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Basic Materials & Lighting

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Date Added: 9th December 2009
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Not too realistic. The main problem right now is how the lights are behaving. They all look like spot lights in a theatre. Here is where we need to start adjusting the Intensity, Falloffs and Attenuation.

First we are going to deal with the Intensity of the lights. A quick and easy way to adjust all of the lights is by using the Light Lister. This is found under Tools > Light Lister. In here you will find a lot, but not all, of the main controls used to adjust lights. I want you to go in and make these changes (Fig.09).

Fig. 09

Okay so what did we do? Well first we lowered the Multiplier, thereby lowering the overall intensity being projected by each light. Then we changed the colours - should be self explanatory. We then set Shadows to Cast by checking the box, and then set each light to their particular shadow method. Notice that only our Key Light is using Raytrace shadows. Remember that this is our Sun and its shadows should be accurate and the most dominate. Then we lowered the Map Size to 256 on the rest of our lights (this saves rendering times) and set our Sm. Range, Sample range, to 30. This will make our shadows blurry.  Now let's render (Fig.10).

Fig. 10

Notice how much difference this has made.

Keep in mind that we haven't dealt with the spotlight effect yet, we're still getting our intensity, so keep your pants on.

Now, just for illustrative purposes, here is the same render with this change - Sm. Range = 1.0 (Fig.11).

Fig. 11

See how sharp the shadows are now? Told you it would make the shadows blurry! Okay, let's deal with the spotlight effect.

Select our Key Light; go to the Modify Panel, find the Directional Parameters rollout and check Overshoot (Fig.12).

Fig. 12

This tells Max to ignore the Hotspot and Falloff settings altogether and make this light emit as if it were so far away (like the sun) that these parameters would be useless.Now go ahead and do this for all of the lights. Here is what your render should like now (Fig.13).

Fig. 13

And just like that, the spotlight effect is gone.

I need to caution you here on this one: having every light in your scene is a great way to achieve an effect like this, but you start getting a lot of geometry in your scene, start having geometry very spread out like in a wide open exterior scene, and have all of your lights set to overshoot and they are all casting shadows ... don't expect render times to stay low.

With that in mind, let me show you how to manage this. The goal here is to achieve the same effect as the rendering above but without setting all of the lights to overshoot.

First I'll select one of the Fill lights; typically I always leave the Key light set to overshoot.

Then I'll go in and adjust the Hotspot and Falloff settings (Fig.14).

Fig. 14

I gauge this by watching the outer rim of the light. Once it has gone just past my scene geometry I stop increasing it; I also always give it just a little bit more of a bump just to be safe.

For example, 75 for hotspot worked and covered my scene, but I set it to 100 just to be safe (Fig.15).

Fig. 15

Now I go in and make this change for the rest of my lights, remembering to leave my Key light alone.

Here is my new render (Fig.16).

Fig. 16

Lighting is the same, but with one added benefit ... notice the shadows from the fill lights and backlight?  See how the shadows are more of a circle around the sphere in the picture on the left versus the one on the right? So not only did we save on computing times but we also generated shadows more attuned to what we need. By focusing the power and range of the light we also control how the shadows are created. Remember that with a light set to overshoot, we're telling Max to treat the light as if it was coming from a very far off distance. With this being the case, shadows would be handled differently.

One last area to discuss and we can move on to materials.

What is the difference between Direct lights and Spot lights? Here is the best example I can muster (Fig.17 - 18).

Fig. 17
Fig. 18

Any questions, anyone?
Remember this is the basics of lighting: here is a good book to get if you want very in-depth coverage of the topic (Fig.19).

Fig. 19

Okay, hopefully this gives you a good starting point for lighting. How you set it up and what you do with it is completely up to you when you work on your projects.  As far as I'm concerned, it's time for Materials!

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Rangana on Sun, 20 April 2014 5:13pm
Thank you very much for this tutorials I learned lots of thing from this tutorials. may god bless you
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