Note: Unless otherwise stated all of the following tips are applicable to all versions of trueSpace
These tips are what work for me, they are neither right nor wrong,
there is no science to them, I'm no expert, they are just some stuff I
have figured out along the way. Some of it (alot of it) may just be
common sense. That being said, here goes.........
Updated 17 July 2000
- TS Lighting Tip #1
Never underestimate the importance of lighting.
- Lighting is everything. It adds atmosphere, it shows style, it
sets the mood. It can highlight your textures and hide your mistakes.
An overlit scene looks like crap, an underlit scene looks like mud -
despite your modelling and texturing. It will make or break your scene.
As simple as that.
- TS Lighting Tip #2
I can model and texture on instinct, but I have to think about lighting.
- Pay attention to the world around you, keep note of the way
things are lit up both inside and outside. Look at the play of shadows,
the angle of the sun and the color of the light. Write them down.
- Know how you want your scene to look and then design the lighting around it, base it upon reality (if you can).
- Know what kind of mood you want the scene to be, because the lighting is going to set that for you.
- TS Lighting Tip #3
Watch old black and white movies
- The lighting in these old films can be terrific, especially the old Hitchcock ones.
- Dark, moody, lighting seems to have been the order of the day back then, and these guys were masters at it.
- TS Lighting Tip #4
Don't be afraid to experiment.
- Once you have a lighting scheme you like, glue the lights
together, save them as lights1.cob (or whatever), delete them and start
again. If you need them back, just load them in and they will be back
in their saved places with their saved settings.
- Do some test renders with different schemes, then load the light group that looks the best for your final render.
- TS Lighting Tip #5
Don't be afraid to use the default lighting schemes
- The white lights, the colored lights, the textured lights (in
TS4), and the VRML lights are actually very well thought out lighting
patterns. I will sometimes start with one of these (usually the colored
lights) and proceed from there, modifiying and adding lights as needed.
- TS Lighting Tip #6
Set a KEY light
- The key light is the main light in the scene, it provides the
majority of the lighting, if you want shadows, this should be the one
to cast them.
- All other lights in the scene should support this one by providing fill, or localized highlighting as needed.
- TS Lighting Tip #7
Don't go crazy on the lighting
- Sometimes you'll see people bragging about how many lights they
have in a scene, "I got me a hunderd o' them're lights in my scene"
- I'm not impressed.
- Try to use as few lights as you can, and try to keep the number under 5 if possible.
- Remember, the more lights you add, the more work your CPU has to do and the longer it will take to render.
- That being said, with one light objects will sometimes (but not
always) look flat, 2 or more lights will give a nice illusion of depth.
- Actually, I am impressed with the guy who can get incredible
lighting effects from only 3 or 4 lights. That shows skill in my book.
- This one of those times where less can be more (usually).
- TS Lighting Tip #8
Choose your lights carefully
- TS has 3 basic types of lights: spot, infinite, and local, and each of these has very different uses in my mind.
- TS4 adds 3 more types of lights: area, projector and sky.
- Infinite Lights - cast an even light across the whole scene
with no fall off. They are best reserved for outdoor lighting (and only
1 or 2 should do the trick) or at low intensity settings as a basic
fill light, eg. moonlight or ambient lighting in a room. They can also
be used to soften shadows. Use the Lookat function to point the light
in the direction you want it to go.
- Spot Lights - these can be tricky to manipulate, but work
well for interior lighting and very localized fill lighting. Use the
Lookat function to make it shine where you want it to.
- Local Lights - sheds light in all directions (and through
objects - even opaque ones - if shadow casting isn't enabled). Because
of this, these are the most difficult to use (if you ask me). You don't
have much control over where the light goes, except in relation to it's
fall off. I use these mainly to convey a "glow-like" lighting to the
scene, or to add very discreet light sources.
- Area Lights (TS4 only) radiate light from a resizeable
rectangular area and function like a large diffusing lens in front of
the light. They are especially good at casting soft shadows and diffuse
light. The effect is slightly different (better) when rendering with
- Projector Lights (TS4 only) are similar to spotlights except
that they project an image map as a light source. With the right image
maps and volumetrics you can get some interesting special effects. Use
them to cast a dappled light pattern in your scene or perhaps stained
glass on a wall - that kind of thing.
- Sky Lights (TS4 only) are a specialized light source that
only function with radiosity. They simulate the diffuse light coming
from the dome of the sky, but not from the sun directly. They can be
set to render as overcast, intermediate or clear.
- TS Lighting Tip #9
Raytraced Shadows or shadowmaps?
- This is more of a personal preference than anything else, but here are a few guidelines:
- Shadow Maps - give a softer edge to the shadow and are good
for scenes with low level or afternoon lighting. Since they are
rendered at the beginning of the scene, they are CPU friendly, and can
cut down on your render times. However, sometimes they can be a little
"off" and quite noticeable.
- Raytraced Shadows - tend to be hard-edged and are good for
scenes with bright lighting or "high noon" settings. I personally, like
raytraced shadows better and usually use them, they seem more natural
- You can use spot and infinite lights to soften the edges of raytraced shadows from your key light.
- Morning and evening = soft shadows
- Late morning, noon, afternoon = hard shadows
- TS Lighting Tip #10
- You can't drag the intensity slider to a negative setting but you can type in a negative value.
- This creates a "negative light" that sucks light out of your scene.
- These work best with local lights that can then be set in corners etc. to enhance shadows and darken areas of the scene.
- TS Lighting Tip #11
Light for black and white and then add color
- This works for me, you could be different...
- I first try to imagine the scene as black and white and plan my
lighting accordingly, setting light types, intensity, and arranging
shadows. This goes a long way to setting the mood and tone of the
- Then I go back and adjust the color of the lights.
- The reason I do this is because the color of the lights affects the color of everything
in the scene. I'm a simple guy, if I'm working with too many variables
all at once (type, intensity, position, color), then it can be hard for
me to isolate the effect of changes. It just makes my life easier, to
break tasks up. Did that make sense?
- TS Lighting Tip #12
Lighting adds depth
- Make your foreground lighter and your background darker - it gives that illusion of "receeding depth"
- Also try cross-lighting, place spotlights in the back corners of the scene and aim them forward and diagonal, across the scene. This will light up the foreground and provide nice reflections for things in the light's path.
- Backlighting or placing the light behind the object and
facing the camera shortens the foreground of the image and removes all
detail from the object, used sparingly it can greatly enhance the
"emotion" of the scene, but by the same token it will definitely
flatten the image.
- TS Lighting Tip #13
Get your color right
- Couple things to remember here.....
- The color of the lights will change the color of the objects - if you shine a blue light on a yellow object, it will look green.
- Sunlight is not white - the color changes depending on the time
of day and weather/sky conditions. Experiment with different shades of
yellow, pink and orange. This is subtle, don't go crazy.
- The exception to this might be a cloudy overcast sky - in which a grey (low intensity white) light would work.
- Incandescent lights (light bulbs) are a yellow/orange.
- Flourescent lights are a pale sickly green.
- TS Lighting Tip #14
Make your own shadows
- TS2,3 - Map a simple alpha channelled texture onto a
plane and then place this in front of a shadow-casting spotlight. This
will create a nice dappled (or whatever) shadow pattern on the objects
in the scene.
- TS4 - Map a simple alpha channelled texture onto a projector light.
- This is a great way to simulate the shadows cast by sunlight shining through trees.
- TS Lighting Tip #15 (TS2,3 only)
Volumetric Lighting (TS2,3 only)
- Although TS3 does not have volumetric lighting, here is a great way to simulate it.
- First create and set up your spotlights.
- Then stack about 15-20 planes, each about 0.1 apart, below the lights.
- Put the following setting on the planes:
- - R255,G255,B255
- - Ambient 0.0
- - Shine 0.0
- - Rough 0.0
- - Opacity 0.05
- - Refract 1.0
- Voila! Volumetric lighting. Vary the distance between the planes for differing degrees of effect.
- Here's a sample scene, and here is the final rendered image.
- This tip graciously donated by RWWendt@ix.netcom.com
- TS Lighting Tip Examples
- In these 2 images I started with the default colored lights and then modified them from there. In Visitors...
I moved the blue light closer to the window to look like moonlight, I
added another orange light to enhance the reflections on the main gear,
I lowered the intensity of the white light and moved it to light up the
globe. In Annunciation I added a bright
white spotlight aimed down on the crucifix to simulate "God-light" and
then I placed the the blue and orange omni lights close to two
semi-transparent cones over the crucifix to simulate the rays of light.
- In Bamboo Grove, I used one omni
light with squared fall off in the lantern and one infinite light with
a very low intensity and grey/blue tint aimed at the bamboo to simulate
- In Morning,
I used one infinite light with raytraced shadows, a faint yellow tint,
and set at low angle at about 4:00. Gave a nice mid morning effect.
- In Gehn's Library, I used 5
spotlights with no fall off (none shadow casting, though) placed over
the pedestals and one shadow casting omni in the doorway.
- In Treachery I used a single blue spotlight cross-lit from the camera.
- In Stranded and Peace I used single infinite lights.
- Enough already.........
- TS Lighting Tip #16
That's all there is....
- There ain't nothin' else.
Say, have you filled out my Guest Book
Jeffrey Wall M.D.
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