What to put on a lighting reel?


As the title suggests. I recently got in contact with a recruiter trying to find out what big companies look for when it comes to a lighting reel, but the reply I got was not exactly what a starter who has no background can get access to.

I was told I needed to light shots, so basically animation sequence I suppose? I am not sure how I can get access to an animated sequence without lights and texture already that I can use for reels. And does that mean still images are not okay at all?

I was originally thinking it would be nice to include an outdoor scene, an indoor scene and a match to background (compositing) and show all the passes and compositing nodes used for each piece, and maybe make different lighting conditions for all to show a shift of time during the day or special lighting situation. Is this not a good idea for a reel?

I would really appreciate some suggestions!


I’m just a student so you might want to take my advice with a grain of salt, but I think you’re on the right track. I would include a match to live action and two or three very strong other pieces. It doesn’t necessarily matter what they are as far as indoor vs outdoor etc, but they should show you understand things like bounce lighting, colors lights should be, what types of lights to use when and why, control over shadows, and an ability to problem solve when lighting. Some ideas would be trying to convey a particular mood or trying to match the lighting in an already existing scene (e.g. a photo of something.)

Since you want to work on moving pieces (you’re not going to be lighting still life setups at a studio), you should at the very least include some kind of camera move - it doesn’t need to be an extreme crazy roller coaster ride of a fly through, just something to prove your lighting holds up from different angles. For the match to live action it would probably be preferable to acquire a camera, do a real life camera move around something like a table and then add an object to the table in CG (or something along those lines - it will win you extra points if the live action plate is not a CG object composited onto a photo, though that would be ok if you absolutely can’t get a camera.) Still images are ok if you absolutely cannot produce anything else, but there’s no reason you can’t add a slight camera move to a scene (like if you were lighting one of the lighting challenges here.)

It does suck that it’s so difficult to get access to already animated sequences to light. One option is to find someone who is an aspiring animator (maybe look in the “finished animations” section) and ask if you can light their shots (you’d credit them for animation or whatever in your reel and vice versa.)

EDIT: Also, not to try to go against what anyone else tells you, but I have known three people who did lighting internships at Pixar in the last year and one more who was hired as a lighter this year and none of them had animated scenes or even anything really stylized on their reels beforehand. Not to say it won’t help you but don’t bust your balls worrying about it if your photoreal stuff looks amazing.


Lighting for Realism or lighting for stylistic cartoony scenes (Pixaresque)? Either could have differing reels. For realism, I think you’ll definitely want a scene that does something similar to Floze’s tutorial in showing how to light a scene in differing times of the day and with artificial light, which would show an employer that you have control over how a scene should and could be lit in varying situtations. Then obviously an indoor, outdoor scene is par for the course. Stylistic scenes have a greater range of invoking mood and drama and utilize far more color lights. Watch any of the Pixar special features of a DVD. Or study how some of the best sylistic scenes are lit on cgtalk. Many hyper-realistic scenes are a combination of realistic lighting and calculated exaggeration in spots for emotional effect.
Remember that one incredible short movie can also do the trick alone. One of our students simply made a short that Pixar loved…shrug.
In essence, know who you are trying to be hired from, and show them the respect by studying their works and presenting a reel that would benefit them.


A realistic car in a matchmoved comp is a good place to start. Millions of car models out there, get some hd footage, get the footage matchmoved, or do that too. Comp.


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