Reflection ♯6: Project “Light and Shadows”

The topic for the last week project was “Light and Shadow”. In this project will be only assessed the lightning and effect of shadows in the scene with special interest in the projection of long shadows, silhouettes shaped by very bright lights and anything related to lighting and shadows that improve the atmosphere of the scene.
We had the chiaroscuro’s Dutch painters of the 17th and 18th centuries, like Gerrit van Honthorst or Rembrandt van Rijn, as well as several films like Casablanca (1942), Sin City (2005) or the Hitchcock’s films as examples and ideas of what to do. As examples of videogames that have an extensive use of shadows and lighting as part of the aesthetic of the game we had Limbo (Playdead, 2010), Inside (Playdead, 2016) and Metro 2033 (4A Games, 2010) among others.

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Game references:

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I am not very confident whit the area of lightning since I am not very acquainted with it. Also for doing this task it was almost mandatory the use of Unreal Engine for the light rendering part. I had not used it yet so I had to expend several hours studying the programme which delayed a lot the development of the project.
I started by gathering some references of L.A. Noire as well as old noire films shoots. I was interested in the the street props, wanting to recreate a 50’s American street where an accident or a crime happened.

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Then, I started to modelling this props of the street, like the buildings and lampposts trying to do modular elements that I could easily multiply to create a big scene. As the modelling part of the project wasn’t going to be in consideration I borrowed some models from internet that helped to save time. It was incredibly difficult to find free models that fits on my project, for example, I wanted a private detective dressing a gabardine and a fedora for the main character but I could find anything similar so, I ended taking a police officer instead, Policeman (frugurt, 2013) from TF3DM website. I also took the models Revolver (3dregenerator, 2012) and a car, Ford Thunderbird (alex38, 2013) to complete my scene, both from TF3DM website.

I had not to much problem with the revolver and the car but, for the policeman, as it did not have a skeleton I had to put in position, holding the revolver and having a more natural pose, by hand. In order to do that I used the smooth selection tool in Maya and move each part at a time (fingers, arms, shoulder,…) selecting and rotating the correct vertexes each time with a trial and error process.

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I exported my street elements to Zbrush in order to give them some protrusions to the surface so they cast shadows when they will be lit. Nevertheless, I had some issues trying to export the normal maps due to the High subdivided mesh that made crash the programme each time I tried to create them. As I was short on time, I decided to go on and do the lightning and leave the Zbrush model.


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When I had all the components ready, I used Unreal Engine to establish the scene by copy and pasting the modular elements to create a street in “T” shape to cut the depth of the camera shooting. After this, I put the police officer and the cars in position. Then, I started to lightning the scene by using point light (spherical projection) for the lampposts light and spotlight (cone projection) for the car lights which aimed the police officer, creating a long cast shadow and a shadow silhouette seen when the camera was behind him. I have some problems and doubts on how to make the source of the light bright since the light tools on unreal don’t make the source to be lit, like the glasses of the car, the lamppost or the street’s windows, it only give the projected illumination effect. In order to solve this problem I had to create the UVs back on Maya and create an Alpha layer to select these parts exclusively. My original idea was not create UVs and use the same material for everything as it was going to be a sort of black and white scene but due to this problem I had to go back and spend more time creating the UVs. Back again on unreal engine, I create emissive materials with the alpha layers added to each object (lamppost, building’s windows and car’s lights). I have also problems with the colour of the illumination of the building’s window because I wanted a light similar as the light going throw curtains but I could not achieve the attenuated level of light I wanted, it was too bright, so I ended using a yellowish colour instead the dark reddish colour I wanted.

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The last day I had, I tried using the Matinee tool to record a walk through the scene for the project’s presentation,   but I couldn’t figure out why the camera did not move while recording so I gave up on that. I will give it another try on future projects.

I am not happy with the result, but to be the first time using Unreal engine I think I have learnt a lot so, while I am not happy with the result, I am very encouraged by the process to continue learning this programme. I also lost too much time on the Zbrush modelling the wall not being able to use it at the final project. Moreover, I didn’t have in consideration that the modelling part was not going to be assessed so I could have used the time better  in things that really matter instead. After the presentation of the project, they recommended me to apply a multiplier node in the blueprint of the alpha material to create an emissive projection of the light. So, for future projects I have pending using this technique, learning how to use Matinee and improve my lighting skills on Unreal Engine.


Policeman – 3d Model – .obj, .c4d (n.d.) [Online]. Available from: < > [Accessed 28/10/2016].

Revolver – 3d Model – .obj, .dae (n.d.) [Online]. Available from: < > [Accessed 28/10/2016].

Ford Thunderbird – 3d Model – .3ds, .obj, .blend (n.d.) [Online]. Available from: < > [Accessed 28/10/2016].


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