Cinematic lighting (2004)

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Figure 1: Monsters ball’s, a short film we made to demonstrate some of the lighting effects.

Cinematic Lighting

In movies and computer animated films, light is used to set the atmosphere and mood of the scene. The lighting can either make the shot look scary, dreamy or romantic. The control of color, intensity and direction are important for the art of cinematography. In this project we have implemented a lighting model that is based on the method found in [1]. This is a lighting model that tries to fit all the lighting needs into a single shader.


One of the biggest ways to influence the mood is by using colors. To give the user more control, it should be possible to control the separate colors for the ambient, diffuse and specular illumination.


On a real film set, spot lights are usually used as light sources, that can be controlled by using barn doors. In this lighting model superellipses are used that can be formed into different shapes, from a circle to a square and to a star-like shape. Furthermore, the softness of the edges can be adjusted.


An important part of lighting are shadows. Unlike real shadows, we can control how the shadow should look like or turn it off completely. In our implementation we have implemented the shadows by using shadow maps.
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The results can be seen in Figure 2, where we have examples of a light source with different shape, soft edges, colors and colored shadows.

Figure 2: In the top row we can see examples of the different shapes we can create with the superellipse. In the next row we have the same shapes with a softer edge. The next row a examples of different colored lights. In the final row we can see that we can control the color of the shadows.

To show off the results we made a short film about a juggling monster (Figure 1). To do this short film we got a little help from some friends. The animation was done by Lars Westergaard Thomsen and the monster was modeled by Jonas Ussing. The animation was made in 3dsmax, but unfortunately we didn’t export the animation correctly, which is why it looks a bit weird sometimes.


[1] Fabio Pellacini & Kiril VidimĨe. Cinematic Lighting. In GPU Gems, chapter 10

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