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My simple approach to 3D lighting with HDR Light Studio plugin

By: Brendan McCaffrey
Tutorial Level: Beginner

Motorbike lit with HDR Light Studio
The final shot

This is a custom motorcycle visual we created for Twisted Tea. The motorbike was being given away as part of a competition but the real bike was not completed in time for the launch. We worked with Cycle Source Magazine and Twisted Tea to develop the look of the bike and produce a realistic stand-in for the eventual prize.

In the tutorial below, I take you step-by-step through my simple approach to lighting 3D scenes like this with HDR Light Studio.


This project was set-up with Maya and V-Ray. But the principles for the lighting apply to all 3D software used with HDR Light Studio.

SCENE IS READY TO LIGHT

Firstly here is the setup in Maya. There is only one V-Ray Light Dome in the scene. Next on our list is starting the HDR Light Studio plugin to create studio lighting for our 3D scene. When HDR Light Studio opens, it will automatically connect to the live session in Maya. As we create HDRI lighting, all the lighting from HDR Light Studio will be synced back to Maya in real-time.

For this scene, we'll be creating a single custom HDRI map

Motorbike in Maya with V-Ray
Motorbike in Maya with V-Ray

AMBIENT BACKGROUND LIGHTING

We start HDR Light Studio and load a generic studio HDR background. Something low contrast is better as it won't compete with the key lighting.

Generic Studio HDRI Background
Generic Studio HDRI Background

BOOST OVERHEAD

Adding a Gradient Background light makes the top brighter. This top lighting starts the process of bringing out the forms and better defining the contact floor shadow. The effect is subtle, but well worth doing!

Gradient Background light added
Gradient Background light added

SHAPE THE AMBIENT LIGHT

Overall the lighting and shot is looking flat. We add a Dark Light to block out the ambient HDRI lighting seen in the front surfaces of the bike. This completes the overall ambient lighting for the scene.

Adding a Dark Light
Adding a Dark Light

KEY LIGHT

Next, the Key light is placed. When placing the Key light it is better to isolate it and turn off all other lighting. The job of the key light here is to define the forms clearly. The highlights on the rounded shapes of the frame, tank, fender, and tires all help to communicate their form.

Adding key light
Adding key light

KEY LIGHT BOOST

A second, soft light is placed over the key light to smoothly extend the highlight and boost the intensity of the light. It's offset slightly to help bring a more definitive highlight onto the fork.

Soft light boosts and extends key light
Soft light boosts and extends key light

FILL LIGHTS

Fill lighting is added to get a better read on surfaces not directly lit by the key light. Again it's useful to both isolate these new lights to see their effect, as well as seeing all lights turned on for the overall context of the lighting design. Two fill lights were added here, a large softbox with defined edges for the metal parts positioned above the bike, and a soft light to the left to bring detail to the tire and other matt parts.

Additional fill lights
Additional fill lights

RIM LIGHT

Lastly, a Rim light (at a glancing angle behind the bike) was added to help integrate the subject into the image. Overall this is a very classic 3-point lighting approach.

Rim lighting added
Rim lighting added

FINAL COMPLETE LIGHTING

Some minor color adjustment was done post rendering... but the final result was 99% complete in the interactive render. In the V-Ray FrameBuffer OCIO ACES CG workflow was used.

Completed lighting design in HDR Light Studio
Completed lighting design in HDR Light Studio

The render was exported as an EXR and View Transforms were applied in Photoshop to match the framebuffer preview.

The final render lit with only HDR Light Studio
The final render lit with only HDR Light Studio

Many thanks to Brendan McCaffrey for allowing us to re-publish his mini-tutorial here. It was first posted on his Behance page here.

This entry was posted in Lighting Tutorials and Demos and tagged V-Ray, Maya.