Lighting and rendering

This blog will cover the various different lighting and rendering types that will be used in making games, films, TV shows, etc. Each light type will be available in various other modelling and game engine programs such as Maya and Unity.

The first light type that I will cover is directional light. Directional light is light that goes in a specific direction (obviously) but it works a bit like sunlight. The position of where you place the light icon won’t affect it , the rotation does. Directional light will never fade off and the direction of the light will go all around hence why the position doesn’t matter.


Point lights work often like light bulbs, they spread light in various directions unlike the directional light which spreads light in one direction. Another thing that makes them different to directional light is that point lights do fade so the closer an object is to the light source, the brighter the object will be.


Up next is ambient light. Ambient light is a more secondary light as it casts soft light rays which doesn’t cast any shadows or shading to the object due to not having a specific directionality . It mostly fills in areas that don’t have enough illumination and creates more cartoony  light effects on the object.


Area light works almost exactly like directional light only within a set boundary, a circle or rectangle. It’s often used as a light illuminating a room by shining through a window or florescent ceiling lighting. There can be multiple lighting points in a scene to make it more realistic; however, it does come at a cost as this will take longer to render a scene.


Spotlights work exactly as you would expect them to. They are also referred  to as flashlights. In terms of modelling, the light can be edited to make the overall size of the light to be larger, . allowing the player to be able to see further around them. The intensity of the light can also be edited so that they can  see further a head of them. Spotlights are also often used in three point lighting. Three point lighting is used to show of aspects of a character or object. The first light is the key light, it is used to show off the important aspects of a character or object and is the main light. It lights up the area that the audience is most likely to see and has the highest intensity. The second light is the fill light, it is used to show off the highlights of any object. The third light is the back light, it lights up the back of an object but not as much as the key light nor the fill light due to having the lowest intensity. It creates a sense of realism as there is light coming from behind that object even though the audience may not see it.


Volume light is rather similar to a point light as they both emit  directional rays from a single point. However; volume lights have a specific shape and size which affects it’s falloff. Volume light can changed into either a cube, sphere, cylinder or cone. If you plan on using a volume light to light up an object then you need to have the light placed close to the object.

Information about light types was found at this link:


Some settings in these light options can be changed. As you may have noticed in three point lighting, that I have mentioned light intensity. Light intensity is basically how bright that you want the light to be. It can be changed in the light settings as well the light colour (rather self explanatory).

Light linking allows you to set a specific light or group of lights to illuminate a specific object or letting a specific object to only be illuminated by a particular light or group of lights.


Cookies are often used to create an impression that something is there when, in reality, there isn’t. It is often used in movies when they have people in a jungle when there isn’t any trees yet they still make the shadow. They are used for atmosphere and created by putting a mask between the light source and the action. More information on cookies can be found on this link:


Naturally, light doesn’t generate any shadows in the modeling software’s such as Maya unless you manually turn on the depth map or ray traced shadows option in the light options. They generally produce similar results although depth map takes less time to render and is the more preferable option. Depth map represents the distance from the light to the surface that it is illuminating. Ray traced shadows are more transparent with softer edges to make the shadows seem more realistic as how they would look in the real world. It works better on coloured surfaces as the shadows are often a darker shade of the colour of the surface that shadow is on. Ray tracing is more time consuming and takes more time to render than depth map. Source:


Maya software renderer supports all of the entity types that can be found within Maya. Examples of these entity types include: particles, various geometry and paint effects along with fluid effects. Maya software renderer also features a tool called IPR (Interactive Photo Realistic rendering), this tool allows you to make interactive adjustments to the final render of your image. It also allows complex interconnections such as procedural textures and ramps. Source:

Image converted using ifftoany

Mental ray renderer is general-purpose renderer that generates physically correct simulations of lighting effects which includes ray traced reflections and refractions, caustics, and global illumination.  Source of information:


Finally, I will be covering the Arnold renderer. Arnold is a ray tracing renderer developed to meet the demands of feature-length animations and visual effects. Arnold was the primary renderer of various movies such as Monster House, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Gravity and Pacific Rim. Source:




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