… for Visual Effects

Tip #1253: How to Light an Animated Film

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Lighting a scene happens at the end, but planning the lighting starts much earlier.

Image courtesy “Finding Nemo” and Pixar.

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This article, written by Jasmyne Bell, first appeared in NoFilmSchool.com. This is a summary.

Lighting animated movies isn’t just about making scenes look more stunning, it’s also about choosing an aesthetic that can evoke a desired feeling in audience members. Just like live-action films, lighting plays a major role in how animated films affect moviegoers.

Artists create blueprints called color scripts, which are hand-painted frames that depict scenes throughout a storyline…much like a storyboard only more detailed in terms of tone. When these frames are viewed consecutively, the director and production designer can determine the emotional story arc.

Surfacing determines an object’s texture and how it will appear when light hits it. Surfacing artists will assign numerical values to something in the frame. Something like a jacket could be more prone to something like reflectiveness as opposed to roughness.

Ray tracing is a rendering method that uses the virtual camera to shoot out a light-sensing ray until it hits an object in the scene. This shows what surfaces are translucent or solid, depending on how light is reflected.

Path tracing shoots out multiple rays that bounce around until the light source is located in the scene. This method is used especially in newer animation and is the reason these films look so realistic.

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The article has more images and details. See the link above.


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