Despicable me - Lighting setup

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  07 July 2013
Cool Despicable me - Lighting setup

Hi guys (and gals!)!
I'm fairly new to lighting and rendering and I'm in need of help.

I was looking to get some insight on how to recreate a similar environment as this one:

A few things I noticed that I would love to be able to recreate but I just can't with my knowledge.
- I love the soft shadows underneath them, and the larger but still soft shadows stretching behind them.
- I noticed that the characters are very well lit from every angles. Probably a light above them and 2 across at 45, one being the key light from the right. No idea what type of lights tho.
- I also love how the floor is really reflective very near them and it just fades out really quickly. I also like the gradient background.
- On the last few seconds of the clip, you can also see that they are very far away from the camera but all of the lighting remains the same.

I tried all day to mimic this set but I just couldn't. The gradient background would look similar, but it would be super close to my characters, so when they started to walk towards the back, they just didn't have the space. I decided to stretch the background plane (it was an L shaped one, with a rounded seam) the light just wasn't enough and I couldn't get it to look homogeneous with a larger one.
I tried several types of lights, and they all had their issues.
As to the ground, I tried BRDF with a value of 0 at 0 and 1 at 90 with some reflectivity and glossy and it looked fine, but I couldn't make the fading on the characters reflection.

I'm using maya and mia_material_x shaders.
If anyone could give me a few clues as to how can I accomplish this.. it would be awesome!
  07 July 2013
To me it looks mostly like a dome light of sorts, possibly with a very soft and weak keylight from the top (but not 90 degrees from the top). Having pretty blurred out reflections should make them fade out, but if you still have problems with fading them out you can try to mix two materials together with a falloff-type of map or material (not sure what they are called in maya). As for the background I would think the standard large rounded off L would do the trick, not sure what to suggest there other than playing with it.
  07 July 2013
Ok! So, I'm almost done. Just a couple of things that are bugging me.

1 - The "seamless" background isn't very seamless, I can't get rid of that line on the horizon. I have the rounded L shape background but even so it's visible where the roundness starts.

You can see the geometry of the rounded L plane, I tried to make a very smooth seam but I just can't get rid of it.

2 - The other thing that I can't do is the reflection fading out quickly while maintaining a very high reflectivity near the characters. On my shot, the ball should be cut-off halfway..

3 - Another thing that I noticed is that the background on the despicable me shot starts very gray near the camera and it shifts to a lighter gray as it gets further away. On my shot, the color remains the same right until the rounded seam, and only then shifts color.

As for the setup:
My plane has a mia_material_x with a grayish color; reflectivity 0.8; glossyness 0.8; BRDF at 0 degree is set to 0, and at 90 degree is set to 0.5;
I have 3 directional lights, with different ratios. Two diagonaly at an angle of aprox. 45 down and another light straight down for some more countour shadow underneath them. (I might change the angles tho)

So yeah, I'm almost there but there's just only those things that I just can get to work..

Any ideas?
  07 July 2013
For the reflections I guess you can crank the brdf curve shape up a notch, in 3ds max there is this neat graph that shows exactly how it will perform:

Also, are you using anisotrophy? That should be kept at standard/off/whichever value that makes the reflections not stretched

For the gradient, if you want to do the easy way, which very well might be how they did it, then do it in post. Simply multiply a gradient on top. Thinking about it, it is possible that the fading and the blurring of the reflections were done in post as well, as post work is done on nearly everything.

Another way, which sounds stupid, but it still might work, is to not use the curved L shape and instead simply have the ground plane extend far behind the ball/character in the front and then just use fog/mist to fade things off. Could work... Just make sure that the fog starts behind the area of interest.

I'm not an expert but I hope this helps..
  07 July 2013
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