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Chapter 12. Lighting Basics > Lighting Tells a Story

Lighting Tells a Story

While the concept of lighting a scene in 3ds max is rather simple, the implementation takes practice and can be a bit time-consuming. The primary light, or key light, should be located and oriented in such a way that the viewer's focus is directed to the proper features. Secondary fill lights are added to lighten features that are not in the path of the key light and to simulate light that is bounced off the other objects in the scene. A backlight can be added to frame the foreground objects against the background. Then special lights can be added to represent particular lighting conditions––such as illuminated signs, flashing warning lights, or a helicopter's probing spotlight––which add to a scene's lighting scheme. Their effects must be considered. The intensity and location of all the lights must be balanced against one another to convey the proper look and feel that the artist is attempting.

Color also plays a large part in setting the mood in your scene. While a late-night bonfire's key light will cast a primarily yellow light that fills the campground, the fill lights in the scene will generally have a bluish hue to represent the ambient light provided by the moon and stars. Once that fire has burned down to its final log and embers, that same key light becomes more reddish and the light no longer penetrates as far into the darkness. Offices and homes have a lighting scheme that is closer to white; however, you should avoid using the default pure white (RGB = 255, 255, 255) of max's lights, as this tends to make them look too sterile and uninviting. The bright daylight of a vast arctic wasteland may have a very pale blue tint, while the daylight in a vast desert wasteland may be tinted with a very pale yellow. Whether you're representing sunlight transitioning through sheer, dyed drapes or a flashing red MOTEL sign outside a window, the color emitted from lights helps clarify the nature of the scene.


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