Creating Water Ripple Effects in 3ds Max - Part 5 - Adding Lights

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6 min

Creating Water Ripple Effects in 3ds Max - Part 5 - Adding Lights

In this tutorial, you prepare for your final rendering by adding lights to your scene. You typically use Photometric lights to complement your rendering engine, but since this is not an architectural setting and you do not need perfect accuracy, you will use simple mr lights instead. They are easy to set up and work well in many circumstances.


  • Recorded in: 3ds Max 2014
  • This tutorial is intended for use with 3ds Max version 2014 or higher.


00:00:06 --> 00:00:12
With the materials in place, your next task is to add lighting to emphasize the ripple effects.

00:00:12 --> 00:00:19
Continue working on your scene or open the sceneflex-lights.max if you need to catch up.

00:00:20 --> 00:00:26
If you opt to open the provided file, you will also need to reload the point cache file as you did in the last movie.

00:00:31 --> 00:00:36
Select the water surface and go to a frame where you can make out the ripples.

00:00:37 --> 00:00:39
Frame 40 seems to work well here.

00:00:40 --> 00:00:49
Typically, if you are concerned with Physical scale and accuracy, as would be the case in architectural settings, you would use Photometric Lights.

00:00:49 --> 00:00:58
In this case, you don't need accurate lighting; just a lighting set up that works well for the scene and that emphasizes the transparency and ripple effect.

00:00:59 --> 00:01:02
You will use mr Lights to achieve that.

00:01:03 --> 00:01:09
You will start with a light that provides the global lighting, one set above the water surface and that illuminates the whole scene.

00:01:10 --> 00:01:20
From the Create > Lights panel, choose the Standard Lights category and then click the mr Area Spot button.

00:01:20 --> 00:01:25
This is similar to a Standard Spotlight but works better with the mental ray renderer.

00:01:25 --> 00:01:31
In the Front view, click and drag to create a spot pointing down at the water surface.

00:01:33 --> 00:01:39
In the Modify panel, ensure the Shadows option is enabled and set in Ray-Traced mode.

00:01:39 --> 00:01:49
If you want, you can disable Targeted mode. The light is already pointing down and this makes it easier to reposition it in the top view.

00:01:50 --> 00:01:57
Increase the intensity by setting the multiplier value to about 5. You may need to adjust that later on.

00:01:58 --> 00:02:02
Make sure the beam is big enough for the whole scene.

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Render the perspective view and take a look at it.

00:02:11 --> 00:02:17
If you want, you can reduce the shadow intensity but more importantly, you can also make the shadows softer.

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This is one advantage the mr lights have over Standard lights.

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In the Area Lights Parameters rollout, increase the Height and Width values to about 0.15m

00:02:28 --> 00:02:33
This makes the light source's surface wider and will soften the shadows.

00:02:34 --> 00:02:38
Quality is adjusted with the Samples values but leave the defaults for now.

00:02:38 --> 00:02:46
If you still want to reduce the shadow intensity, you can do so in the Shadow Parameters rollout. Try it with a value of 0.9

00:02:46 --> 00:02:52
As always, these numbers are provided as a guide. Feel free to experiment with other values.

00:02:52 --> 00:03:01
The scene is globally lit but some lighting work needs to be added to give the ripples more presence in the means of specular highlights.

00:03:04 --> 00:03:11
Go back to the Create panel and this time, add an mr Area Omni light in the top view.

00:03:12 --> 00:03:19
It is created on the floor level, so move it up above the scene and then go to the Modify panel to adjust its parameters.

00:03:20 --> 00:03:23
This light's only task is to add highlights to the ripples.

00:03:24 --> 00:03:28
It does not need to cast shadow, so start by disabling this option.

00:03:29 --> 00:03:36
Since its only use is to provide specular highlights, go to the Advanced Effects rollout and disable Diffuse.

00:03:37 --> 00:03:42
This way, this light doesn't add to the general illumination you already set up previously.

00:03:43 --> 00:03:52
Also, the intensity doesn't need to be so strong, so you want to bring it back down to about 1. You'll probably need to lower it further later.

00:03:52 --> 00:03:58
In the top view, relocate the light until you see a nice specular effect in the Realistic view.

00:03:59 --> 00:04:04
This is where the Realistic view comes in handy as opposed to other viewport modes.

00:04:04 --> 00:04:11
Remember that to get a light to affect the view, viewport Lighting and Shadows has to be set to be affected by scene lights.

00:04:12 --> 00:04:18
Unfortunately, performance in Realistic view mode depends largely on hardware and system performance.

00:04:18 --> 00:04:24
If your system or graphics card are not up to the task, real-time feedback may fail.

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You will see an example of this in a moment.

00:04:27 --> 00:04:35
With the light still selected use Shift+Move to instance it in the top view to create more lights that affect more ripples.

00:04:44 --> 00:04:49
Note what happens in this case and on the system that was used to record this movie:

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When I add more than three lights, I lose the real-time accuracy of the highlights.

00:05:15 --> 00:05:19
The render though is still accurate.

00:05:22 --> 00:05:26
You can tone down the specular effect by adjusting the lights' multiplier value.

00:05:27 --> 00:05:33
Set it to about 0.5 for now. As the point lights are instanced, you only need to change one.

00:05:34 --> 00:05:40
The scene is coming together, but we're still missing the underwater rings and ring connectors.

00:05:40 --> 00:05:42
You will work on those in the next movie.
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