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Jannis Labelle reviews Digital Lighting & Rendering

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Jannis Labelle reviews Digital Lighting & Rendering
A Creative COW "Real World" Book Review



Jannis Labelle reviews Digital Lighting & Rendering
Jannis Labelle
Jannis Labelle
Email Address
Labelle Art, London, England
©2002 Jannis Labelle and CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.

Article Focus:
Jannis Labelle takes a look at Lighting & Rendering by Jeremy Birn, George Maestri and published by New Riders. Read on to find out why this book changed Jannis' mind abut non-specific software books.


Click on the graphic to order from amazon.comI am becoming a fan of the New Riders books and I must confess, against my will. Usually I find non-specific software books of this kind too general to be of any real value. As the publishers inform you somewhere in the beginning, this book "assumes a non-beginner level of user knowledge of the technology". They will not hold your hand through your favoured application interface, nor will they tell you where the secret "do what ever you want button" is. However, they attempt to educate their readership beyond and above the particularities of any given software. 3D is based on either mimicking or faking natural phenomena or art practices. With this in mind the writer of this book has tried to illuminate the why and how things work with digital lighting so that the principles can be grasped. Having said that, this is a complex subject matter since lighting spills into all sorts of other areas and the book covers most of them. In fact with the exception of modelling, this is an excellent book to help you navigate the murky waters of 3D in general and not only lighting. The writing style is simple without being simplistic and very informative making a nice diversion from the usual manual format.

After the introduction you will find a chapter on lighting workflow, introducing the basic lighting tools, with some advice on lighting production. The 3 point lighting chapter that follows should be read by most of us who mechanically are reaching out for this kind of set up. Shadows are dealt with in a chapter of their own and rightly so. Three more chapters follow dealing with further subtleties of light, colour, exposure and so on and then we enter the art of using lighting with the chapter on Composition and Staging. Here, there is some invaluable advice on composing shots according to lighting.

Materials and Rendering Algorithms is one of the clearest chapters I have read about the subject. Here the style of writing pays off, managing to deal well with a subject that is particularly difficult to explain. Finally, the Compositing chapter rounds off a very informative book.

Usually, when I read books of this kind, and that is unfortunately most of the time, I just dive in and out, finding what is interesting to me at any particular time. This has been an exception. I read it from beginning to end, like a novel or a travelling journal. It was an enjoyable and informative book and it enabled me to make some new connections between different aspects of 3D. I think this is where the real strength lies, in assembling all sorts of useful information and creating relationships that help illuminate previous knowledge we might have had on the subject.

Now, are there any negative points? I am afraid there is one. Not huge, but still, in my view there is an oversight in the choice of models that are used to illustrate all this useful information.

Lighting, in both 3D and sculpture for that matter, is relevant to the surfaces one is using. Blunt, uninteresting surfaces create blunt uninteresting shadow-light interplay. Although the author points this out on several occasions, often he chooses models which fail to bring to life what he is imparting. This is a shame because as well as being a valuable learning source, this could have been a very beautiful book, which unfortunately it is not. A missed opportunity. However, I strongly recommend it for its content and lucid writing style.


COW RATING: 4 Cows




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