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Lighting Contest

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What do people think about lighting a scene that I provide, and the wining entry wins a $25 Amazon gift card? It would be judged on how interesting/beautiful the lighting design is and how photo-realistic the scene looks. I would have five judges (3 experienced 3D artists and 2 experienced photographers) evaluate the work. Comments from the judges on the winner, runner up, and a random other entry would be published along with thumbnails of all the entries (names not published for the non-winners).


The reason I would like to this, is that I am doing some teach outs and it would be cool for the students to have to try to match different lighting set-ups.


Let me know if this sounds fun for anyone? Thank you!


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It wouldn't matter what the renderer is. The materials can be tweaked, since there is an interplay with the lights and materials, but they need to basically not become a different material. So if there's a wood table, keep the general color and established wood grain pattern, but you can generate a displacement from an outside image or a procedural shader and do whatever you want with the rest of the channels. 

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Post work allowed or must be raw render?

Scene file must be provided or just the image?

3rd party lighting tools such as hdr light studio allowed?

By scene you probably mean some single product shot as setting up interior lighting for for whole archviz scene would require a bit higher award...

Please share some more information about this project...

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Cool, just gauging interest currently. Good questions:


1. Post work allowed if it's just adjusting tone and color. You won't be able to paint in highlights or shadows or do any image retouching like removing things in reflections, etc.

2. I'll ask that you describe the lighting set-up so after the students try to replicate, they can learn how it was done. 

3. You can use any lighting tools you want

4. The scene is going to be fairly simple. This is meant for people to have fun with the challenge more than anything, and then check out what other people came up with.


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I would be interested....but it would be dependent on what the base model is going to be if only because certain scenes are more interesting/motivating for me to work on than others (it all comes down to mood).


If this is for a class, then would overall render time and hardware used be part of the judging criteria?  For example, you can achieve some impressive results simply by enabling global illumination and using emissive surfaces....but the renders times become huge (unless you use a render farm....thus the need to also specify the hardware platform).  Trying to duplicate that lighting without GI and with straight lighting to reduce render times can be done but  requires a massive amount of tweaking -- and talent.


Consider the following to make my point: as they are similar experiences to what this challenge is going to represent:


As lighting exercises, I  purchased DAZ models by my favorite artist Steffen Morrill (Stonemason).  The models were importing into C4D and required some texturing work and had NO lights whatsoever.    The first was done with straight lighting (around 200 to be exact) that I added and rendered in 5 minutes (No GI was used):




The second was originally attempted using the same technique but I just couldn't get the look I wanted (in particular  the yellow light cast by the neon marquee on the right) using conventional lighting.  After about 25 iterations, I finally switched to GI using that marquee as an emissive light source and it all worked.  Easy to set-up and required very little skill but produced great results....and it took 50 minutes to render:




So my point is this:  Great lighting can be achieved with GI, HDRI, etc.  but you sacrifice ease for render time.  If the scene is going to be standardized, then you need to factor in render time into the judging because to duplicate the same results using conventional lighting takes a tremendous amount of skill.



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5 minutes ago, 3D-Pangel said:

Easy to set-up and required very little skill but produced great results....and it took 50 minutes to render

Dude, you gotta try RedShift!!  I bet it would be under 5 minutes with GI if you have a decent graphics card.

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24 minutes ago, natevplas said:

Dude, you gotta try RedShift!!  I bet it would be under 5 minutes with GI if you have a decent graphics card.

Hmnmm...actually I have been rather interested in Octane lately. 


But I guess my point is this:  How much of the skill in lighting is artist driven and how much of it is tool/render software driven?  What is that ratio now and where do you think it will be in the future?  Can you even have a meaningful contest on lighting given what the various render engines can provide these days?


I swear that as technology grows, pretty soon the only choices being made will be where to place the key light because after that the software takes over and you will get GI results with infinite light bounces, random walk SSS, spectral scattering and absorption,  soft shadows, etc. all automatically calculated in 5 seconds because you selected the  "Make it real, make it beautiful and make it fast" options in the render settings.



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I feel it's 100% artist driven. I work at a production studio. We start with a dark studio and it takes someone to first and foremost, have a vision, and then select lights, move them into place, set up modifiers, set up flags and scrims, etc. This all happens in real-time without any rendering. Most commercial photographers I know (and I work with amazing ones), still work incredibly hard and struggle at times to get the exact lighting they are envisioning and dealing with getting rid of hot spots, reflections, and shadows that are working counter to their vision.


If you're able to light anything you want anyway you want, you should be a Hollywood DP making a million a movie (live action or animated films).  


In my opinion the render engine is just calculating the physics of the light. It's like a golf club. You can get better ones or faster ones for sure. But you need to be Tiger Woods using it, to consistently deliver beautiful results.


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