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Easy and Effective Night Scenes

Posted: Mon Aug 01, 2016 3:30 pm
by Nathanomir
Effective night scenes are easy in Reality, especially if we employ a simple theatre technique.

Darken The Set!

Back in my college theatre days, we created the illusion of a night scene, both indoors and outdoors, by employing dark sets. For outdoors, we used either black or midnight blue flats. Indoors, we just painted the set using dark hues. Then, we could illuminate the actors with full light, permitting them to be seen by the audience, while still creating the illusion of darkness.

We also put blue gels on the lights for outdoor scenes, a trick easily done in Reality with the black box temperature set between 7000 and 9900, or using blue from the RGB picker.

Darkening our sets in Reality is a piece of cake. By using the texture combine option on the diffuse map, we can make those suckers as dark as we wish. Then, illuminate the scene normally. You want a black cave yet still want to see your brawny barbarian dude fighting the slime monster? You got it!

Below, I will show you four case studies: outdoors, indoors, indoor candlelight, and city by night. I'll show you the techniques I used to achieve each one, all based on the concept of darkening the set.

Note: For anything involving the use of a flame, which many night scenes do, refer to Sigstan's Light Strategies tutorial. This tutorial, and these scenes, would not have been possible without his work.

Re: Easy and Effective Night Scenes

Posted: Mon Aug 01, 2016 3:35 pm
by Nathanomir


Sorry about the black bars, but the goddess is nude. Also, sorry about the quality. It's a test, but you can see the technique clearly.

For this scene, I wanted three mercenaries raiding a ruined temple at night. You know, the kind of temple that probably doesn't have a roof anymore. The bulk of the set is built using Stonemason's Modular Ruins kit. In the background, I used two pieces from an old temple set purchased in 2008 that is NLA, but has all the earmarks of being one of Stonemason's earlier efforts.

The diffuse maps for Modular Ruins are already a nice medium gray. Using texture combine, I darkened those pieces to 160, 160, 160. The background pieces are much closer to white, so I darkened them to 100, 100, 100. For this, and the other case studies, specular, glossy, topcoat, and bump/normal were treated as standard.

And that is all I did.

The neat thing about this is I found out that the lights don't need to be as bright as anticipated. Illumination for this scene is one of Lee's IBL spotlights, a mesh light overhead for fill, point lights for the various flames, and one studio spot for godrays on the goddess statue. My camera was set at ISO 100, shutter speed 1/30, f-stop 8 (my standard settings, and used in all the cases). The IBL was set at a gain of 14, and temperature of 7500. The mesh light was set at gain of 150, and temp of 9000. The spot light is set at a gain of merely 3. The point lights are all set with gains between 7 and 14. Temp on all point lights was 3000.

A scene lit this dimly will take a long time to clear, so use Banditcameraman's technique of overexposing the render to speed things up. Or, you can use the technique I mention in the Indoors Candlelight section below. Or both.

Re: Easy and Effective Night Scenes

Posted: Mon Aug 01, 2016 3:37 pm
by Nathanomir


For this scene, I wanted the effect of a great hall illuminated by burners and probably a chandelier overhead. It didn't need to be too dark.
The set is Fantasy Tower Hallway by Imaginary House. As I didn't want the room to be fully dark, I darkened the set to 200, 200, 200.

Lights are one of Lee's IBL spots, set at a gain of 5, and a studio spotlight on the character (chosen for the barn door effect), at a gain of 50. Raw Art's Dragon Breath (Raw Energy Effects, on the sword) was set for a light emitter. I didn't have to set the gain too high on it because of the darkened room (the character's dark clothes helped, too). Burners are lit with the typical point lights, set at gains of 10, temp of 3000.

Re: Easy and Effective Night Scenes

Posted: Mon Aug 01, 2016 3:44 pm
by Nathanomir
Indoor Candlelight


Candlelight is a tricky subject. Paolo has stressed numerous times that the human eye can see a broader range of light than the camera, and we need to remember that for candlelight. My wife and I often burn numerous candles. We can read by them. Yet, if I took a photograph of our living room on such a night, all we'd see are little points of yellow on black. So, how do we pull off a room lit by candlelight? Like this.

First, we employ a trick of Hollywood. We don't light the room solely with candles. We use the usual big lights, just not as bright. We're trying to achieve an illusion with this.

Second, really darken the set!

For this scene, I started with Faveral's Opus Magnum set. I retextured the walls and floor with Marieah's Pimp My Prop (a highly recommended resource). That helped tremendously. The walls in Opus Magnum are close to pale gray. Using a rock wall from Pimp My Prop took me closer to dark gray to begin with. Then, I darkened the room to a ghastly 100, 100, 100. The tables, shelves, and all the other props were darkened to 200, 200, 200.

That took some time, so here I will issue a suggestion: on any prop heavy scene like this, build it up in sections. Darken each section before building up the next. That cuts down on the tedium. In this case, I made each table and the shelves with all their props as separate scenes, textured them there, then merged them into the final set.

Obviously, this scene is light heavy. The moon is a light source, gain of .2 (it just needs to be seen). The candle flames all have point lights inside (there were just too many to convert the flames to lights without overtaxing Luxrender; if you use one or two candles, changing the flames to light emitter is the best route). Those were all set at a gain of 1, except for the candle closest to Aura, which was set at 4. Temp for all was 3000. For the main lights, again, I used one the IBL spots set at a gain of 45 and temp of 7000, and a mesh light for fill, set at gain of 250 and temp of 8500. The room lights are too bright for a candlelit scene, but they permit the render to cook at a reasonable speed. And I'm not quite done. There is one more technique.

Just before the render finished, in Luxrender, I lowered the gain of the IBL to .25 and the gain of the mesh light to .50. Mathematically, that reduced the gains to 12 on the IBL and 125 on the mesh light. That still allowed the scene to be lit, but increased the illusion of illumination solely by candlelight. It also allowed the candle glow to be seen on Aura's body.

Re: Easy and Effective Night Scenes

Posted: Mon Aug 01, 2016 3:46 pm
by Nathanomir
Cities by Night


This is an older scene, rendered in the Lux 1.3 days. I no longer have the saved scene file, so I have to guess at the settings. I included it to show what you can do with cities.

It was a light nightmare! Every window and every sign is a separate light (thankfully, we can group lights). It worked because the set was darkened.

The set is built from various Stonemason kits. I'm pretty sure they were at least 140, 140, 140 on all the buildings. I remember the main lights were a mapless IBL and one mesh right down the center of the street, set at temps somewhere in the 8000 range. I ran them at "full power," to make the characters visible. The overall look is in keeping with most downtown streets at night (at least in Daytona Beach). You can see how the ambient lights, especially the neon, just snap. The characters stand out with clarity. Trying to control the overall light using a non-darkened set would have been impossible. It's pure illusion, but it works.

Re: Easy and Effective Night Scenes

Posted: Mon Aug 01, 2016 3:46 pm
by Nathanomir
These case studies should give you an idea of where to go and what to do to achieve an effective night scene, regardless of indoor, outdoor, candlelight, or city by night. Darkening the set would be wonderful in a science fiction scene for a dimly lit corridor on a ship. Dragon destroying a town at night. Witches dancing around a fire pit. Couple cuddled in front of a fireplace. Tryst in a back alley. Old warehouse in a post-apocalyptic world. Werewolf in your bedroom just as you shine the flashlight in his face. Pirate ship fight at night. Have fun with this.

Re: Easy and Effective Night Scenes

Posted: Tue Aug 02, 2016 12:15 pm
by banditcameraman
Wow! Thank you so much for sharing your techniques, Nathanomir :mrgreen: *worship* I am definitely going to make use of them :D

And on another note, your growth is phenomenal: the second in particular looks like something by Boris Vallejo, even if she is overdressed by his standards ;) :lol: Bravo!

Re: Easy and Effective Night Scenes

Posted: Tue Aug 02, 2016 2:13 pm
by Nathanomir
Thank you so much, BCMan! Praise indeed. Boris is one of my heroes. And yes, if she were dressed to Boris' standards, Paolo would have kittens! :D

Re: Easy and Effective Night Scenes

Posted: Thu Aug 04, 2016 10:04 am
by Gederix
Good stuff, Ive been playing with 'dark' scenes for a while since my initial draw into doing 3d was to make dnd type scenes, caves, dungeons, underdark, etc, and once I switched to reality I had to work it out all over again, eventually I found going heavy handed on the snoots works well, along with scaling down the meshes, so basically a spotlight system with a spot for each focal point of the scene and then peripheral lighting to supplement/complement if needed, but often there is sufficient spill light for that to be superfluous. And of tricks you mention above in regards to texture combining the scene surfaces to tint them down. And fiddling with the lights vs exposure settings. And film settings at the end, I know some people dont like to use them but I find them handy.

Re: Easy and Effective Night Scenes

Posted: Thu Aug 04, 2016 12:39 pm
by fuzzy70
One of the reasons why I created my SingleIBL sets is because they have little to no falloff compared to meshlights (even with IES profiles they still have a falloff). I needed a light source with the benefits of a HDR but without all the extra info (i.e sky/clouds etc), hence I made the sets.

I have to say that I make custom HDR's for a lot of my renders as I can paint with light in realtime but the set i created for Reality I had to improvise & give flexibility for those who don't have the same tools/workflow as me.