Lighting for Impact

This past week in Design 6400, all the students were paired with a partner to review each other’s projects. After presenting my short statements and showing some of the scenes I was working on at the time, I was presented with two questions…

1. Can you explain what you’re doing in simpler terms?

2. What is the one big thing you want to take away from this project, are you focusing on how lighting and color affects users emotion, 3D modeling, abstract/nonlinear storytelling?

For the first question, as I gain a better sense of my project and communicate with others more, I believe I can explain the project better. I know the first time I explained the project it was difficult to understand, but when I was asked to re-present an idea a second time, I slowed down and changed the way I presented, which allowed me to simplify and create a space for better translation. Another point being to remember that not all the terms I use are defined for everyone, so knowing which words to use or how to best clarify is important. As for the second question, the biggest takeaway is lighting and color for emotion. I think in the beginning of this project, my main goal might have been how to tell stories in a nonlinear way; however, I keep seeing myself really looking at lighting throughout this project. The subtle shifts in lighting and what it does in contrast to the object is something I have never really explored, and I feel it is beneficial for future projects.

As a result of kicking it into gear for this project, this past week has been focused on more technical learning and many tutorials. I did read [Digital] Lighting and Rendering by Jeremy Birn. It was really amazing to read about the different ways to light a scene from area lights to High Dynamic Range Images, which I had just started exploring. The other thing I liked towards the end of the reading was the idea of depth as well as particles or volumetric lighting to create dimensionality in a scene. I ended up applying a lot of these ideas as I went back and start lighting scenes again. While the shifts in the images are subtle, I saw a great change from adding even a single area light or a spot light. I often referred back to the Working with Indoor Natural Light section of the book for the classroom. This room feels really nostalgic to me, so I think it will be interesting in contrast to the childhood qualities I want to pull out or have a viewer reminisce on.

Because I had never worked with adding volume to lighting in Maya, I ended up referring to YouTube, like the video below. I actually went through quite a bit of different tutorials seeing what each one had to offer, and it allowed me to reiterate the knowledge to better store it for later. I did dabble a little in making particles in the classroom scene that would dance with the light and create some movement by using MASH. However, I am not sure how effective or clean it is, so I might remove it.

As I am going through an adding lighting and color to the scenes, I am finding it hard to figure out how to establish unity between each section. I feel like the colors keep jumping around, especially between indoor and outdoor scenes. With the classroom portion and the scene with the crayons and clock, there is definitely unified lighting. However, moving outdoors, I am still trying to understand how to light an outdoor scene, and what that means to tie it to the classroom then later transition into a darker phase in the visual journey. While I figure out outdoor lighting, I am using the crayons, colored paper in the classroom, and the houses to create a thread. For me it feels like the child is leaping through the scenes through these particularly vibrant colors, which will dissipate in the second half of the animation. I am hoping that the transitions will also aid in how these scenes translate.

With the street, I am trying to focus on sunrise as the time of day and keep a warm balance with the classroom. I am not sure I want a scene that is super saturated, like in the first reference image. I did try a sunrise HDRI, but it came out fairly cool in tone, which is definitely me needing to rotate the texture and add more lights. I also tried to add an area light, but it looks like I set something on fire off camera. My biggest need is now lighting outdoor scenes, specifically daytime. This will be an interesting challenge, and I will need to do a lot of reading and practice.

After watching this following video, I am really intrigued by the Shatner Light used on characters as it has definitely popped up a couple times in recent movies I have watched. I really like the dramatic effect it has on a character, so for the final scene with the house, I want to experiment with this character lighting on a building.

I did end up attempting the Shatner Lighting and applying it to the house. It feels really noir, but I kind of like the personality it gives it but not sure how it fits into the overall animation. However, I am keeping a spare file to come back to in the future. As I am going through the lighting, I do want moving shadows to be involved. I stumbled upon a video game called At Dead of Night, which is a video game that combines both live action and 3D modeled environments. There is something so unique and well done with this that it began to spark ideas of generating footage of shadows then masking and applying to this final scene. Since my house has many lamps and white walls, I feel like this is doable. If I add the shadow footage, I want a light that comes from the back of the house and the shadows to sit in the foreground coming off of it.

I did go back to the pill bottle to have a more ominous lighting. The challenge here is getting enough contrast so everything doesn’t just disappear, like it has.

The next immediate step, which will probably be occurring in the next 48 hours of this post, is to send off renders of the classroom, crayon scene, and desk scene. Then, I will work on tackling the street and outdoor lighting. The second goal of the week will be to finish lighting and animating the second half of the animation, and by Thursday, I plan to have those scenes rendering. I definitely want to have enough time the last week for errors and editing.

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