3ds Max 2018 - MAXtoA - Part 2 - Arnold Lighting
While the Arnold Renderer is compatible with many of 3ds Max’s features including Photometric Lights, this movie shows you the benefits of using Arnold Lights to illuminate a scene.
- Recorded in: 3ds Max 2018
- Files used: http://areadownloads.autodesk.com/wdm/3dsmax/HTM-LIT_maxtoa.zip
- This tutorial is intended for use with 3ds Max version 2018 or higher.
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In the last movie, you learned how to use and set up the Arnold renderer with basic 3ds Max functionality.
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In the process, you learned that Arnold is compatible with 3ds Max's Physical Materials, Physical Cameras and Photometric Lights.
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If you have used Photometric Lights in the past and are comfortable with them, then you may continue to use them with Arnold.
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Still, you may also want to look at Arnold's own light type as you may find it more convenient to work with.
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Continue with the scene you worked on in the last movie. You can also use the scene named Dining-Set_lights.max if you need to catch up.
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This scene is currently lit by six photometric lights that were created and saved in a previous release of 3ds Max.
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Select these lights and delete them. You will light the scene using Arnold lights only.
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Arnold Lights are easy to use, and even easier to find.
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There's a category for Arnold Lights in the Create Lights panel, with only one entry to avoid confusion.
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Different light types for different scenarios can then be selected from a drop-down menu.
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The default is a Quad light but you also have options for other familiar types such as Point and Spot Lights.
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Let's stick with the Quad Light for now.
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In the top view, click the center of the scene to place a light.
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A Quad light is placed at floor level; you can move it up in a side view.
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The camera view shading gets overexposed, simply set the shading mode to Standard.
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Take a look at the new light in both the top view and in the Modify panel.
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By default, it is set to a 2x4 aspect ratio, much like a fluorescent box.
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A little lower, there are Intensity parameters you can adjust.
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Do a test render of the camera view first. You will find it's rather dark.
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You can boost the intensity of the light in a couple of ways, you can change the Intensity value itself,
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Or you can change the Exposure value, which essentially acts like an intensity multiplier.
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By increasing the Exposure by one notch, you in fact double the resulting intensity value.
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Set it to 14 and try another render.
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The scene should look better, although it's still far from perfect.
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It's missing some Gi effects and the shadow quality is below par. We'll investigate these issues momentarily.
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In doing so, we will be jumping back and forth between the Modify panel and the Render Settings dialog, so make sure you can see both.
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Make sure the Quad Light is still selected.
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Below the Intensity group in the Modify panel, you will notice a Rendering section, and in particular a Samples parameter value.
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The concept of Samples often comes back with Arnold and you see it in lights, materials, and global render settings.
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Typically, the higher the value and the more quality you end up with.
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As far as lights are concerned, more samples help reduce Noise artifacts in the shadow areas, as confirmed by the tooltip.
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Set the Samples value to 5 and try again.
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You should get a better result than earlier.
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It's a bit dark below the table as if not enough light is getting underneath.
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Take a look at the Render Settings dialog, in the Arnold Renderer tab.
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In the General section, there are many values you can adjust for better rendering results.
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You also have separate sampling controls for Diffuse, Reflections, Transparency values among others.
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You can also adjust Ray Depths values, which are essentially ray bounce factors.
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Increase the Ray Depth value to 4 and render again.
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The table and chairs legs should be easier to see.
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The shadows may also feel a bit soft. This is a direct result of the size of the light.
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In the Modify panel, bring the light size down to 1'x1' and try again.
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This should result in sharper shadows.
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Copy the light and set the copy to illuminate the scene from the left.
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You may consider bringing down the exposure value a notch to 13 and render again.
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Copy the light one more time to create a fill light from the right.
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Bring down the Exposure value another notch or two on that fill light.
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Take a look at your last render right underneath the table. You can zoom in on your rendered window using the mouse wheel.
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There's still a fair amount of noise down there, let's see what we can do to improve that.
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This can be improved by increasing the Diffuse Sampling of the rendering engine.
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As always, keep in mind that this usually comes at the price of making rendering calculations more time consuming.
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There are separate values to increase sampling quality for Diffuse, Reflections, Transparency, Sub-Surface-Scattering etc…
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You want to set values that work best with the project at hand, by increasing values that make a difference and decreasing those you don't need.
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If a scene does not use sub-surface-scattering for example, then there's no point increasing the quality at that level, you'd only be making rendering times longer.
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In this case, increasing the Diffuse Sampling value will help tune down the shadow noise.
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Note the number 36 that derives from the value currently set at 2.
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To avoid confusion and keep this tutorial from being too technical, I will not dwell on the math behind these values.
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Suffice to say that increasing the sampling improves the image quality, but adds to the render time.
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In this case, a default Diffuse sampling of 2 is resulting in a render that takes less than half a minute to compute on this machine, but yields significant noise in the shadows.
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A Diffuse sample value of 6, will show significant improvement in quality, but the rendering time has doubled.
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The Camera Anti-Aliasing (AA) Samples value is quite important as it acts as a multiplier for all other values.
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Notice what happens to the Diffuse resulting rays of 324 when you take up the Camera AA value one notch from 3 to 4.
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The resulting Diffuse rays have gone up from 324 to 576.
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Raising the Camera AA value to 6 increases the resulting Diffuse rays to 1296.
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All other sampling values are also multiplied when the Camera AA value is changed.
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Of course, this means that rendering time can increase exponentially,
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in this case, going over 3 minutes from under a minute a moment ago.
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So you can think of the Camera AA value as a global multiplier for image quality, whereas the other values are more specific.
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A good practice suggests to set the Diffuse, Specular, Transmission, SSS values to the proportions that a scene or project needs,
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then use the Camera AA global multiplier to switch from fast renders (small AA values) to final renders (high AA values).
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You can even set the Camera AA to a negative value for a very quick (but ugly) render.
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Finally, the Preview AA control is useful because as the name implies, it provides you with a quick feedback in the form of a progressive render.
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It is useful because you can easily see if you're on the right track or if you need to cancel the render and work further on the project.
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Once you are comfortable with what the scene should look like, you can always turn that option off.
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This will skip the progressive first-pass render and go straight to the full render as set by the other parameters.
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In the next movie, you take what you have learned so far and apply that knowledge to a more contextual scenario.
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You'll be using Arnold to render an interior scene.