The truth is that I’m not very good at lighting, I usually leave it to the last minute and cobble something together at the end or in post. However getting the lighting right is going to really make this animation something special, getting wrong makes the whole thing feel flat and insignificant. No pressure.
There are a couple of things that are going to be important to get right for the feeling of the film such as the rim lighting on the characters and the trees. This is going to make the characters pop in the darkness, given clean silhouettes and this other worldly aesthetic. The other aspect that is going to conflict with this are the shadows from the trees that will leave cross hatched speckles shade throughout the scene, this helps to keep the scene shrouded in mystery. Connecting the two ideas will make the characters form and movement easy to make out and follow for the audience but the complimentary shadows will keep the full identity and details hidden from view. This should hopefully create an atmosphere in which intrigues the audience, giving them a glimpses of what they want to know through the darkness but never illuminating the entire picture.
In order to shorten render times down and finish the film on deadline it’s important to separate different planes of the shots and pre render still backgrounds where possible. Separating planes out however will also interfere with lighting information as each separate plane will need their own setup and won’t be able to cast or refract light into other areas. Bounced light has a much bigger impression than one might imagine, take these colour studies I did of some of Goro Fujitas’ work for example.
As you can see the colour of droid is different in every image, despite it being the same original colour (note the small thumbnail image in the top left). Not only does it reflect the ambient light of the scene, giving the appearance of an altered hue, it also reflects bounced light from the ground. This effect can be mimicked through use of multiple lights and linking them specifically to each object.
Another trick that I was hoping to use would be to parent a light group to the character themselves, meaning I have much greater control of the rim lighting, complimentary lights and cast shadows. However, since these lights would be closer to the character than the cast shadows from trees, the hidden effect the trees create through scattering light will be lost. I could potentially circumvent this issue through the use of render layers, but this requires testing first to ensure that the desired effect can still be achieved. It’s a tradeoff between slightly longer rendering times and a little more control in post. More control is always wanted, it gives more opportunities to make larger changes and adaptation in tone and atmosphere.
So Below are some of the recent developments for the lighting. This is before lightlinking specific objects to specific lights. It serves as a base for the scene to which can be worked upon further on a per object basis. This means I can adapt the composition and highlight important aspects and objects within each shot whilst still beginning with a base form that is pleasing and cohesive. It never ceases to amaze me just how much the shot can change in atmosphere and emotion with just some simple lighting tweaks.
These are just some examples of the lighting elements. The challenge comes from balancing all these elements, separating them into render layers or isolating them completely to comp back together afterwards. Below you’ll see one of the preliminary tests for the final comp, It’s still missing the depth path as their is some technical issues currently with the renderer, but hopefully I’ll be able to trouble shoot this and create the final element that should connect all the elements together – the depth pass. But for now let’s just focus on the lighting!