Lighting timelapse

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First a cool video. This is a shot from our Senior thesis film which I lit in a couple hours. It’s changed a bit since the end result of this video, but I think the progression is cool all the same. Plus, I don’t think I’ve ever come across something like this before, so hopefully someone else will find it useful.

Now a long (though hopefully interesting) thought.

I’ve always been amazed at how, in the midst of the vast expanse of online help many of us look to for information on CG related topics, the topic of lighting for animation and CG/live action has almost always been silently passed over. Forgotten among hundreds of face modeling tutorials, animation tip sheets (“How to make a walk-cycle in 10 easy steps”), and After Effects compositing videos lies this unwanted subject (to which the continuous output of poorly-lit animated shorts are a testament, I might add). Now, I realize that there are plenty of resources that describe what different lights in a 3D package do, and plenty more that delve into basic lighting theory (re: the 3-point light setup). But I have yet to find a complete, dedicated, well-informed online resource for the aspiring lighting artist, some place that not only provides quality information and up-to-date lighting related news, but links to the few GOOD resources that actually are around. Richard Yot has one of the few good web resources that I’ve found, though by no means a hub as such. Also there are some amazing books out there (many interestingly enough having to do with lighting for film…go figure); John Alton’s “Painting With Light” is a great example, as is a section of “The Visual Story” by Bruce Block (incidentally an amazing book related to visual storytelling in general). There’s also a great chapter on storytelling through color and light by former Pixar Director of Photography Sharon Calahan in Advanced RenderMan: Creating CGI for Motion Pictures.

However, I think anyone who’s done any amount of looking will have come to the same conclusions as me about online lighting resources. Granted, things have been getting better in the last few years, and more useful information is being put out there.

In my opinion, ultimately the lack of information (at least online) is because many people don’t realize how closely lighting is connected with traditional art, specifically painting and photography. It’s much easier to tell someone “push this vertex there” or “pull that curve here” in a tutorial than to try and explain artistic principles of light, value, color and composition. That’s why many good lighting artists are also good painters and photographers. In the end learning this stuff well takes time, observation, practice, and more time—often time away from the computer, which is probably one reason I enjoy it so much.

Of course, the same could be rightly said about all other areas of CG; but again, other areas are less abstract and more easy to throw up a quick “how-to” guide for, especially the more technical topics. I’d say texturing and texture painting are the most similar to lighting in terms of online presence, though not nearly as drastically lacking.

I suppose my point in this little rant is that I’d really love to one day start such an online resource, specifically for people interested in getting into lighting. Some place that says straight up front you can’t just be great at following tutorials or learning software; that you have to be able to learn to be an artist. Someplace that provides links to online resources and keeps up with new material, news, etc. Possibly even get some lighting/painting groups started. Who knows. The above video (waaaay up there at the top, remember?) is a foretaste of sorts for the type of material I could have. Of course, hopefully I’d be a much better artist then, as well.

Jesse

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