Composition and Lighting
The lighting and scene composition were the most difficult parts of this work. I couldn't decide what I wanted from the scene. I tried to make a daylight setup with monitors on, but it was quite boring (Fig.12). So then I tried a different composition with night lighting, in portrait orientation, but I realized that it wasn't a suitable format for the scene or as an example for a future showreel (Fig.13).
I used grayshade materials for preparing my basic lighting; by doing this you can better see light colors and intensities, and you're not disturbed by material colors. For the start I used a key light for a lamp and a rim light for another lamp. For the key light I used area and I modeled a basic lamp shade, to have exact shadow and light placement, which I wanted. For the rim light I used a pretty intense spot directing right onto the alien's brain, to support its subsurface scattering and shape.
After placing those lights I was trying to think like a director of photography. The speaker was too dark and so I added a spot light pointing to its upper part. Also the cables were not visible and the left part of the scene was a little bit dark, so I added another spot. I also added some fill lights to add to the ambience. The final scene contains about six lights (Fig.14) and a reflection box to add nice spark to the alien's eyes. I also used global illumination to add a little more realism to the scene.
Shading and Rendering
The shading was pretty easy, except for the alien. I was learning modo at the time, and I was a little bit confused by its approach to shaders. But after a while, I found it very useful and effective. I was working in modo 501 and skin shader wasn't implemented until 601, so I made my own skin based on mental ray's one. Simply adding four layers of textures with different colors and sss preferences, I generated those textures from my polypaint. I also made a slightly different setup for the brain material and seamlessly blended it into the skin using a mask, which is a very easy and effective thing to do in modo. You can see the render tree for the skin and textures in Fig.15.