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Lightwave 3d or Maya to Previsualize Lighting Setups


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#1 Stephen Whitehead

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Posted 20 May 2007 - 03:43 PM

I was wondering if using 3d modeling software such as Maya or Lightwave would be useful to previsualise lighting setups. I am somewhat familiar with the packages. I know that most lighting effects can be created within these packages, but to what extent could the lighting functions of these software packages be translated into practical lighting setups. I.E. to what extent do the lights in the program mimic actual lighting fixtures?

Anythoughts would be appreciated.

Cheers,

Steve Whitehead
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#2 Nick Mulder

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Posted 20 May 2007 - 03:55 PM

Sorry I'm no expert but I do know there are packages like WYSIWYG that are made specifically for this application. I reckon have a sniff or two around the site ...
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#3 Xavier Plaza

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Posted 20 May 2007 - 04:24 PM

Hi Stephen:


I think using 3D pre visualization help you to think and imagine what you want, obviously depends the project what you do..., you can illuminated, choose lights, and put the camera what ever you want, test movements, test lights, sometimes test textures, colors and make test (previews) with actors and lights. Remember is a pre visualizations perhaps when you arrive the set somethings changes...
I use Cinema 4D to make my pre visualizations, i not to handle all the functions of the program but i'm ok with basics concepts...
Storyboards always is a good tool for everyone, any tool that you have and you can use it helped you to obtain your goal.

Hope helps

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#4 Stephen Whitehead

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Posted 20 May 2007 - 05:01 PM

Sorry I'm no expert but I do know there are packages like WYSIWYG that are made specifically for this application. I reckon have a sniff or two around the site ...


WYSIWYG seems to be more of a program designed for creating live shows rather than cinematic lighting. The one good feature that it seems to have is the fact that it mimics several existing fixtures and their throw patterns. I worry though that perhaps cinematic lighting is more nuanced than WYSIWYG can deliver. I wonder if MAYA and lightwave have plug-ins for movie light fixtures. But the notion of using these 3d packages to storyboard and pre-visualize camera moves is great. I know these packages can mimic various lens lengths in 35mm, including their various depth of field properties. If you could combine that with lighting, all you would have to do is plot in the dimensions of the set, then have an archive of 3d models, and you could predetermine any camera setup fairly closely. I think that would be a wonderful tool.

Cheers,

Steve
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#5 edward read

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Posted 20 May 2007 - 07:57 PM

WYSIWYG seems to be more of a program designed for creating live shows rather than cinematic lighting. The one good feature that it seems to have is the fact that it mimics several existing fixtures and their throw patterns. I worry though that perhaps cinematic lighting is more nuanced than WYSIWYG can deliver. I wonder if MAYA and lightwave have plug-ins for movie light fixtures. But the notion of using these 3d packages to storyboard and pre-visualize camera moves is great. I know these packages can mimic various lens lengths in 35mm, including their various depth of field properties. If you could combine that with lighting, all you would have to do is plot in the dimensions of the set, then have an archive of 3d models, and you could predetermine any camera setup fairly closely. I think that would be a wonderful tool.

Cheers,

Steve



As a WYSIWYG user for several years I will confirm that its strongest asset is in the live event/concert/live/live to tape venue. It has a relatively simple cad program and has recently been upgraded to accept google sketchup files (which allows sketchups huge library of pre drawn things). I do single camera film and video and multicamera video and live event lighting: its a huge time saver, especially witht the control aspects (light boards and moving lights). However the program is slowly including more film gear. Kino Flos are in as are many of the Arri products. Mr. Whitehead is correct in his assumption that it lacks the lighting rendering finesse to show accurately (for a cinematographer) what the light will do to a human face. It does render though. For a gaffer it can be invaluable. The biggest drawback is in putting the 3d model in place. Its time consuming. I'm a theatre trained draftsman so i don't have much problem but it might be daunting for someone just learning. On Chappelle's Show I used it a number of times to produce plots for pre-rig crews; this was successful most of the time. Interestingly enough the biggest problems occured when I included 3d or isometric drawings in the plot packages - too much information I guess.

For a number of wysiwyg pre-visualizations and their corresponding live looks you can visit my website at www.readbroslighting.com, click on wysiwyg previsualizations. Also under the press heading is a project that was a 3 camera live to tape that I did extensive preshow rendering in working with the director. The closeup of the actress and the jailbars is about the best you're going to get in wysiwyg for lighting rendering in closeups.


Actually I think I can attach that image.

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#6 Igor Trajkovski

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Posted 20 May 2007 - 08:57 PM

I use a 3D package for previz or trying variuos lighting setups.

I must point out an important thing.
Doing previz with the lighting tools only,
does not complete the picture enough.

You can't see the various interactions
of all the surfaces (walls, ceilings, objects).

In other words, to see how would it look like,
in the phisical world you need to use some sort of
Global Illumination.

A room (box) with couple of objects inside and
lit with only one bulb (omni light) overhead,
in normal (non GI) render does not represent
how it (would) looks in physical reality.

The side of the objects facing the light
will be, well, lit, and the opposites in a
complete darkness.

In a real room, you see it ALL.
Light bounces from the say white walls,
providing adequate fill/ambient.

My point is that in reality translated,
the 3D previz setup may suprise you with some
light in areas you didnt planed to...

GI is time consuming,
so everyone should make their own judgement,
how accurate he wants to pre-viz/light the set.

I'll illustrate it with some samples tommorow.



Regards

Igor
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#7 Igor Trajkovski

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Posted 20 May 2007 - 09:15 PM

BTW, i wonder, do previz soft like
the above mentioned WYSIWYG,
take into account GI while rendering?

Regards

Igor
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#8 Stephen Whitehead

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Posted 20 May 2007 - 11:18 PM

BTW, i wonder, do previz soft like
the above mentioned WYSIWYG,
take into account GI while rendering?

Regards

Igor


I am not sure if WYSIWYG does, but I know that both Maya and Lightwave does. In fact you can plot in the amount of GI in footcandles in both those programs. I believe the issue you bring up about the general illumination from above not matching what it would look like in real life refers to the issue of light being cast by a specific fixture. For example a bare lightbulb has a specific throw to it, as does an 18k, or a 4-bank kino flo. Also what must be taken into consideration is the reflectence of various surfaces. Programs like MAYA can be programed to mimic just about any surface. The biggest issue I am concerned about is whether or not these programs can mimic these fixtures. Because if they can, they are sufficiently sophisticated enough to do very detailed previsualizations, much more so than WYSIWYG can deliver.
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#9 Jimmy Browning

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Posted 21 May 2007 - 03:56 AM

As a WYSIWYG user for several years I will confirm that its strongest asset is in the live event/concert/live/live to tape venue. It has a relatively simple cad program and has recently been upgraded to accept google sketchup files (which allows sketchups huge library of pre drawn things). I do single camera film and video and multicamera video and live event lighting: its a huge time saver, especially witht the control aspects (light boards and moving lights). However the program is slowly including more film gear. Kino Flos are in as are many of the Arri products. Mr. Whitehead is correct in his assumption that it lacks the lighting rendering finesse to show accurately (for a cinematographer) what the light will do to a human face. It does render though. For a gaffer it can be invaluable. The biggest drawback is in putting the 3d model in place. Its time consuming. I'm a theatre trained draftsman so i don't have much problem but it might be daunting for someone just learning. On Chappelle's Show I used it a number of times to produce plots for pre-rig crews; this was successful most of the time. Interestingly enough the biggest problems occured when I included 3d or isometric drawings in the plot packages - too much information I guess.

For a number of wysiwyg pre-visualizations and their corresponding live looks you can visit my website at www.readbroslighting.com, click on wysiwyg previsualizations. Also under the press heading is a project that was a 3 camera live to tape that I did extensive preshow rendering in working with the director. The closeup of the actress and the jailbars is about the best you're going to get in wysiwyg for lighting rendering in closeups.
Actually I think I can attach that image.



I think this is a very interesting idea, and if some software like this were to ever be released with filmmakers in mind, I'd probably fiddle around with it. I was very impressed with how many fixtures, gels, diffusion and accessories from the film world were included in this program. It's a shame it doesn't include a lot of grip equipment like frames, flags, and nets. A program to simulate film lighting with film equipment would be really helpful for people like me who are trying to learn more about lighting techniques.

Being able to experiment and try out all kinds of ideas and setups fairly quickly and without any cost (other than the software) could help speed up the learning process. After all, how often do students get access to whatever set they can imagine, and any equipment they can think of, to fool around and experiment with all day? On the other hand, there's no substitute for the real thing. There's too many variables and complexities. I'd love to have access to a studio with lots of lights and equipment and spend all day experimenting and trying out ideas.
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#10 edward read

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Posted 21 May 2007 - 06:49 AM

I think this is a very interesting idea, and if some software like this were to ever be released with filmmakers in mind, I'd probably fiddle around with it. I was very impressed with how many fixtures, gels, diffusion and accessories from the film world were included in this program. It's a shame it doesn't include a lot of grip equipment like frames, flags, and nets. A program to simulate film lighting with film equipment would be really helpful for people like me who are trying to learn more about lighting techniques.

Being able to experiment and try out all kinds of ideas and setups fairly quickly and without any cost (other than the software) could help speed up the learning process. After all, how often do students get access to whatever set they can imagine, and any equipment they can think of, to fool around and experiment with all day? On the other hand, there's no substitute for the real thing. There's too many variables and complexities. I'd love to have access to a studio with lots of lights and equipment and spend all day experimenting and trying out ideas.



To answer Igor's question: yes wysiwyg does global illumination. It can be turned on, off, or scalled from 0 - 100%. In addition in the rendering engine light bounce can be rendered off one, two or three serfaces. The more the bounces, the more realistic the rendering of the lit image.

There are stands in the program. I usually make my own c-stands as the set on these is so different from one to another. (I've made two - where I wanted to show the flag positions in a set up.) Flags are easy to make as by simply making a square surface of what ever size you want.

The two limitations that I have run across time and again. One is that soft shadows are not possible. This in itself makes it extremely limiting for the filmmaking world where soft light is often the desire. In additon light cannot be transmitted through a serface of varying transparence. Serfaces can be scaled in their solidity (for glass I do 90% transparence) but light will not be transmitted through a serface of any kind.

I should also point out that the program is a bit time consuming. The more its used the faster you get with it. Additionally the more library items that can be brought in quickly and knowing where an item is in order to have it available quickly will greatly hasten the process...but it isn't that quick. It think for large setups with cranes and things it could be very useful for layout and plotting but the fact that you cant put diffusion on lights and see it work limits the rendering capability for filmmaking. you can see on my site that I used it to do a layout in a park in NY with a condor that I built. But if I were to build a brute box (maxi brute cube suspended from a crane) it would create many single par throws with hard shadows, not the single overhead source (and corresponding single shadow) that I want.
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#11 Igor Trajkovski

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Posted 21 May 2007 - 06:56 PM

Here a sample.

Normal render:
Posted Image

And here the same with GI (Light Tracer in Max)
Posted Image


The grain in the last picture is because
i am using small number of samples for the calculation - to reduce render time :).

The first image shows deep blacks.
The second has fill from light bounced of walls and the ceiling.



Regards

Igor
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#12 Israel Yang

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Posted 05 July 2007 - 05:59 PM

Hi Steve
The current Maya package comes with the regular Maya software renderer, and a high end renderer called Mental Ray.

Maya comes with the following light fixtures:
-Directional light (no decay, to simulate a sun light, a one-source light that comes from infinite far)
-Spot light
-point light (essentially a light bulb, light is omni)
-area light (a rectangular light, used to simulate a light coming in the window or a reflector or other creative uses.)
-ambient light (a light that does not exist in the real world, in the 3d space it just floods the whole scene without adding any modeling(which is what a light is for). )
*and all the above lights except for directional light can have a real world decay rate which is inverse square.

A) if you use these lights and render with Maya software renderer, most likely you will get images that look like your every day ugly 3d renders that look nothing like what's in the real world (rendering will be very fast though). It is an acquired skill for a 3d lighter to use these lights and the Maya sw renderer to make a scene look real with lots of tricks. This skill is not easily learned and is a requirement for today's 3d lighters.

B ) however, with these lights setup and correctly balanced, you can use the Mental Ray renderer and with the aid of Global Illumination and Final Gather to simulate real world lighting phenomenon, such as the bouncing of light, caustics... And with MR, you can create a geometry of any shape and turn is into a light source, and thus have any real world light fixtures you need. But rendering in MR with a real world physics and accuracy is very computational expensive, it gets easily too time consuming if you are a one-man-studio and can not afford a render farm and/or lack the experience to optimize and fine tune the render settings as much as possible. that's why nowadays many 3d productions are still solely taking the A) route, though with the technology it is changing.

which every route you choose to take, you will have to spend time to
1) set up the lights as you would in the real world and
2)
A)- create more lights to fake bouncing lights, colour bleed, caustics, natural ambiance...
B )- properly adjust all MR settings and be ready for long render time

and step 2 will likely cost you more time than step 1. Real world DPs have realism for free, and it is not so in the 3d world.

so my suggestion for you is that, if you want to use a 3d package for pre-vis purpose, remember it's 'pre-vis', and don't spend too much time trying to make it mimic the practical lights because it will really take a lot of time and experience and skills. Use it for reference.
And a few things you can likely directly translate to your physical set (if you use the basic lights in Maya and do nothing else to make it look realistic(real world like) and render with the Maya software renderer):
-light angle and position
-barn door effect, gobo...
-colour of light
-as for the intensity of the light, just eye it, before it gets too complicated.
-you will get an accurate sense of the shadow angle(yup, angle is the only property that I think can be directly translated)
-DOF
-movement of lights (all properties of lights can be animated )
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