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Creating a basic three-point light setup

From: CINEMA 4D Essentials 4: Materials, Texturing, and Lights

Video: Creating a basic three-point light setup

Illuminating objects in a convincing and stylized way involves working with multiple lights. In this example, we're going to create a basic three-point light setup for this number 3 that's sitting on the floor. Let's hit Command+R or Ctrl+R on the keyboard to see what we've got here. We have a basic floor object that's travelling off to infinity, and it's number 3 that's touching the floor. And it looks okay, but it's kind of flat and drab. We're going to add some lights here to stylize this render just a little bit more. The first light we're going to work with is something called the key light. The key light provides the main source of illumination for your scene.

Creating a basic three-point light setup

Illuminating objects in a convincing and stylized way involves working with multiple lights. In this example, we're going to create a basic three-point light setup for this number 3 that's sitting on the floor. Let's hit Command+R or Ctrl+R on the keyboard to see what we've got here. We have a basic floor object that's travelling off to infinity, and it's number 3 that's touching the floor. And it looks okay, but it's kind of flat and drab. We're going to add some lights here to stylize this render just a little bit more. The first light we're going to work with is something called the key light. The key light provides the main source of illumination for your scene.

The type of light I'm going to use for my key light is an area light, but I want to have an area light with a target on it. So, rather than add just a basic area light in the scene, I'm going to start with the target light. The target light comes in as a spotlight. Let's back out in our scene. Before we back out in our scene, we have to uncheck something on the camera. Now, I'm looking through the camera right now, but I have this special tag on it. This tag is called a Protection tag. It keeps me from moving the camera. If I try navigating the scene by holding down the 1, 2, and 3 keys, you see that I can't do it.

When I try to move something, nothing happens. So let's first uncheck the Look Through Camera option and then back out from our scene a little bit so we can see what's going on. So, there's our target light. It comes in as a spot. So, if I select the light and go to the General Properties, I can change the light type from Spot to Area. Now, I've got a rectangular source for my light. Let's go back to our camera and take a look at that. Command+R or Ctrl+R. You can see that this area light gives us a much softer light source, and that's going to be really nice in this situation.

Let's hit A on the keyboard to redraw the frame and uncheck the Active Camera icon. I want to make this light source much larger relative to my subject. The larger the light source is relative to your subject, the softer the light will be. So let's take this and drag it out. By making this light source larger, we're changing its size relative to the object, and we're going to get a much softer effect, and there we go! I think that's a pretty good size. Now, the cool thing about working with a target light like this and having it be an area is that no matter where I move it, it always points back at the center of our scene.

So I'll leave it right about there. I think that's a good location. The key light, as a general rule, should be at a roughly 45-degree angle to your main light source. Now, of course there's no hard-and-fast rule for this. You can put it wherever you want based on the stylizing that you're trying to get in your render. In this case, for a basic setup, this is a good angle. Now that I've got my key light set, I want to add a new light to the scene, and the light that we're going to add is going to be called a fill light. Rather than add another light by hand, I'm going to make a copy of our main light source.

And before I do that, let's rename this and call it Key light. Let's look through the camera and see what's happening here. I'm going to bring up the Interactive Render Region--Option or Alt+R on the keyboard--and let's take the Quality slider and move it all the way up and then we can increase the size of this region, so we're seeing our scene a little bit better. You can see I have a really great soft light on our subject. Now, we can take the key light and hold down the Ctrl key and drag a copy of it. Now, our scene is going to get brighter.

That's because we've duplicated the light. Let's go and change this new light and change the name to Fill Light. There we go! Now, let's switch to the four-way view so that we can see our light sources. I'm going to take the fill light, and move it to the opposite side from the key light, and I'll do that by switching to the Move tool, hit E on the keyboard, and then drag over. You notice I didn't click on the handles. I'm just clicking anyplace in the gray area and moving that light source around. I'll repeat that process in the front.

I want to bring this down a bit relative to the key light. And you see that that light source flattens out our object. Let's switch to the perspective view full screen, and I'm going to turn the fill light off for a second so you can see how that flattens the object out. Notice how we have a nice little falloff between the face and the sides. When I add the fill light at 100%, it tends to flatten the object out. What we want to do is adjust the brightness intensity on the fill light compared to the key light. A really good photographer friend of mine once told me that a good ratio is about 0.25:1.

So, if we go to our Fill Light and go to the General Properties and bring the Intensity down to 25%, that's going to give us a pretty good starting point for our fill. Now, of course, once again, there is no hard or fast rule for that. That's just a good starting point. Next we want to add something called a back light. This is also called rim light or hair light in photography. And what we want to create is a little bit more lighting on the back side of the object. In this case, the back side of the object is going to be this area right in here and here.

Where you put that back light is going to be entirely dependent on the camera angle that you're looking at your objects from. The back light position in one image may not be the same as a back light position in another image. In this case, because I want to hit these portions of the object, the place I'm going to put the backlight is over in this area shining back at my object this way. So, let's switch to the four-way view and then I'm going to switch my Move tool, and I've got my fill light selected. So, I switch to the Move tool, and if I hold down the Ctrl key and drag, I'm making a copy of that light without making a copy here in the Object Manager. That's another great tip: you can hold down the Ctrl key and drag in the Editor window to make copies of your objects.

Let's change the name of this new light, and call it Back light. There we go! Now, the back light, I want to make sure that it's hitting the back of my object, so let's zoom in here a bit, and I'm going to use the Move tool and bring it in a little bit closer and adjust the angle. There we go! I think it's pretty good right about in there. I want to make sure that that is going to hit the back side of those edges, and I think it's going to do that. If we zoom in, you can see that it's pointed right at that back. So, let's go to the full screen now and then turn this back light off and on and see what it's doing.

You can see that when I turn the back light off, the back edge of the object gets a little bit darker. And when we turn it on, it gets a little bit lighter, and that provides a little bit more information for us, from a shape standpoint. The next thing we want to do is adjust the falloff. By adjusting the falloff of the light, we'll create a much more realistic behavior in the light sources and give our scene a much more stylized look. So, let's go to each of the lights, and I'm going to select all three of them at once. And under the Details property, I'm going to go to the Falloff option and change them from None to Linear.

When I do that, you can see, my scene changed dramatically. That's because my falloff regions are not intense enough. Let's back out to the four-way view and back out a little bit more in the top view. You can see that when we added the falloff we got these big circular areas surrounding our scene, and they're just barely touching our subject here in the center. That's why our scene got much darker. So, what we need to do is adjust the radius of this falloff region. So, we can go here to the Radius, and by scrubbing it outward--I'm doing this for all three lights at the same time.

I'm going to bring that out to about maybe the 1,500 range. I don't want to have them out too far. You can see that now our scene starts to raise in the level of intensity that it is. Let's actually bring that up a bit more. Let's go up to about 1,800. I think that's going to give us a better illumination. Yeah, nice! Let's switch to the full screen here and you can see that our scene feels a lot more interesting than it did before. I'll turn the Linear off for a second. Let's go to None here and go back to our scene before it was lit. By bringing that down to Linear, we get a much better representation of the light sources.

One additional component I want to change is the shadows. Now, I don't want to have all three of these lights casting shadows at the same time. I could. That would be much more realistic if I did it that way. But I want to stylize this render, so I want to have just one shadow source. So, let's go to the Key light and go to the Shadow option and change the shadows from None to Area. When we do that, you'll see we get a nice area shadow. I'm going to up the samples in the maximum sample area. That's going to give us much less noise out in this zone here.

So let's bring the samples from 100 to, say, 300. That's going to make the render time a little bit longer, but I think it's worth it, to clean up that sample area. The last thing I want to do this render is have these lights visible in the surface of my object. One of the things about photographing objects in the real world is that the light sources that you use in your scene are visible in the surfaces of those objects, and that's what creates those interesting specular highlights and shapes on the surface. When you do car photography, for example, they position the lights specifically to define the shapes of the car.

In the case of this 3, I'm going to go to each of the lights, and I'll select all three of them again at the same time. And under the Details tab, there is a really great button here that's called Show in Reflection. I don't want to turn on Show in Render. If I turn on Show in Render, I'd actually be able to see the lights in the rendering when my camera could see the light source itself. I don't care about that right now, so I'm going to go to Show in Reflection. When I turn that on, you notice how I now have a little bit more pop. See how I've got these nice highlight edges on my subject? Let's turn that off for a second so you can see it.

Here it comes off, and when I turn it off, watch these edges right here. See how those got just a little bit dimmer? What you're seeing there is not a specular highlight, but a reflection of the light source in the subject. So, let's turn that on, and it really makes the 3 pop out for us. So those are the basics of a three-point light setup. One of the great things is, once you've built one of these setups, you don't have to keep building it over and over again; you can save that file as a starting point and use it in a lot of your other projects.

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