Lighting The Exterior At Night Animation Essay


This Dissertation is intended to prepare a Short thesis, on how Lights make the scene alive at night. It is all about evaluating the realistic environments in the nights at different locations and thus blending them all in one best shot that could be of major use in the simultaneous Computer generated project 'The Bang'.

Creating a well established lighting mood at the threshold of moonlight, makes the project innovate the ups and downs of real life locations. It goes about exploring the thick and thins of narrow and wide streets at the nick of eve. The streets of all classes busy, residential, posh and crowded etc.

This dissertation includes the analysis of different situations. The various ways in which the lights in an exterior location increase the sense of mood at night in an Indian environment.

The research will accomplish the critical evaluation of lighting in the computer generated environment too .There will be a vivid comparison of both the environments in order to bring an appealing night scene of a street in the project, the bang.

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B| Introduction

The literary content on night lighting seems to be very little as other information available in elaborated form. I have researched many numbers of books dealing with digital art and the subject of night lighting only ever seems to be touched on that too very lightly.

The system of using low key without innovation just leaves the scene dark. It makes the scene more of a dark graveyard rather than a deepawali, gothic or Halloween night. Therefore I came forward with the purpose to explore more in this facet ,and experiment with the digital world to bring out a perfect setup for twinkling night.


This dissertation aims to bring out a comfortable mood of lighting in the night. This will be simultaneously beneficial for the 3d animation project done for graduation.


Analysis of different situations of lights at night in exterior location..

Critical evaluation of lighting in a Computer Generated environment ?

Analyze and produce effective lighting setup of an exterior street in night.

Statement of the problem

Lighting the exterior at Night

Significance of thy study

The study is based on lighting which helps in the lighting of the graduation project. It increases the appeal of the scenes by desired lighting..

Research questions

Research will be conducted on the following subjects

The variation of mood with change in the lighting?

Comparison of lighting in day and night ?

Impact of lights in an exterior scene?

How do they enhance the appeal of an environment?

How it helps the project to become better?

C| Review of Literature

The content displayed digitally or in books regarding lighting system usually quotes the old formulas of 3 point lighting, making the scene lit in low-keyed reduction of brightness. But few 3d Artists have surpassed the old repetitive rules and have tried new ways of adorning the scene with lights. I would like to coin Jeremy Birn's name at the first in this row .His works display an array of creative glory brought to the 3d environment with proper technical understanding and thinking tool that lies in the brain.

Train in Sewer

Birn, Jeremy (2004) in Digital Lighting & Rendering

The key to this scene was the lighting. He was trying for a "bulb shot" look. An extremely lengthy exposure that could make the color of dim lights appears richer, and could overexpose around any ordinary light source. Even then there are basically three typical light sources (a key light from the bulb, the red signal light from back of the camera. The third one is a blue fill light further down the track. He also used a variety of little fill lights near surfaces such as brightly lit alcove walls to simulate reflected light. The main purpose for these extra lights was to soften the falloff of coming from the main points. The geometry of objects like the ties on the tracks is beveled. It is almost impossible to do a really good job of lighting a scene if the edges of things can't catch a highlight.

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Subway tunnel is

one of many sets that he created as environments for

his project at The Art Center College of Design.

Lanier, Lee (2009) Advanced Maya Texturing and Lighting

It includes lighting concepts that offers detailed explanations of Maya's numerous vieled features so amazing results can be achieved quickly. Even unparalleled exploration of Maya's hyper shade is elaborated. Can learn create connections between shaders, texture maps, lights, cameras, and geometry

Gallardo, Arnold (2002) in 3D Lighting: History, Concepts, and Techniques

The concept of three point lighting, containing the main key light, another fill light and the third rim light. itchy animations provide the descriptive information on the basis of how light can be used in mood creation.

Brooker, Darren Focal Press, 2003

Essential CG Lighting Techniques especially after hearing one reviewer compare it to "Digital Lighting & Rendering". Instead, I found coverage of theory which seemed to This book is really good. I was looking for the kind of tips included in it. It is a bit old but good to learn from that we think already know about lighting.

Learn both the art and the science of lighting CG environments

Mohd Fairuz Shiratuddin, Kevin Kitchens, Desmond FletcherVirtual Architecture: Modeling and Creation of Real-Time 3D Interactive Worlds 2008

This book was written to support the development of art assets and virtual environments for Serious Games and Architectural Visualization. It caters to those who do not have any experience with 3D modeling, texturing and scene building in a real-time virtual environment. This book focuses on utilizing Autodesk's 3DS Max as the 3D modeling tool, Allegorithmic's MapZone as the texture creation tool, and Terathon's C4 Engineas the real-time virtual environment scene builder. Many of the chapters in thisbook were written independent of one another to allow students to explore, and use their creativity and imagination in creating theirown virtual environments.

Inspired 3D lighting and compositing

David A. Parrish

6 Reviews

Premier Press, 2002

the technical and artistic skills necessary to create believable visual effects

This exploration of the day-to-day workings of veterans in the visual effects industry makes Inspired 3D Lighting and Compositing a great tool for anyone looking to break into the field.

Itchy animations

D|Research Methodology

This chapter discusses the Qualitative approach made for this research document.

This dissertation is based on the knowledge gathered through papers, books and magazines on the relevant subject. Other part was its implementation by experimentation of the required theory in order to evaluate the working of virtual light set up in the virtual environment.

Existing Information

Existing information was gathered from the internet websites that range from educational to forums and networking sites mostly and some books. The search results were evaluated. I took the relevant information from them.

There is not much study material available in mainly night lighting. However the few that I used were very useful and discussed the field somewhat.

Through Experimentation

Experimentation included playing logically with the light set up of the 3d environment used in the graduation project, The Bang.

While experimentation the stages were divided into three stages. First one was in which testing was done with the light set up of the 3d environment.

E| Lighting in general

Light qualities

The language of light

Ambient luminescence, focal glow, play of bril­liants. These are the principles of qualitative lighting design. In the 1950s, lighting designer Richard Kelly borrowed ideas from perception psychology and stage lighting and combined them into a uniform concept for lighting design, thereby distinguishing the qualities of light into three basic functions: ambient luminescence, focal glow and play of brilliants.

Ambient luminescence concerns the gen-eral lighting of the surroundings. In qualitative lighting design, ambient luminescence is not the final goal but simply serves to provide a background canvas for a more extensive light­ing design. Ambient luminescence ensures that the basic requirement for physical orientation within a space is met.

Focal glow goes beyond the general ambi­ent lighting: directed light accentuates eye-catching features and creates hierarchies of perception. Important areas are emphasised while unimportant ones fade into the back­ground. Accent lighting can be used for the presentation of goods and aesthetic objects.

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Play of brilliants: decorative lighting effects with colours, patterns and dynamic changes create atmosphere and magic. Possible light sources for this include lighting tools for light­ing effects (e.g. projectors) or even decorative luminaires (chandeliers), or simply a candle. It is only when ambient luminescence, focal glow and the play of brilliants are combined that a lighting concept is complete.

There are less guidelines and regulations for the lighting of restaurants or hotels than for office or factory workplaces. But there are always themes and concepts that can be com­municated to the guests and customers using spatial and lighting design. To ensure a success­ful lighting concept for gastronomic settings it is vital to think in the language of light.

Types of moods

Lighting concepts are largely based on creating moods and atmospheres. As a tool for the visualisation and communication of moods, mood boards play a key role in the creative process. They are used to capture impressions, describe emotions, form chains of association and stimulate the imagination.

A free collage on a pin board, for example, is based on a central theme in the form of a picture or a concept and made up of pictures, sketches, materials, colours and buzzwords. To create different moods as special effects in a room, the motifs can be systematically grouped in themes to concentrate on interest­ing contrasts. In this way, the lighting designer can underline the conceptual statement with a mood board for each different light scene.

While the mood board initially focuses on the straightforward collection of pictures and the free flow of thoughts to collate themes, the process of evaluation and concentration is more analytical. The pictures provide information on the required light properties and effects: the advantage of diffuse light as opposed to transitions full of contrast and shadows, the tendency toward specific light colours with pastel or saturated tones, and ideas for specific light effects. Silhouettes on photos, for exam­ple, can be produced in the lighting design through projected lighting effects.

Light moods depicted and outlined as light scenes using mood boards can be integrated seamlessly into the sequence and spatial organ­isation of the story board.

The variation of mood with change in the lighting

Lighting plays a major role in depicting the emotion of the image, or real life. Someone sitting in the dark, alone is said to be a symbol of loneliness. Bright colourful and flickering lights at a celebration quotes for a gay and happy atmosphere.

It is a whole wide region to explore ,because the shade of lighting plays a key area in resulting in a good, bad, spooky or any other kind of naturally occurring light setups.

F| Comparison of lighting in day and night

Advantage of night light

G| Impact of lights in an exterior scene

The back drops

The Environment

1) Natural light

The first step is to choose a background image of a sky.

For this tutorial I have used the image bellow:

Now put the desired image into the environment slot (3d max's environment slot, not in vray's).

In the vray settings, check global illumination, select lightcache for secondary bounces, irradiance map for primary (you could also use brute force, but it will take longer to render).

In the global switches tab, make sure that "default lights" is unchecked.

Last but not least go to the vray environment slot and check "GI environment (skylight) override. In the slot right beside put a gradient (dark blue in the upper slot, a lighter blue in the middle and a pale orange or purple in the lower position)

If you hit render, you will end up with something like this:

2) Adding artificial lights inside

As you notice, it is starting too look like a night rendering, but at the moment it lacks artificial lighting so the spaces look deserted.

We will begin by adding mental ray lights inside the house, to simulate artificial lighting.

The important thing to keep in mind at this point is that artificial light can look different from one case to another depending on many factors (intensity, color temperature, size of the space that is actually lit, etc.) so you shouldn't put a light source and instance it all over the place. Be creative and play with parameters like intensity multipliers, filter colors, etc.

For this scene I have used spherical mental ray lights with intensity multipliers varying from 1 to 2, filter colors with orange, yellow and blue tints and different a radius for each one.

If you hit another render you will end up with something very similar to the following.

3) Simulating artificial light "spreading" from inside

Now we have light inside the house, but the light doesn't seem to "come out" enough. Therefore we will place mental ray planar lights just in front of the windows, pointing towards the exterior, like in the following image.

Hit another test rendering and you should have something similar to the render bellow:

They enhance the appeal of environment

Adding artificial lights in the courtyard

We are getting closer. What doesn't look right at the moment is the fact that the courtyard is too dark. Depending on your scene, you may have exterior lighting fixtures (like the lighting posts that I have in this scene), or even exterior spotlights that illuminate the building.  If you don't have specific instructions for these, you could place lights somewhere behind the camera, so that you give the impression that the space is receiving illumination from neighboring sources (street lights, car lights, or even other buildings).

In this particular scene, adding lights to the lighting small garden lighting posts should be enough.

First I have assigned them a mental raylight material with a gradient map; than I have placed mental ray spherical lights over each one. For each mental ray light in the courtyard I have excluded the lighting post bellow it. This is kind of a fake, but in the end it looks right, and that's all that matters. Hitting a test render at this stage you should obtain something like this:

Photoshop touches

a) Add a subtle glow effect to the visible artificial light sources (in this case, the small lighting posts). You can do this using the diffuse glow filter.

b) In a new layer, add a linear gradient from bottom to somewhere at the middle from orange to transparent. Put the layer on "color" and play with the transparency until you like the result. If you are feeling creative, you can also try some subtle brush strokes, with different tints of red, yellow or orange to create diversity.

After having done all of the above, here is the final image.

If you think that I have missed something, feel free to post a comment and let me know.

H| Its help in the project to become better

Problems Encountered

Night photography has the ability to take a scene and cast it in an unusual light-- much like the "golden hour" surrounding sunrise and sunset can add an element of mood and uniqueness to a sunlit scene.  Just as how sports and landscape photography push the camera's limits for shutter speed and aperture, respectively, night photography often demands technical extremes in both (see below).

Due to lack of familiarity and since night photos are often highly technical, many photographers simply put their camera away and "call it a day" after sunset.  This section aims to familiarize the photographer with obstacles they might encounter at night, and discusses how to surmount many.


Night photography is subject to the same set of constraints as daylight photography-- namely aperture, shutter speed and light sensitivity-- although these are all often pushed to their extremes.  For this reason, the abundance and diversity of night photography has been closely tied to the advance of photographic technology.  Early film photographers shied away from capturing night scenes because these require prohibitively long exposures to maintain adequate depth of field, or produced unacceptable amounts of image noise.  Furthermore, a problem with film called "reciprocity failure" means that progressively more light has to reach the film as the exposure time increases-- leading to diminishing returns compared to shorter exposures.  Finally, even if a proper exposure had been achieved, the photographer would then have to wait for the film to be developed to assess whether it had been captured to their liking-- a degree of uncertainly which is often prohibitive after one has stayed up late and spent minutes to hours exposing each photo.


Fortunately, times have changed since the early days of night photography.  Modern digital cameras are no longer limited by reciprocity failure and provide instant feedback-- greatly increasing the enjoyment and lowering the risk of investing the time to take photographs at odd hours. 

Even with all these advances, digital night photography is still not without its technical limitations.  Photos are unavoidably limited by the trade-off between depth of field, exposure time and image noise.  The diagram below illustrates all available combinations of these for a typical night photo under a full moon, with constant exposure:

Note the trade-off incurred by moving in the direction of any of the four scenarios above.  Most static nightscape photos have to choose between scenarios 2, 3 and 4.   Each scenario often has a technique which can minimize the trade-off; these include image averaging, stacking and multiple focal planes (to be added).  Also note how even the minimum possible exposure time above is one second-- making a sturdy camera tripod essential for any photos at night.

The diagram does not consider additional constraints: decreased resolution due to diffraction and increased susceptibility to fixed pattern noise with longer exposures.  Fixed pattern noise is the only disadvantage to progressively longer exposures in digital photography (other than also possibly being impractical), much like the trade-off of reciprocity failure in film.  Furthermore, moon movement and star trails (see below) can both limit the maximum exposure time.


Just as how daylight photographers pay attention to the position and angle of the sun, night photographers should also pay careful attention to the moon.  A low-laying moon can create long shadows on cross-lit objects, whereas an overhead moon creates harsher, downward shadows.

An additional variable is that the moon can have varying degrees of intensity, depending where it is during its 29.5 day cycle of waxing and waning.  A full moon can be a savior for reducing the required exposure time and allowing for extended depth of field, while a moonless night greatly increases star visibility.  Furthermore, the intensity of the moon can be chosen at a time which provides the ideal balance between artificial light (streetlamps) and moonlight.

Gauging exposure times during a full moon can be tricky; use f/2.0 and 30 seconds at ISO100 as a starting point(if subject is diffuse and directly lit), then adjust towards scenarios 1-4 accordingly if OK.

Another factor rarely noticed during daylight is movement of the light source (sun or moon).  The long exposure time required for moonlight photography often means that the moon may have moved significantly over the course of the exposure.  Moon movement softens harsh shadows, however too much movement can create seemingly flat light.


Crop of Tree Shadows on Path:

Choose Exposure Time:

Photograph Under a Full Moon

1 minute

4 minutes

Note how the 1 minute exposure above clearly shows high contrast and shadows from even the smaller branches, whereas the 4 minute exposure is at lower contrast and only shows the larger branches.  The choice of exposure time can also vary by much more than a factor of four-- greatly exaggerating the above effect.

Shots which include the moon in the frame are also susceptible to moon movement.  A rule of thumb is that the moon appears to move its own diameter roughly every 2 minutes.  As a result, it can quickly appear elongated if this exposure time is approached.


Tools Required

Desired Results

J| Conclusion

Rendering an exterior at night can be very tricky. The best approach in my opinion is to take it systematically by starting with natural light, and adding artificial lights one by one during the process. Otherwise, you may find yourself lost not knowing where you did something wrong.

I can not stress enough how important is to have a few examples of professional architectural photography at hand and look at them at every stage of the process.

Here are some general guidelines that I always keep in mind when I'm doing a night rendering:

1) Even at night time the skylight still casts a subtle shadow.

2) Never make the sky 100% black; it should have either a blue or a purple tint.

3) If there are no artificial lights on the ground, the sky will always be brighter and the ground would "borrow" a bluish or purple tint from the sky

4) The lighting is a mixture of dark purple/bluish tints at the upper part and orange/yellow on the ground and on the building(s). That is because the natural light blends with artificial light sources placed on the ground.

5) The colors are more saturated in a night rendering that in a daytime one.

6) Artificial light sources have a subtle glow around them.

7) If you have "moving objects" in your scene, don't be afraid to use motion blur. If you know a bit about photography, you are aware that at night time photographers use high exposure times when they target architectural subjects; this causes all moving things around (cars, people, etc) to appear with motion blur.