Lighting Challenge #6: Candle Light


I actually lowered both the front and the back radii to about .05 and it was still giving bad results. After that I tried increasing the samples to 256, then 512, and eventually 1024, before I gave up on the setup. It’s a weird problem, but there are other solutions, like going back to the blinn, hehe.

Thanks for the feedback, it’s useful for fixing up the image later on :slight_smile: The spot on Marilyn’s nose is actually not a post addon, I believe it’s the HDR file that caused it, I can simply remove it in Photoshop later on. The flames can be brighter to better match the illumination on the candles, and I can lower the mental ray scatter option for the candles. I’ll fix it up in the future, but I wanna try the other challenges too.


ACamacho - very nice i like it :slight_smile: good improvements guys :slight_smile: very good:thumbsup:


@meanlebh - Hey, very good work, the choice of the “hero” in the frame is very funny,
it make me smile ! The candles lights maybe more present.

@Thykka - I love it, the ambiance is very good ! The rotation of camera is subtil
and the SSS is top. One of the best.

@BarberofCivil - Very good lightning, the colors are too yellow ?

@Triker - One of the best too, I’m very impressed. It’s wonderful.

@LiquidStorm3D - Very clean, maybe add dust ?

There is my contribution - Cinema4D with little GI and AO. The SSS is not top.
The red is too much red and the drops are not real.
It’s a tribute to Einstein, A-Bomb in the smoke, black humor.



-jeremy: first of all thanks! i’ll try rendering with renders layers and get a better occlusion and shadow map - i didn’t notice that, but you are right after looking at it - so thanks for the tip.



Thanks for the comments. Jeremy, you are right about the round shadows looking a bit odd, I will soften them up and perhaps reposition the lights slightly to lessen the effect. JCBug, glad you liked it, I too thought that perhaps the candle light was not evident enough, when/if I get a chance to go back to this, this will most likely be another one of the changes that I make.

@jcbug, I really like your scene. The wax on the table is a great idea, although it seems to me to read a little bit odd, mostly because the drops are so far away from the candles…perhaps if there were more drops running down the sides, and also some on the candle holders, it may help to tie it together a little bit better. I really like your picture frame, and also the creative shape of the smoke (doesn;t read exactly realistic, but I like it). great job overall, keep it up.

That goes for everyone, I wish i had time to go through each and every person’s images, but alas I do not…but everyone has really submitted some awesome work here, I am so glad that these challenges have caught on as quickly as they have. great work!



How did you guys do the lighting … Have you used point lights and set them into the flame?


I would love to take the credit but i think you are referring to Acamacho’s work.


I used area lights because the shadows are softer. I checked some test renders in LW to make sure I was getting similar coverage vs. point lights and I’ve found myself using area lights more and more often unless I’m doing a burst or something like that.

Not sure if Maya’s lighting is like that tho (checked your portfolio, sweet pic btw) - so you may want to try some renders with just the desk, the folding wall, and a single candle with a light. That’s how I set my scene up when I reloaded it on my edit suite at home, then duplicated settings for the rest of the candles and lights when I got to something I liked.

For your question on the placement (and to address a few PM q’s) - here’s a screenshot of placement and one of the gradients (notice the scale). The nulls are at the very top of the ‘wax’ and controls the candle’s luminosity and translucency, as well as the transparency and diffuse of the flame. The lighting placement is higher up and it got there by doing some test renders with a similar candle on my desk and comparing the two.

(beware - I’ve got dual screens, so the image is big)

I also remember reading somewhere (can’t recall where, maybe it was something Leigh was doing) about 3d app textures defaulting to a wax type. So all I did was adjust diffuse, color, and set my SSS effect for the candles. And that was it. No extra shaders or whatnot. I tried using the SKA shader and didn’t like the results, so went with gradients instead as I like a bit more control and I think it helped my render times.



WOW! I have not been here for a little while, while working on my image, and I am impressed!

As for mine I spent a good amount of time testing out different rendering software other than Pixie or Iguana, I just was not getting the effect I wanted from Pixie and Iguana actually did not render anything even close to what I wanted, as impressive as this Maya intergrated renderer is it just was not what I was looking for. So using the Blender file someone posted earlier (forgot who it was - but thanks for the scene!!) I went and started to use renderers that could be exported from Blender. I tried Sunflow but that is much too hard to setup, so I ended up using the Kerkythea Global Illumination rendering software. After spending a few days figuring out K, I exported the scene and started to mess with the shaders. K, being a free renderer, does at times crash but very rarely.

This render is a WIP that I made tonight after the hours of testing. This has no AA, but it is a high photon and ray trace settings. There is slight hint of caustics too. And obviously I will have the candle flames visible too. There is not however any texture mapping (K does not have much for a procedural library), and the lighting I think is too bright. But as I type this I am rendering a more final version (ohh - and after 15 minutes it has gone to %1!!). The next one will have AA, and even higher settings. I am also testing the time to see exactly how long this will take. So anywho, here is my image and please feel free to comment.


I haven’t used blender myself, but I like to be on top of what’s available… give this one a shot if you want some good results, it’s also free and has some really good features.

Maya’s default renderer can be tamed with the proper settings, it’s actually not too bad, but I personally prefer Mental Ray because of the speed and the obvious difference in options and quality.

You could also try this one… It’s a free plugin for Maya that works similar to Maxwell, from the looks of it. It’s very slow at the moment, but it’s still under development, by 1 guy, so we can’t expect too much yet. I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s on my list of things to do.

Another option is Pov-Ray, which is another free program, kinda tricky to use because it requires some programming knowledge, but you can use Moray to get an interface for it. This is actually how I started 3D, no interface, just text editing and a render button, lol. It’s a long ways since High School, but Maya is definitely my choice for everything now.

I did a quick test render of my scene with Maxwell and noticed some differences in the scene, mainly with the dropoff on my lights, so I think I’ll switch them from Cubic to Quadratic and adjust them from there. I’ll make a version 5 as my final one, especially now that I’ve noticed a few things with real candles [had some on today] and my fake ones, hehe. I’ll include a breakdown on my next version as well.

EDIT* Anyone interested in the new for lighting/rendering, head over to It’s a new renderer that claims to be physically accurate, like Maxwell, gallery looks real nice :slight_smile:


I don’t use Yafray, for some reason it just not like this computer and it always crashes. As for Metropolight I just hadn’t gotten to that at the time, and I had already got all involved with K. But yeah that was downloaded (I think I ended up with a dozen or so renderers). I think I like Kerkythea mostly because it has it’s own 3D engine so you can move the objects, lights and cameras around without having to re-export the data to XML. As for MentalRay, I would but everyone uses it. I think that was my biggest reason for using a different renderer for these challenges, offer something else amongst the usuals. They kick ass, but it’s just something I like to do. Strange but it makes sense to me :P.

POV-Ray was going to be my next test actually, but I wanted to get the image done before the challenge ended :D. I spent several weeks testing like 8 different softwares, each had it’s own learning curve. So sticking with one right now that has had the most effort on seems to make better sense.

My god though this render is taking it’s sweet time - been rendering for like well over an hour now and it’s only at %18. Long night ahead of me…


Haha, I feel ya. Maxwell renders take forever to look right, I usually just set it for 2 hours and just let it go, check on it here n there to see what it’s doing.

I’m the same way with testing new things and trying to be different, but for time purposes, I want to spread out and be able to work on the other challenges too, so Mental Ray gives me predictable results. I could try Maxwell, but render time would make me fall asleep for every lighting challenge. I wish I had Renderman, then I could learn and test as I do some of these scenes.

What’s the specs on your system? Sounds like either the render software isn’t really up to par, or maybe your system is chuggin along at a snail’s pace :argh: I fix computers, so maybe I could do some :wip: to it and fix it up :smiley:


Hi there everyone,

my first post on CGTalk. I saw this challenge and just had to have a go.

This is a fairly quick render done in Carrara 5.1 - the antialiasing and object accuracy are set quite low and a few textures are still either not done or not quite right. But I’m fairly happy with the candles and the flames especially. The SSS on the plate needs work (too bright). The texture on the screen is definately not final…

What else do people think needs some obvious work done to it ?

PS. The puppy is my dog when she was aged just 10 weeks.


First of all i want to thanks for that wonderfull competition.
Here is my attempt. I tried to make a mystical atmosphere of candle illumination.I render these in mental ray. For that green smoky atmosphere i use parti volume shader, one omni light with hdri project map.


I like this image, nice rendering - You’ve created a great atmoshphere. Can you tell us something about the light setup? Just the SSS seems to be a bit too strong at the edges. I guess that’s Maya?


@ Couch: Very nice mood! Something different which is very good. I do agree that the candle edges are a bit strong but I think it could go either way.


@mswertfager - Nices flames, and SSS - It’s strange, like gas.

@ChrRambow - Very good job, nice ambiance, it’s wonderful. The flames needs
maybe to be more luminous.

@ACamacho - Nice picture, it’s a pleasant ambiance.

@Melvil - Nice reflections, I like your materials and the sliver ambiance. Very nice,
I love it ! Maybe you can finalize the incense sticks.

@meanlebh - Thanks for your comments.

As you proposed, I try to put wax at the base of the candles
and drops running down. Is it better ?



I render it in 3ds max. The lighting setup is simple: final gather, one omni (raytraced shadows) in the top of the scene, the hdri (grace.hdr) on the color slot of the light. I place big cube on the scene with parti volume shader (noise on scatter color) to make haze effect. And final touch was glare shader.


@jcbug your image are great! congrats

Jeremy, I undestand and the shadow can be more subtle, I’ll do this.




Well it only took 3 hours and 25 minutes for this one. Course then I had settings maxed out for it, just to see. So this render has textures mapped to some of the objects. The picture is actually of a friend of mine, playing live at some club.

I will most likely go and redo this, maybe use different materials or mess with the lighting.