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· Premium Member
5,551 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The aim of this thread is to let 3D artists show off their designs, animations, muck around pictures and at the same time for people to publish tutorials, help or other guides when it comes to using 3D applications likes 3DS Max, Maya, Lightwave, XSI, Blender, Bryce etc.

Many people on these forums use 3D applications and have a great deal of artistic talent, so it would certainly be nice to see some funky 3D stuff :evil:

· Premium Member
5,551 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
How to light a scene with HDR I (High Dynamic Range - Images)

To explain what HDRI is, I would like to refer you to this excellent introduction to the subject of HDRI: HDRI & Luminance space

This short tutorial is to show you how to setup lighting in a scene using HDRI as a light source. Along with such things as radiosity, caustics, global illumination and other advanced lighting techniques - HDRI can allow you to produce extremely photo-realistic scenes in terms of lighting and reflection / refraction.

To accompany you with this tutorial is a series of *.max files (3D Studio Max 8), these files are referred to at the start of every section, and contain the completed version of what you are just about to do. Use these files as guidelines, or if you wish to start further into the tutorial:

MAX files to accompany tutorial

Please note this tutorial applies to 3D Studio Max 6 - 8 and assumes you have some basic knowledge of how max works!

Part 01 - Basic Scene Setup
Reference MAX file:HDRI Tutorial 01.max

To Start with I have created a simple plain and sphere, with a camera looking down at the sphere. Both objects have a basic Phong material applied to them, set to a diffuse colour of RGB - 255 (white), with no gloss or specular (both 0).

Part 02 - Setting up your HDRI Material
Reference MAX file:HDRI Tutorial 02.max

Often you will have to produce your own HDR files, which takes specilist equipment or painstaking time converting a Low Dynamic Range Image to High Dynamic Range. There are also places where you can buy HDR files, but this can cost daft amounts of money, thankfully many talented photographers and artists take the time to kindly relese HDR packs for free, for this tutorial I shall be using High-Res HDRI Map Pack 1 (by smashmethod).

With the basic scene setup, or if you have loaded HDRI Tutorial 01.max, press 8 on your keyboard (this is the equivilent of going Rendering>Enviroment), then click the grey box under Enviroment Map: in the new window that popped up. This will open the Material/Map Browser, double click bitmap (second item down on the right hand side).

Browse to where you unpacked the High-Res HDRI Map Pack 1 and select 'SM_HDRI-Pack1-05.hdr', before clicking 'open' turn off 'sequence' if it is selected (near the view / preview buttons)

Once you have clicked 'open' a new dialog will open, simply click 'OK'. This has now set the scene enviroment to use 'SM_HDRI-Pack1-05.hdr'.

Leave the 'Environment and Effects' dialog open, and open up the 'Material Editor'. Focus on the 'Environment and Effects' dialog, click and hold the mouse button on the grey box below 'Enviroment Map:' (the grey box will have the name of the HDRI file you are using as your enviroment), drag (whilst holding the mouse button down) your mouse over to the 'Material Editor' and release the mouse button when you are over a free material slot. A dialog will open with two toggles - copy or instance, make sure 'instance' is selected and confirm.

With your HDR Material selected click on any open area in it's control dialog (a hand symbol will be there instead of a arrow), with the mouse button held down, drag up until you see a dark grey bar with 'output' written on it, expand this if it's not already open by clicking on the grey bar, and change RGB Level from 1.0 to 2.0, you should note the thumbnail gets 'brighter'.

Then click on any open area and drag down until you can see the 'Coordinates' grey bar, you will see a drop down dialog next to Mapping: click on this and change it to Spherical Enviroment.

Part 03 - Setting up the Lights
Reference MAX file:HDRI Tutorial 03.max

Under the create panel select 'lights' and then 'skylight', click anywhere in the top viewport to produce a 'skylight gizmo', this is an object that will not be rendered, but controls how your scene is illuminated.

With the skylight gizmo selected, click the modify panel, then drag and drop your HDR Material onto the grey box that says 'none', again making sure it is an 'instance'

Part 03 - Setting up the Render Method
Reference MAX file:HDRI Tutorial 04.max

Click on the 'Full Render Dialog' Button
, this will open a new window, click on 'Advanced Lighting', this will take you to a simple window pane with a drop down menu, select from the drop down menu Light Tracer, this will present you with a series of options, for now we are only concerned with three: change Filter Size: from 0.5 to 10, this will smooth the overall lighting effect, making the light cast less pixelated and smoother. Next change Bounces: from 0 to 2, this controls the number of times light will bounce of objects, this controls objects colour bleeding, eg if you sit a red box on a white floor, the shadow and surrounding area will be tinted red due to the natural effects of global illumination. Change Rays/Sample: from 250 to 1000.

Making sure that Viewport: is set to your camera or the perspective view, click on render, this will result in a slightly blotchy / semi-realisticly lit image, all be it very plain and un interesting!

You can remove the blotchy effect by increasing the number of samples, and adjusting the filter value appropriatly, the greatest and nicest effect is given by the number of samples per ray, note however this increases render time!!

Note by changing the 'bitmap' to a different HDR file in the material editor, you can instantly change the feel of the image and it's lighting completely!

Also if you wish load up HDRI Tutorial 05.max for the finished scene, with the ball now having a nice chrome material applied, this is where the lighting and reflection benefits really start to come to life, and can bring dramatic realism to well modeled scenes!

Hopefully this basic tutorial will help you step into using HDR in future scenes and introduce you to what can be a rather complex but extremely usefull skill to learn, especially in the finer details. Would be rather nice to see some scenes you have produced lit with HDR ;)


· KO'ed User
962 Posts
Wow, preety neat stuff. Have to try that out. I just started "toying" with 3ds max and this is my first thing i have done (exluding a quite neat woredrobe from a tutorial) Nothing special, no lighting or anything (duuno how to use that right now) just a colourful weird shape dude :)

· band
5,270 Posts
for some odd reason when i looked at that i thot "cray super computer"....

"u know ur a nerd when..."
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