Rendering a Night Scene in Shaderlight

A simple guide to rendering a night scene.

Night scenes can often take a bit more time to set up than a daytime scene. The tricky part is getting the right balance between exposure and lighting.

In this quick tutorial I am going to show some basic settings for rendering an exterior night time scene.  First thing to note is that I have the Shaderlight settings on ‘Exterior’.

A little tip…

nightsky

nightsky.jpg

Something we do here at the Shaderlight HQ when rendering a night scene is to create a custom ‘nightsky’ jpg to use as the environment background. This is just a small dark blue image file which will then bring some light into the scene giving it that ‘blue’ night time glow.

Under the Lighting heading in the Shaderlight Render Settings, set the Type to ‘Custom’, then under Image navigate to the location of your ‘nightsky.jpg’.

Night Settings copy

Exposure.

The next thing is to set the exposure. Auto Exposure works just like your digital camera.

  • If your lighting is very bright, the exposure is automatically adjusted so that the image isn’t burnt out.
  • If you have very little light, the exposure is adjusted so that you don’t have a very dark image.

For this particular night-time render, I have turned off Auto exposure. This then allows me to have full manual control over the exposure levels and to be able adjust them accordingly for my render.

Gherkin Night Scene

Lighting.

The scene lighting has to be balanced using a combination of light Intensity and scene Exposure levels. In this scene I have used Spotlights and Area lights to cast light up the sides of the building. You can see the Light Intensity is not that high, which is because I don’t want them to be too bright in my night render.

Spotlight setting Area Light Setting

Background.

I have used the ‘Lighting Environment’ for the Background setting, which means that Shaderlight will render the environment that is lighting the scene instead of the SketchUp background. You can then upload your background image and adjust the Brightness levels to suit your scene. It is best to check you are happy with your settings as you do them by rendering on a low quality. This will allow you to change them if you need to and using ‘Auto’ update you will be able to see the changes happen as you make them.

Once you are happy with all your settings, you can the render your model at high quality.

Gherkin-night

If you have any questions about getting the most out of Shaderlight , please head to our forum or check out our YouTube Channel.

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Learn about Materials

Shaderlight’s Material Editor has been developed so that it works out of the box.  If you have applied a Material from the standard SketchUp collection, Shaderlight automatically assigns properties so that the material renders correctly. 

In order to create the perfect finish for your SketchUp model you may want to edit the Material Type and Finish.  For those of you not familiar with the options available in Shaderlight’s Material Editor, here is a quick overview.

SL-Toolbar-Materials

SL-Material Editor

By default Shaderlight will use the Auto Material option however there are 8 preset Material types that can be selected as an alternative or used for new Materials you create yourself. You can change the colour, opacity and add ‘bump’to your Material.

The Materials will look different depending on which Lighting presets are used in the Shaderlight render settings.

The following slides show the variation of the different preset finishes available in Shaderlight.

 

Shiny Material.

Shiny

Objects and light sources show as well defined reflections in the material.

Satin Material.

Satin

Strong light sources show as highlights, but other objects do not reflect.

Glossy Material.

Glossy

Objects and light sources show as blurred reflections in the material.

Metal Material.

Metal

Reflections in the material are affected by the colour of the metal.

Transparent Material.

Transparent

Material you can see through but can be coloured.

Translucent Material.

Translucent

Material that you can see through, but it may be cloudy.

Self Illuminating Material.

Self Illuminating copyLED 2 cd/m2Self-Illuminating materials are to represent light emitting materials. They do not actually cast light, but to get the effect of light shining from them you can apply lights to the front of the Material. They are used for things like televisions, computer monitors and other similar devices.

There are a range of light intensity’s to choose from in the Self-Illuminating Material drop down depending on the how bright you want your light to be:

Luminous Paint 0.1 cd/m2

LED 2 cd/m2

10 cd/m2

CRT Monitor 150 cd/m2

LCD Monitor 300 cd/m2

Neon Sign 1500 cd/m2

10,000 cd/m2

100,000 cd/m2

1,000,000 cd/m2

10,000,000 cd/m2

Rendered image using different Shaderlight Materials.

To give you an idea of how different material types and finishes can transform an image, we’ve detailed the material options chosen for each element of this scene.

Rendered Materials

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Shaderlight helps develop the future of architectural design

Steve Vasilion was the owner and lead designer of Vasilion Architects, a full service architectural firm based in Batavia, Illinois.  The firm was acquired by Prairie Forge Group last November and Steve is now now their Director of Architecture.

For more than 8 years Steve has been using SketchUp to develop his designs but would often have to outsource his presentation quality rendering to ‘professionals’.

The simplicity and affordablily of Shaderlight has finally enabled him to bring photorealistic rendering in house.  Steve believes that being able to produce quality images on a daily basis not only saves him money but offers him an edge over his competition – crucial in a challenging economy.

“People are always wowed by the photorealistic quality that I can now produce.  They are often willing to pay more to achieve this quality, which results in more income for my firm.  They have no idea how easily Shaderlight steps up the quality of my work!”

A true ambassador for 3D design, alongside his day job Steve runs a high school mentoring program where local students, interested in a career in architecture, can develop their 3d design and presentation skills working alongside local business owners and city officials.

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Steve customized the program to ensure students were given a realistic view of the architecture profession.

We asked Steve to explain more about the program:

How did the mentoring program come about?  

While running Vasilion, I was contacted by a group called “ACE” ( Architecture-Construction-Engineering), an organization formed to interest high school students in a career in the construction industry.  It was formed in response to a noticeable drop in young adults choosing a career in the building trades.  The ACE program was sponsored by the local contractor’s association who would visit area high schools and enlist interested students.  The students would choose between architecture, engineering, or contracting mentors.  I participated in the ACE program for a couple years until they cancelled their funding for the program.  It was unfortunate: the year they cancelled students had already signed up and were ready to begin the program.  I decided to continue the program on my own.  I contacted the drafting instructors at the high schools and asked them to still send their students.  I then customized the program to fit my interest in providing the students with a realistic view of the architecture profession.

What does it involve? 

I have six students each year, two each representing three area high schools: Batavia and Geneva High Schools and the Illinois Math and Science Academy (IMSA).  The students are all juniors or seniors.  The students meet every Wednesday from September through the following April.  The Batavia and Geneva students participate on their own time, arriving at 5pm and working until 7pm.  The IMSA students earn school credit, arriving at 8:30am and working until 7pm.  The project is hypothetical in that it is not an actual commission.  But the site is real and the program is realistic.  The students have to study the zoning ordinances and city master plan documents.  They analyze the owner’s building program.  They have to interview our volunteer ‘owner’ and volunteer ‘city official’.  This allows them to learn about the different goals of the two entities.  Then they are ready to begin designing.

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Projects require detailed planning before the designing begins.

They usually have some experience with Autocad and SketchUp, but none have used a photorealistic rendering program like Shaderlight.  They will periodically meet with our owner and city official to review their progress.  At the end of the year, the IMSA students make a school presentation as part of their final examination.  The entire team also makes a presentation to their teachers, parents, and city officials.  Then they make one more final presentation to the City Council of Batavia.  This provides them an opportunity to work on their presentation skills, which are critical for architects as they attempt to sell and gain approval of their designs. 

Who else is involved in your programs?

My volunteer owner (Austin Dempsey, of Batavia Enterprises, Inc.) actually owns most of the various properties they have studied over the years.  In exchange for him volunteering his time he receives an excellent study of the possibilities that exist for the development of his various properties.  My volunteer city official is an actual zoning or planning official from the City of Batavia.

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Students present to their teachers, parents, and city officials.

“Success is determined by exposing the students to as realistic a view as possible of what an architect actually does”

How has the course helped you students? 

The success of the program is not determined by how many students choose a career in architecture.  Success is determined by exposing the students to as realistic a view as possible of what an architect actually does… before spending tens of thousands of their parents’ dollars on a specialized college education.  They have no idea how much planning and research goes into a project before actual design begins.  They have no idea how the architect navigates and negotiates with the city on behalf of the owner.  And they have only a vague idea about how good architecture blends functionality with beauty.

What have your students gone on to do?

About 1/3 of the students continue on in architecture; about 1/3 choose a related field (engineering, landscape architecture, construction management, etc.); and 1/3 want nothing more to do with the profession.  The program succeeds because it either cements a student’s interest and passion for this profession, or reveals to them that it is not the career choice for them.

The course has proved its worth in educating young people in to the intracacies of a career in architecure however when it comes to the software, Steve has been keen to pass on his knowledge of 3d modelling and rendering. 

image 2

Student’s use Shaderlight to gain rendering skills.

Why have you chosen Shaderlight for the course? 

Shaderlight offers the students one more opportunity to express their finished design concept, and also exposes them to one more career option: that of a professional renderer.

The degree of realism that can be achieved is dramatically heightened by Shaderlight.  The sophistication of the shadows, the added depth of material textures and reflectivity, and the ability to add lighting fixtures all enhance the effectiveness of the renderings.

This photorealism provide a great ‘wow’ factor for the students.  When they see their designs come to life, first in SketchUp then in Shaderlight it is very satisfying to behold.

image 1

Shaderlight lets students add realism to their SketchUp models.

Here is an example of one of the student project videos using SketchUp.  More can be seen on YouTube.

Prairie Forge Group is full service Architectural, Design|Build and Construction Management firm, located in St. Charles, Illinois, USA.  http://www.prairieforgegroup.com/

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Learn about lighting

The right lighting can make or break your render.  To give you a helping hand, here’s a quick overview of the different types of artificial lights in Shaderlight and the best way to use them.

All-Lights

Point Lights…

Pointlights

Point Lights give the most equal and ‘all round’ lighting. The yellow dot in the centre of the light indicates that the light is emitted in all directions.

Point Lights All

Point Lights work well in lamps and light fittings where you would normally have a light bulb. You can use a series of Point Lights to create tube and strip lighting. The colour and light intensity can be changed in the Light Editor when you select your light.

Spot Lights…

Spotlights

Spot Lights give a directional light in the area you point them. The cone angle can be controlled to widen/lessen the angle of light.

Spot Lights All

Shaderlight Spot Lights are generally used to simulate real Spot Lights. As well as changing the cone angle you can change the colour and intensity in the Light Editor.

IES Lights…

IESlights

IES Web Profile Lights are supplied by the light manufacturer; they provide a realistic profile of the way the light will be emitted from the physical light. We have teamed up with Visa Lighting and have made some of their 3D light models with IES files for you to download from the 3D Warehouse.

You can also change the Dimmer value and Colour of the IES Lights in the Light Editor.

IES Viewer

A great tool to view IES files is the IES Viewer which is free to download. You can find out more here

Area Lights…

Arealights

Area Lights are rectangular panels which emit smooth light from the whole panel and produce soft shadows. The larger the light, the softer the shadow. They are a good way to add subtle lighting to your Interior and brighten up those areas which need a little more light.

Area Lights All

We hope you’ve found this overview useful – check out our YouTube channel for more information on how to light up your renders.

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Using Skylight Portals in Shaderlight

  • What are Skylight Portals?
  • How do they work?
  • Where do they need to go?

We often see these questions in support so we’ve put together this quick tutorial which should hopefully give you all the answers and help you make the best of your renders!

Room with ladder_Portals

What are Skylight Portals and how do they work?

What are Portals

Skylight Portals can be found under the ‘lightbulb’ icon on the Shaderlight toolbar.

They are basically ‘seals’ which act as a one way window to direct natural light into the Interior and stop it escaping again.

Without Skylight Portals it’s likely you will get a ‘noisy’ render as the light rays are bouncing back and forth in the scene. This will show on the render as white speckles or ‘noise’.

This is the same render without Skylight Portals…

No Portal Render

The render is very dark and grainy even though it has been rendered at high quality. The natural light does not fill the room and you get lots of harsh shadowing and noise where the light is present.

Where do Skylight Portals need to go?

Portals1

Skylight Portals should be placed over any opening where the Interior is exposed to the outside space. It is best to cover all openings even if they are not directly in the room.

The Portal needs to be placed on the outside of the window. If you start by selecting the Portal and clicking on the corner of your opening you should see an orange line in the centre of the portal as you drag it across. This line needs to face into the room, which indicates the direction the natural light will travel in.

Portals2

Once you have placed the Skylight Portal over your opening, you should see a yellow half circle in the centre of the Portal. This should also point into the room again to indicate the direction of the natural light.

You then need to repeat this process for all other openings in the model so the Interior is completely ‘sealed’.

You can then render your model!

This render shows the left side of the Interior rendered with Skylight Portals and the Right side without Portals.

mixed renders

You should find the render is much brighter and sharper when you render with Skylight Portals!

To find out more about Portals please have a look at our YouTube Channel.

To download a free 14 day trial of Shaderlight for SketchUp visit our website.

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Shaderlight sets the stage for star studded concert designs

StarLight Visual is an entertainment design firm that specializes in the set lighting and visual displays for major touring concerts.  They are at the cutting edge of music concert design so need to ensure their concepts translate into a show-stopping backdrop for some of the biggest artists around.

Jonathan Goldstein, Lead Designer at StarLight Visual, started using SketchUp to develop his ideas a couple of years ago.  One of the most difficult elements of their business is the ability to communicate with clients on a visual level so since discovering Shaderlight he hasn’t looked back.

“My passion is to bend, meld and twist the idea of modern art, architecture, and visual media into forms that have not been seen on stage”

Using SketchUp and Shaderlight to develop their ideas is the first step for taking sketches and building something that would resemble a real life show.

AK-VMA-4 (1)

“We typically start by adding in our venue, in most cases this is a sports arena, we then layout our staging and scenic and go from there. Our scale can range from a show to fit in a hockey floor arena layout to a festival ground so we are ALWAYS dealing with huge scaled items. The best approach for our first layer of designs is to begin with the chalk render, it gives us a generic feel to our model and allows us to keep the canvas a bit open ended creatively so it doesn’t lock our client into a specific outputted rendered image.”

AK-Chalk-VMA-2 (1)

Projects can be won or lost on the quality of images as Jonathan cannot always be in front of the client when they are viewing the design proposals. Images have to speak for themselves, too cartoonish or lacking in detail and the client can take this literally.

“In our latest project we had to simulate a theatrical sharks tooth scrim – a netting based fabric material that is weaved open to allow light to pass through. In the renders we created we were able to pull off the transparency in a way that felt realistic and we were able to really make the client understand the concept behind the visuals and lighting.”

A quick turnaround is vital and to improve productivity Jonathan and the team are using Shaderlight’s cloud rendering to produce complex renders and animations.

AK-VMA-3 (1) AK-VMA-2 (1)

“Shaderlight is quick and works seamlessly with SketchUp. The integration and simple interface is very intuitive but the Cloud rendering is our most favourite new feature.  Our workload sometimes meant that machines could be tied up for a whole day rendering.  The ability to send jobs to the cloud have not only freed up our local machines but mean we can render more detailed visualisations that simply wow our clients.”

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The images used in this case study are the actual renders created for the Alicia Keys performance at the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards.   StarLight Visual Designed the Set and Lighting for the performance.

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Here is the video of the live performance.

If you’re in the USA you can watch the video here.

Starlight Visual have an impressive list of clients and their state of the art set designs for Electric Zoo Festival 2012 have recently appeared in Rolling Stone.  Jonathan’s work with Rihanna also featured on the cover of Live Design Magazine in Oct 2010.

“We are currently working on the Alicia Keys ‘Set the world on fire’ World Tour and we just finished Mariah Carey’s Australian Tour.  Following this year’s success, we have also been brought back as the production design firm for the Electric Zoo Festival in 2013.  All of these projects have been and will be designed using Shaderlight and SketchUp as our primary 3D visualisation tools.”

You can read more about Jonathan Goldstein and Starlight Visual’s work on their website.

 About Lead Designer, Jonathan S. Goldstein

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To date Jonathan and SLV have traveled for clients around the world 3 times to remote destinations such as Singapore, Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Australia, and Hong Kong just to name a few! He has been able to collaborate and work with some of today’s top musical artists , fashion designers, photographers and directors.

Of recent years Jonathan has worked with musical artists such as: Rihanna, Donna Summer, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Trey Songz, Kid Cudi, Mariah Carey , Alicia Keys, Karmin , Armen VanBuren, and many more!

SLV’s work has been seen with musical artists on the 50th Grammy Awards, Saturday Night Live, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, The Late Show with David Letterman, The American Music Awards, VH1 Do Something Awards.

SLV’s work has also been featured in the Glow in the Dark book by Nabil Elderkin and the 2009  release Last Girl on Earth book by Simon Henwood both published by Rizzoli.

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Create your first Shaderlight Render in 7 simple steps…

So you’ve downloaded the Shaderlight 14 day trial – what next?  If you’re new to rendering with Shaderlight you may need some help getting started.  So for all you rookie renderers out there, we’ve put together this simple, 7 step tutorial to help you complete your first Shaderlight image.

Lounge with fireplace1

For an extra incentive to get rendering – make it unique, send it to us and you could win a 12 Month Shaderlight License!

Step 1 – Activate your 14 day Trial

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Step 2 – Download and open the model Lounge_Test

Lounge_Test-Slide3

Step 3 – Add some Finishes to your model

Lounge_Test-Slide4Select your surface, then use the SketchUp Material selector to pick a Material or upload your own. Apply the Material to your surface then use the Shaderlight Material Editor to change the finish.

Step 4 – Add some Lighting

Lounge_Test-Slide5Use the Shaderlight Lightbulb Tool to add some lighting to your model.

Step 5 – Seal the openings with Skylight Portals

Lounge_Test-Slide6Skylight Portals can be found under the Lightbulb tool in Shaderlight.  They are used to ‘seal’ the room and direct natural light in. It is important to seal any openings – windows or doors where the Interior is open as this will reduce any noise on the render.

You can find out more about Portals on our YouTube Channel

Step 6 – Check your render settings

Lounge_Test-Slide7When your happy with your model, its time to check the render settings. It’s best to use a lower quality and smaller output resolution when playing with settings as it will render faster. Use the Camera Icon to export your render. Try setting up a daytime scene and also an evening scene using the different settings.

Step 7 – Render your scene!

Lounge_Test-Slide8When you are happy with the settings you can adjust the output resolution and set your quality to high. You will notice it changes to tiled mode, which is the most effective way to render your high quality scene. You can then export your render using the Camera icon, or use the Cloud button to send your render to the Cloud using your complementary free credit!

You can find out more about Cloud Rendering on our Website

Happy rendering – we look forward to seeing the results!  Don’t forget, send us your finished renders before the 30th March and you could win a 12 month license.

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