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A Look into Lighting for Games at CGMA

Bruno Fontan has taken a CGMA course Art of Lighting for Games and talked concerning the structure of the course, the duties, lighting workflow, and more.


Hello, my identify is Bruno Fontan and I at present work as a Senior Degree Artist at Ubisoft Montreal studio.

I began my professional career again in 2006 as a 3D artist within the archviz subject and slowly however certainly carved my path towards my unique objective which was to work on games like those I appreciated as a child. To succeed in this aim I relocated from France to Canada about 10 years ago and needed to accept a variety of roles so as to get my foot into the door. 
At first, I did some high profile games QA testing (Starwars Drive Unleashed 2, Castlevania Lord of Shadows and more) and in addition worked as a developer on some browser-based video games for Disney whereas working on an indie recreation challenge during my spare time (Legacy Of The Yods).

After that, I lastly managed to get a full-time 3D artist position at Gameloft where I worked on Asphalt 9 and Gangstar New Orleans. I then joined a small indie studio referred to as Riposte Games & Co. (now Kabam Montreal) where I contributed to two extra titles as a Lead 3D artist (Miniguns and Shopkeeper Quest).
 Since October 2018 I’ve been working on an unannounced AAA title for Ubisoft.

As hinted above, I’ve been enjoying video games since I was 6 years previous. Even when as a child I didn’t understand I might make a dwelling out of that (the business was not likely there at that time both) I all the time have been super into games. Once I reached university there were not that many options to review video games improvement yet (only 1-2 faculties in France) so I enrolled in a extra common diploma (multimedia creation) and taught myself 3D on the aspect. Even when it was robust to go that method, in the long term, it allowed me to have a lot more versatility and adaptation expertise on account of some information/experience in other specialties like programming, scripting, advertising, networking, administration, and so forth.


Once I determined to hitch the category Art of Lighting for Games I already had various expertise in lighting games. But, I needed to hear from an skilled business specialist about the most effective practices and the way he was approaching lighting, especially for AAA titles. I used to be principally self-taught and I used to be unsure whether my strategy was the most effective. Also, it was a good way to push myself by having some deliverables (one scene to mild per week for ten weeks) and quickly enhance my expertise.

Regardless that what we’re taught in the class can work in every engine, it was an incredible probability for me to also get my palms on Unreal Engine which I had not utilized in a really long time.

Organization of the Class

Every week we got a scene during which all the lights had been removed and we needed to mild it from scratch while following some very broad tips like “do a night scene”. The themes have been various (inside, exterior, RTS recreation, multiplayer recreation, cinematic cutscene, and so on.) so we received ready to a variety of challenges and their particular constraints – the identical factor we might get in a real recreation production surroundings.

 While having a broad path (and being shown one strategy to it through the class), we nonetheless had plenty of liberty within the ways to work on our scenes. It resembles a recreation production state of affairs the place the lighting artists are often entrusted with their work and have some leeway in the best way to make the most effective out of it. 
Omar (the trainer) inspired us to take dangers and to attempt/recommend totally different approaches.

Lighting Workflow

A good start line is all the time a strong assortment of references for what you need to achieve. These references might come from concepts, films, pictures, paintings and even different games as long as they provide you a path and an concept about how the sunshine would affect your scene. Having a great moodboard also helps to sell your ideas to other people who you’d work with during actual production.

Upon getting an concept about what you want to achieve it’s necessary to start out broad and get strong foundations relatively than immediately concentrate on small particulars.

A typical workflow can be to start out with the sky which offers the overall temper for your scene and fill every little thing with some primary mild values. I often use HDR sky captures for that (extra details will come later) and don’t hesitate to edit the HDRI in photograph image modifying software program if needed. As soon as I’m proud of the worldwide mild, it’s time so as to add a directional most important mild source (the sun for the outside or your essential mild for the interior – which might come from the windows, for example) and to tweak its depth and position until you get fascinating highlights and shadows. At this point, in case your HDRI sky has a robust evident mild supply it’s all the time sensible to rotate it till it matches your fundamental directional mild source.

These two mild sources are crucial things to nail when doing exterior lighting. In virtually every case, in case your initial setup is off there isn’t a level in tweaking other things. Also, with just these two things carried out proper, you’ll be able to already have a really appealing image.

At this level, in case your scene is meant to be part of any sort of foggy setting, it might be a good suggestion to add some fog as it’s going to help set the overall temper. It’s quite often a simple and useful addition to make a scene extra visually fascinating.

Arrange some primary reflection probes, in order that the reflective material is rendered properly.

 Once you’re proud of what you will have you can start so as to add extra secondary and fill lights. For video games, it’s necessary to remember the gameplay and ensure the surroundings is straightforward to read and the light is main the player toward the suitable issues. When you’ve got a vibrant spot outdoors of the golden path (where you want the participant to go) it might distract the participant and lead him towards an uninteresting area (which might be a false call). 

Take time to refine your reflections by adding extra localized probes when wanted.

Now it’s time for the cherry on prime of the cake: the publish results. There’s loads of them and it’s essential not to add them too early as they might make you lose concentrate on strong foundations.
Nevertheless, they’re very useful in setting the appropriate mood. A huge part of publish effects is immediately associated to the lighting artist work. 
Probably the most helpful ones for your scene mood can be Tone Mapping, Exposure, Depth of Area, and Bloom.

Constructing Up Your Visible Library

I don’t have any readily created library of values as any scene is totally different and the values can tremendously change depending on the setup of the scene. There’s a variety of cheating concerned in surroundings lighting with a view to obtain good results whereas sustaining clean performances and there’s not only one right approach to strategy a scene lighting.

Nevertheless, having a superb library of HDRI skies could be very useful in getting the correct mood for a scene. They really help to offer that first move on a scene lighting and the more you will have the more options can be found to you. There’s various them out there for free online, so it’s only a good habit to keep an eye fixed for new good issues and save them once you discover some. In any other case, there are some libraries you should purchase online or you might even seize HDR skies by your self with any respectable digital camera and a tripod.

With apply and experience, you get a very good sense of what a correct worth is and also you tweak the whole lot as you go out of your fundamental mild supply to all the small filling ones. It’s more of a repeating and time-proven course of which guides you toward the final lighting – the identical approach a painter begins with broad strokes and finishes with small particulars. 

In the course of the class, we have been provided with the instance scenes from the lecturer so in case of an issue we might all the time take a look at how he approached them.

Stylized Recreation Surroundings Activity

Stylized environments supply extra artistic liberty and it was very welcomed to have it for a change through the class. The setup of a stylized scene was very totally different from what we labored on earlier than.

For this specific train, there was a robust gameplay constraint because the scene is used for a Tower Defense like setting. The path should stay the central focus of attention, however at the identical time, the models walking on it throughout gameplay should remain very seen.

The unique scene was lit with lava (pink/orange colour scheme), however I made a decision to attempt one thing else.

 In that particular case, I didn’t really use photograph references (acid lava pits aren’t that widespread!) however fairly used my judgment to determine find out how to mild this setting.
 I made a decision that the primary mild supply can be the lava pit with glowy fumes coming out of it. The light beams coming by means of the ceiling of the cave have been used to brighten the path and the highest of the rocks. 

The key right here was to ensure all the colours labored properly collectively and to create some mild swimming pools alongside the gameplay path. If evenly lit, the trail would have not caught the player’s attention that a lot and this alternation of vibrant and darker spots was key in getting fascinating lighting. 

A helpful method I used here is to briefly remove any saturation on the render (you need to use tonemapping for that or just take a screenshot and convey it to your favorite photograph modifying software program) and examine my brightness values on the overall picture. Balancing lighting isn’t just about colors saturation, it’s additionally about brightness/darkness. These values are essential to verify whether the picture is well-balanced.

The lava pits are lit with omni lights surrounded by fog. By growing the amount of sunshine scattering via the fog it creates these thick swimming pools of light which give the poisonous really feel to the lava and assist to sell the diffuse and spreading mild impact.

The identical precept has been used for the level entrance and exit gates. I used an excellent robust highlight coupled with some fog to create those cones of foggy mild getting out of the gates and put the emphasis on those essential gameplay parts. The shortage of shade saturation helps them stand out from the remaining as nicely.

Inside Lighting Process

This scene was a bit tough to deal with as the sunshine volumes have been quite massive in comparison with the quantity of sunshine I managed to get by way of the home windows naturally. It required using fairly a couple of pretend lights to simulate bouncing mild rays and hold the world straightforward to navigate (once again, we have been doing a online game scene and gameplay had to come first).

In the corridor, I took the freedom to open the ceiling arch which was initially closed so as to deliver a complementary colour (blueish mild supply) and make the scene extra visually interesting. That’s the sort of calls lighting artists should go for and talk about with other artists on a daily undertaking.

 As the amount of light naturally coming from the surface was not that intense I added a highlight right outdoors of the newly created window and cranked its worth. In an effort to reinforce its visible influence, I also added some mild ray billboards and mud particles floating in the hall. In the long run, they help rather a lot breaking the symmetry within the corridor format and catch the participant’s attention.

Like in the previous scene (and all of the lighting I do), one of many key things to keep your concentrate on is the alternation of shiny and darkish areas. It brings some rhythm in your mild composition and makes things much more fascinating in the long run.

 You need to never feel restricted by the sunshine sources seen in your scene and be happy to add more if it helps growing visible quality. The same is completed in films: if the film makers have been only utilizing the actual mild sources seen, the lighting would not be fascinating in their scenes. There’s all the time loads of reflecting panels and lightweight sources hidden outdoors of the digital camera body. And it’s exactly the same in video games. If for example, an area is just too darkish, be happy so as to add a tender mild to brighten it. Utterly black and white spots are something you often want keep away from.


I really enjoyed the Artwork of Lighting Games class. The private suggestions movies we obtained on every completed train have been really helpful in pushing our expertise to the subsequent degree. The workouts have been diversified sufficient to make me confident that I might deal with a variety of various video games as a lighter.

 The class additionally assured me that the approaches I used to be utilizing to make my lighting have been right and the pieces of advice on key things given by a specialist shall be very priceless in the way forward for my profession.

I also really enjoyed the fact that we’ve got access to different students’ works and video evaluations. Each individual in the class had their own take on the same topic and it was very instructive to see the way it worked out. It also highlights the fact that there’s not just one right answer on tips on how to properly mild a scene.

To finish, here is a video from one of the course’s most difficult workouts. The lighting of a cutscene:

For more info on CG Grasp Academy and the Artwork of Lighting for Games course, please visit the CGMA website, or e-mail [email protected]

Bruno Fontan, Senior Degree Artist at Ubisoft Montreal

Interview carried out by Kirill Tokarev

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