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Wouter Wynen

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©2006 VisMasters. All rights reserved.
VisMasters and the VisMasters logo are trademarks of ArchVision, Inc.
All other trademarks belong to their respective owners.
Standard Studio Lighting
Wouter Wynen

April 2006
This tutorial assumes you have already completed the previ-
ous tutorials in the tutorial list.

It will provide a general workflow for a standard studio light-

ing setup: create the environment, place lights, adjust render

The V-Ray version I used for this tutorial is 1.47.03.

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1. Build a test scene lighting tutorial
Start up max and set V-Ray as the renderer.

Go to ‘customize - units setup’ and set both the display

unit scale and system unit scale to metric: millimeters.

Create 3 geospheres with radius 35mm and position

them like I did.

2. The ground plane

We will try to ground plane
build an infinite is very smooth
background in and round in
a simple way. all directions,
Usually pho- making sure you
tographers use will not have
a big white or disturbing re-
black cloth be- flections from it
hind their scene, (like you would
curved at the when using a
bottom, so that box for ex-
you will not see ample as ground
a sharp edge be- plane).
tween back wall
and floor. Click the image
on the right to
There are of see all settings
course lots of of the cylin-
ways to do this. der, bend and
I will start from MeshSmooth
a cylinder, bend modifier.
it locally and
round it off with
a MeshSmooth
modifier. This
way, your

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3. Create a camera

Now create a camera and position it like in the image

on the right. Give it a 50mm lens. Set the perspective
viewport to use this camera, enable ‘show safe frame’
so you can clearly see what part of the scene will be

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4. Create materials
We need three
materials: almost
white, chrome and
red reflective.

Click on the image

to see what set-
tings I used for the
chrome and red
material (this should
look familiar if you
completed the V-Ray
basic materials tuto-

Assign the materi-

als to the spheres.
The ground plane
also uses the almost
white material.

5. Test render settings

Open the render settings dialog and do the following:
- set V-Ray as the renderer if you haven’t done so
- output size to 480x360px
- global switches: turn off default lights
- image sampler to adaptive QMC
- antialiasing filter “mitchell-netravali”
- indirect illumination ON
- Secondary bounces multiplier to 0.8
- Irradiance map settings:
- “low” preset
- HSph subdivs = 20
- environment:
- skylight pure white color, 1.0 multiplier
- reflection/refraction pure black, 1.0 multiplier
- system:
- render region division 50x50px
- frame stamp: delete all except render time part.

Render the scene, it should look similar to my image.

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6. Reflection planes / lights

Instead of the skylight, we will use big rect-

angular V-ray lights to light the scene. They
will also be useful for creating nice reflec-
tions (like we did in page 2 of the material
settings tutorial).

Create two V-ray lights and position them

more or less like I did.

The left light is 400x350 mm with a

3.5 multiplier and the one on the right
360x500mm with 5.5 multiplier.

Then go to the V-Ray environment rollout

and change the skylight multiplier to 0.1.

7. Render what we have for now

I made the right light brighter on purpose,

that way you create shadows falling in one
direction. If you would set them at equal
strengths, the image will be uninteresting
as lighting will be a bit flat, coming in equal
strength from all directions. The bigger
the difference between the two lights, the
more dramatic lighting will be.

The first pic shows left=3.5 and right=5.5

The second one has left=2 and right=7

We will continue with the 2/7 settings.

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8. Noise!

You’re probably wondering why

the images are so noisy and take
pretty long to render. This is
because V-Ray area lights produce
raytraced area shadows, and these
are very processor intensive. The
noise is coming from the low sub-
div value in the lights properties.

Because we are using adaptive

QMC AA, it is necessary to use
high subdivs values for the area
lights to get rid of the noise. Try
30 subdivs for both lights and ren-
der again. You can see the result
in image 1 (click to enlarge).

Now go to the anti aliasing set-

tings and change to adaptive
subdivision AA with min/max=0/2.
With this anti aliasing sampler, you
can use lower subdivs than with
adaptive QMC to have a similar
noise quality. So change the lights
subdivs both to 10 and render
again. This is image 2 (click to

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9. Subdivision vs QMC

At first sight, you might think the

adaptive subdivision image is bet-
ter (less noisy). But if you look
closely, the noise is just different,
not ‘better’. In the shadow area
you get a ‘blotchy’ kind of noise,
compared to the QMC example
which is sharp constant noise.

The top image is the adaptive

subdivision AA, the bottom one is
the adaptive QMC AA.

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10. Reduce the noise
We will now try to reduce the noise for
both image samplers to see which one is
the fastest for high quality images.

Set image sampler to adaptive subdivision

AA, min/max=0/2
Adjust subdivs for both lights to 30 and
The image is noise free. If you zoom
in a lot, you can see a tiny bit of the

Now change to adaptive QMC AA, min/

Adjust lights subdivs to 36.
In the QMC sampler rollout, change the
noise threshold to 0.002. The adaptive
QMC AA is very sensitive to the QMC
sampler settings. The noise threshold is
the most important one. (QMC sampler
controls the quality of all ‘quasi monte
carlo’ related calculations. In short, all
subdivs settings are qmc related, except for
lightcache subdivs)
If you zoom in here, you can also see a bit
of noise, but sharper and smoother than
the blotchiness of adapt subdiv AA.

But in this case, adaptive subdiv AA wins

from adapt QMC AA. When you will
add more complex materials like glossy
ones, and more area lights, fine textures,
displacement maps etc, render times for
adaptive QMC will not rise as fast as ren-
der times with adaptive subdiv AA. Usually
when you have lots of glossy effects (also
DOF, motion blur...) it is better to use
adaptive QMC AA..

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11. Store with irradiance map
Like I said, the reason for the subdivs anymore, but the it is
noise are the raytraced area controlled by the GI settings,
shadows. Especially for test namely the irradiance map (and
rendering, we can easily disable QMC GI for secondary bounc-
them. es). This is important, the V-Ray
light subdivs do absolutely
The light coming from a V-Ray nothing if ‘store with IR map’ is
light (or also from standard checked!
Max lights) is called ‘direct’
light. This means it is not (Note that this option only
GI light (first or secondary works if IR map is set as first
bounce). Once this direct light bounce GI engine. If you have
hits a surface, it bounces back for example QMC GI for first
a bit (depending on how dark and second bounce, and lights
and reflective that surface is). with the ‘store with IR map’
That bounce is called the ‘first’ turned on, these lights will not
bounce, and it is calculated by cast any light!)
the irradiance map (because we
have set first bounce GI engine To illustrate the store with IR
to irradiance map). map option, I rendered two
images with the ‘show GI only’
But the V-Ray light has an option (global switches rollout).
option ‘store with irradiance This option renders the image
map’. This option actually only with the GI light, so with-
means ‘treat direct light as first out any direct light that may be
bounce GI light’. Instead of present in the scene.
casting direct light, the V-Ray The first one is with normal
light will now cast first bounce V-Ray light (without ‘store with
GI light and thus it will be cal- IR map’ option).
culated by the irradiance map. The second one with the ‘store
This also means that when it with IR map’ option turned on.
hits a surface, and bounces
back, it will become secondary You clearly see that in the first
GI light, and it will be calculated example, with the direct light
by the secondary GI engine, extracted, there is not that
QMC GI in this case. much GI light to be calculated.
And in the second example, all
So by setting the V-Ray light to light is GI light.
‘store with IR map’, the result
will be that there is no direct This step is very important, you
light anymore, only GI light. should really understand the
This means that all shadows difference between ‘store with
will also be created by the GI IR map’ turned off or on, and
light. The consequence of this the difference between direct/
is, that shadow quality doesn’t first bounce and secondary
depend on the V-Ray light bounces.
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12. Store with irradiance map option (2)

The disadvantage of this option is that ary light bounces.You will need to improve
there will be more first bounce GI light, the IR map settings, resulting in longer GI
but worse, also more secondary bounced calculation, but the actual rendering of the
GI light (calculating detailed GI light, image will be a lot faster, as there are no
especially second bounce, is very proces- difficult area shadows to render anymore.
sor intensive). This means you have to rely The total render time (GI calculation +
on IR map and QMC GI calculations for raytracing the image) will be a lot lower
the creation of nice shadows. In product than when you use true raytraced area
renders this is not such a big problem, shadows (here GI calculation will go faster,
because there will not be much second- but actual raytracing will take a lot longer,
ary bounces anyway. Light that hits the top so combined total result is much longer).
of the spheres for example (first bounce),
will bounce back (second bounce) right See top image with following settings:
into the sky. So this second bounce will - adaptive QMC AA 1/4
have no effect on the rendering. Only a bit - noise threshold=0.002 in QMC sampler
will bounce in between floor and objects, rollout
or from one object to the other. But the - IR map: see settings below top image
secondary bounces will not have such a big As you can see, render times are cut in
influence on lighting and shadow creation. half, and compared to the raytraced area
shadows examples, there is absolutely no
This will become more of a problem in noise at all! But shadows are a bit less
interior scene lighting. There, the second precise.
bounce will not go to the sky, but it will
probably hit a ceiling or wall, bouncing Go to the IR map settings and change the
again and again... So in these scenes, the min/max to -4/-3 and the HSph subdivs to
secondary bounces do have a great im- 20. In the QMC sampler rollout set noise
pact on final lighting look and shadows. threshold to 0.005 again. These are very
So in this case, it would be a good idea to fast test render values. Render the image
reduce the amount of GI light, by replacing again. Notice how less detailed the shad-
the first bounce by direct light (‘store with ows are now (bottom image, spheres look
IR map’ turned off). Think about it, instead like they float a bit). But hey, 11.3 seconds
of relying on first bounce GI light to start is not bad for a fully antialiased image :-)
with, you now start with direct light which
will illuminate a lot of the scene already
(quality is perfect, it is direct light), then
there is first bounce (IR map) and then
second bounce. I will show this in the inte-
rior lighting tutorial.

To summarize, for product renders you

can greatly benefit from the store with IR
map option, as there are not much second-

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13. The end

This concludes the studio setup tuto-


By now, you should better understand

the difference between adaptive subdi-
vision AA and adaptive QMC AA, the
effect of the ‘store with IR map’ option,
and how to create a simple efficient
studio lighting setup.

Save this scene so you can reuse it

in some of the other tutorials still to

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©2006 VisMasters. All rights reserved.
VisMasters and the VisMasters logo are trademarks of ArchVision, Inc.
All other trademarks belong to their respective owners.

16 Standard Studio Lighting

About the author

Wouter Wynen has studied product development for

5 years at the university in Antwerp, Belgium. During
these years, his interest in 3D modeling and visualization
grew more and more. In the end, it even overpowered
the interest in product design.

After graduation, he founded the company Aversis, offer-

ing 3D viz & webdesign services.

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