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WarLord’s Workshop – Rookies Information: Smooth Material & Volumetric Lighting

6 min read

Some of the necessary expertise you be taught as an animator is lighting and this can’t be overstated. It’s a make-or-break issue that may make a so-so story look nice whereas poor lighting could make a terrific story look dangerous. There can by no means be sufficient tutorials considered concerning lighting as there are lots of totally different tips, ideas, and viewpoints from totally different authors that, when mixed, could result in nice lighting strategies that arrange aside from the gang. 


This text is an introduction to how Volumetric Lighting, mixed with Smooth Material physics and character interplay provides depth to a scene however like all eye sweet will be overplayed. I can be combining just a few ideas: 

  • Animating a personality with a easy movement. 
  • Utilizing that movement with the character to work together and pull open home windows curtains. 
  • Utilizing dummies connected to the palms to make it simpler to maneuver the curtains with physics. 
  • Use a volumetric highlight to silhouette a personality standing exterior the home windows wanting in. 
Quick Demonstration of Smooth Material and Volumetric Lighting


The character I used is Camilla, one of many characters that comes with iClone, and the movement, Open Curtains, will be discovered within the MOTION->HUMAN FEMALE->PERFORM folder.  Each of those ought to be out there until you haven’t downloaded the additional free sources that include iClone. Look below the FREE RESOURCES folder in Good Gallery.  


A lady in entrance of a set of closed curtains masking a big image window in a rural front room. There’s a unusual blue gentle coming from the window and he or she makes use of her hand to seize the curtains and open them to the purpose that she will look out solely to see the silhouette of a strange-looking creature wanting again by way of the window just some toes away. 

The room is dimly lit so the rays of the blue gentle cross by way of the window silhouetting the creature in entrance of the window. 


This can be a quite simple setup with two characters, the lady and the creature on both sides of a front room window. The drapes are Smooth Material props that may be present in PROPS->PHYSICS PROPS->CLOTH TEMPLATE PIN-> Pin4_4Points. I duplicated the material for the opposite curtain and left their settings at default.  

There are a number of gentle sources inside the room together with a degree gentle that’s close to the character so I might maintain the general lighting down however nonetheless be capable to see the character. I additionally elevated the IBL lighting for this text so we might see what was occurring. Experiment with totally different IBL lighting pictures and strengths to reinforce the picture visually with out blowing out the extra refined lighting.  

The Hand Dummies 

The hand dummies should not essential because the character comes arrange and able to work together with the curtain through collision dummies. This, nonetheless, requires a extra pinpoint placement of the character to get the curtains to maneuver correctly. The dummies have extra contact space, however they are often resized too. 

These dummies are blocks present in PROPS->3D BLOCKS->BOX_001, resized to raised match the palms and they are often resized independently if wanted as was the case right here. The fitting-hand dummy was longer than the left-hand dummy to get the specified impact on the curtains. Because the blocks are invisible, if Set as Dummy, they won’t render.  Make sure you ATTACH the dummies to the palms.

A greater view of the Hand Dummies with Physics turned on and set to Kinematic.

Should you look intently sufficient at totally different digital camera angles, you will notice that there’s a little bit of area between the character’s arm/hand and the curtain. The lighting of this scene will disguise that. It might be tweaked, if essential, by reducing the dummy dimension and the collision dummies within the arms and palms of the character. 

Activate the physics field. Go away the physics setting at default and the mode to Kinematic. This is essential as it will maintain the dummies’ place whereas sustaining the collision physics essential for this animation to work. 


That is the straightforward half since we’re solely utilizing one, provided movement. No tweaking can be essential until you simply need to achieve this. Place the character close to the middle of the Smooth Material curtains. Subsequent drag and drop the Open Curtains movement onto the character. 

The ultimate motion and interplay between character and curtains.

If she runs into the wall or previous the curtains, don’t panic, simply modify her beginning place till you get the anticipated outcomes. This may take a little bit of forwards and backwards when you discover the optimum place that may maintain the character from working into the wall whereas interacting with the curtains. 


Whereas we will modify the properties of the curtains the interplay itself can be managed by the movement clip added earlier. The bodily contact between the character and the curtain will be managed by the scale of the dummies we connected earlier. 

If it’s essential, make the hand dummies giant sufficient to simply see till you see what’s going on, then you may scale them all the way down to lower the hole between the character and the curtain fabric If wanted. 


The spotlight is used to mission the lighting by way of the window. The position of the highlight by way of distance from and top are arbitrary with direct or shut placement yielding extra gentle whereas being above and angled down yields a greater silhouette and won’t wash out the scene with an excessive amount of gentle. 

Verify the Volumetric Mild field about midway down the modify menu with the highlight chosen. Additionally, verify the Unlink Mild Depth field so the slider turns into out there, after which you may experiment with totally different seems to be. 


On this instance, I used an alien mannequin that I rigged by way of Character Creator 4 which I then animated with an idle movement utilizing the movement puppet. This was “movement for impact” so I simply wanted motion so it wouldn’t seem like a statue planted in entrance of the window. 

The creature was positioned straight in entrance of the window with the highlight up and behind. Experiment with the position of each.

Run the animation, which because it entails Smooth Material can also be a physics simulation. The distinction is that the character is animated and the curtains are simulated. Tweak, place, re-position, experiment, relight, or no matter at this level because the scene is now able to render. 


Volumetric lighting will be overplayed so maintain it dramatic when it must be, like this check scene, extra refined at different occasions. Whereas lighting is essential, you don’t want it to detract from the aim of the scene which is to inform a narrative. 

A vivid, ray-filled scene is cool, but it surely doesn’t and shouldn’t be in each scene until the lighting is extra refined. A extra even handed use of volumetric lighting will go a great distance in direction of a extra cinematic outcome. 

Earlier than I shut, I’d like so as to add the primary time I noticed this volumetric gentle and curtain impact in iClone was a masterful check created by a pioneer of iClone Mark Nice of Small Marvel Studios. The check was brilliantly executed and on the time, beautiful, as volumetric lighting was new to iClone. Any tutorial by Mark is value watching as he’s an skilled cinematographer and a very good animator.  

MD McCallum - WarLord

MD McCallum – WarLord

Digital Artist MD “Mike” McCallum, aka WarLord, is a longtime iClone person. Having authored free tutorials for iClone in its early years and chosen to put in writing the iClone Rookies Information from Packt Publishing in 2011, he was lucky sufficient to satisfy and trade tips and ideas with customers from all around the world and likes to share this data with different customers. He has authored tons of of articles on iClone and digital artwork basically whereas reviewing a few of the hottest software program and {hardware} on this planet. He has been revealed in lots of the main 3D on-line and print magazines whereas staying true to his largest ardour, 3D animation. For extra data click on right here. 

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