Advanced Lighting Practices for Maya & Arnold

Taught by Philip Maddock

Course Number:
Software Version:
Original Run Date:
September 2020 
6 hours 20 minutes 
This course is all about exploring production-level shot lighting techniques to create beautiful, realistic and faithful lighting. There are some some fundamentals techniques that can help and instructor Philip Maddock demonstrates how to apply these techniques creatively, elevating your lighting and the quality of your rendered images.

Maddock shows how capturing information from the real world and feeding that data into the 3D process can get you a long way towards creating very realistic CGI. Put in real data, get out real results. Lighting is no exception and, in fact, applying this logic to physically-based render engines can produce wonderful results quite quickly. The idea is to throw out the defaults in Maya and Arnold to take real artistic control.

The course is broken down into three projects over ten classes:

  1. CG creature portrait lighting with real burning wax candles. Live-action light maps, Barry Lyndon style.

  2. Beauty lighting for CG product shots. Using real-world light sources for realism.

  3. Environmental lighting for action shots. Paring and projecting HDR lat-longs to allow for realistic interaction.

Philip Maddock has worked in VFX for film, advertising and music videos for more than a decade. For the past seven years, he has been with The Mill London and currently operates as a lead CG artist and shoot supervisor. His focus is on TV advertising and has led work on projects for big brands, such as Playstation, Nike, Samsung, Audi, Mercedes, BBC and Direct Line. He is well known for grounding his CG work in the real world by utilising specialist photographic techniques and live-action shooting techniques for VFX.
Advanced Lighting Practices for Maya & Arnold
Watch our overview of the course

Class Listing

Class 1: Setup and Real World Lighting

Setting up colour handling for the course. Exploring the principles of capturing real word lighting and applying that to CG, including image brackets and HDR lights.

Class 2: Creature portrait lighting, Part 1

Breaking down the scene and discussing what the approach will be. Setting the camera framing and animation to give the shot a dynamic feel before looking into lat-long images. Exploring some references and discussing the properties of candlelight.

Class 3: Creature portrait lighting, Part 2

Discussion of the equipment used to film live-action of a candle flame with enough dynamic range to light in Arnold. Creation of an HDR of an eclectic light bulb from a bracket of images.

Class 4: Creature portrait lighting, Part 3

Using our live-action shot of the candlelight and our other HDR resources to craft the lighting in our scene. Rendering and tweaks in Nuke. Three movies are included in this part.

Class 5: Beauty lighting for CG product shots, Part 1

Examination of the shot and discussion about using light rigs to help constrain lighting to the real world. Generating the HDR images for our soft boxes and demonstrating a way to test the values in those images in Nuke. A look at our lat-long HDR of the environment.

Class 6: Beauty lighting for CG product shots, Part 2

Calibration of our light sources and working with technical plates including chrome/grey balls and colour charts. Combinging camera projections with shadow shaders to help integrate our CG into the scene.

Class 7: Beauty lighting for CG product shots, Part 3

Crafting the lighting in our product shot. Setting up the render layers and rendering, then taking the renders into Nuke to add sales graphics and finish the shot.

Class 8: Environmental lighting for action shots, Part 1

Examining the 3D scene along with the animated truck. A deeper look into working with chrome/grey ball plates and using colour charts to calibrate multiple HDRI lat-longs. Exploring how to remove lights from HDRI images and generate LDR proxy images to speed up workflow in Maya.

Class 9: Environmental lighting for action shots, Part 2

Applying images prepared in the previous class to te scene in Maya using 360 projections. Adding more geometry to the scene to offer more coverage for the projections.

Class 10: Environmental lighting for action shots, Part 3

Baking the 360 projections to create a texture map for the parking lot. Adding lights, check the lights using our grey/chrome plate, and preparing the scene for rendering. Using the final images in Nuke to explore the comp and discuss the result.