Studio 3 Development Blog 8

Welcome back,

Today we are looking into lighting in a 3D computer generated scene. Basically for anything produced in a 3D modelling package.

I decided to look into lighting as part of my specialisation project as I feel like it is an area that I need to focus on to improve the overall quality of my work and the presentation of it, as that is an area that I feel I am lacking in knowledge and experience.

Lighting is both as simple as it sounds and far, far more complicated than it seems at first. On the surface, lighting refers to just that, how you, as the creator, light the scene. Light being what determines how all of the object look and what can be seen, even more so now that PBR is industry standard.

Lighting is far more than just making things visible. Lighting also affects the mood of a scene or shot and also what information is conveyed to the viewer. For instance, just by changing the lighting, you could change the mood of a scene from serious and intense to dangerous just from changing the lighting from a variant of 3 point lighting to silhouetted lighting.

So what is 3 Point lighting?

3 Point

This is the standard setup for 3 Point lighting.

The Key Light is the main source of light for the subject. It tends to be a white light and the key source of shadow.

The Fill Light is a dimmer light that tends to be warm in colour and shouldn’t overpower the key light. Its purpose is to fill in some of the shadows cast by the key light and thus by showing more information about the subject, gives more interest to the subject.

The Back Light tends to be cool in colour and is sometimes referred to as a Rim Light as its job is to create a sort of silhouette of light around the edge of the subject. This helps to more clearly separate the subject of focus from the background and give more depth to the scene.

3 Point lighting is the most common industry used lighting setup.

Clearly however 3 Point lighting is an artificial lighting setup. What if you want to create a realistically lit scene?

Well absolutely, go for it, see how it goes, you might like it. And that is always my strategy to begin with. I think getting a scenes light’s setup based on the light sources within the scene is always a good place to start before you start looking at what needs to be enhanced.

Once the scene based lighting is in place you have a good idea of what is conveyed from the scene. Let’s have a look at a quick example that I setup for this purpose using a couple base meshes from mudbox and a few simple object I created.


This is a scene, it is lit by a skylight (simulating the moon casting light over everything) and by the street lamps. There are a few errors that I would correct if this were a production (The lamp light would be an omni light set into the lamp which would then reflect the light back down, however I cheated and just used a downward facing spotlight, it did the job I required of it, and there is no shadow under the car, an oversight in this render).

As you can see, there are 2 object that are intended to be seen and interesting, the car and the t-rex. As it stands while due to contrast in materials you can see them both quite clearly, only the car seems to be of relevance, and that is because it is lit.

Here is another pass of lighting where I added 3 Point lighting to help accentuate the car even further.


Here it seems to be much more the focus of the shot. The fill light is a little intense for my liking but you can see how much more interest it adds to the object. When adding 3 Point lighting to help a particular subject, I think it is always important to ensure it has as little impact on anything other than the subject in question. If it affects the environment it is going to look artificial rather than just enhancing what is already there.

Next we add a few more enhancing lights to help get across the point of the shot.


Now both subject can be easily distinguished from the background and we, the viewers, know what we are suppose to be looking at.

So much of the animation industry is about making sure a scene clearly conveys the information in it. Everything from the design of the objects, the composition of the scene, the timing and positioning of animation and lighting are all used in conjunction to convey what is happening and where the viewer should be looking.

By use of lighting and composition these frames show clearly that the audience should look at the car and the t-rex, the rest is just the setting, the two focal objects are where all the action is going to take place.

I look forward to seeing how I can use lighting more dynamically in my scenes to help make it clearer, and even just in the presentation of models, such as this one.


APA referencing to follow.

Thank you and as always,

Till next time,

James Day – 1002467


4 Basic Lighting Setups. (2014). Improve Photography. Retrieved 15 July 2016, from

24 things you need to know about lighting | 3D Artist – Animation, Models, Inspiration & Advice | 3DArtist Magazine. (2016). Retrieved 15 July 2016, from

Applying 3-Point Lighting. (2013). Retrieved 15 July 2016, from

CG Lighting Tutorial: 10 Tips. (2016). Animation Mentor Blog. Retrieved 15 July 2016, from

Explainer: film lighting. (2014). The Conversation. Retrieved 15 July 2016, from

How To Set Up 3-Point Lighting for Film, Video and Photography. (2016). YouTube. Retrieved 15 July 2016, from

Issues with Large 3D Animation Scenes Light and Replication (Tutorial Part 1). (2016). YouTube. Retrieved 15 July 2016, from

Light Source: In the Mood? Creating Mood with Light. (2016). Retrieved 15 July 2016, from

Light Source: Lighting for Mood. (2016). Retrieved 15 July 2016, from

Lighting Styles. (2016). Retrieved 15 July 2016, from

Three Point Lighting Tutorial. (2016). Retrieved 15 July 2016, from

Three Point Lighting Tutorial for 3d Animators. (2016). YouTube. Retrieved 15 July 2016, from


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