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Lighting in Animated Features


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#1 Keith Walters

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Posted 27 March 2011 - 08:52 PM

I was looking at the credits of a couple of recent animated features yesterday (Ratatouille and Astro Boy to be precise), and I noticed that in both movies there is a rather lengthy section devoted to "lighting" people.

How do you "light" an animated feature?

Does that mean that there is some sort "live" shooting of physical models involved, or does that mean a type of animation artist who specializes in replicating the function of a lighting specialist in a live-action set?
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#2 Russell Scott

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Posted 28 March 2011 - 07:10 PM

On big features you'd have specialist lighters. They would light an animated feature like you'd light a live action set. You have lights that you place in 3d space, give them an intensity, a colour. Most 3d systems have photometric lighting setups so conceptually its pretty similar.

In some respects its easier than live action, because you have no physical limitation on light placement (e.g. you can light a scene with a light in front of the camera but hide it from the camera so the light itself is invisible).
In other respects it is much harder, the 'photometric' nature of the lighting is based entirely on approximations and that leads to much wrangling to get the desired result. You also don't get instant feedback, so when you move lights around you don't see how that light has affected the scene, you have to crunch the numbers on the render machine to get the result (which could take hours).
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#3 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 29 March 2011 - 06:13 PM

On big features you'd have specialist lighters. They would light an animated feature like you'd light a live action set. You have lights that you place in 3d space, give them an intensity, a colour. Most 3d systems have photometric lighting setups so conceptually its pretty similar.

In some respects its easier than live action, because you have no physical limitation on light placement (e.g. you can light a scene with a light in front of the camera but hide it from the camera so the light itself is invisible).
In other respects it is much harder, the 'photometric' nature of the lighting is based entirely on approximations and that leads to much wrangling to get the desired result. You also don't get instant feedback, so when you move lights around you don't see how that light has affected the scene, you have to crunch the numbers on the render machine to get the result (which could take hours).


This is really interesting, I'm just starting work on an animated short now and its really fascinating, I was being told today that in Maya light intensity from the virtual lamps work in a linear fashion, not in by 'inverse square law.'
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#4 Joseph Arch

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Posted 29 March 2011 - 10:55 PM

I come from a 3D background. Lighting in real life is much easier then animation because you can adjust the lighting with no drawback. In animation, however, you have to wait for for rendering and if you get something wrong you have to change it with the lighting rendering again. They have people dedicated to lighting different scenes. In real life you just light it and readjust it. No waiting for anything.

Good luck Andy. You're going to need it.
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#5 Tim Halloran

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Posted 30 March 2011 - 12:03 AM

And of course this applies to digital animation only--in hand-drawn cel animation, the "lighting" was, and is, conceived and rendered in the different individual painted cels. Not as difficult to envision during production because of the inherent qualities of the unique image, but much harder to wrap your head around when trying to describe the lighting "setup" of say, a scene in a film like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Tim
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#6 Russell Scott

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Posted 30 March 2011 - 12:40 AM

This is really interesting, I'm just starting work on an animated short now and its really fascinating, I was being told today that in Maya light intensity from the virtual lamps work in a linear fashion, not in by 'inverse square law.'



To be clear - you generally have the choice between no decay, linear decay and inverse square decay. Having a light that decays physically (i.e. inverse square) is not the same as photometric (although of course photometric lights will all decay physically).
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