Uber Area Lighting: The Basics
I got this together before the end of last year; before my computer died a horrible death and my hope was that my fellow CV’s would correct me if I had gotten certain facts wrong. Unfortunately with the holidays and some not using Daz Studio has made it difficult to clarify the contained information although I am fairly certain my info is correct but I am always open to be corrected. With this in mind I will provide an open post at the end for any information that either needs correcting or adding.
Area Lights also commonly referred to as mesh lights as we use a geometric shape as a light source. When a surface is used for a light source the direction of the mesh’s normal dictates the direction of the light projected. Take a standard Daz Studio sphere; its normals are facing outward…when used as a light source the light emits outward.
From a lighting standpoint my personal preference is Area Lighting for its softness and more realistic effects. This is due how the light rays travel from the light source’s surface compared to the standard lights like Spot, Point and Distant lights. Refer to image 1 below. Plus we can control shadow colour and intensity and my favourite Fall OFF. I love using Fall off for many reasons like avoiding light spilling on to other parts of the scene, for small lights sources that fade out after a distance and more importantly using Fall off saves on memory as once the light hits the cut off point no more calculations are needed.
As you can see the light rays are not parallel to each other so light gets around the curved edges more as real light would.
In Daz Studio we have a number of geometric area light presets, plane, sphere tube etc and the Base preset, my favourite. Refer to image 2 The Base preset allows us to turn almost any object in to a light source. But it does increase render times but IMHO well worth it when you see the results.
When using an Area Light Plane I find loading a new camera and adjusting the location to 0 on all 3 axes and 0 on all rotations. Load an Area Plane, rotate on the X axis 90 degrees and parent the plane to the camera. Now you have a viewing angle to position the plane with, move the camera you move the Area Light Plane. See image 3
An Area light Sphere is like a point light which emits light spherically.
Area Disc is pretty much the same as the Plane and to be honest I hardly ever used them except for the example below.
Area Tubes are good but the ends don’t emit light, this is where I find the Area Discs come in handy placing one disc on each end of the tube or for example on one end of a light sabre.
The only time I use the Neon preset is for the light setting and surfaces properties on 3D text or for the Area Tube set up mentioned above.
Area Base allows us to use just about any mesh as a light source. To apply the Area Base first select the object and the surfaces in the Surfaces Pane. Double click the Base preset and adjust the surfaces accordingly.
To apply an Area Light base to a textured object and you want to retain the diffuse texture maps then holding down Ctrl while loading the Area Base Preset will allow you to “Ignore” replacing the texture maps and therefore retaining the colour maps. Refer to image 4