View Full Version : Best way to light a car

09 September 2002, 12:06 PM
I have modelled a car but i am strungling to find a nice way to light it in Maya..

I have tried using area lights etc but the render time goes sky high like 30min a frame at 640x480..

Anyone good some good tut's or techniques ??

09 September 2002, 12:20 AM
I think the render takes time because of too much faces in the scene, i don't think it got to do with the lights.

Rabid pitbull
09 September 2002, 03:34 PM
i have heard that the best way to get the "showroom" look is to use a standard 3 light rig with a area light directly above the car approxamatly the same size of car. the area light should only do the specular and color channels, not shadows. i think... no shadows, well play around with it.:hmm: anyhow if you can remove shadows render time should come done a bit...

let us know what works when you get it done. good luck!

09 September 2002, 02:25 PM
Remember that a lot of what defines a car's image is reflection. Use a limited number of lights, but place LARGE white luminous panels in strategic places around the car.

10 October 2002, 08:48 AM
Area lights are extremly expensive in render times. An area light is made of a bunch of point lights, and a point light is made of 6 spot lights. So a single area light can be made of 30 to 40 to 100 spot lights.

10 October 2002, 01:15 PM
Sorry for the long delay...
This is how i have it lookin at the moment with just some area lights.

10 October 2002, 09:50 AM
Ok, something that might take you a long way is if you cheat and make a bitmap reflection map. You can make it so that the lower part of the car is reflecting a floor surface, and the upper 2/3s reflect flood lighting. Simply make a map that's, from bottom up, 1/3 black and 2/3s white, and assign it.

This is just a general guideline of course, you can adjust further to your liking. At the very least, this will probably save you from having to use area lights.

Also, you may want to look into adding a Fresnel effect to your shader, at the very least to affect its reflectivity.


10 October 2002, 09:59 AM

10 October 2002, 03:18 PM
HDRI in maya?...if he has MR for maya
well, as Rabid pitbull told, the best way is having a big white illuminated plane over the car, you will not need more than 6 light then to illuminate the body, one KEY, four FILL, 1 ground BOUNCE.

see my old 'car thread' here (

& if you want GI look my dome-light tut is here (

10 October 2002, 05:41 PM
Originally posted by ila_solomon
HDRI in maya?...if he has MR for maya...

Well MR is free for everyone using 4.5 and up from now on, so having it isn't a problem ;)

10 October 2002, 10:55 AM
Thanks for your replies :) i got 4.5 and MR i tried using final gather but it crashes :rolleyes:

I am getting sick of this little project but if i get a chance i shall HDRI it, if i can find any decent Maya/MR tut's for it.

10 October 2002, 01:07 PM
You can also try RealFake GI (a Maya Plug-in), found here:

The name is misleading. It's a HDRI fake. Very cool, and very fast. :buttrock:


10 October 2002, 12:51 AM
Also you can do hdri in maya with HDRShop:

They have a script that takes an hdri image and creates all the proper lights to import into maya.

11 November 2002, 11:40 PM
Originally posted by Kabab
Thanks for your replies :) i got 4.5 and MR i tried using final gather but it crashes :rolleyes:

I am getting sick of this little progect but if i get a chance i shall HDRI it, if i can find any decent Maya/MR tut's for it.

Real HDRI with MR for Maya!

11 November 2002, 06:10 AM
My advice to you is this... Light it so that it looks the way you want it to look. It sounds silly, but think about it... How many times have you seen people looking for the magical rendering solution that'll enable them to push render and be amazed. Computer Generated images are predictable, which makes our job all the more fun. First, search for the angles you want. Next, look at the lines of your car from those angles, paying special attention to visible lines, edges, corners, details... Think how to place some lights so that those features will be particularly visible.
And going one step further, try not to leave large undetailed areas looking flat, but rather use contrast to make them have depth. I recommend using spots instead of area lights because you can limit spots' areas fairly easily. And don't use shadows either, but rather use negative lights to paint shadows on your scene. One of the beauties of CG is that we don't have to mess with shadows, which are a pain to control in the real world. And finally, use reflections to your advantage in presenting your car, they can work wonders to highlight lines, but they can also work against you if you're not careful. Try a couple of car manufacturer's wesites and check out their product photos, study them and you'll be doing great renders in no time :) Hope this helps.

11 November 2002, 06:28 AM
Hope this helps to better understand my points.

11 November 2002, 01:19 PM
Wow thanks for your help thoes are excellent tips :) i will give them ago as soon i as get some time :D

Thats not a radiator its an intercooler :) which is kinda important on these types of cars and very visable in real life :)

11 November 2002, 05:29 PM
Well, i'm not a Maya user, but i guess most lighting and material setups are somewhat the same.

When i light a car (in my case Lightwave, but that shouldn't really make too big a difference, don't flame me for this...) i do the following few things:

Car surface:

Ditch any specular settings you have (0% setting usually does the trick;) )
Use no fake reflections (no dumb spherical maps, it often shows)
Use ray traced reflections with a fresnel effect apllied or a gradient on your cameras incidence angle (the higher the angle the lower the reflection)


In your surrounding make sure you have something to reflect, try to fake diffusor screens by actually building them in 3d but make sure you turn their visibilty for the camera off.
When you use diffusor screens set their luminosity (their self lit setting) way over 100% (i often find myself using 500% or more)
Place lights in front of your diffusor screen (i often use 4 or more lights per screen, placed between the corners and the centre)

When you need to know more i suggest you actually go talking to someone who does lighting setups for, for example, commercial photography, film/video shoots, or buy some books on traditional lighting (cinematography) and try to rebuild the tradional examples in 3d (gives you a much broader view on what the hell you're actually doing (3d is afterall a simulation on real life, so it's good to know how the real life works))

Here's an example using some of the above settings (it's was part of test for the previz for the Audi Car stand in Geneva)

11 November 2002, 05:31 PM
And here's the pic:(stupid preview deletes attachment settings:annoyed: )

11 November 2002, 04:08 AM
I had a play with some of the stuff recommened here is what i came up with;

4 directional lights 2 point lights one to cast shadow one to cancel out the light from the first one to only leave shadows. A squashed hemi sphere with 100% self illumination and just a blinn shader with a few tweaks on the car.

11 November 2002, 10:44 PM
Huge Improvement :) Looking good.

11 November 2002, 11:35 PM
Im not sure if somone mentioned using big self-illuminated white squares yet; place them around the car....the reflection of those white squares does a lot to show the shape and contour of the car... my $.02

EDIT: Upon further inspection they have mentioned it.

11 November 2002, 02:58 AM
I tried using some squares placed around the car near the light sources but i found that a squashed hemisphere gave me a better result.

Here is another render, i kinda like this one makes the car look tuff.

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