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3DS MAX allows you to use different types of lights in your projects. This means that your scenes can be photographically precise, but also that the entire environment behaves contrary to the laws of physics.

To show you how it looks in practice, I will open the Create panel in one go and go to the segment that serves to create light sources (Lights). After that, it won’t be difficult for me to open this list and display the basic types of lights – Photometric, Standard and Arnold. At this moment, I will not dwell on their characteristics, but I would like to point out that some of them can be used only under certain conditions. This means that the so-called Arnold lighting requires the use of the renderer of the same name, while the lights that fall into the second category (Standard) do not meet realistic physical laws. They are taken from previous versions of 3DS MAX, so you can use them with most of the existing renderers except for the already mentioned Arnold. Because of all this, I recommend that you choose the so-called for your projects. photometric lighting because it guarantees you the best results and can be used with all types of renderers.

As you can see, there are three types of light sources in this category – Target Light, Free Light and Sun Positioner. I must immediately mention that the first two largely share common characteristics and that they differ only in that Target Light also contains information about the place where the total illumination is directed. On the other hand, if you want to achieve an effect that matches the natural environment, it would be best to use the Sun Positioner function and thus simulate sunlight.

To begin with, I will opt for the so-called free light and launch the function of the same name with one click. After that, a frame will appear on the screen with the advice that in addition to photometric lighting, it is necessary to use additional exposure control (Physical Camera Exposure Control), but I will not accept this, because this parameter could affect the overall tone of the final image. So I will simply click the No button and immediately determine the position of the new light source. Since it will be placed on the base plane, which in this case is at ground level, it would not be bad if I immediately start the Move function and place the symbol representing the light source at a slightly higher height. In order to check how all this is reflected on my scene, I will change the display mode and select the High Quality item from the auxiliary menu. After a few moments, a completely different picture will appear on the screen, but I have to emphasize right away that it does not reflect the real situation either. Namely, the lighting of a scene is often influenced by the color of the background, so in order to obtain precise results, such details must also be taken into account.

At this moment, my scene is not affected by the light coming from the immediate environment (Environment Light), and in order to prove it to you, I will look for this option in the Rendering menu and open a new frame. In it, you can clearly see that the background color is black and that no Environment Map is included. After I have checked the situation with the environment, I can also turn off the light that I set later and thus completely darken the entire scene. To that end, I will go to the Modify panel and in the General section look for an option that controls the status of a light source (Light Properties). After that, it will not be difficult for me to turn off this light in one move and check what I have achieved. Unfortunately, although there is currently no real light source, the objects on the scene will still be visible, which means that they are affected by the light coming from the desktop itself (Viewport Background). This problem will be even clearer if I choose ActiveShade instead of the standard renderer, because in that case no object will remain on the screen, the whole scene will be completely dark. In other words, there is an error in the program that in certain circumstances affects the lighting. The only solution to this problem is equalizing the background color with the light coming from the environment, so for that purpose I will look for the Viewport Background item in the View menu and activate the Environment Background option. After that, the phantom lighting will be removed from the scene, so I can continue adjusting the other light sources.

To that end, it is necessary to turn on this light again, and this will immediately be reflected in the display of all elements. Now that I know where the complete lighting comes from, I can notice that there are unusual shadows in certain zones, so I will try to reduce their influence to a minimum. To that end, I will reopen the menu with options related to rendering and look for the Ambient Occlusion option in the Lighting and Shadows section. It is currently active, so I will turn it off and thus correct this irregularity.

One of the characteristics of photometric lighting is that their influence changes depending on how far certain objects are. To show you how it looks in practice, I will press the right button to go to the segment that is in the first row and thus keep the current selection. After that, it won’t be difficult for me to move the light source up, which will result in a drastic change of the entire scene. As you can see, it has become much darker, which is an obvious proof that the intensity of light is directly related to the distance. If it is taken into account that this change represents a quadratic function, it is no wonder that drastic effects can be achieved with relatively small movements.

I will use the opportunity to place this light source in an exact position and to that end use the fields with coordinates located at the bottom of the screen. This means that I will enter -400 for the X position, -100 for the Y, and set the height, the Z coordinate, to 400 units. If I press Enter at the end, the light will be moved to the left side, but it will not be enough to illuminate the whole scene. That is why I will create another light source by simply copying the existing lamp. To that end, it is necessary to hold down the Shift key and click on the line representing the X axis and move to the right. As soon as I release the left button, a new frame will appear on the screen, so it will not be difficult for me to select the Instance option in it and thus equalize these two light sources. In the end, I just need to move it to the appropriate position, and this can be achieved by entering the appropriate coordinates.

For now the whole scene looks very dark, but in the next lesson I will show you how it can be regulated.

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