover
an area of 4π x 102 sq. inches (approx. 1200 sq. in.)
When the light is 20 inches away from the source, those same 10 units cover
an area of 4π x 202 sq. inches (approx. 4800 sq. in.)
Light intensity decreases with the square of the distance.

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1 Light
Light

Lighting intensity obeys the inverse square law, so it decreases with the
square of the distance between the light source and the object being lit.

Shadows
Where there is light, there is shadow, or should be.
A shadow is nothing more than an area where light does not fall because it
was already reflected by an object.
Shadows are seldom totally dark, because there are usually several light
sources and bounces that light even dark areas. There is a kind of light
called Ambient Light that has bounced many times and is non-directional.
This kind of light is often responsible for the visible details in unlit areas.

Areas in shadow need not be totally dark


How hard or how soft the shadows are is determined by the size of the light
source and by how far the source is.
• A nearby light source casts softer shadows than a faraway light source
• A large light source casts softer shadows than a small light source
• A very distant source of light (such as the sun in a clear day) casts very
hard shadows.
• A very large area light (such as the sky in an overcast day) casts small,
very soft —at times indistinguishable— shadows.

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1 Light
Light

Light sources of increasing diameter cast increasingly softer shadows

Diffuse lighting produces very soft shadows.

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1 Light
Light

Interaction with objects


Most of the time what we see is light that has bounced off, or passed
through, one or more objects. We usually do not see light coming straight
from its source. Since most of our work in Strata 3D will have to do with the
interaction between light and objects, it is profitable that we review these
interactions briefly.
The interactions that interest us here are:
• Reflection
• Specular reflection
• Diffuse reflection
• Absorption
• Transmission
• Refraction
• Fresnel Effect
• Caustics

To reproduce different objects, it is very useful to understand what is happening.


Different reflections, transmissions, refraction, etc., are combined in this depiction.

Reflection
Light travels in a straight line.
Light bounces off most materials. This bouncing is called reflection.
We can visualize this bouncing as something similar to what billiard balls do.
The ray of light approaches the surface, hits it, and bounces off it.
αα
There is a law in optics stating that the angle formed between the incom-
ing ray of light and the normal (perpendicular) to the surface is equal to the
angle formed between the normal and the outgoing ray of light. This law
governs the reflection in every surface but can produce quite different re-

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1 Light
Light

sults depending on the nature of the surface. Perfectly smooth (or nearly so)
surfaces will reflect light in an orderly fashion, while rough (on a very small
scale) surfaces will scatter light in every direction.

Specular reflection
When the surface on which the light strikes is smooth, the rays of light are
reflected in an orderly way. Every ray of light strikes a surface that has more
or less the same normal and therefore bounces off more or less in the same
direction of the other rays. This is called specular reflection, from the Latin
word speculum, meaning “mirror”.
In fact, a mirror is a perfect example of specular reflection. All light bounces
off the mirror in an orderly way, preserving the original image perfectly.

Light

Specular reflection

In specular reflection, rays of light are reflected in an orderly way

Diffuse reflection
Diffuse reflection occurs when light strikes a non-smooth surface. Because
of the way light is reflected, the direction in which each ray bounces de-
pends on the normal for the particular point of the surface, and in this case,
the normals point in different ways, and the rays of light are reflected in dif-
ferent directions. This is called diffuse reflection.

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1 Light
Light

Light

Diffuse reflection

In diffuse reflection, light gets reflected in a scattered pattern


Most materials exhibit an intermediate behavior, reflecting part of the re-
ceived light specularly and part diffusely.
• Surfaces such as mirrors reflect most light specularly, but most metals,
plastics, and other shiny surfaces exhibit both behaviors.
• Not all matt surfaces will be entirely devoid of specular reflectivity.
Notice for example the specular reflections of the pavement on a sunny
day.

Diffuse interillumination
Diffuse reflection of light on an object can light other objects. This is not usu-
ally apparent, but usually makes a big difference when aiming for realism. It
is surprising to see how much diffuse materials light each other.

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1 Light
Light

Diffuse interillumination lights parts of scenes with diffuse light bounces.

Color bleed
Diffuse interillumination causes color bleed, Color bleeding occurs when
light that bounces diffusely off a colored object lights other areas, imparting
the color of the object.

Transmission
Light does not always bounce off objects. Sometimes light passes through
objects. This is called transmission. It is also called transparency.
Several materials are transparent: air, several gases, glass, plastic, many
liquids, gems, etc. Several other materials are partly transparent (partial
transparency is called translucency). A totally transparent object is invisible.
Most transparent objects are not fully transparent, but partly transparent
and partly reflective (most commonly exhibiting specular reflection).

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1 Light
Light

A fully transparent object is invisible

For transparent objects to be seen reflection is required, often specular reflection


Real-world materials, such as plastics, glass, quartz, etc., are not fully trans-
parent. They transmit part of the light they receive and reflect back the rest.
In the case of colored materials, for example cobalt glass, most colors are
being transmitted by the glass, but blue is being reflected. Several other ma-
terials exhibit this same behavior and are responsible for a series of colors
glass, plastics, etc. In most of these cases, the color is caused by absorp-
tion of certain parts of the spectrum by the material.
This behavior does not only happen in transparent materials.

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1 Light
Light

Absorption
As in the cobalt glass example, sometimes not all colors are transmitted or
reflected equally.
In many cases, some colors are transmitted and some are reflected, and for
some materials, some colors are absorbed (more strictly speaking, light of a
certain wavelength is absorbed). What we see in those cases is the reflected
light, that has all the colors of the light that was falling on the object minus
the color that was absorbed. Supposing we originally had white light (light
composed of all visible wavelengths) what we get is the complementary
color of the color that was absorbed.
• If the absorbed color is red, we see cyan
• If the absorbed color is yellow, we see blue
• If the absorbed color is green, we see magenta
• If the absorbed color is cyan, we see red
• If the absorbed color is blue, we see yellow
• If the absorbed color is magenta, we see green.
In the cobalt glass example, what happens is that the substance is absorb-
ing the yellow component of light and the reflected and the transmitted light
are now blue.

Refraction
When light passes from one medium (usually air) to another, the rays of light
change speed (usually slow down) and direction. This causes the typical
“breaking” of objects seen partly in water and partly in the air.
This deviation of the rays of light is called refraction.

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1 Light
Light

The Refraction index of a substance is a value that measures the deviation


of a ray of light passing from vacuum (Refraction index=1.0000000000) to
the substance.

Some common Refraction indices


General
• Vacuum: .......................... 1.0
• Air:................................... 1.0003 Refraction causes the apparent breaking of an object seen partly in air and partly in
• Ice: .................................. 1.31 water
• Water:.............................. 1.33
Each substance has it own refraction index. The refraction index of a sub-
• Plexiglass: ....................... 1.48
stance is so particular to it that it is used in chemical analysis to determine
• Pyrex Glass: .................... 1.46 the degree of purity.
• Glass: .............................. 1.5-1.6
• Lead Glass: ..................... 1.6-1.8 Refraction is also seen in other phenomenon called caustics, which is partly
caused by light being concentrated by refraction.
Liquids
• Beer: ............................... 1.34
• Ethyl Alcohol: .................. 1.36 1.33 (water) 1.5 (glass)
• Quartz: ............................ 1.46 1.0 (vacuum)
• Vegetable Oil: .................. 1.47

Gems
• Opal: ............................... 1.45
• Moonstone: ..................... 1.52
• Amber: ............................ 1.54
• Agate:.............................. 1.55
• Emerald: .......................... 1.58
• Jade: ............................... 1.6
• Topaz: ............................. 1.62
2.4 (diamond)
• Ruby:............................... 1.77
• Sapphire:......................... 1.77
• Zircon: ............................. 1.85
Different materials have different refraction indices
• Cubic Zirconia:................ 2.05
• Diamond: ........................ 2.42

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1 Light
Light

This change of direction is known as refraction, and is a property of each


material.

Fresnel Effect
Ever seen a mirage, or wondered why, if water is transparent, we cannot
see any transparency, but rather mirror-like behavior when staring into the
horizon?

Fresnel effect causes mirages


The answer is called Fresnel Effect. This is simply that the amount of reflec-
tance of a surface varies with the viewing angle.
When the surface is being viewed at 90 degrees, the reflectance is minimal
and the transmission is maximized. As the viewing angle is reduced, the
reflectance of a surface increases and the transmission decreases. When
the viewing angle becomes smaller than the critical angle (depends on the
Refraction index of the substance) all light is reflected and nothing is trans-
mitted.

Caustics
If you ever burned paper using a magnifying glass and sunlight when you
were a kid, then you know what caustics are. Caustics are the concentration
of light caused by reflection or refraction.

Transmission caustics
Transmission caustics are a concentration of light passing through a trans-
parent object and concentrated by refraction. This wold be the typical ex-
ample of using a magnifying glass to burn paper.

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1 Light
Light

Reflection caustics
Reflection caustics are caused by the concentration of reflected light. A typi-
cal example would be the pattern that appears when a ring is laid flat on a
horizontal surface.

Reflection caustics are caused by the concentration of


reflected light

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1 Light
Light

Color temperature and light types


There are several possible kinds of light sources, from an open fire to a
fluorescent tube to a firefly, and the different light source kinds will provide
different types of light.
For example, a fluorescent tube will light a scene differently than a candle
will.

The same scene will be lighted differently by two different light sources

Color temperature is measured in degrees Kelvin1. This is because how


these temperatures were first measured.
1 One degree Kelvin equals one degree Celsius. Degrees Kelvin are based on the absolute
zero (the coldest temperature that can be reached) which is reached at -273 Celsius.

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1 Light
Light

Color temperature was originally determined by heating a carbon block and


correlating the temperature with the color of the emitted light. As you heat
this carbon block (also called a black body), the color will go from red-hot to
white-hot to bluish.
This correlation between temperature and color holds true only for incan-
descent light sources, such as light bulbs, flames, etc., but nevertheless is
used for all light sources.

Color and Temperature


The following table correlates the color temperature of different light sources
with the color associated to it.

Color Color Temperature Light Source


(K)
1200 Candle
2800 Tungsten Lamp
(common light bulb)
2800 Sunrise
2800 Sunset
5000 Average Daylight
6000 Bright Midday Sun
8000 Hazy Sky
10000 Overcast Sky

Moving On
Now we have a common ground for understanding how light works.
In the next chapter we’ll explore how Strata 3D deals with light.

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Lights in Strata 3D:
HOW STRATA 3D HANDLES LIGHT

Strata 3D handles light in a simplified way to avoid getting caught in cal-


culations forever. This chaper explains how Strata 3D does it.

Chapter Content Diffuse Reflectance Scale .................. 29

Lights in Strata 3D............................ 19 Volumetrics .................................... 30

Types of lights in Strata 3D .............. 19 Fog ..................................................... 30


Mist .................................................... 31
General properties............................ 20
Ambient Color ................................ 20 FX ................................................... 32
Hotspot .............................................. 32
Intensity .......................................... 21
Lens Flare ........................................... 33
Color .............................................. 23
Global lights ..................................... 35
Applying color temperatures .............. 23
Point lights ....................................... 37
Falloff ............................................. 24
Full Intensity Radius ........................... 24
Spotlights ......................................... 38

Total Falloff Distance .......................... 24 The Spotlight window .................... 38

Fall-Off................................................ 25 Area lights .......................................... 39

Light Source Radius ....................... 26 Lightdomes ...................................... 41

Gels ............................................... 27 HDR v/s LDR .................................. 41

Colors and Images ............................. 28 Creating HDR images .................... 42


Specular Reflectance Scale ............... 29 Moving on... ..................................... 43
2 Lights
Li ghts iin St
Strata
S ata 3D
3

Lights in Strata 3D
After the overview about how light behaves, we will now have a look at how
lights work in Strata 3D, seeing how the general behavior of light applies to
the program, and what behaviors of light are taken into account in Strata 3D
and which ones are not.

Types of lights in Strata 3D


Before going into the general properties of Strata 3D lights, it is a good thing
to know what kinds of lights are available to us in the program. These are:
• Global lights
Infinitely distant lights (parallel rays) that can only cast hard shadows.
Limited FX can be applied to them. Should be used as sunlight only.
• Point lights
Lights that behave more or less as light bulbs. They are good for (but
not limited to) lighting interior scenes.
• Spot lights
These lights can be aimed at objects and have adjustable beams. They
are much used because they provide the greatest amount of control of
all lights.
• Light Domes
Light domes provide global illumination (not to be confused with global
lights). This type of light requires the Raydiosity renderer to be of use.
Any background (and only a background) can be used as a light dome.
HDR images are frequently used for lightdomes.
• Area lights
These are also Raydiosity-only lights. They are created by applying a
texture with a glow value greater than zero to any object, which then
acts as a light-casting object.

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2 Lights
Li ghts iin St
Strata
S ata 3D
3

General properties
There are properties common to (almost) all light types in Strata 3D. We will
discuss them here before going into each specific light type.
Area lights and light domes are different beasts, so some of the properties
that will be discussed here do not apply to them.

Ambient Color
The ambient color is not exactly a property of any light in Strata 3D, but is a
very important element to take into account while lighting.
Ambient light is light that has bounced so many times that we no longer
know where it is coming from. Strata 3D simulates this phenomenon by us-
ing a base color, called the Ambient color, to avoid having unlighted areas
being black.

Ambient color set to 90% black and to 50% black


Aside from defining the intensity of the ambient light, the ambient color also
defines the color of the ambient light, and can be used to set moods or
environments. For example, an underwater scene will benefit greatly from a
blue Ambient color.

Ambient color set to dark red and dark green


For those of you who are into space scenes, it is important to keep in mind
that in outer space there is no ambient, because it is mostly empty space,
so there are rally few places for light to bounce off and become this “back-
ground light.“

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2 Lights
Li ghts iin St
Strata
S ata 3D
3

Space scenes should not have any ambient light


When working on a space scene then, keep in mind that either unchecking
the Enable check box under ambient or setting the ambient color to black
will result in no ambient light preset in your scene.

Intensity
The intensity of most Strata 3D lights is controlled by a slider that goes from
0% to 100%, but larger values can be typed by hand to obtain an intensity
greater than 100%.

Scene lighted with a 25% and a 50% intensity spotlight, plus a fill light

Scene lighted with a 75% and a 100% intensity spotlight, plus a fill light

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Scene lighted with a 150% and a 200% intensity spotlight, plus a fill light

Also, negative intensity values can be typed into the intensity field, so the
lights can also be used to “suck light off” a scene.
When using a negative intensity light, the specular highlights will be dark
and the shadows may be light.

A -100% intensity spotlight is used here to create a dark zone on the image.
A negative intensity spotlight and white ambient color can be used to create
a negative image (in case using Photoshop is out of the question).

A -100% intensity spotlight plus white ambient color create a negative image

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Color
We can control the color of our global lights, spotlights and point lights by
clicking in the color miniature of the appropriate palette.

Color selector for a global light and for a Spotlight.


The color selector for point lights is very similar to the one for a Spotlight

In the case of light domes, the color will be already present in the back-
ground, be it a color, horizon or image-based.
In the case of area lights, the glowing texture needs to be colored to impart
a color to the light.
It is important to keep in mind that the choice of darker colors will decrease
the intensity of the light. As shown by the images below, at the same light
intensity, if the light color darkens, the light appears to lose intensity.

Scene lighted with a 75% intensity spotlight with darkening gray colors.

Applying color temperatures


One place to assign the light’s color based on the color temperature of a
particular light source can be the light color. However, if we plan to build a
library of light sources and their colors (a wise move), a better idea would be
to build a library of gels to have faster access to the different light types.

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Falloff
We already saw that the light emitted by a source loses intensity the farther
the illuminated object is from the source.
• Point lights and Spot lights have Falloff.
• Global lights do NOT have Falloff. This is because the light source is
supposed to be (almost) infinitely distant and no significant falloff can
be perceived in the small scale the scene’s dimensions are compared
to the distance of the light.
We can control the falloff of lights in Strata both numerically and interac-
tively.

Full Intensity Radius


This value controls at which distance does the falloff begin for a light.
In real world lights, the falloff begins immediately after leaving the surface
of the light source. In Strata 3D we can control where does the falloff begin
either numerically or by:
• Dragging the inner ring (point light)
• Dragging the red square closest to the light (spotlight)

Total Falloff Distance


The total Falloff Distance defines the full reach of the light before losing
power entirely.
To control the falloff of a point or spot light we can either enter the total falloff
distance value in the Object palette, object tab or do it interactively:
• Dragging the outer ring (point light)
• Dragging the red square farthest from the light (spotlight)

Full intensity Distance

Total Falloff Distance

Full intensity and Total Falloff Distance rings for a point light

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Full intensity
Distance

Total Falloff
Distance

Full intensity and Total Falloff Distance rings for a spotlight

Fall-Off
Strata 3D can calculate the falloff for a light in two different ways: Linear and
exponential.
Exponential is the way in which the intensity of light decreases in the real
world
Linear is not accurate, but can be of use in cases that the light intensity
lowers too fast for our needs as a good alternative to increasing the Full
Intensity distance to uncomfortable distances.

Two renderings of the same scene. The image on the left has a point light with ex-
ponential falloff. The image on the right has the same point light set to linear falloff.

The total falloff distance increases from 100 in. to 720000 in. when changing from
exponential to linear.

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Light Source Radius


When our final image or animation needs soft shadows, the light source
radius becomes important, because the softness of the shadow will depend
on the light source radius.

Light source radius set to 0.1 in, 1 in, 5 in, and 10 in.
There is no need to concern ourselves with this value if we are using straight
Raytracing with no soft shadows.

5 in. light radius rendered in Raytracing best (left) and Soft Shadows (right)
It is important to remember that the light source radius is not the only vari-
able in determining the shadow softness. The distance at which the light
source is set from the object is also of importance.

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Closer to the light:


harder shadows

Farther from the light:


softer shadows

When objects are close to the light source, their shadows are comparatively
hard. As the objects move away from the light source, their shadows be-
come softer.

Gels
Gels are essentially textures for lights. We can use them to add ambience
to our scenes, to color the lights so they resemble a certain kind of light ac-
curately and to control the specular highlights and diffuse lighting a certain
light provides.

A Light gel can easily turn plain lighting into something with more ambience and
texture
Just like textures, we can layer gels on top of each other. Unlike textures,
though, we cannot control blend modes. Keep in mind that a black pixel in a
gel map will remain dark no matter what other gels we layer on top of it.

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Gels can be layered on top of each other

Colors and Images


Just like image textures, we can control color, image map, repetitions and
scaling in light gels.

• Name
The name of the gel. It is always a very good idea to assign meaningful
names to things, specially in complex projects.
• Copy from
We can create new gels based on existing ones. This menu allows us
to select the gel we will use as a starting point for our new gel.
• Color
We can assign a color to our gel. Clicking here will open the system
color picker.
• Map
We can use image maps for our gels. Clicking here enables us to load
and do minor adjustments to the map we use for our gel.
• Tiling
Just like with Image textures, we can set the tiling of the map we are
using. We can choose from:

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• Normal
Repeats the map normally
• Mirrored
Repeats the map, mirroring it each time there is a repetition
• None
The map is applied only once
• x scale
Controls the horizontal scale of the map
• y scale
Controls the vertical scale of the map
• Specular Reflectance Scale
Controls the size of the specular highlights (see below)
• Diffuse Reflectance Scale
Controls the intensity of the diffuse reflections (see below)

Specular Reflectance Scale


We can adjust the size of the specular highlights by altering the Specular
reflectance scale .
• A Specular reflectance scale of zero means there are no specular high-
lights at all.
• The default value for the Specular reflectance scale is 1
• Values larger than 1 will result in larger than normal specular highlights.

Specular reflectance scales of zero, 1.0, 2.0 and 10

Diffuse Reflectance Scale


The Diffuse Reflectance Scale value controls the intensity of the diffuse re-
flection for the light.
• A Diffuse Reflectance Scale of zero results in no diffuse reflection

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• The default value for the Diffuse Reflectance Scale is 1.


• A Diffuse Reflectance Scale with a value greater than 1 will result in
increased diffuse reflection (see image below).
An interesting application of Diffuse reflectance scale is turning it to zero to
help obtain a specular-only pass to compose passes separately later on.

Diffuse reflectance scales of zero, 1.0, 2.0 and 10

Volumetrics
Volumetrics are a group of shaders that are applied to several objects (3d
shapes, environment, lights) that fill the volumes.
Lights accept two of these volumetric shaders: Fog and Mist.
Besides applying the shaders directly to the lights, we can also apply them
to the air of the scene. In either case, lights will cast volumetric shadows if
the check box is applied.

Fog
Fog is a semitransparent volumetric shader that does not evolve over time
(even though its parameters can be animated). It can cast shadows and has
multiple configurable parameters such as color, density, falloff, etc.

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A Fog shader applied to the spotlight

A similar Fog shader applied to the air. Some density adjustment was required

Mist
Fog is a semitransparent volumetric shader that can evolve over time. It has
a cloud like texture and can cast shadows.

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Mist shader applied to the street lights

FX
FX, or special Effects are mostly post-rendering effects that are applied
to different objects of a scene. Lights support two FX: Hotspot and Lens
Flare.

Hotspot
A hotspot is a glowing spot with rays of light. We can configure the color,
intensity, ray number, saturation, etc. for the Hotspot.

The Hotspot parameters can be animated.

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Lens Flare
A lens flare is basically a Hotspot with glare. It mimics the flares we some-
times get because of internal reflections and refractions in camera lenses.

The Lens Flare parameters can be animated.

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A somewhat exaggerated lens flare applied to one of the point lights in the building

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Global lights
Now that we have already covered the common properties for Strata 3D
lights, we can focus on the lights themselves. We will start with global
lights.
As we have already mentioned, global lights simulate sunlight. They have
the following properties:
• Parallel rays
• No falloff
• Do not accept volumetric shaders
• Hard shadows only
• They do not produce caustics
Global lights are created and managed in the Lights tab of the Environment
palette (E key).

Exterior scene lit only with global lights


It is not advised to use many global lights. In this book, we’ll never use more
than two. All additional lighting should be handled by point lights or spot-
lights.

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Global light set to front and back. We can toggle the side by holding the Command
(or Control in Windows) key while dragging the light
The circle in which the global lights are set has the ambient color, so we can
see at a glance what is the ambient color we are using.
The circle in which the global lights appear represents a sphere. Notice how,
when moving the light, it gets distorted when approaching the edges of the
circle. If such is the case, it is a good idea to change view in our scene to be
able to manipulate the light with ease.
When using a ground plane beware of setting the global light under the hori-
zon line. This happens quite often, specially if we are manipulating the lights
in an isometric view.
Often, the light appears “on the other side of the sphere”, and lights our
scene from the back. If we do not want that, we can Command (Ctrl in Win-
dows) drag the light. That will bring it back to the “front” side of the sphere.

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Point lights
Point lights are light bulbs. They light the scene in all directions. A summary
of their properties follows:
• Rays radiating from a point in all directions
• Linear or logarithmic falloff
• Accept volumetric shaders
• Hard or soft shadows
• Can produce caustics
A typical application of point lights is lighting interior scenes. Just like in
actual interior scenes, many point lights may be required to light a scene
appropriately.
The falloff for point lights can be controlled by dragging the inner ring (full
intensity radius) and the outer ring (total falloff distance).
• If there rings are close, the point light will have a small penumbra — an
abrupt transition between lighted and dark areas.

• If the rings are far apart, there will be a smooth transition between
lighted and dark areas.

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Spotlights
Spotlights are the most versatile lights in Strata 3D. Their properties can be
summarized as follows:
• Rays radiating from a point in a cone. We can set the angle of the cone.
• They always have falloff. It can be either linear or logarithmic falloff
• Accept volumetric shaders
• Hard or soft shadows
• Can produce caustics

The Spotlight window


We can double-click a spotlight to open the Spotlight window. This window
shows us what the spotlight “sees”, and allows us to control the position of
the spotlight in the same way we control the position of a camera.
We can also control the angle of the cone of light projected by the spotlight
using the horizontal slider on top of the window. The cone angle corre-
sponds to the inner ring of the Spotlight.

Double-click here
To open this window

Softness
The softness of the ray of light emitted by the spotlight can be controlled
either manually by dragging the outer ring of the spotlight or by the softness
slider in the Objects palette, Object tab.

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Hard and softer spotlight beam edges

Area lights
Area lights are Raydiosity-only, because they use a texture’s Glow value as
a source of light, and Raytracing cannot do that.

Raytraced v/s Raydiosity rendered scene with no lights and an object with a
glowing texture
When using area lights for lighting, the glow value of the texture used for the
light source determines the intensity of the light the object will emit.

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Glowing object with a texture that has glow values of 1.0, 2.0, 5.0 and 10.0

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Lightdomes
From version 4.0 (aka CX) Strata 3D enables us to light our scenes using
Light domes.
A Light dome is a Strata background that casts light. Any Strata 3D back-
ground can be used as a Light Dome.

A Solid color background, Horizon, Spherical and Spherical HDRI used as Light
domes
Light Domes are mostly Raydiosity only. Although we can obtain light from
a Light Dome in Raytracing, images come out flat, with little suggestion of
volume and no shadows. To make the most of a Light Dome, we need to use
Raydiosity rendering.

Scene lit by a Light dome rendered in Raytracing (left) and Raydiosity (right)

HDR v/s LDR


Light Domes are best suited for using images as backgrounds. Both spheri-
cal or cubic backgrounds will work quite well.

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Basically there are two types of images we can use as backgrounds: LDR
and HDR images. LDR (Low Dynamic Range) images are regular 8 bit per
channel per pixel images, the sort we use in our everyday work. HDR (High
Dynamic Range) images are images with more information per channel per
pixel, that store luminance values. These values can be understood by Stra-
ta 3D and converted back into a light source.

Scene lit by a light dome using a LDR image (left) and HDR image (right)
There are two supported HDRI (High Dynamic Range Image) formats sup-
ported by Strata 3D: OpenEXR (.exr) and Radiance (.hdr).

Creating HDR images


HDR images can be created in Photoshop CS2 by merging different shots of
the same scene taken at different f-stops and then using the merge to HDR
command (File>Automate>Merge to HDR...).
First, the images from which the HDR image will be created are selected.

Then, the exposure settings are entered for each one of the images used.
After that, the white point preview is manually adjusted, and the image is
calculated. In the Photoshop help there is more abundant information con-
cerning creating your own HDR images.

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Moving on...
We now have a grasp of what kinds of lights are supported in Strata 3D and
what do they do.
We will now put this knowledge to use, exploring and discussing some typi-
cal lighting setups for exteriors, interiors and studio settings.

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Exteriors:
LIGHTING EXTERIOR
SCENES

Time to apply what we have reviewed


We’ll start by lighting exterior scenes at different times of the day
and conditions

Chapter Content Partly Cloudy.................................. 52


The color of sunlight......................... 45 Rendering considerations for soft shad-
ows ..................................................... 54
Default Strata 3D light ................... 46
Hazy/foggy day .............................. 56
Adding a Skylight ........................... 47
Sunny day, shady spot ................... 58
Light Dome skylight ........................... 47
Volumetrics and shadows .................. 59
Clear day: Morning......................... 48
Overcast ......................................... 60
Clear day: Noon ............................. 49
Clusters .............................................. 60
Clear Day: Sunset .......................... 50
Night time ....................................... 62
Clear Day: Dusk ............................. 52
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Let us begin lighting things.


Let us start outdoors.
In most cases, our exterior scenes will be lighted by the sun, either directly
or diffused through clouds, foliage or other obstacles.
Before reviewing the different lighting techniques, it will be profitable to have
a look at how sunlight behaves at different times of the day and in different
weather conditions.

The color of sunlight


The color and light intensity of the morning sun is different from the noon
sun and different from the sunset. This is due to different reasons, but the
main variable involved is how much air does sunlight have to go through.
In air, blue light is scattered 6 times more than other colors, so at sunrise
and sunset, when sunlight passes through more air than at noon, because
of the angle at which it falls, more blue light is scattered, and yellow is the
complementary color for blue.
Noon

Sunrise Sunset
The color temperature of the sun changes during the day

Sunrise/Sunset Noon
Sunlight goes through more air Sunlight goes through less air
and gets scattered more so there is less scattering
Air scatters blue light more than other colors. The more air sunlight goes through,
the more blue light gets scattered and the yellower the light looks.

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That is the very same reason why the sky is blue. With all the scattered blue
light (over other colors) the sky is full of blue light bouncing around, and that
light imparts its blue color to the sky.
In some cases like just before a storm, in contaminated cities or during vol-
canic eruptions, sunsets can be orange to red. This is also due to the scat-
tering of blue, violet and other shorter wavelength light by the dust, water
and other particles in the air. What we see is the remaining, non-scattered
light, corresponding to longer wavelengths (red, orange, yellow).

Default Strata 3D light


Now that we are ready to begin lighting our exterior scene, let us have a look
at the default lighting we get in Strata 3D.

The default light Strata 3D has when creating a new scene is a 95% intensity
global light and a 95% black Ambient color. These add to 100% intensity.
The image above shows a scene rendered using the default light. It has the
problem that areas that are not lit by the global light are flat. There is no de-
tail to be seen, and that is not how light works, nor how we’d like our images
to look.
This scene with the default light can be found in the CD. The filename is ex-
terior_default.s3d and is in the 3.- Exteriors folder. From there you can follow
the different lighting conditions that will be discussed here.

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Adding a Skylight
In exterior scenes, there is an ambient light caused by all the scattered blue
light of sunlight, that helps light the scene, causing the detail in areas that
aren’t lit by the sun to be visible. One way to simulate this skylight is using
another global light, 40% in intensity, with a light blue color.

30% skylight, 85% sun, plus a reflected environment


The image above shows a 30% skylight and a 85% “sun”. Aside from the
skylight, a simple horizon reflected environment was added to the scene to
give it more coherence.
The skylight has the following properties:
• Color: light blue
• Intensity: 30%
• Cast shadows check box unchecked.
• A gel that has a specular reflectance of 0 to avoid specular highlights
for the skylight (there is one in the Goodies folder).

This gel eliminates specular highlights from the skylight

Light Dome skylight


Another way to simulate the skylight is using the same reflected environ-
ment as a lightdome. The example below shows the same scene using the
Horizon environment as a lightdome set to an intensity of 30%.

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A horizon lightdome can hide detail in the shadow areas


This technique has the drawback that the Light dome hides the detail in
the shadow areas. The image above shows that the details of the tile are
lost in the hydrant shadow. This happens both when using Raytracing and
Raydiosity.

Clear day: Morning


Morning light is yellow colored, because the angle at which it enters the
atmosphere makes it travel through a lot of air, and the blue light scatters,
leaving it complementary color: yellow.
Because of the low angle, shadows are long.

To create morning light for a scene we need two global lights:


• Sunlight: A light yellow light that casts shadows, set to an intensity of
around 85% and falling at an angle on the scene.
• Skylight: A light blue light that casts no shadows, set to an intensity of
around 30%

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For this example we will also use a Horizon reflected environment set to light
blue on top and bottom, and white on the horizon.
Of course, any suitable reflected environment can be used. Of the default
backgrounds that come with Strata 3D, Apple orchard, Residential street
and Mountains are good for daylight exterior scenes.
The image below is rendered using the RT Best render preset.

Morning sun is yellow in color and casts long shadows

Clear day: Noon


Around noon the light adopts a bluish cast. This is because the skylight is
strong and sunlight is not yellow. At noon, sunlight passes through a thin
layer of air and, as less blue light is scattered, the color of sunlight is not yel-
low, but white. The bluish cast is actually imparted by the skylight.

To create noon light for a scene we need two global lights:


• Sunlight: A white or very light blue light that casts shadows, set to an
intensity of around 85% and falling almost vertical on the scene.

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• Skylight: A light blue light that casts no shadows, set to an intensity of


around 30%
For this example we will also use a Horizon reflected environment set to light
blue on top and bottom, and white on the horizon.
Of course, any suitable reflected environment can be used. Of the default
backgrounds that come with Strata 3D, Apple orchard, Residential street
and Mountains are good for daylight exterior scenes.
The image below is rendered using the RT Best render preset.

Noon light is bluish in color and casts very short shadows


Shadows around noon are very short, because of the position of the sun.
Noon shadows are also dark, because the sun is at its maximum intensity.

Clear Day: Sunset


As the day progresses, shadows begin lengthening again, and as sunlight
passes through an increasingly thicker layer of air, the light becomes in-
creasingly yellow, with an orange tinge.

To create sunset light for a scene we need two global lights:

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• Sunlight: A yellow/orange light that casts shadows, set to an intensity


of around 85% and falling at an angle on the scene to cast long shad-
ows.
• Skylight: A light blue light (slightly darker than the skylights on the pre-
vious examples) that casts no shadows, set to an intensity of around
30%
For this example we will also use a Horizon reflected environment set to blue
on top and bottom, and light orange on the horizon.
Of course, any suitable reflected environment can be used. Of the default
backgrounds that come with Strata 3D, Apple orchard, Residential street
and Mountains are good for daylight exterior scenes.
The image below is rendered using the RT Best render preset.

Long shadows and yellow-orange light are typical of sunsets

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Clear Day: Dusk

At dusk the sun has gone and only a little skylight remains.
Even though it is not the most canonical solution, I find that two global lights
set ton the following parameters work pretty well:
• 25% intensity
• Light blue color
• No speculars gel
• No shadows.
Essentially, both these lights are fill lights. The idea is to have detail be vis-
ible.

Partly Cloudy
Partly cloudy days require a change of lights.
Global lights are unable to cast soft shadows, and we need soft shadows for
anything other than a perfectly clear day
A good way to create a gel is the following:
• Create a new Photoshop image, 512x512 pixels in size
• Select the default colors (D key). This will leave black as the foreground
color and white as the background color.
• Apply the Render>Clouds filter. Because of the image size (a power of
2), there is no need to apply the Offset filter and rubberstamping. The
image is spontaneously non-tiling1

1 Tip learned at Red Rock Revival 2004 from an attendee.

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• Adjust levels/curves until a good balance between grays and whites is


achieved. Avoid excessive contrast.
• Create a new light gel in Strata 3D
• Copy the image and paste as the image for the new gel

• If you want to, reduce the specular reflectance scale to 0.7, to reduce
the specular highlights a bit.

Of course, you can also load the gel that is in the CD (Goodies folder), that
was created in the same way.
This gel is applied to a very distant spotlight. Have a care to increase the
total falloff distance, and if needed the full intensity radius to have a good
light intensity in the part of the scene we are rendering. Also, the beam width
rings may need adjustment, as we are trying to trick the spotlight into behav-
ing like a global light.
For the sake of comfort, once the spotlight is properly positioned, it can be
turned into a Shy object by pressing Cmd (or Ctrl in Windows)+5. Shy ob-
jects are objects that do not appear in the modelling window but do appear
in the rendered image.

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A very distant spotlight is used as a “sun” in a partly cloudy scene


It is probably a good idea to convert the spotlight into a Shy object (Cmd
(Ctrl)+5) to avoid uncomfortable overuse of the magnifying glass tool.

Rendering considerations for soft shadows


In order to get the soft shadows caused by the diffusion of light by clouds or
other particles present in the air, soft shadows must be enabled.
The easiest way to activate soft shadows is using the Soft Shadow presets
available in the toolbar. However, these may be a little slow and too detailed
for our purposes.
In the Render window, expert button the amount of Light/Shadow samples
can be changed (It is assumed we are using the Local Lights Good Soft
Shadow preset).

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The light/shadow samples control the quality of soft shadows


Of course, there is a trade-off between speed and shadow quality. Trial and
error will define the best settings for each case. In the examples here 32
light/shadow samples were used for the sake of speed.
The Randomize light samples check box helps diffuse the shadows in case
the samples are too few and banding appears in the shadows.
Depending on how cloudy we want our day to appear, the gel can be made
darker or lighter, and the specular reflectance scale can be adjusted accord-
ingly.

This is a very lightly cloudy day


As the day gets cloudier, the light raises its color temperature, going from
yellowish to white and even a cold white, and the light is more diffused by
the clouds, so aside from modifying our light gel, the light source radius and
color of the spotlight we are using should also be modified.

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A cloudier day

An even cloudier day


If the day is definitely an overcast day, other lighting ways are better than a
single soft spotlight. A light dome or point light clusters are better solutions
in this case.

Hazy/foggy day
On a hazy day (or for those of us who live in cities prone to smog, on a nor-
mal day) the air is not clear, with a haze or smog present.

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For this kind of day we need a spotlight, because the light is diffused by the
fog or haze and casts soft shadows, and global lights do not support soft
shadows.

A Fog shader applied to the spotlight is a good solution for hazy days
For this example, there is a very far away spotlight with a yellowish fog ap-
plied.
The fog shader (shown at left) is the default shader set to yellow, colors
linked and shadows enabled.
When shadows are enabled the rendering time increases, but depending on
the scene composition, interesting applications of the Tyndall effect can be
made.

Fog applied to the spotlight

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Sunny day, shady spot


We may set our scene on a perfectly clear day, but need a shady spot. Of
course modelling a complete tree is justified only if it will appear in the scene.
Many times we only need the appearance of an off-scene tree to filter the
light.
This can be easily accomplished by using a filled square with a stencilled
texture put between the light source and the camera view.
There is a wide variety of useful images for this purpose: often some play-
ing with painting parts of an image in Photoshop, adding noise, blurring and
posterizing or applying Threshold will yield satisfactory results.

Image used as stencil for projecting a “tree shadow”


Depending on our needs, using soft shadows may be a good idea. Often the
use of few samples can create interesting patterns. This is definitely a matter
of experimentation.

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A fake shadow is projected into our camera view

Volumetrics and shadows


The use of stencilled panels is useful only if we do not need volumetrics
such as fog and mist in our light sources. If this is the case, we need actual
geometry to create crepuscular rays.

We need actual geometry for this kind of effect


An easy way to create geometry from the same map we had previously been
applying as a stencil is to simply copy from Photoshop and paste into our
Strata 3D scene. The pixels will be converted into geometry.
This way of working creates somewhat larger scenes, but enables us to
make the most out of volumetric shaders used together with lights.

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Overcast
In an overcast day light comes from everywhere because sunlight has been
totally diffused by the clouds. This is best created by a lightdome and ren-
dered using Raydiosity.
In the example, a simple background is used: a Horizon in grays and whites,
both as light dome and as reflected background.

In overcast days there are little or no specular highlights


When using a lightdome there are no specular highlights. This may be a
problem in other circumstances, but in this case it is a very good thing.
The screenshot at the left shows the horizon background used as a light-
dome. Global lights are visible, but they are not in use: both are set to Con-
struction lights.

Clusters
If there is no time to do a Raydiosity render, using a cluster of point lights is
a viable solution. A cluster is a group of lights. In this case, we will replicate
instances of a shape that contains a point light.
• Create a new shape
• Insert a point light
• Put a cube around it
• Make the cube a construction object (this will enable us to drag the
lights around easily)
• Set the point light to a very light blue color and lower its intensity to
10%
• Drag an instance of the shape we just made into the scene. Replicate
the instance until there are 24 instances of the shape in the scene.

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With all these low intensity lights in our scene we can do a Raytracing ren-
dering that will be much quicker than a Raydiosity rendering and will obtain
satisfactory results.

An overcast day made with a light cluster

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Night time
A basic night time lighting setup is simply a blue skylight without any shad-
ows and a low intensity. I find that 30% works well.

A good reflected environment for a night scene is a Horizon background


going from dark blue to light blue and back.
In most night time scenes we will have other light sources aside from the
skylight. For that we will have to use lamps and other light sources.
Depending on the night scene, the lights will be different. The example im-
age uses six spotlights of 45% intensity and a bluish white color.

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Interiors:
LIGHTING INTERIOR
SCENES

Lighting interiors is very different to lighting exteriors.


Some guidelines are given and explained here

Chapter Content Exterior light ................................... 74


Lighting a simple interior ................ 64 Creating the “window” ....................... 74

The first light....................................... 65 Adding a “sun” ................................... 75

Lighting the scene more evenly ......... 68 Adding a gel and moving the camera 76

Textures and objects .......................... 69 Optional volumetrics .......................... 76

Adding lamps ................................. 70 Nighttime ............................................ 77

The starting point ............................... 71 Raydiosity....................................... 78


Adding and adjusting a lamp ............. 71 Collected light amplifier...................... 79

Adding a floor lamp ............................ 73 Diffuse bounces ................................. 79

Modeling the lamp ............................. 73 General tips .................................... 80


The main light ..................................... 73 Beveling.............................................. 80
Simulating a bounced light................. 74 Estimating light intensities using Photo-
shop ................................................... 81
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Lighting interiors poses different questions to be answered and different


situations to be solved than lighting exteriors. Of course, many of the same
principles apply, and there isn’t always a clear-cut distinction between inte-
riors and exteriors.
One of the things we will have to concern ourselves with is the proper light-
ing of the whole interior scene without overdoing it. It is easy to have underlit
and overlit areas in the same scene.
Because the possibilities are far greater than in the case of exteriors and the
generalities are less, rather than discussing some general principles, we will
light different interior scenes in varying conditions.

Lighting a simple interior


Let us begin by creating a very simple interior scene with no windows or
textures, made entirely out of cubes and filled rectangles.

This is a totally closed volume: no light enters is, and we cannot see inside
it, unless we get a camera in there.
I have found that for interiors, it is often useful to use shorter “camera lens-
es.” The preset 50 mm Strata 3D cameras are too long and usually fail to
capture the whole room at the scale I work.

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Even with a camera inside the room there is not much to be seen unless we
light the interior. The default global light is not entering this room, so we can
convert it into a construction light or altogether delete it.

The first light


Let us bring light into our room as a point light.
Let us start by using a default point light (95% intensity, white color, default
full intensity distance and maximum falloff distance) more or less in the cen-
ter of the room close to the ceiling.

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The ceiling problem


The point light we added seems to light everything but the ceiling. We can
check this by doing a rendering.

The ceiling is not lit as expected


Indeed, we have a problem. The whole room is lit except for the ceiling. This
is a common problem when doing Raytracing renderings.
If we do a Raydiosity rendering, we will see that everything is perfectly lit.

A Raydiosity rendering does not show any problem


Of course, we do not always have the time or processor) horsepower to do
a Raydiosity rendering, so we will find a workaround for having a properly lit
ceiling in raytracing.

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A solution to the ceiling problem


A good fix for the Raytraced ceiling problem is applying a texture to the
ceiling. The lack of lighting is compensated by a glow value (0.4 in this ex-
ample).

This glowing texture solves the black ceiling problem. Now the ceiling looks
normal, and we do not have the long Raydiosity render times.

Have a care to eliminate the glow when trying a Raydiosity render. Remem-
ber that in Raydiosity glowing surfaces are light emitters.

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Lighting the scene more evenly


We have one point light that is working well after fixing the ceiling. However,
the light is not evenly distributed in the room.
To make the handling of lights easier, we’ll make a new shape containing
and replacing the light we now have.

Creating a shape with the basic light


Inside the shape window, create a cube of a size that is comfortable for
you to handle (most of the time I use 1x1x1 in.), center the point light in the
cube and convert the cube into a construction object. The whole point of
having the cube there is to make selecting and moving our point light more
easily. Besides, if the cube is not converted into a construction object, the
point light will not light anything.
Lower the intensity of the light to about 15% because we will use several
copies of this shape to light the room evenly.
Close the shape window, and in the scene window, replicate the light shape
until there are 6 evenly distributed light sources.

The cubes surrounding the point lights are visible only in modeling views, not in the
render
The cubes will be visible in the modeling window but will not appear in the
render. With these six point lights we should obtain a good, even light in the
room.

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Six point lights give us a good overall lighting

Textures and objects


Now that our simple, empty room is well lit, it is time to add textures and
objects. For this exercise, library objects will be used.
Let us begin by applying the Cedar Parquet texture to the floor.

The point lights cast some specular highlights in the shiny floor
Next, some library shapes will furnish the room: a couple dressers, a couple
tables and some chairs should be enough for this exercise.
A light yellow texture with a little specularity was added to the walls. On top
of it, a corrosion shader with very low bump and mapped very small was
applied.

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Hard shadows are not very helpful


Things look pretty good, but the hard shadows projected by the lights are
not helping much.
A soft shadow render of the same scene will take considerably longer but
will be much more believable.

The finished exercise


We have managed to obtain a well lit room, but there are no lamps in it.
The next exercise adds lamps to our room.

Adding lamps
This exercise expands on the previous one.
The previous exercise shows a room that is well lit, but no light sources are
visible. This time we will add some lamps and set them up.

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The starting point


We will use the same room we had before.
The point lights that light this scene will be modified:
• Open the shape and lower the intensity of the point light to 5%
• Uncheck the Shadows checkbox
• Add a little yellow cast to the light

This is the starting point for our exercise


With these modifications out room is lit at a low intensity, so there are no
dark areas, and at the same time there is space to experiment with other
lights to give our room a more believable look.

Adding and adjusting a lamp


We will add the Lamp that comes in the Household items shape library on
top of one of the dressers.
To do this, I find that the most comfortable way to work is selecting and
grouping the dresser and then double-clicking it, to get it to appear in its
own editing window.
Then drag the lamp shape and scale and position to suit proportions on the
scene.
A render should look like this.

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Lamp shape applied to the scene


There is a need for modifications. Some points to consider include:
• Light color: The default orange color this shape has the color tempera-
ture of a candle or a very low intensity light bulb. The scene will benefit
from a higher color temperature. Let us change the color from orange
to light orange-yellow
• Intensity: The light intensity is a bit high for the scene. Let us reduce it
to 60%
• Total falloff: reducing it to 15 in. will help limit the area of influence of
this light.
• Shade color: Changed to yellow.
The adjusted lamp gives a more believable light, like in the

The adjusted lamp

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Adding a floor lamp


We will add a floor lamp on the right. We’ll add a floor lamp that lights the
room by bouncing light off the wall and ceiling. We’ll simulate this bounce to
avoid being tied to Raydiosity.

Modeling the lamp


First thing we’ll do is model the lamp. For this example We will create a
simple profile for lathing.
• Create a new, empty shape. Name it floor lamp or something equally
creative.
• In the shape editing window, front view, draw a profile for the body of
the lamp.
• Lathe the profile.
• Draw a second profile for the glass portion of the lamp. Lathe it
• Create and apply textures to the body and the upper part.

The lamp is modeled. We now need to apply the lights inside of it.

The main light


We will use point lights for this lamp, even thought at first sigh it looks better
suited for using a spotlight.
We’ll use a very small radius point light to produce tight shadows. In the ex-
ample the light radius is set to 0.1 in. The shadows cast by this light will be
fairly tight shadows, coming as they are from a small source.
We need another light to finish this lamp, a point light that mimics light
bouncing off the wall to light the scene.

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Simulating a bounced light


The light that is bounced off the wall to light the scene will be simulated with
another point light, whiter in color that the other light.
The radius of this point light will be larger, to simulate the more diffuse light
coming from the wall. 2 in. is a good value.

Notice the difference between the two lamps

Exterior light
Let us now add a window to our scene. Exterior sunlight (or moonlight, or
artificial light)

Creating the “window”


For this exercise we will create a window in the wall. A good way to do it is
using Subdivision modelling.
• Select the wall.
• Convert to Polygon Mesh
• In the reshape window, select the “interior“ and “exterior“ faces of the
wall.
• Using the extrude tool, inset the wall faces.
• Bridge the selected faces
• Adjust the “window“ size and position to taste.
This is a good moment to add a visible environment. We are looking out the
window, and now all we have is the black default background.
The image below shows a Horizon visible environment.

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Perforated window and visible background

Adding a “sun”
We will use a distant spotlight for the sun, in case we want to have soft
shadows.

There is definitely a trial and error process in positioning

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Front and top view of the “sun” spotlight

Experimenting with the light positioning is a process of trial and error

Adding a gel and moving the camera


A light gel may be a good idea to enliven the scene. For this exercise a new
gel was created from the image we used in last chapter to cast shadows for
the exterior lights.
Besides adding the gel, the camera was moved so that more of the wall that
receives the sunlight is visible in the rendering. Again, this is a trial and error
process.

Optional volumetrics
A little fog adds to the realism of the scene.

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It also increases the rendering times, so we need to be careful. In this case,


a light yellow Fog was added to the spotlight, with the Cast Shadows option
enabled.

Nighttime
For the same view set to nighttime, the visible background is changed, the
color and intensity of the spotlight are changed and the fog (if present) is
deleted or edited.
For this example let us alter the intensity of the spotlight to 40%, change the
color to light blue and delete the volumetric texture.
We should get an image similar to the one below.

By editing the spotlight parameters we can create a night scene.

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Raydiosity
Raydiosity is a renderer that —at the cost of rendering time— gives more
realistic results than Raytracing because it calculates phenomena that Ray-
tracing does not take into account.
Let us use an empty room with only a spotlight shining light through an open
window. The Raytraced rendering looks like the image below.

Raytraced rendering of a room with only an external light source


Only where the light enters directly we can see something. That is the nature
of Raytracing.
Raydiosity, on the other hand, can do diffuse interillumination, that is, cal-
culating the diffuse reflection of light and use that to light other areas of the
scene. The image below is rendered with (more or less) default Raydiosity
settings. Notice how there is some weak lighting in areas where there wasn’t
any light previously. This is because diffuse interillumination is being taken
into account.

Same room, same light source, Raydiosity render


If we have the time, it is profitable to use Raydiosity in our renderings. We
shall explore some of the variables that influence our rendering time and
results.

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This section is not meant to be a detailed explanation of Raydiosity set-


tings: The Art & Science of Strata 3D CX CD by Chris Tyler is a very good
resource for that kind of information. Here we’ll only touch on some settings
that will be of use when rendering interiors.

Collected light amplifier


The collected light amplifier controls the brightness of the image.
• Values of less than 1.0 darken the image.
• A value of 1.0 does not affect the image
• Values larger than 1.0 lighten the image.

Collected light amplifier values of 1.0, 1.2, 2 and 5

Diffuse bounces
Diffuse bounces determines how many times the renderer will let a ray of
light that undergoes diffuse reflection bounce.

One, two, four and eight diffuse bounces.

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The default value is one diffuse bounce. This may be insufficient for showing
all the available detail, particularly in scenes with few light sources.
More is not always better. See the image above and notice that with 8 dif-
fuse bounces the scene is over lit.
• Keep in mind that less light is required to light a raydiosity scene than a
raytracing scene.
• Less fill lights are required in Raydiosity than in Raytracing
• Remember that glowing surfaces emit light in Raydiosity

Raydiosity rendered scene

General tips
There are some general ideas and quick tips that are very useful when light-
ing scenes: We’ll touch some of them here.

Beveling
Sharp edges cannot give back light. If the edge has a little bevel, light will
be reflected off it, and will help to define the areas of our models and add
interest to the scene.

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A scene without any beveling

A scene with a little beveling in the wall and table corners. Notice how we get a
better definition of shapes.

Estimating light intensities using Photoshop


A quick way to estimate the light intensities for lighting a scene after we have
decided how many light sources we’ll have is rendering the lights separately
and then superimposing those images in Photoshop in screen mode and
there manipulate their transparency to look for a good light balance.
This is nos as accurate as rendering the actual image, but it is much faster.

Rendering the base images


The first thing is render the base images set to an intensity of 100%.
For the base lighting (the six instances of the point light inside a construc-
tion cube), the total intensity should be 100%, so the intensity of each point
light will be set to 16.66%

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Also, the point lights inside the shapes of the lamp and floor lamp are hid-
den.
The render obtained is below.

Base lights set to 100% total intensity


For the lamp we hide the point lights used in the floor lamp and also hide the
point light inside the cube.
We also set the intensity of the point light in the lamp to 100%

Lamp set to 100% intensity


The last image is the floor lamp. As before we hide all the other lights and set
the intensity of the point lights to 100%

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Floor lamp at 100% intensity


We now open these three images in Photoshop, SHIFT+drag (to place them
centered in the document) them to a new document of appropriate size and
set them to screen mode.

All layers set to screen mode, 100% opacity


Now all we have to do is play with the opacity of the layers to estimate how
a light with an intensity equal to the opacity of the layer will impact the light-
ing of the scene.
Bear in mind that this is just an estimation and that the result we will get will
be different from the estimation. The images below show the quick estimate
and the real rendered image. Helpful, but not accurate.

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All lights estimated to 50% in Photoshop

All lights set to 50% rendered in Strata 3D

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Objects:
HOW TO LIGHT OBJECTS

Lighting objects is different (again) than lighting exteriors or interiors.


We will see some lighting setups here

Chapter Content Lightdomes and HDRI ........................ 95

Introduction .................................... 86 Area lights .......................................... 97

Three-point lighting ........................ 86 Important things to consider ........ 103


Creating the scene ............................. 86 Bevel ................................................ 103

Main light ............................................ 87 Environments ................................... 104

Fill Light .............................................. 88 Caustics ........................................... 105

Back Light .......................................... 90 The End ........................................ 108


Soft light and hard light .................. 93
Lighting for Raydiosity ................... 94
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Introduction
In this chapter we will discuss how to light objects, mimicking what we
would do in a photo studio.
We will discuss the basics of theatrical lighting and see how to add environ-
ments and effects to our object lighting.

Three-point lighting
We will begin by creating a scene and add lights to it in what is called “the-
atrical” or “three point” lighting. This lighting scheme works as follows:
• The subject is lit by the main light
• Deep shadows are dispelled by the lower intensity fill light, that enables
us to see detail in the shadow areas
• The subject is separated from the background by the back light.

Creating the scene


Let us light a simple subject: a coffee grinder.
The coffee grinder is se in the scene and a camera is added for better con-
trol of the view.

The grinder with Strata’s default light


The scene’s default global light does not give us enough control for properly
lighting our object. We need to delete the global light to start from scratch.
After doing this we begin adding spotlights to light our object.

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Main light
Let us start by adding a spotlight that will be the main light source for our
object. The reason why we use a spotlight is that the spotlight is much more
controllable than either a global light or a point light concerning intensity,
falloff, angle, gels, etc.

Position
Usually (but not always) the main light is set to the left and above the object,
in an angle of 15 to 45 degrees to the left and 15 to 45 degrees upwards.

Intensity
A good number to begin setting the light intensity would be 80% We may
change this value later depending on what kind of image we are after.
It is a good idea to make the spotlight point to the grinder. In this way we
make sure the light is always

Falloff
When using spotlights, it is important to keep falloff in mind. If the main light
is set away from the object it is lighting, the light cast by the spotlight will
have lost intensity by the moment in which it reaches the object.

The spotlight falloff may cause insufficient light to reach the object.
Correcting the full intensity distance is a good solution.
Modifying the full intensity distance of the light, either numerically or by drag-
ging the red square closest to the spotlight icon is a good way to control the
intensity of the light that reaches the object being lit.
In the example the mail light was placed away from the object, so the full
intensity distance was set to a fairly large value (40 in.) to allow enough light
to reach the grinder.

The need for a fill light


The main light is lighting the grinder, or rather only the parts of the grinder
that receive light directly. The parts that are left in shadow do not show any
detail.

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Of course this is not desirable in our renders. A second light, less intense
than the first is needed here to dispel the dark shadows in the unlit areas.
This second light is called a Fill light.

Fill Light
In order to see detail in the areas that remain unlit by the main spotlight, we
will use a second spotlight, called the Fill light. This fill light is less intense
than the main light and is usually placed on the other side of the camera.

A fill light is added

Position
The fill light usually goes on the opposite side of the camera to the main
light, at an angle between 0 and 30 degrees upwards and 15 to 60 degrees
to the right.

Main light

F i l l

Front view of the positions of the main and fill lights.

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Main light

F i l l

Top view of the positions of main and fill lights.

Shadows
The fill light does add detail in the unlit areas, but is now creating a second
set of shadows that can be confusing. It is best to uncheck the shadows
check box for the fill light.

Lack of shadows in the fill light makes the image less confusing
The Fill light now adds detail without adding confusion.

Main-fill ratio
The intensity ratio between main and fill lights is one of the decisions we
have to make when creating an image. It is important to keep in mind that,
when using three-point lighting, the function of the fill light is just to make
detail visible in areas not touched by the main light.
The fill light then, should not be so strong as to compete with the main light,
nor should it be so weak that it does not fulfill its function.

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• A comparatively strong fill light lightens the shadows and generally


lightens the mood of the whole image.
• A comparatively weak fill light causes dark shadows and adds drama
and darkens the mood of the image.
The image below shows different main-fill ratios, from 1:1 to 11:1.
Notice how in the first image the main light and the fill light compete against
each other, and we do not know where the main light is coming from.

Different main-fill ratios: 1:1, 2:1, 4:1, 11:1


The second image has a 2:1 ratio. It is more noticeable where the main light
comes from and the shadows are slightly darker.
The third image has a 4:1 ratio, with a higher contrast between light and
shadow.
The fourth image has a 11:1 ratio with a very weak fill light. The image almost
looks as if it had no fill light.

Back Light
Sometimes there is a need to bring the subject apart from the background.
To accomplish this, one or more lights are put behind the object (from the
camera point of view) to create a rim of light on the edges of the object.
Again, a spotlight will be used.

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Main light
Fill light

Top view of the back light positioning

Main light

Main light

Fill light

Side view of the back light positioning


Placing the backlight is a matter of trial and error. Once the back light is ad-
equately positioned, there will be a rim of light separating the lit object from
the background.

The global light replaced with the main spotlight

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Bump and back lights


A bump applied to the object helps to break up the border of the rim of light
that is caused by the back light. B a c k

Detail: back light, no bump


For this example a Corrosion shader is used on top of the metal texture. This
Back light
corrosion shader has no hole or resistant area, and is mapped cubically to
0.1 size and 10% coverage. This gives us a really small bump that softens
the hard line caused by the back light.

Detail: back light, corrosion texture set to 1.0 bump amplitude


The size and bump amplitude will determine how much the hard edge of the
back light will be softened.
There is a danger of overdoing the bump amplitude, which can lend our
materials an overly grainy appearance. Besides, the larger the amplitude,
the slower the render.

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Detail: back light, corrosion texture set to 0.5, 1.0, 2.0, 5.0 bump amplitude

Soft light and hard light

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Different main light radii: 0.5 in, 1 in, 2 in, 5 in, 10 in.

Lighting for Raydiosity


While reviewing three point lighting we worked with Raytracing and obtained
very good results with it. Strata 3D also offers us the Raydiosity renderer
which —at the price of speed— gives us a much more realistic result.
There are differences between lighting for these two renderers, which we’ll
explore in this section.

Lighting that works well in Raytracing may be over illuminated in Raydiosity

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Raydiosity render with only one spotlight


Raydiosity takes more light into account than Raytracing. This means that
a scene that has been properly lit for Raytracing will almost always be over
illuminated in Raydiosity.
Often, a single spotlight will be enough to properly light an object in Raydios-
ity.

Lightdomes and HDRI


Another way to light for Raydiosity is using a lightdome and an HDRI-based
background for the lightdome.
For this example, the Soho hdr background (available at www.stratacafe.
com) will be used as a background.

Render using an HDRI background as lightdome


This first render is not very encouraging. This happens because the parts of
the image that cast light are behind the curtain. We need to rotate the light-
dome to have proper lighting.

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From the top view in the modeling window we can see that the part of the
lightdome that casts the most light is behind the curtain. Rotating the light-
dome 135˚ gives our scene much more light.

Rotating the lightdome

Rendering with the ightdome rotated 135 degrees


Too much light from the lightdome does not allow the detain in the curtain to
be seen. Decreasing the intensity of the lightdome will bring the detail back

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Lightdome intensity decreased to 75%, 50% and 25%


Specular highlights are lost when using lightdomes for lighting. Combining
a lightdome with a spotlight will give us global illumination and specular
highlights at the same time.

Lightdome and spotlight for specular highlights

Area lights
Another way to use the features of the Raydiosity renderer is using area
lights to light our scenes.
Any object can be an area light. The light is cast by a texture that has a glow
value applied. Glow values cast light only if we are using Raydiosity for our
rendering.

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To explore area lights, a 40 x 40 filled square is placed on top of the grinder,


out of the camera view. This will be our area light.

Panel in place
A new image texture with a glow value of 1.0 will suffice to begin playing
with lighting. A Raydiosity render of the scene with the panel in place and
all other sources of light hidden should look more or less like the image
below.

Glow panel in place: 40 x 40 in, glow intensity: 1.0


There is indeed light coming from the panel and lighting our scene. Some
changes are in order. First thing will be softening the edges of the glow panel
to avoid banding and to soften the reflections.

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Softening the edges


The softening will be accomplished by a stencil map. A new Photoshop
document, 512 x 512 pixels will do.

New Photoshop document


The stencil map will be a blurry white square on a black background. Away
to make it is filling the image with black, then drawing a square selection,
inverting the contents, deselecting, and applying Gaussian blur to taste. The
result should look more or less like the image below.

This image goes into the stencil channel of the glowing texture we made for
the panel

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The stencil map in place.


A rendering shows the difference.

Glow panel with a soft edge


A close up detail shows the difference even more.

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When reducing the size of the panel (with the stencil map) the intensity of
the light varies. This should be compensated by increasing the glow value
of the texture.

Glow intensity
At this stage, the intensity of the glow panel does not light the grinder well.
This was done on purpose to see the effect of the glow value in the lighting
intensity.
The images below show the scene being lit by a glow panel with glow values
of 1.0, 2.0 and 5.0. In the three cases, the glow panel is very close to the
grinder, and in the 5.0 glow example, too much light is falling on the top of
the curtain. It is important to control the distance of the glow panel: if it is too
close, too much light will fall on parts of our image; if it is too far away not
enough light will reach our scene (falloff also applies here).

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Glow intensity values of 1.0, 2.0 and 5.0


The glow intensity of the texture controls how intense the light is. Another
way to control the intensity of the light cast by an area light is modifying its
size.
The images below show the effect of an area light 40 x 40 inches and an
area light 80 x 80 inches, with all other parameters remaining the same.

40 x 40 and 80 x 80 area lights


Area lights do not produce any specular highlights. To counter this, a spot-
light placed in combination with the glow panel will give us the effect and
reflections of the area light and the specular highlights of the spotlight.

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Rotated glow panel


The image below shows a glow panel and a spotlight in place. Notice the
detail in the curtain.

Lightdome and spotlight for specular highlights

Important things to consider


Some important things to consider when lighting objects to increase the
realism of the render.

Bevel
Bevels reflect light and help define the edges of objects and to give them
volume.

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Either by bevelling in the subdivision modeler, using the fillet extension or


adding details by hand manipulating bezier elements to add curves on the
edges, added detail on the edges will benefit the final work.

Adding detail and beveling edges creates interesting reflections

Environments
Never forget to add an environment to the scene.
Either by using a reflected environment, or off-camera glow panels, or both,
the final image or animation will benefit greatly.

Render without any reflected environment

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Same scene with a reflected environment

Caustics
As we saw in the first chapter, caustics are concentrations of light caused by
reflection or transmission/refraction.
Caustics require a spotlight or point light to be produced.

Base image for exploring caustics


Caustics also need to be activated in the render, either by using the available
presets or by manually editing the Expert Raytracing parameters.

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Caustics require spotlights or point lights and have to be activated in the render

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Caustics brightness
Caustics brightness allows us to control how bright will our caustics be.
Depending on the scene good values fluctuate from 1.0 to 5.0.

Caustics brightness controls the brightness of the caustics.


Caustics brightness 1.0, 2.0 and 5.0

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Photon map size


The photon map size defines how detailed our caustics will be. The larger
the map, the more detailed the caustics, and the longer the render will take.
Smaller maps render faster but the caustics obtained will not be as de-
tailed.

Photon map size controls the detail of the caustics. Photon Map sizes 1.0, 2.0, 4.0
and 8.0

The End
Here ends this overview of working with light in Strata 3D. We barely
scratched the surface of what can be done with the program, but it is my
hope that good groundwork was laid. Hope you find this document useful.

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