Published: 18th March 2020
Mondlicht Studios was founded in 2019 by CEOs Dmitriy Glazyrin, David Schäfer and Maksym Khirnyy, and is producing a diverse range of fascinating and distinct CGI, AR and VR content at a swift pace. The studio’s CGI work for the Mercedes-Benz EQC, the German and global automobile marque’s first full-production electric vehicle, is no exception.
In this article, Dmitriy Glazyrin and Maksym Khirnyy describe the details of lighting Mondlicht Studios’ recent project for the Mercedes-Benz EQC Black Edition.
The project began life as a pitch to one of Mondlicht Studios' clients, but then evolved into an independent project. "So, this is based on a client project and became a show piece. Some ideas are just too good to keep them inside your desk. The client supported our vision and so we developed the concept. This method of developing a project happens more often than one would ever imagine. At the planning and concept stage, you usually have more freedom than when you are working on the production of a concrete concept commissioned by your client. It’s also great to have a client who trusts your taste and your opinion - nowadays this is hard to find. However, if you put enough effort into projects, relationships and collaboration, you will finally gain enough trust."
The Mercedes-Benz brand name has become synonymous with that of luxury vehicles and the EQC is no exception. The exterior of the vehicle, however, has an aggressive aesthetic: sporty yet stylish design. These attributes were at the heart of Mondlicht Studios’ conceptual thoughts.
"When we started to work on the concepts, we understood how much we wanted to depict the beauty and power of the car. The Mercedes EQC is an excellent example of this combination, the car itself shows you how much humanity achieved in design and scientific development."
"Take a look at the images. See how confident the car looks in all these environments? No matter what you do and where you go Mercedes EQC gives you total control in any situation. And what’s also important, this car looks brilliantly stylish from every angle and in any case."
As with any pitch-project, this one was delivered in a matter of days. "It’s always challenging because you have no time for endless discussions or to look for inspiration - you just have to deliver. Because of this almost every member of our team was involved in the project. Our CEO Maksym Khirnyy headed production - he created concepts, worked on environment, modelling, visualisation and textures. Our good friend and colleague Rainer Reber was working on post-production."
Mondlicht Studios has a team brimming with creative thinkers and mutual agreement of the final concept was met by putting the needs of the client first. "Each of our three CEOs has great experience in CGI. If we face a problem we discuss it, trying to figure out a solution suitable for everybody. We put a lot of effort into creating such a positive and healthy creative environment and we are very proud of what we have achieved."
"When we talk about any commercial project, the opinion and feelings of our client are the things which matter the most. We are always trying to fulfil the clients’ needs and find the solution to their problem, offering the most comfortable working process and creating more concepts if it’s needed. It’s vital to perceive your client as a partner: both of you are interested in a good result. This attitude is the key to a long-term partnership."
Added together, the Mondlicht Studios team have more than forty years of experience in the CGI industry. Their software pipeline is tried and tested to be as effective as possible.
"The only thing we used from stock content is the car model. All the textures, environment and so on were created by our team. For this project we used 3ds Max, V-Ray, MultiScatter, HDR Light Studio and Adobe Photoshop."
"It’s important to understand that in spite of the fact that we have an established pipeline, we adjust it to any new project. Sometimes it’s more effective to use Cinema 4D and Redshift, sometimes we need to work with Unreal Engine on VR/AR projects and sometimes we even develop new tools! For example, David and Maksym have developed more than twenty custom 3D tools for 3ds Max and Maya to speed up our workflow and create a more effective pipeline, especially for VR/AR projects."
"We use HDR Light Studio in many projects because it perfectly fits the pipeline and makes the workflow more efficient."
"HDR Light Studio allows you to forget about superfluous settings and concentrate on the artwork. That saves a lot of time, and what’s more it gives you freedom, making the working process much more comfortable and relaxed. Regarding this project, we can say that it would have been very tough to deliver all the images in such a short time without an effective pipeline, and HDR Light Studio is part of that."
Before lighting with HDR Light Studio:
After lighting with HDR Light Studio:
"The first and the most important part of our lighting process is to look for the mood and references for the atmosphere we would like to create. If you know what picture you want to get and have it in your head, everything becomes much easier. So, my main advice - don’t be lazy and spend enough time on research."
"If you have prepared well enough, you already know what type of lights you’re going to use in the scene. I strongly recommend creating a rough sketch and placing all the light sources on it, especially if you are a beginner and don’t have a strong understanding of how lighting works. If you don’t: there are a huge amount of educational videos on YouTube which will help you out."
"Another important thing is software. It’s always good if you are able to work not in one program, but use a variety. Sometimes, other programs give you additional advantages - more comfortable workflow or higher speed. HDR Light Studio is a great example of such a program."
"HDR Light Studio 3D Area Lights itself is a very cool tool, but when you use it with an HDRI map it becomes even better."
During post-production, the team spent further time working on lighting and atmosphere.
"Almost every one of our projects includes a post-production stage: it’s just a more efficient, fast and comfortable way to make final adjustments, colour correction and create the mood you want. We added details to make the images more interesting to explore and, of course, focused attention on the car - the main hero of the project."
"One of the biggest challenges was our use of Multiscatter. It was not that easy to deal with - we used this plugin for the environment, and I must say it’s totally unpredictable and becomes a real problem when you don’t have much time. Another issue on this project was the render-time - it took forty-one hours for V-Ray to render one image."
The project has proved a great success and the client responded well to the final images. "It’s great when your vision coincides with the vision of your client. We got very nice feedback and a new project, so we are very happy with the result. Most clients come to us with a concrete vision of what they want to get, so our job as a production studio is to incarnate a concept to a beautiful photorealistic image. However, some clients allow us to work on a creative idea too… Those are the best."
"Today, when programs are becoming easier and easier to use, it is the idea itself that comes to the fore. In this case, we used a very non-typical background which allowed us to deliver an interesting and original result. With our collected experience it is really difficult to surprise us in terms of the production process, but our opinions about creative projects have become stronger."
Mondlicht Studios’ CEO Maksym Khirnyy has made a short review of the Mercedes EQC project, showing how the images were created. In this video he also shares some good tips for creating such an extraordinary environment.
Lightmap had the opportunity to catch up with Dmitriy Glazyrin, a 3D artist and the Co-Founder of Mondlicht Studios. It has been a pleasure hearing his journey as a CG artist and how he has excelled in the CGI industry.
Want to read his story?
Dmitriy Glazyrin: How to Excel in the CGI Industry
Co-Founder of Mondlicht Studio recounts his journey as a CG artist and shares his tips for achieving success.