Sprite Fright is the new open movie, now in production. You can follow its progress here on the Cloud.
Beau Gerbrands is a 3D generalist with a background in animation and design. Beau says, “My job on Sprite Fright is to light the shots and make sure the sets are dressed before starting the final renders. This means that I work with different departments, requesting small changes or additions that boost the project’s overall quality and consistency.”
Beau’s Job, In Six Steps
Beau shares his working process:
Art Director Andy Goralczyk assembles the lighting file using the shotbuilder addon. This links the sets, characters, props and adds a lighting collection. With everything assembled, he creates the first lighting pass.
This first pass is rendered and put into sequence via Kitsu, including notes and drawovers.
Briefing with Andy. Beau says, “We discuss technical aspects around maintaining narrative cohesion and visual clarity.”
Beau starts working on the shots, incorporating Andy's notes. “I adjust the lights, add small or sometimes large changes to the set, and communicate with the 3D team about shading, prop placement and layout continuity.”
Refinement. “I sometimes request small animation changes from the animators in order to increase the appeal of the characters. Also, checking the layout again is very important so that we don't forget any important props.”
Finalizing. “If everything is lit and approved, we start rendering the shots. We increase the samples and outputting EXRs for compositing.”
The video below covers Beau's basic lighting steps.
Beau's Lessons From Sprite Fright
"Sprite Fright has taught me the importance of double-checking everything," Beau says. He does so by creating a contact sheet using the tools Paul developed. "Using this image we can see the light values, consistency and angles per shot. Also useful to check the placement of props."
Another way to check your work is to load every rendered iteration of each shot in sequence (the easiest means to this end is the Kitsu addon. Beau explains, "You can hide the current and previous versions and see the difference instantly."
Lighting shots can be a slow process. Beau has advice for getting quicker results, allowing you to iterate productively. Aside from scene and render optimization settings, consider the following.
"The oldest one in the book is to squeeze your eyes slightly. This makes higher values pop and helps you observe the distribution of values. For practice, try it with paintings, movies, your own work." Use this approach as a rapid means of determining which areas the viewer will likely look at first. "Another method is to completely desaturate the image to check the values." (See below).
Work with render slots to quickly compare previous renders. Beau suggests using the J key or ALT+J to jump forward or backward. "If you like the rendered version, save it and put some basic notes in the name or metadata with versioning. You might find previous versions better in certain areas. This information helps you decide how to move forward."
Darken areas of the image using shadow caster objects. "This is a real-time saver. Add a 3D object and disable both the camera and diffuse ray visibility checkboxes. Andy introduced this trick when I started to address the lighting in [Sprite Fright scene] Spray. By using these objects we can block light from objects that attract too much attention. But be careful the shadow caster doesn't intersect with any objects: it will create a distinct difference between darker and lighter areas."
Try to keep lighting strength relatively equal between shots. "Also, equalize the distance/size, which creates greater consistency across values." Beau notes, "This might change when using custom light effects or textures."
Keep your lighting set-up simple and structured at the start, then add complexity. "Use names for your lights, so the function of each light object is identifiable. For example, key, fill, rim, soft key, warm fill, and so on."