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3D Studio Max: Class notes – Simple Lighting

1: Set up a basic scene in max, or open an existing model. Choose the lighting tab in the create panel.

2:Place a Target spotlight on your scene by first clicking on the scene, then dragging out to the direction you want the light to shine. release your mouse to place the light. There is an icon for both the light source and the light target. Both can be moved independently just like any other object.

Target spot: the spotlight is aimed at a certain place- if you move the light, it will still point at the original target

Free Spot: If the light source is moved, the direction of the light beam moves with it.

Other lights can be placed this way, each with their own parameters- the most common of which are outlined below:


If you render the scene, the different objects of the scene will be illuminated to different levels depending on how they face the light. however, this will not show any shadows cast from the objects onto the ground or onto each other.

To do this, in the create tab under modifiers> general parameters click on the checkbox for shadows to turn them on. This will activate default shadows. Further down the list is a tab for Shadow parameters, where the intensity and sharpness etc of a shadow can be adjusted.

—Excluding objects—

With the light source selected, in the general parameters> shadows tab there is a button called ‘Exclude’. Click on this to bring up a menu with two windows- the window on the left shows objects included in the lights illumination. The window on the right shows those which will be ignored (in a singly lit scene, they will appear as silhouettes)

NB: This can be used to cut rendering time by removing objects in the background, or be used to give different objects their own unique lights.

—Multiply & Attenuation—

The ‘Multiply‘ value is basically how bright or dull the light is- to make it brighter, raise the value. Beside this there is a box where the colour of the light source can be changed

Attenuation is basically how strong the light is at different distances from the light source.

Near Attenuation – Start – Black

Near Attenuation –  End – Brightest

Far Attenuation – Start – Brightest

Far Attenuation –  End -Black

—Spotlight parameters—

In this set of parameters the important options are the Hotspot/Beam value and the Falloff/Field value- basically they adjust how wide or narrow the beam of light is spread from the source. There is also the option of whether the light beam is circular or rectangular, useful for creating the illusion of lights coming through offscreen doors and windows

—Shadow Parameters—

Shadow colour and density are used to affect the subtlty of the shadows- the default black shadow is very harsh, and often a grey or dark coloured shadow is more effective. Similarly lowering the density from 1 can make the shadows seem more natural.

Shadow maps can be used to simulate the light passing through an object such as a grill or patterned glass- by applying a 2d black and white bitmap image to tell Max where shadows should pass through and where they should be blocked.

—Atmosphere and effects—

Create an ‘Omni light’ above your scene. In the modifier panel, after adjusting multiplier, shadows etc to suit, click on the ‘Atmosphere and Effects’ tab And choose Add >Volume. Select this lighting effect from the window and click setup, to bring up a window where the parameters of this volume light can be adjusted.- by adding ‘noise’ to the volume the light will appear foggy, or like a magical/ mystical effect, as shown below:

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