Lighting Environments: Tips and Tricks

Lighting Environments: Tips and Tricks

Maria Yue talked about her lighting experiments and ways you can use it in environment production.

Maria Yue talked about her lighting experiments and ways you can use it in environment production.


I initially saw my friend B.O.W’s work of the Victorian House at his ArtStation here.  He is a fan of Resident Evil, but I feel the scene will suit my recent lighting study perfectly. I am always fascinated by stage lighting and oil paintings, which is why I am so much into games with gothic/Victorian style, such as Bloodborne and Dark Souls. So I asked my friend B.O.W to see if I could use his work, but give the place a completely different atmosphere. For this practice, I just wanted to challenge myself and see how far I could push the different atmosphere via lighting in the same scene in a unique way.

Victorian House 

The first practice refers to some concept art from Dark Souls and Bloodborne. I am glad you feel my lighting delivers this style. I would like to start my scene with simple lighting set up. Keeping both sky and direct light source stationary and use static light for an extra flavor of detail. Again I would like to refer a very good lighting tutorial made by my mentor Tilmann Milde.  I use the same way for bake settings in the beginning.

In my opinion, the secondary light saturate on the light entity is a very interest setting. I love playing with it to achieve saturate light color for the secondary bounce effect.

However, it might not work well on the mat surface like velvet. In this case, I use capture Cubemap to mimic the bounce and push the detail further via adjusting the exposure after I complete the lighting set up.

In addition to the surface, there are many other media that deliver light as well. The moonlight effect in my scene is actually very simple, it is my soft direction light coming through the glass roof. What makes it visible is the volumetric fog.

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Like you mentioned earlier, this shot includes both background and foreground. Instead of lighting everything and flatting the scene with bright spot everywhere, I lighted the fog in the background and kept the foreground visible. There are only a few spotlights for the flowers and the sculpture in the center yard. I believe telling the volume of each object could make the scene more interesting, it also layers the scene and enhances the depth of field.

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Autumn Leaves

The Autumn Leaves I. is the most time-consuming practice I’ve done so far. It only has 7-9 artificial light sources. The challenge was how to deal with the secondary bounce. I have used the HDR sky texture plus a portal to introduce the natural bounce light outside the window and spent lots of time on tweaking the location of my sphere capture in Unreal. The library of Glasgow school of art inspired me a lot for this lighting setup.

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The Autumn leaves II is purely an experiment of my personal interest, I see the gloomy and sunny weather very often in England, so it’s basically inspired by my everyday observations. Another reference I used for secondary lighting bounce study is painting by Edgar Degas. In contrast to B.O.W s work, this scene has more mat surface to play with the secondary light bounce, I slightly boosted the saturation for my secondary bounce light here, and pushed the sky texture into a more blue tone. That’s how I got the warm main light and intensive sky bouncing near the window area.

From the lighting design to setup, I believe every project could be different, sometimes making all the detail visible might not be a good idea. However, it is very important to keep the consistency of lighting intensity. Controlling the exposure and tone mapper since the beginning helped me avoid any potential risk in post process. I prefer to identify the brightest point and darkest point in my scene as early as possible, and those two areas are my reference when adjusting exposure. I normally lock down my exposure after the material and basic environment light setup (sky and directional light), this will give me a good base for pushing any detail and effect further while polishing my scene.

Maria Yue, Lighting Artist at Cloud Imperium Games

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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    Lighting Environments: Tips and Tricks