Tag Archives: lighting

Lighting & Viewport 2.0

My most asked question from this blog is how I light and render my shots. My basic answer is I don’t render anymore, and I start with a simple 3 point lighting set up.

1. Rendering:
Instead of rendering I use Viewport 2.0, this gives a higher quality image in my Maya viewport:

To “render” I simply do a playblast. The quality isn’t as good as a render, but it allows me to easily touch up shots and continually update my reel. As an animator I think that’s more important than render quality.

2. Lighting:
I’ll use a more simple example to give a quick run down of how I light my shots. I should note there should be a ground plane so the character casts a shadow, see my edit below for turning on shadows.

Firstly Switch to Viewport 2.0. I generally turn the anti-aliasing values up to their highest. I don’t recommend actually animating in Viewport 2.0, it’s more intensive and can be quite buggy at times.


This is a view of my lighting set up. Here I’ve used Directional Lights as it’s a such a simple set up, when lighting a more complex scene Spot Lights might often be a better choice.

If I just reduce the scene to one light, it should get an idea of what each light is doing.

Key Light = the main light source.

Fill light
brings some detail into the shadows, you can see here I like to add a fair bit of colour to it.viewport05

The rim light just helps separate the character from the background. It’s just a subtle touch.


The combination of all 3 lights should give a good starting point to your lighting set up.

To turn on shadows you need to do it both in your viewport and on the light you want to be casting shadows.