Enhancing HDRI environments in real-time

Enhancing stock HDRI map with HDR Light Studio example

Florian Petersen is an expert user of VRED software by PI-VR. In this recent project Florian has skilled fully placed this Mercedes C class car onto a photographic background image with lighting and reflections provided by a HDRI captured at the location. Both backplate and HDRI are provided by courtesy of MAGROUND, a stock photo agency specialised on high-quality urban and landscape photography with matching HDRI-domes. The location was shot by Christof R. Schmidt exclusively for MAGROUND.

But to bring the car to life then extra lighting was required to make the materials come alive and look more dynamic.

HDR Light Studio being used live with VRED

Using the HDR Light Studio Live plug-in for VRED, Florian was able to add a number of extra light sources directly to the HDRI environment. You can load an existing HDRI environment into HDR Light Studio as a background and add your lighting and effects over the top, all with the correct distortion handled for you in real-time, so that lights are the correct shape when the image is mapped onto a lighting sphere. Florian was able to position the extra lights all in real-time with instant feedback in the real-time rendered viewport in VRED – like a virtual photo shoot. This meant he could make excellent lighting decisions and try out lots of lighting ideas very quickly.

Because the lights were contained within the HDR image, then they created both illumination and visible reflections, essential for creating realistic renders of a car, where the reflections play a major role in the realism of the shiny surfaces. An additional benefit of adding the lights directly to the HDRI was that the render time was not affected because the new lights were all contained within the single HDR image that was lighting the scene. There were in fact no other lights in the scene at all – just a single HDRI.

Comparing edited HDRI map - before and after

In the image above you can see the car on the left looks very nice, but could do with more dynamic lighting to make it ‘zing’ out of the image. Florian added only a few light sources to the existing HDRI, but it was enough to give the render the boost it needed and the car has been much improved on the right hand image.

Once the lighting design was complete, a new high resolution HDRI file was created by HDR Light Studio Live, and the final hi-res final render could be produced off-line by the robust VRED renderer. The quality and detail within the final image is simply amazing. Thank you Florian ( for sharing your wonderful work with us!

Final shot lit with enhanced HDRI map using HDR Light Studio