Saturday, January 2, 2010

Lighting 3D Backgrounds

Nothing much to do with the latest blockbuster Avatar, but this post has a lot in common with the use of 3D elements trend in hollywood. Take a look at how to incorporate the 3D scenes/objects into photography and mage making in terms of lighting.

The most important part in creating images with 3D elements is a lot of planning ahead. And by lot, i really mean A LOT!! It's just like a regular shoot and more. Like, for this shoot for a magazine story, we had the regular hair, make up, stylist etc. but we also were working with a 3D artist/student friend, who helped create the backgrounds. All these elements had to fall in place perfectly to make this a success.

Since we knew we will have a predominant dark atmosphere with colored lighs, we shot the main images on a black seamless background. This makes the cutouts more realistic as opposed to shooting the model in a bright white background. The angle of the camera had to be the same as that of the 3D scene angle. The basic 3D scene was made before the shoot, so the angle we shot in with the camera....we matched the same in the scene. Since this was kind of an experiment also, we kept the 3D objects absolutely basic like the wooden crate, the rusted tumbler, a tube light and a metal sound stage pillar. All these objects are basic geometry and simple textures and quite easy to make for those familiar with 3D software like Maya, 3DStudio Max etc.

Anyway, once the scene was ready in 3D, all we had to do was to move the scene around to get different angles of the same scene and change the lighting according to the model shot. Since the lighting was pre-decided, this process was smooth.

In the image above, the model was lit with a softbox on a boom stand(which is the key light in all images) and a green gel from behind. In the studio, her hand was touching the gray paper background. The real shadows falling on the background were extracted and put in the 3d image of the wall on the part where the model is touching the wall. Creating artificial shadow won't give the realistic effect. The wall was lit with a green light from the same direction as of the green gell light in studio.

As you can see here, there are two lights on the model from the back. The magenta on the left is quite strong compared to the green light on the right. So we do the same for our scene and make the green light more subtle.

For this last image above, we wanted the tube light lit, and the model in front of it. So thats what we did in the studio. We put a strobe right behind the model to light her from the back. I wish i could have reduced the power of the strobe a little bit to make it more like a light from the tube. But hey, no ones complaining :).

So, try and collaborate with 3D artists to create amazing images you see in movies. Of course, the above images could have been shot in a ware house. But its fun to innovate and try new things. For 3D backgrounds, imagination is the limit. What we did here is a small attempt of whats possible!

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