Lighting a scene is an essential and fundamental skill. Whether it’s on set with your actors or in post production with a 3D model, it’s something that every filmmaker and editor must know. Lighting can make or break your scene. With good lighting, you can create layers of depth, focus, and intensity. Depending on where your intent lies, it can make your subject really pop, or fall into the shadows. Three-point lighting is the most basic of the lighting techniques. It sets the foundation for almost every lighting scheme thereafter.
First, let’s review three-point lighting. Then we’ll apply the rule in post production using Cinema 4D to properly light a 3D model. Three-point lighting, obviously, deals with three lights. These three lights are: (1) Key Light (2) Fill Light and (3) Back Light.
- Key Light: This light is off to the right of your subject (stage right), and on an angle of roughly 45 degrees. This light creates highlights on one side of your subject and leaves dark shadows on the other side that need to be ‘Filled’ in.
- Fill Light: This light is off to the left of your subject (stage left), angled 45 degrees and further back than your key light. By changing the distance of this light, it will fluctuate how much of the dark shadows are filled in.
- Back Light: This light is above and angled behind your subject. It gives the head and shoulders a glow (also known as a ‘rim light’ or ‘halo’) and pushes your subject out from the background.
Now that we have the foundation of three-point lighting, let’s try implementing it by properly lighting some basic 3D text in Cinema 4D. Before we begin, you will want to have a subject you want to light. If you want to create some basic 3D text and are unaware how, check out this tutorial. While we are working in Cinema 4D, we will also need to move around our object confidently. In Cinema 4D, it is a combination of using the mouse and keyboard to move, rotate, and track in and out of your object. A quick review: remember that (1) on your keyboard is panning, (2) is to track in and out of your object, and (3) is to rotate, or orbit, around your subject. With that in mind, let’s get started.
CREATING THE KEY LIGHT
The first light you always want to create is the Key Light. It creates the base that you work from. First, you are going to want to locate the LIGHT OBJECT drop down across the top tool bar.
Click and hold. When you get the drop down selections choose SPOT LIGHT.
Now, using your mouse, we need to move our Key Light into position. To do that, we need to manipulate the three color arrows representing the XYZ planes: Green represents Y (which is the vertical axis), Red represents X (which is the horizontal axis), and Blue represents Z (which is the axis following depth). First, grab onto the Z arrow and move our light backwards away from our subject text. From there, grab the X arrow and move our light to the right about 45 degrees or so.
To turn our light, hit ‘R’ on the keyboard, or locate the ROTATE TOOL icon from the tool bar. Now we are presented with three bands of color. These three bands work the same way as our arrows, except they are used for rotation. We want to rotate our light toward our subject, so grab onto the X band and rotate it towards the left. At first, you will notice it does not light up our entire subject. If you so choose, you can also grab onto the small orange dots around the cone of light and click and enlarge the emission range from our light object.
To view a test render, simply hit COMMAND+R.
CREATING THE FILL LIGHT
Now create a second spotlight and follow the same process as the Key Light. As explained before, the fill light will be placed on the left hand side of the subject at roughly a 45-degree angle, pushed back further away from the subject.
Moving a light on set determines the intensity of a fill on your subject. Sometimes, you want your subject to be heavily contrasted, so the fill light would be less intense and much further away. Other times, you want your subject to be more evenly lit, in which case you would move your light closer. In Cinema 4D it’s not necessary to move the light further or closer as the laws of physics do not necessarily apply in post production. If you select the Fill light object from your OBJECTS PANEL (underneath the GENERAL tab in the ATTRIBUTES WINDOW) you will see a level called INTENSITY.
Think of intensity the same way as moving the light closer or further away from your subject. Feel free to increase or decrease the intensity until you have a nice fill on your subject.
CREATING THE BACK LIGHT
Now to create our subjects halo. Just as before, you will now be creating a third spot light, except this time you will be positioning it behind our subject and angled back down on them. When lighting a person with a back light, you generally want the head and shoulders to show the rim light. In order to do so, the light cannot be on the same plane. It has to be slightly elevated above the subject and angled downward. Use the Y Axis to raise up the light, and the Y Band to rotate it downward onto the subject.
Your three-point lighting is now complete! Test it out by looking at various angles and perspectives of your subject and do a quick test render by hitting COMMAND+R to see how it looks. If something appears to be off, go back and adjust the lights and do another test render until satisfied.