Thesis Project: Robot – Image Based Lighting

 This week was quite a rush in trying to finish up the modeling for the Robot.  Some of the shapes and structures were quite difficult to figure out, but I managed to get them in the end.  The main issues with hard surface modeling, especially with a model with complex curved surfaces, is trying to keep your surface continuity consistent.  One wrong move with a vertex and you're done for!

Okay, maybe not really, but it really helps to have really clean, smooth geometry to give the appearance that something has been manufactured.  When you apply a nice, reflective shader to a surface like that as well, all of the problems can quickly be revealed.

That brings me to the next point.  For this model, I decided that I wanted to try rendering it out using image-based lighting using Mental Ray.  Image based lighting allows you to illuminate a model using a high dynamic range image as a light source.  In a sense, you are mimicking how light typically reflects and refracts on objects in real life.  If you place an object outside and take a picture of it, you'll get a nice highlight from the sun, reflected blue light from the sky, and reflected light from the ground it's sitting on.  Mental Ray allows you to fake that effect with fairly decent results.

I wanted to figure out the best image to light this Robot model with, so I lit him using various HDR images and rendered it out to see the results:

An abstract environment

A cityscape environment

A crater environment

A desert environment

A european plaza

A forest meadow

The city of Pisae

A photography studio lighting setup

 As you can see, different environments give off different results, but the reflections and highlights are incredibly realistic.  While the Robot won't be this shiny because I'll be adding quite a bit of grunge to the textures, this gives me a good starting point to judge my textures by.

A gray model turntable test

Reflective turntable test

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