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RedFrame is meant to be a highly atmospheric and immersive experience. To create this atmosphere, it was important for us to focus on lighting. Many games have compelling lighting, however they tend to be outdoor environments lit by a single directional source representing the sun. In comparison, we are creating a nighttime environment illuminated by lamps, sconces, and recessed lighting.
I struggled for many months to achieve a look that I really liked. Hopefully what I have learned can be helpful to anyone trying to create something similar. It is important to note that we are using a lot of precomputed lighting with Mental Ray, which is not a viable option for games that have highly dynamic environments (which, unfortunately, is most kinds of games).
This is a workflow for Maya and Mental Ray, but the concepts are universal. There are five concepts that I will cover:
- Correct falloff / Gamma Correction
- Physically accurate soft shadows
- Distribution / Photometry
- Color temperature
- Indirect light
Once you understand these concepts, you will have a non-software specific checklist to use in creating your interior setup.
Correct Falloff / Gamma Correction
For many years working in 3d, I was told that real-world light had a quadratic falloff. This is known as the inverse-square law. Any energy that radiates out from a source in 3d space has an intensity equal to 1/(the distance traveled)^2. However, many lighting tutorials that I had read glossed over this fact, and instead suggested using a linear falloff which looked better. I always thought that this was weird since the quadratic falloff was physically correct. Naturally I tried using quadratic falloff which, to my dismay, resulted in too much contrast compared to the linear method.