View Full Version : Lighting Challenge #30: Old school Smoke, no Smoke

11 November 2012, 01:36 PM
Hello ! It's Giorgio From Collective dream. I remember when I started the first Lighting challenge. It was very funny and I hope I can give a bit back to a wonderful community who always helped me in improving (I hope). So I decided to start with a quick and simple one.
it's a minimalistic still life. Actually they are two. I remember I modelled them since a friend of mine asked for a challenging scene for shaders and lighting. The idea was to have something that can be rendered in "photorealistic" way.

You can download the obj scene files from the following link
Donation in other format are very wellcome.The obj was tested for import both in Maya and Max and worked ok


If posting your own rendered images or video of this scene anywhere out of this thread, please credit Giorgio Luciano for the modeling.
Use any 3d software and techniques you would like.
Changes to the scene are allowed but not required.
Post your work in progress by replying to this thread so you can receive feedback
Feel free to share any extra information or breakdowns to show your techniques or lighting set-up.
Ask questions and give feedback
Enjoy yourself!
I will also open a thread for ideas and merge it with a sharing thread.
There is no fixed deadline for now but I hope to have a new challenge every 1-2 months, depending on the feedback given. If you wish to share any scene, or model together some scene, pls send me a private message.
Good Lighting


11 November 2012, 08:17 PM
"This file does not exist, the access to the following file is limited or it has been removed due to infringement of copyright. "


11 November 2012, 11:23 PM
Fixed, mirrors added

11 November 2012, 07:23 AM
References for the coffee scene ! (
Coffee at Nan's ( di Rock Steady Images (, su Flickr

11 November 2012, 07:29 AM
the smoke image was inspired by this one (no copyright infringement intended it was used as a reference)

11 November 2012, 07:04 PM
Not quite the dynamic scene I was hoping for, slap in an HDRI, job done. Not for me, need something more of a 'challenge' ;)

11 November 2012, 08:00 PM
well.. try to slap an HDRI and let's see the result. I can assure it's not so easy at it seems :))))

11 November 2012, 08:53 PM
So stoked to see this still going. I personally think this is a awesome start. Gives the opportunity to focus on the subtle details of our lighting and materials. Thanks Jojo will be posting an image soon

11 November 2012, 09:09 PM
Guys, if anyone unwraps the scene first, could you share? If I make it first, I will. I think we should try to help each other so others don't make the same monotonous job and jump right into the lighting. We could also start with tweaking other's textures, if someone wants to share.

11 November 2012, 03:12 AM
Thanks for putting this scene up Giorgio! I thought I will never get a chance to work again on the lighting challenges. I just saw it today and couldn't stop myself from giving it a shot.

Here's my first test render. I am getting some weird pattern issues on the liquid and salt. Need to debug that. It surely is not one of the complex scenes, but its not easy either. Need a lot of love and care :)

Any feedback would be highly appreciated.

Softwares: Vray for Maya and Nuke. ( Uploaded with (

11 November 2012, 04:39 AM
Thank you Mr. Luciano. This is the silver lining in the cloud that I'm hoping for. Beautiful scene

11 November 2012, 06:00 PM
Wwooo ..... Try To Do Something In Shaders
Best Of Luck Buddy

11 November 2012, 06:08 PM
Here is my first version of the scene rendered in Indigo.

Until now I focused on a overall light situation using a HDRI and then set some light by hand like the one for some little caustics and reflections on the drink.
I still need to light up the two boxes in the back better, and define some highlights etc.

11 November 2012, 11:55 AM
Hello to all !
Great entries so far !

@niravsheth I will change the texture of the table and also the color of the chair. Also I will add a bit of dirt to the spoon and also a cylinder unwrap to the salt and pepper. probably I will try to add a bit of contrast to the whole image. Less light from the left, a bit more dark in front and a rim light in the back of ketchup bottle. Keep Going !

@ArthurStaschyk ( great entry ! the shaders look perfect. I will just add a bit of dirt to the ashtray in front of the image and change a bit the displacement/bump on the left near the glass. Also it's quite light and so a bit distracting in comparison with the glass. I will add a bit more caustic and a bit of light in the top of the image.


11 November 2012, 12:24 PM
Thanks JoJo,

yes, some fancy caustics would be great, will have to experiment here a little more.
I already worked out the ashtray situation and set some extra lights, here the wip:

11 November 2012, 01:35 PM
Very glad to see a challenge again!

I recomend this article to the less experienced people like me:

11 November 2012, 12:03 AM
Just throwing in my First WIP. Just my first pass at getting my materials and comp together. Still needs tons of texture and lighting work. Im enjoying this one

11 November 2012, 05:48 AM
prestonplatt, ArthurStaschyk

Great results so far!! Keep going!! :thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:

Giorgio, that's amazing theme, I love the concept and it's pretty inspiring. I hope I'll get something to post here soon. Will you add your version too? :bounce:

11 November 2012, 01:35 PM
Hi all

This is the first look of the scene, please comment .

11 November 2012, 08:38 PM
ScallyFox Thanks I cant wait to see what you come up with!

ArthurStaschyk Looks awesome! Only thing I could point out is that vase/Glass at the back could use a little more love.

This is my Second WIP Its getting much closer just adding more details to make it more organic and living. Still exploring. I remodeled some of the pies. Loving this challenge already learned alot about my Vray materials that I didnt know about. This is straight out of Maya

11 November 2012, 12:09 PM
ok so....its my first post......and m not so good in this lighting ....but ....tried to participate.....

11 November 2012, 07:37 AM
@ArthurStaschyk Great image ! I will add a bit of blue to the lower part of the image and boost a bit the caustics. Also add a bit of dirt to the ashtray (not the ash, that are perfect, just the ashtray) and define a bit more the left part of it (in the reference you can see a bit of caustics also there). I would also change a bit the texture of the box on the left (less bump and probably add a few writings). Really a terrific job !
@FranciscoSCN thanks for the link ! really interesting
@ Preston. Great start and also improvement from first image. I dont' understand what is the the left gray (chair?) on the background. It contrast a lot with the other colors in the image and I find it a bit distracting.
The sugar container seems to float (probably no occlusion ? look in comparison the salt box) The material of the ketchup bottle is great. I would give a bit more of space to it in the image (and also to the spoon) Overall, I will add a bit of dirt/noise to all the metal surgaces that now look too polished. The shader of the mug is great ! I will work a bit on the coffee (add some SSS in last pass probably)
About lighting I would add more contrast in the image. Now it look a bit flat
@ashes2bones Good Start ! I would change the shader of the cup in front of the image. Since it is too similar to the wood of the table and also a bit irrealistic. Add dirt and scratch to the metal to make it more realistic. Also add samples to the glass that now seems a bit too dark. Also contrast more the image. Chose a light source and give nice shadows to the opposite part.

11 November 2012, 04:29 PM
Here an update on the image:

I focused on some caustics mostly and doing a new glass. Also finally some dirtiness on the ground of the ashtray and some work other stuff too. Next will be the cigar box on the left, and maybe some other caustic pattern... atm the glass looks kind of "hectic" and maybe to detailed I think :/

@jojo1975 Thanks for the hints, I also have similar feeling about the most stuff :)

@prestonplatt Yes, I'm also not very happy with that glass bottle in the back :/
I tried modeling a glass decanter, but the look of my "diamond curl" surface wasn't really a gain for the scene... it already took long enough to spice that glass up, lets see if I find the mood for another try on it.
BTW nice skateboard in the background :P
You scene looks great btw. maybe the metal looks to perfect shiny, most are more dull. A little bit of "action" on the outer coffee surface would be nice i suggest, something like that (

@ashes2bones is that also rendered in Indigo?!

11 November 2012, 11:46 PM
ok so here is my first try...m not good ...but ...want to do lots of thing in 3d...........
i m using 3ds Max and to hear suggestions......... :rolleyes:
m also getting weird patterns on salt and liquid in the bottle.........
@ArthurStaschyk thats a great render....what why there is so noise in blur area

11 November 2012, 09:25 AM
Hi all,

here is my contribution to this one, I have problem with caustics and my whisky dont want to come out has i what him to do !

my render is still very flat, but i dont realy know how to correct that, exept working on the shaders/textures..

maya, mental-ray,GI,Caustics, FG, mia_photographic, lens_boken.

FranciscoSCN ( : Thank you very mutch for the link, very instructive :)

11 November 2012, 12:35 PM
@FeD: I struggled with the caustics too, the main problem was that each light I created and caused some caustics was lighting up the scene in a unwanted way... So I tricked the Render Engine by using the "laser Pointer approach" ^^
I created a narrow IES file that was aiming at the glass, it generated great caustics and only lights up the scene with the caustics and interesting reflections. Also some bumpyness in the glass and whiskey causes more interesting caustic paterns :)

I attached the IES file I used, its not perfectly thin line of light, but that caused way to sharp caustics for my taste.

11 November 2012, 04:23 AM
ok no C&C problem......
but here is next update from me...

11 November 2012, 06:47 PM
Hi Guys. Have to say I'm a little nervous posting here for my first time as I know this site generates a very high standard of work. I'm relatively inexperienced with Maya and have only attempted modelling in the past. This is my first attempt and texturing and lighting a scene manually by myself and I realise it needs alot of work to get it up to scratch. However I believe these challenges are going to be a great way for me to learn and improve my skills if I can get some constructive feedback my posts. Any constructive criticism will be taken on board and not just ignored, really appreciate any help I can get.

Thanks, Will.

11 November 2012, 11:18 AM
Another small update :)
The development steps get smaller and I focus more into detail, again the 80/20 rule strikes here.
I changes the icecubes to a little rougher surface and also the decorative cuts of the glass get some tiny little roughness too. By that the glass becomes less chaotic regarding the reflections.

@ WilliamJames: There is no shame in being a beginner, everybody was one once :)
I also did a lot of challenges here, since years, but that here is the first I participate in public.
A good start you have there, but somehow the overall look seems so "painted", I don't know much about Maya, but I can tell that the red bottle on the left seems quite oversaturated and the glass next to it seem to brighten up the background somehow :surprised
I would start to focus on the wood material of the table since you can get a lot of rewarding realism doing that probably, by a fitting bump map and some map controlled reflections.

@ ndosanjh: The noise is because I use a raytracer for rendering and Indigo does create a cleaner image the longer it renders (like Maxwell or Fryrendere etc.). It was late and I simply wanted to go to bed instead of waiting further :)
Check the fluid in you bottle, seems like it interacts with the glass and creates some poly artifacts, also the bump on the table looks way to high for a varnished table.

11 November 2012, 08:45 PM

Im not actually submitting this but found it funny, I made this for my student reel 3 years ago.

Some closeups:

11 November 2012, 06:28 PM
Here is my 3rd WIP. Awesome feedback @jojo1975 and @ArthurStaschyk. For this update I worked mostly on the shaders. I will go in and add some more contrast in the lighting on my next pass. This has been a good opportunity to get my shaders to look more dirty and worn. I still dont get the character out of the scene I want yet but it will come im sure.

Im using Vray for Maya anyone know a good technique for layering shaders in Vray Like transparency textures for Dirt and extra Spec/Reflect???

@ndosanjh Try adjusting your colors and re modeling the liquid in the bottle your getting Artifacts from geometry intersecting with other geometry.

@williamJames Awesome Start. I like your comp (although maybe get rid of the framing of the image) Make sure on your images to turn off any filtering on the texturing. Maya does this without letting you know and it blurs your textures. Just make a change from quadratic to non with your texture image selected in the attribute editor. Also try coloring your lights a little you would not believe how much that can help.

@ArthurStaschyk Your image just keeps getting better. So fun to see your Wips. Awesome work

11 November 2012, 10:57 PM
Thanks jojo1975 for taking the leadership in this challenge. I was awaiting for the next challenge to test some new techniques.

I am going to use Maya 2012 and give a try to Mental Ray with Mental Core. ;)


Really nice render and I love the little detail that you added. Like the salt and the coffee marks on the table.

Like the composition and the caustics effects on the glass. Just my 2 cents but I would work a little more to the ash on the cigarette.

I will upload something tomorrow. :thumbsup:

11 November 2012, 12:26 AM
Im using Vray for Maya anyone know a good technique for layering shaders in Vray Like transparency textures for Dirt and extra Spec/Reflect???

VRay Blend Mtl is what you're looking for.

I'm seeing awesome work being made here. I have to worry with my submission if I am to recieve the good feedback.

11 November 2012, 03:36 PM
@prestonplatt and ArthurStaschyk: Thank u very much.......for ur suggestion it really help me to understand the lighting and whole process to achieve realism ........
BUT i have question how to get bokeh i m using 3ds Max 2011 And vray for rendering ......please help me......thanks in advance
@ArthurStaschyk: can u please tell me the light setup of ur scene coz its looks like a real pic....

11 November 2012, 04:32 PM
Thanks ndosanjh, I put a quick LightLayer screen together with the contribution of all my LightSources into the final image.
As you can see the HDRI does the basic mood, like a studio surrounding. From here I placed some lights to clear out some areas of the scene.

The green long mesh is just a helper for me to aim the tight IES light for the caustics.
Some of the other lights have black "collars", that tighten the light beam a little. Since I work with Indigo I have some great physical render Engine out of the box, but can't trick much with invisible point or spotlights with custom falloffs etc.

The HDRI is taken from here (, its the "Old Industrial Hall"

11 November 2012, 11:44 PM
Sweet just a quick doodle to get started, maya/vray:

11 November 2012, 10:00 PM
Hi, here is my first wip.... its a test render.... i will try to work focusing in the glass... a lot of things to do yet but you get the idea.

11 November 2012, 06:00 PM
My current progress:

I have a single light dome with blurry HDR for diffuse + spec and clear HDR for reflections. I used this to develop the shader look and I'm kinda happy with the way they turned out. Still need more details, but I feel that I can safely start lighting the scene.

And that's where my inexperience comes in. What process do you guys use for this? Fetch a reference image and replicate it? I don't know, I'm seeing this result and don't really know where to put my lights, although I do have a specific look in mind. You know, that 40's detective Dick Tracy office look, with the blinds down and some warm colour flooding in. I do have reference images for that but I seem to have hit a roadblock. Maybe I should just try stuff out and go crazy, but I was thinking (obsessing) about this too much and decided it would be best to share with you guys.

So yeah, please tell me what you think. I also need to offer my input to you guys, as I feel I'm being selfish, so I'll be doing that later.

11 November 2012, 07:50 PM
here is my first post


11 November 2012, 07:53 PM

my first work in progress. need some more texture work on cigar box, maybe break up specs on wood?

what do you guys think?

12 December 2012, 11:33 AM
So I went through turned off texture filtering, the table still seems quite blurred but I think that is a combination of a poor file and me needing to tweak my depth of field more as I'm having to render DoF in maya as I still haven't saved enough pennys for photoshop and neither of the other image editing software I own supports camera blur using a Z map. So I'll look for a better texture for that and tweak the dof this week. Also I sorted the issue with the sugar jar brightening the background, for some reason I seemed to have some ambient color on it and tweaked the refraction's through it. Got rid of that silly border, thanks prestonplatt :P The sauce bottle was far too saturated so dropped that down and increased the bump for the molding a little. Think my two biggest problems now are the coffee stains looking very "flat?", like they are just sort of stuck on the image and the horrid blocky shadow on the pepper shaker. Anyone know what would cause that block effect on the shadow and how to sort it?

12 December 2012, 05:56 PM

First of all let me say,

@jojo1975: Great challenge, is exactly what i was hoping for!

@ArthurStaschyk: Awesome job till now, your work is beautfiul and really inspiring!!

Here my first entry for this challenge, first i have focused to get a nice composition and light mood. Shadings are still in wip altought im happy with the glass and the icecubes by now, still many detail to be added.

Hope you like it!

Ps: Im usign 3dsmax+vray and PS for colorcorrection

12 December 2012, 10:35 AM
@ Vampire2584. Great Start.
About shaders. I like the glass and also the bottle. Ashtray need a bit of work and also the cigar texture (you need to put ash on the cigar). The wood of the table is perfect (and I like the detail of the small screw).
About lighting. Caustics are very good and also the whole material for the glass. in my monitor the image look a bit too overexposed on the front I will dim a bit the light to give a more nice nuance to the image.
@ Vital.
Great Start. about shaders. I will change the ashtray shaders. Too glossy and dark for an ashtray. More reflection will help. I would also change the placement a bit of the matchbox, it looks distracting. Also add a bit of dirt (small scratches) to the glass. Even the cleanest glass is not so clean as in CG ;). Lighting is good as start. Increase caustics and also dim a bit the light on the back ! Keep going !
@Visua. Shaders looks very good but too clean. Add a bit of dirt. Dont' overdue with bloom... it is becoming the new lens flare :))) (even if a bit of it is very good). try to give more contrast to the whole scene if possible now it's a bit flat. (use negative lighting if needed)
@Arthur Thanks a lot for the suggestions and pass. I really love your image. Why dont' you try also the non smoke ? Or just why dont' you try a different lighting (night for example with only a bit of light coming from a spotlight ?)
@ndosanjh Great start. About shader. The teapot look a bit too reflective and the whole image is a bit too clean. Add dirt (world is a dirt place :)) ) Also you need to adjust the metallic surface of your scene that now look a bit more mother of pearl for sugar and small glass bottle. The texture of the jam (nestle) should be checked with a reference on dimension. Give more contrast to your image. :) and keep going
@Preston. Great image. Just to be curious what is that grey object on the background ? Why dont' you try without it one render. Also I will be very curious to see color variation of the image. You dont' need to render anything, just have fun with post process. Now it looks a lot an Instagram photo. You can try also a different look

To see some examples of color grading and have fun
@FeD waiting to see how you continue with the shaders. I don't understand why the liquid is so red on the interface. Is it the color of the light or chromatic aberration ?
@William. Before focusing on DOF and put a frame, post some WIP so we can give feedback in the whole process for creating the image. Try at first a render with no shader (just a flat grey, a bit reflective) and with your light. Now the illumination look too flat. Wellcome to our forum. Keep going and post WIP


12 December 2012, 06:41 PM

@Jojo1975 Thanks for the input I tried to apply some color correction. The grey thing is a skateboard. I took it out for a couple renders and I didn't like the blank space. I decided to add a little lens flare. @WilliamJames good progress keep going. Make sure your looking at the reference image for inspiration on parts of your image. Also Maybe look for Higher res textures. I have been thinking about restarting my image and go for some photo realism with some different techniques. Its been fun trying out some different stuff for this image.

12 December 2012, 11:19 PM
Here is my first submission.. Just a WIP.. Hope to get more accomplished after finals. Please let me know what you think. ( Uploaded with (

12 December 2012, 10:57 AM
@Preston Please no lens flare !!! :) this version of image is very good. the only thing that look weird are the pepper and salt container. probably the IOR of the glass is a bit too high. Als try to add a bit more sample to the rendering
@rgiles Great start
about shaders
the spoon look a bit too glossy, while the cup a bit low reflective.
Try to add a dirt map to the metals in your scene and also to change the pepper texture. The ketchup material need to be more plastic. Also try to give more overall contrast to the image.


12 December 2012, 03:23 PM
@jojo1975 I have Finally completed this scene. I am still new to lighting so any feedback would be great.

Software used

Maya 2012
Mental Ray
Mudbox 2012
Photoshop CS6

12 December 2012, 11:42 PM

@jojo1975 It was super late at night and I had just watched Transformers Movie I dont know what I was thinking I got rid of that dumb flare haha. I really cant wait for the next challenge this was a ton of fun!

Here is a quick shader setup and A light setup of My Maya scene. Dont know if It will come in handy but who knows. 3 V-ray Rect Lights and 1 Dome for reflection and slight color.
I always Find this stuff fun to look at regardless

12 December 2012, 08:03 AM
Texture are very good. I will make the glass look brighter now it seema tooo way dark even if it cast correct caustics. Also I will add a bit of contrast to the image more bright on the top and a bit less on the lower part. The shader for the ashtray probably will need a bit of work.

12 December 2012, 02:32 AM
ok.....looked all the entires ....and i found that everyone doing best.....ofcourse some very talented artists are also here ....and some of my friends are like i just started learning 3d , lighting and all stuff ....
and hats off to guys @prestonplatt @ArthurStaschyk
i will be back with some improvements .........thx to all friends who gave valuable feedback........ especially :wavey: jojo1975

12 December 2012, 05:53 AM
Is this still going on? When is the deadline?

12 December 2012, 12:14 PM
The Challenge will go ahead at least for two more weeks :) so Beam up your PC during these holidays !

12 December 2012, 02:36 PM
First test... :)

original size (

12 December 2012, 12:16 PM
this is my final image for the challange
feel free to give feedback and comments , thanx in advance :)

Software used:

Maya 2012
Mental Ray

12 December 2012, 03:24 PM
THE CHALLENGE WILL END ON THE 6th January 2013 at 12 GMT so please submit your final image for the gallery in the final image thread !

A bit of feedback
@ jdayan
Great start !
It seems there is something strange with the reflection of your glass (it seems the glass is distorted) also the pattern of your caustics looks very big. Probably you can try using a smaller light for casting them. The shader of the ashtray looks a bit bluish on my monitor (I don't' know why) try to make it a bit more scratched. The texture chosen are very good and also the overall mood of the image is very pleasant
@ pixeldompteur
it's a great start and almost finished !. I will make a bit of dirt in the texture of the bottle near the sugar. All the shaders look very good. I will try to contrast a bit more the image. the coffee smoking is a very keen detail ;) more real than real :)
@ preston
thanks for sharing the breakdown and also for explaining me about the skateboard. Also why don't' you give it a strange fancy texture ? :)
@ Kewel7
try with a lighter glass :) that can really boost your scene !

Thanks to all for taking part to this challenge ! Next one will start soon and it will be a bit complicated one ;)

12 December 2012, 03:37 PM
@prestonplatt - how can you get the salt & pepper to look grainy? Are they just textures?

12 December 2012, 05:30 AM
Jojo1975 I tried Turning the board around but it wasnt working out it was too distracting. The griptape has a pretty sweet texture on it but the blur takes away that detail.
Also Is there a Final Forum page to post to?

Panupat I used a bump map on the pepper other than that its just simple texturing. Felt like the salt would be to fine of a grain to add anything.

Here is another Final update with some foam on the coffee. Just keep tinkering with it

12 December 2012, 03:04 PM
@ jojo1975, thank you for the feedback , im on it :D

01 January 2013, 02:15 AM
Hi everyone !

Here is my current image. It's not finished yet so i'll post a new version soon :)

Edit : I updated the image and this is now my final output.

01 January 2013, 06:48 PM
please post your final images HERE
Still a few days to go !

01 January 2013, 03:23 PM
Hi everyone !

Here is my current image. It's not finished yet so i'll post a new version soon :)

Edit : I updated the image and this is now my final output.

Well done!

01 January 2013, 11:20 PM

Last week I was looking for a good excuse to learn my way around octane render, and run into your challenge here. Thanks for setting it up, i enjoyed working on it.
My image is more or less final, altho some materials could be better. Might still give it another go before the deadline we'll see.

For lighting I used a hdr and some 10k emissive polys inside glass marbles. So a lot of noise initially but octane takes care of business nicely.

Done with octane + lw.

What you think?


01 January 2013, 10:16 PM
My image. What do you guys think?

01 January 2013, 10:22 PM
Well done!

Thank you CHRiTTeR !

Oh and thanks for this challenge jojo1975 :)

01 January 2013, 01:33 PM
You have still 10 days to post your final images here so we can select them for a small final gallery ! ;)
Enjoy LC 31 which is HUGE !