Finding New Lighting for a Readymade Environment
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Finding New Lighting for a Readymade Environment
20 August, 2018
Interview

Lucien Gillonnier talked about his atmospheric relighting project of the scene inspired by The Last of Us: reworking a readymade environment, setting volumetric fog and baking in UE4.

Introduction

Hi! My name is Lucien Gillonnier. I’m a 24 and I’m a Lighting Artist from Lyon, France.

My interest in digital arts started soon after a short internship at Magnum Photos in Paris. I studied a bit of Visual Arts before focusing on 3D, and I quickly specialized in Lighting.

I graduated from Bellecour School in 2017 and worked at RyseUp Studios as main Lighting Artist. I worked on different projects there, including a VR action-driven game and organized a small Lighting workshop at Bellecour School.

I’m currently taking some time off, working on a more traditional and universal approach to Lighting rather than focusing on Real-Time. I think it’s a good way to sharpen your eye in order to be more efficient.

First Approach to the Project

At first, this project was kind of a personal homage to The Last of Us. I just finished the game and really wanted to do something with it. I had this scene from Kimmo Kaunela for quite a while, and it was just perfect.

With a scene, I always inspect what was done before, analyzing the intentions behind it and trying to anticipate most of the problems I can expect for a different lighting scenario.

I get rid of the initial bake, every lighting, fog or post-processing object. Then I look at the objects’ behaviors and their materials testing them in different conditions of lighting. It always gives me a really good idea of the potential of the scene, both technically and artistically. A lot of early compositions are emerging from this process too.

The Composition

This composition is based on an intuitive framing of the cars and a bit of the station, very similar to the final one but with a standard focal length. I just gave it a lot more attention to the details and reframed it to a custom ratio insisting on a very linear reading of the image.

I first intended to make a warmer lighting, more like in The Last of Us exterior day scenes. But it was pretty much already the intention of the author of the scene and I wanted something more “alive”. Paradoxically, one way to achieve this was to make a colder lighting and then give it a touch of life with a warmer spot.

Working with the Assets

The credits of these assets and set dressing really goes to Kimmo Kaunela. I always try to keep the scene as close as possible to the original artist’s environment. But when you work on a composition like this there are some tiny things you want to change like moving the Parking sign a bit, deleting some assets not matching with the composition, painting grass where the ground is attracting too much unnecessary attention, using vertex paint if possible, etc.

Vegetation

Same goes for the vegetation, I tried to make the fog and lighting respond to it in a good way more than trying to adapt the vegetation to the lighting, but I re-arranged some of the grass and trees just a little. The real change here is the vegetation materials, they were clearly made for the original lighting. There was a bit of emissive material and a green color that wasn’t really matching what I wanted to achieve, so I mostly changed that. The ivy got some change of roughness too, and I tried to give it more attention.

Lighting Setup

In a lot of cases, I think the simpler setup is the better. I used a directional light and a skylight at a really low intensity to get rid of darker areas. The station is lighted with only three-point lights: one inside and two outside for the windows. And that’s it.

The volumetric fog here is a big thing, almost every light is interacting with it at some point. I like to play with the scattering distribution as it breaks the rigidity of the fog’s behavior. It gives a much softer aspect to the scene and a better legibility of the composition. I used a 0,72 scattering distribution and a 2,2 extinction scale.

To get more shape I used the original scene’s fog cards in the background, It also helps to detach the station from the forest and get a more interesting look on the trees. I also used a light touch of blue with these fog cards, which I think really adds something to the whole scene without being very noticeable.

On the post-processing side I always like to work without any effect, even the standard ones like vignetting and bloom. Adding post-processing is pretty much the last step in my workflow but I always try not to relate on it. I really consider it as a bonus and the last time correction but not something to think about before the end.

I also like to take a screenshot of the scene and correct it with Photoshop first, it usually gives me a good step back and I often make a LUT with it before applying any other modification. In this case, I just used the post-processing tools without a LUT, to get something close to my Photoshop correction but a bit different.

Baking

I tend to bake most of the lighting in a scene, but in this case, it wasn’t a really big addition. I still baked it but the scene really could have been entirely dynamic and look pretty close to the result.

I used dynamic shadows for the directional light and a few contact shadows. The gas station is baked but with a really low Indirect Lighting Intensity.

I was also planning to use the “Static Lighting Scattering Intensity” feature of the Volumetric Fog but I was happy without it and I felt it would have been too much in this case.

Conclusion

I think the biggest challenges here were the vegetation and some other materials, but nothing insurmountable really. The scene was fun to play with, and I had a good time. 

Thank you for the attention!

Lucien Gillonnier, Lighting Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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