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Illumination Tutorial

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Date Added: 16th June 2009
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Dear Architects and interior designers, this is one of my tutorials that I wrote for my students at the Florence Design Academy ( This tutorial is about illuminating a room using sunlight, which is coming through a window (ideal for living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms).

There are many different illumination techniques that I teach, on the topic of interior-rendering. This one is quite easy, and will use 2 different kind of lights. One is the MR Spot Light and the other is the photometric Free Area Light. Before we begin, it's very important to inform you that we will use mental ray as a render engine and 3d studio Max 8.

Mental ray is a very stable render engine, and it allows us to achiece very realistic renders. Since we are using Mental ray for this tutorial it's also very important to use real measurements when creating all the interior/furniture, otherwise the result will not be optimal. It would also be important to already have a bit experience using mental ray and it settings, as this tutorial will not go into explaining all the settings we use (settings about rendering and materials are in other tutorials of the FDA).

The first light (MR Area Spot light) must be located outside the room and you must move the target of the light through the window and place it inside the room as we can see in the image to the right.

Click to Enlarge

I use a value of 0.8 in the multiplier slot, but this doesn't mean that you must use the same number as later we will add some more lights which will influence the brightness of the room. Also change the colour to a very bright orange-yellow, to simulate the Sun rays. In the Area light parameters (modify panel) you have the possibility to make the shadow softer by increasing the size (hight,width) of the light. To give the impression that outside the room, the environment is very bright like in the image to the right, you must create a big white self-illuminated box in front of the window. After this step select the MR Area Spot Light and exclude (In the Exclude-panel from the modify panel) the self illuminated box from illumination + shadow casting. Otherwise it will create a shadow in the room. Now try to make a will be quite dark.

Click to Enlarge

Right, how can we make our render more realistic?....Go to the Render Scene Panel, and choose indirect illumination, and check the Final Gather box. Put a low number in the Samples slot (like 50) and make a quick test render and see the difference. It will be similar to the image below.

First rendering with only a MR area spot light + Final Gather enabled

continued on next page >

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