Night Lighting

Lighting is one of the most important parts in 3D visualization rendering. It brings not only the look and feel for the image, but also helps to visualize the design in reality. Unlike interior lighting where you have to spend more time to make sure every detail in the room is lit perfectly, exterior lighting is easier to set up but still challenges the artist.

1. Modeling

Here we have two blocks of buildings. This will be a very busy scene in the evening when there are a great number of highlights and shadows. Every element in the entire model is organized into layers.

2. Camera View Setup
We set up a perfect view for the scene. At this point, the overall lighting is sketched out. It is a late afternoon/dusk kind of lighting when there is still light from the sky and a slightly warm color from the sun. The scene is also lit by a lot of light coming from the retail stores, restaurants and cars on the street.
3. Texturing
All the materials are applied to the model. There is no tweaking in the materials at this point yet until the lighting is done.
All the materials in the scene are optimized by using Vray materials.

The materials have a lot of reflection and highlights. The point here is to create more highlight for the images at night time. This is one of the effective ways to give the image extra realism.

Besides that, some of the materials in the scene have Vray DisplacementMod such as the brick side walk and grass.
5. Lighting 
Starting with environment light first, it is a good practice to spend some time looking for reference images or photos of the lighting. We experience the color of the sky when it is at late afternoon and find a good high-res of the sky at that moment. A lot of purple in the shadow, cooler color from the sky and warm color for the street lights; these are the things we need to aim for in the final image.

In the Environment tab in Vray setting dialogue, a sky bitmap is applied into GI and Reflection/refraction slot and leave the value at 1.0.
 After that, we can go ahead and test render. At this stage, we use a very low setting for the test rendering in order to get a quick preview of the image.
  • Color mapping: Exponential
  • Irradiance map and Lightcache for 1st and 2nd bounce
  • Irradiance map was set to Very low
  • Light cache with Subdivs at 200 and sample size at 0.02

Press render…

 It looks very dark at this point, but the lighting is starting to show the effect of the sky.

To make the image look much brighter, simply increase the value of GI environment from 1.0 to something like 7.0, and also change the value of Exponential colormapping some.

We also add a single Target Direct Light with a blue color to simulate the light from the sky.

Do the test again to see how it changes.
This looks much brighter as we wanted. The shadow is filled with purple color and there is light coming from the sky. The render’s quality looks really bad because of the low setting. This will not affect the final image since we will change to a higher setting later on.

That should take care for the environment light. We add some more details into the scene such as street lamps and interior lights.
  • Omni light is used to create lighting for those street lamps.
  • Vray Light is used in the interior.

 And here’s a quick render right after.

It’s getting there. At this stage, we focus more on details of the scene. In addition, some landscapes, furniture, cars on the street and retail stores are added.

Now, we are ready for the final render.

4. Render Setting For Final Image

For a final render image at 4000 pixel, we change the setting so that it is higher than before to bring more quality to the image.

For post work, we also rendered out the VrayRawReflection/Refraction pass, VraySpecular (you can add these passes by going to Render Elements and click on the Add button).

5. Post Work

We use Photoshop for post work. Level adjustments and Color Balance are used to improve the contrast and correct the color for the image.

A sky backdrop, landscapes and people are also added into the scene.

Reflection and Specular passes are used to add more reflection and highlight for the image to provide more realistic effects.

We also render out a Vray Dirtpass pass so we can use it in Photoshop to boost the shadow.

Some close-up details:
And there it is. The lighting for the image is completed. We got the look and feel as wanted with a lot of lighting and highlights bouncing around the scene.
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