Understanding Lights in Maya Part 3: Area light & Volume Light

Tutorial posted about 3 years ago
by aziz-khanaziz-khan

Hi Guys and welcome to part 3 of (Understanding Lights In Maya), in this tutorial we will understand the Area Light and Volume Light. In previous parts we already covered Ambient, Directional, Spot and Point Light.

Quick word before beginning

If you haven't read parts 1 and 2 you can find them here:
Part 1: Understanding Lights in Maya Part 1: Ambient Light & Directional Light Maya

Part 2: Understanding Lights in Maya Part 2: Point Light & Spot Light

Ok, now let's started by creating a Area light in the scene.

Area light: step 1

Select the Light, open Attributes editor, now activated Ray Trace Shadows

Area light: step 2

Hit render and you should have something like in the image below, as you can see the shadows are too grainy and we will fix this issue next by increasing (Shadow Ray) and the (Ray Depth Limit)

Area light: step 3

Now in the light attributes increase (Shadow Ray) and the (Ray Depth Limit) according to your need, and then open (Render Settings) by going to (Window>>Rendering Editors>>Render Settings), Expand Raytracing tab and crank up the values as you see in the image

Area light: step 4

Select the light and then go to its attributes once again, and now expand the (Mental ray) tab, make sure your rendering engine set to Mental Ray and Global illumination is ON in the Render Settings


Now you should see couple of different option like (Use Light Shape) and (Emit Photons)

Use Light Shape = you could change the shape of your light to (Disk), (Sphere), (Cylinder) and the (User), so go with any shape you like,

Emit Photons = Photons are basically small point which cause indirect illumination in the scene and keep bouncing from one object to another until they die

Area light: step 5

Ok first we will start working with (Light Shape), duplicate your object in the scene and give it a bit distance

Area light: step 6

Open Hypershade and In the Hypershade create (Surface Shader) and it will appear in your work area, now select your duplicated object right click on newly create Surface Shader material from popup list choose (Assign Material To Selection)


Area light: step 7

Still in the Hypershade double click on Surface Shader material, attributes editor will pop up and do the settings as you can see in the image below

Area light: step 8

Hit Render and you should have something like below

Area light: step 9

Ok select your light and in the Light Shape choose anything you like according to your object in the scene. In this case I am going to choose Sphere since I am dealing with Sphere, scale the light to fit your object and do the settings as you can see in the image indicating below…

Area light: step 10

Once again hit render, as you can see the image is too dark, so you may be thinking - why? Because our object is receiving and casting Shadows that is why it’s too dark

Area light: step 11

Lets work on the problem, select the object and open up Attributes editor in the (pSphereShape2) and in (polySurfaceShape1) uncheck (Cast Shadows) and (Receive Shadows) this is in my case if you using different objects this could be different

Area light: step 12

Now select the light and crank its intensity to something like 3 or 4 according to size of your scene.

Area light: step 13

Now hit render and this time you should see a different result than before.

Area light: step 14

Render Settings and check (Final Gathering) in the scale click on the color Chip and then crank the values indicated in the image below.

Area light: step 15

In the final render for Light Shapes I create a cylinder and created another Area Light changed its shape to cylinder and fixed it to object. Here we done with Light Shape let’s get working with Photons. You can find the end scene here: area light sample scene

Area light & Photons: step 1

Let's start working with Photons, if you have your scene you are welcome to play if you don't then you are more then welcome to play with the scene i am going to provide: area light setup sample,in this case we are going to illuminate interior scene. Let's create Area light and then fix it to the windows of you room,

Area light & Photons: step 2

Select the Area Light, open Attributes Editor set the intensity to 0 and then check (Emit Photons) with default values

Area light & Photons: step 3

In the Render Settings, Set your render to Mental ray check Global Illumination and then crank up the values for Ray Tracing

Area light & Photons: step 4

In the Global Illumination photons crank the values as you can see or according to your computer resources, by increasing values you will have slow feedback while rendering, so keep the values somewhere medium to make computer happy, this setting only works if you turn on (Global Illumination) in the render Settings

Area light & Photons: step 5

With all these settings let's Hit render, the image is blotchy and in somewhere its washed out

Area light & Photons: step 6

Play with Photon Intensity

Area light & Photons: step 7

Hit render again as you can see its a bit better then before

Area light & Photons: step 8

Now turn on Final gathering in Render Settings hit render again and now we have a really nice looking result comparing to the first 2, in the exercise part of these tutorials i will show you how light up interior scene using this technique, the image is a bit jagged because I forgot to crank up Anti Aliasing values

Here we conclude with this light next we will start working with Volume Light.

Volume Light: step 1

Create the light, and place it in the scene, and then scale it to cover the scene


Volume Light: step 2

Hit render, and you will see very dark result. Let's work on it :-)

Volume Light: step 3

Crank the intensity to 5 or 6, Light Shape is (Sphere), set the (Interpolation) to Smooth, Volume Light Dir outward it mean light will cast outward pretty straight forward, Arc is the angle of your light 360 is full 180 half and so on, Color Range = it’s basically casting 2 different light colors, Starts from white to black

Volume Light: step 4

Also Check "Use Ray Trace Shadows"

Volume Light: step 5

Hit Render and now it's looking nice but a bit dark

Volume Light: step 6

Crank the intensity a bit and then change the Colors

Volume Light: step 7

Hit render and looks nice but still a bit dark

Volume Light: step 8

In the Render Settings check (Final Gathering) crank the filter value to 1

Volume Light: step 9

Here is the final render and its looking much more better then before

Congratulations guys you have successfully completed the lights, in the next part of these tutorials we will learn how to light up interior scene with nifty looking sun light casting through windows to the inside of a room. This concludes the 3rd part of this tutorial series and I hope you enjoyed doing them. If you have any comments, feed backs, suggestions, and questions please feel free to leave a comment below or message me!

You can find the volume light scene sample here: Volume light sample scene

Continue to Part 4 here: Understanding Lights in Maya Part 4: Interior Lighting

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  • volume
  • light
  • area
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