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Lighting is one of the main cornerstones in creating a successful 3D project. Although you can easily create and position lights within a scene, an understanding of light theory will help you make aesthetically solid choices. Any one of your favorite moviesanimated or otherwisehave great examples of solid lighting techniques. In UCBUGG, we will primarily be dealing with 3-point lighting, but given the opportunity to look up alternative lighting methods should you be interested in pursuing different stylistic choices in your work in the future. So what are we going to be going over today? Today well be talking about the different types of 3D lights available in Maya and practical situations in which they would be ideal to use, as well as explore some of the specialized attributes of each light. We will also go over how to use 3-point lighting to create a beautifully lit scene, as well as briefly touch over some alternate lighting methods you can look up for reference. Finally, at the end of class, we will come back to talking about adding depth and mood to your scene by using volumetric light rays, shadow rays, light fog, and light glow. Sounds busy? Lets begin.


Lets start this tutorial by creating a light source. To create a light source, go to: Create Lights.

Now, you can see here that we have six options in terms of light types. Well talk about them in more detail in a bit, but they are the following: ambient light, directional light, point light, spot light, area light, and volume light. Its important to point out that if there are no lights present in the scene, Maya creates a default lighting once scheme. Once youve created a light however, Maya will override the default. For now, lets use a spot light. I encourage you to open up Maya and try to rotate/translate the directional light; you can either try to make look exactly as it does in the picture below, or you can fiddle around with where you want to place your light source. Youll soon see that there is some inherent intuition in using the directional light. Youll soon see that that same intuition will also be applicable with other Maya Light types.


Before we continue talking about the other types of lights available, we should talk about attributes that are common to all Maya Lights. Lets click on the attribute tab to see them. COLOR: sets the color of the light. You want to be aware of what the light source when you are choosing the color of your light. OPTIONAL: You can emulate the shadow of an object that does not exist by mapping a black-and-white texture to the Color attribute. This a trick that only works with spot lights, since the texture becomes pinched due to the omnidirectional nature of area, point and ambient lights. The texture is rendered differently when using directional lights as well).

OPTIONAL: You can also animate the Color attribute by left-clicking the color swatch, choosing a new Color Chooser window, right-clicking the color swatch or the word Color in the Attribute Editor tab, and choosing Set Key from the shortcut menu. INTENSITY: controls the brightness of the light, or how much energy its putting out. Obviously, an Intensity of 0 value means that the light if off; however, theres no upper bound in terms of how high the intensity of your light source can be. Interestingly enough, setting your intensity to negative values will suck light away from whatever surface is exposed to your light source. You can also apply a texture to this attribute to vary the intensity across the throw of light. The texture serves as a multiplier; if the intensity is set to 2 and the texture is 50% gray, the intensity of light will only be 1 when it strikes a surface.

DECAY RATE: by default, ambient, direction, point, and spot lights never decay; that is, the intensity appears the same regardless of where the object is in the world space in relation to the light source. We can, however, force point and spot lights to lose intensity by changing the Decay Rate attribute to Linear, Quadratic, or Cubic. The decay rate options are ordered from mildest to harshest.

NOTE: Area light naturally decays over distance; however, they do carry the Decay Rate attribute in case you want to speed up the process. Directional and ambient lights have no natural decay, but you can create decay through a custom shading network (not necessary for this class). Volume lights, on the other hand, are constrained by their sphere, box, cylinder, or cone light shape.


DIRECTIONAL LIGHTS: directional lights provide light direction without light position; they are infinite and constant in one direction. A good way to think about this type is to associate it with the sun; the sun is a light source is so far away that the light that comes from it will affect everything in the scene. The position and scale of the directional light do not affect the lights intensity. An example of the use of directional lights is in emulating sunlight and moonlight in a scene; therefore, directional lights are ideal for set pieces that are large in world space.

POINT LIGHTS: point lights represent a light source at a fixed position; another way to look at this is that a point light will shoot light in all directions from an infinitely small point. Unlike an ambient light source (which we discuss after this), a point light source affects only all objects within its range. Point lights are generally useful to emulate light that is omnidirectional and physically represented by a spherical shape; incandescent light bulbs, jack-o-lanterns, and LEDS are a perfect candidate for point lights.

AMBIENTS LIGHTS: ambient lights create a soft light emanating from all directions. In this sense, it is similar to point lights. However, unlike point lights, an ambient light is a fixed-intensity and fixed-color light source that affects all objects in the scene equally. Ambient lights are ideal for being used a fill lights. We will cover fill lights in more depth next week, but a good way of thinking about fill lights is that they are the light rays that have already bounced off several surfaces and whose photons (think of them as particles that make up light) have equally been scattered throughout the scene. We recommend that you use ambient lights sparingly, since youd want finer control over your lighting and too ambient light can wash out your scene. Some additional important light attributes: AMBIENT SHADE: the ambient shade attribute controls the balance between omnidirectional and directional light rays for the light. If the ambient shade is 0, the light is read with equal intensity at all points in the scene. If the ambient shade is 1, the light emanates from the current position of the light source, identical to a point light.

SPOT LIGHTS: Maya spot lights are named after the spotlights used used on stage and in motion pictures. As opposed to their real counterparts, the light rays Maya are born at an infinitely small point in space. The light rays diverge and quickly follow the direction and shape of the light cone shape. Spot lights are ideal for light sources that are naturally divergent rays, in close and proximity with their subject. Flashlights, car headlights, and table lamps with shades are examples of light sources that would benefit from the use of spot lights. Some additional light attributes: CONE ANGLE: This attribute will allow you to adjust how wide or small the diameter of your circular will be. (OPTIONAL: Try animating the cone angle to grow larger and smaller by setting its keys in the attribute tab) PENUMBRA ANGLE: The Penumbra represents the transition from full light intensity to no light intensity; it represents the area around the cone where light is emitted at a decreasing intensity. DROPOFF: Setting above 0 (small tweaks make a big difference here!) will cause the light intensity to decrease the further away from the very center of the spot light's target

AREA LIGHTS: Area lights are physically based lights that emit light across a surface; they are essentially a 2D rectangular light source. They can be scaled in either x- and/or y-directions, and have a center pointer that indicates where the light is flowing. Area lights can be used to recreate florescent lighting fixtures, strips of neon light, backlit signs, among other things. Another feature of area lights is that it does not produce parallel light rays. Instead, area lights come from a series of rays that emanate from the light source at sampled positions along the height and width. In essence, area lights function as an array of point lights. VOLUME LIGHTS: A volume light has a defined shape: a box, sphere, cylinder, or cone. This shape dictates the extent of the light sources light throw; what this means is that all light emitted by a volume light only affects objects inside its shape (which is its volume). This allows select control over the light in an area and prevents light spill. Some additional light attributes: LIGHT SHAPE: changes the shape of your volume constraint VOLUME LIGHT DIR: by default, a volume light shoots light rays from the center of its shape in an outward direction; in this way, a volume light is similar to a point light. You can force the light rays to shoot inward from the boundary to the shape by changing the Volume Light Dir attribute to Inward. Additionally, if Volume Light Dir is set to Down Axis, the light rays will be generated in parallel and will all follow the light shapes down axis (which, by default, point to -Y on the Y-axis).