Lighting cg in action


I’ve set myself a challenge: to light a cg object in action without a cg dept. I have no idea where to start. I’ve got the object and the track and if all works. However without Arnold or Redshift it all looks a bit flat snd lifeless. Anyone got any tips?

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Big subject, and hard to bullet point. I’d look into PBR’s and all the maps, as a starter…

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Just in general about this though, I would start with no light on your object, then add lights as desired. So set your key light as your primary, then touch in your fills, etc. Don’t forget you can shape lights with their cones, as well as using gmasks to constrain their effects. You can also use negative values on lights to darken.

Once your general lighting is set up, then start playing with all the IBL, PBR, map options. You can get some quite nice, believable effects in a lot of situations.

There are so many ways to do all this though – it will take some playing around.

Even with Non-cg, IBL’s are a go-to for me. They help dial in the colour palette of the plate into the the object.

Here’s the thing. It’s a train in a station. The building has a glass roof do the light is coming from the sun. In my experience, the lights even when set to ambient just don’t cut the mustard. I’m still going to give it a nudge though.

You’re lighting a whole cg train, with just geo and no CG passes?


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If Maya can do it why can’t we?

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Check back with us in a few days….

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I mean it is theoretically possible. But to make it look close to real, you would need various different parts of the train as separate geos & materials – different parts react to the same light differently. Otherwise you risk it looking like one big all the same surface, drifting into 1980’s type CG… It’s a lot of work for such a large and complex object.

You using Smoke Hotkeys?

I’d use an IBL on the camera then use various spotlights to to highlight or darken areas. Using negative values on brightness will suck light out of the scene.
Substance PBR textures are great adding realism.

Not quite a train station, but was able to do a reasonable bit of atmos in this shot…

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This is actually something I’m super interested in. Would love a community project where we share a common geo only cg scene and open up for people to try. Testbench style. See what’s possible when common sense flies out the window. Like a logik challenge that can be revisited over time and improved. I’m positive some interesting workflows would result. Aim for maximum fidelity and refine as flame adds features. Almost like a lighting technique benchmark.


I don’t know if this helps but @Stefan did a very good series of Flame walkthroughs using IBLs and procedural PBR textures in version 2018. The first one was full 3d space from scratch and then two further are a bit more distant from this, but the second touches a little on this.


Do you have access to who built the cg model? If you could get different materials/surfaces split out in a sensible and usable way, that would help. But it’s still a big lift for photoreal…

i asked autodesk if they would ever open up something like action to offline render engines like arnold, its jot really on their radar but I would love to see this happening.

Honestly i would just light and render it in blender with cycles… its free ?

I’ve been meaning to post this on a PBR thread, but I think it found its place here. A database of physically based values for CG artists.

Also, turn on ambient occlusion. It is screen space based but still, works wonders. I would first go at it by creating something that looks like global illumination with a matte gray finish and then add textures.

For reals. Do it in Blender. After learning Flame, learn Mocha, then SynthEyes, then Blender.


I agree that texture and shaders are very important but I think that lighting goes first.
The main problem in flame is the lack of real GI, raytrace or pathtrace …
So you gotta use some tricks to kinda mimic the light quality. (local colored rectangle lights …)
You can use Mark Doney’s md_GI matchbox attached to your camera in action to get fake GI, pretty good stuff.
Back to lighting, I agree that it’s nice to start with shaping lights and shadows given the scene layout and camera framing. Like adding windows with gobos to create interesting sources, placing objects (could be shadow caster only, invisible in the scene) to cast shadows (find some opportunities to have long shadows somewhere, maybe rays from window …).
What @Sinan said: “I would first go at it by creating something that looks like global illumination with a matte gray finish and then add textures.”
links to fb logik pics:

Without and with md_GI (Thanks Mark! We miss you!)
Note the color spill (I obviously you would adjust other things after, which I didn’t)

+1 for AO, might want to use the matchbox (stingray_ambiant_occlusion) (+ a bit of stingray Bloom?)
Then output a bunch off passes and utilities, render them all and comp away.

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Original RnD pics