Lighting Artist (Animation)

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What does a lighting artist do?

Lighting artists light the scenes in an animation. Just as in live-action production, there is a director of photography and gaffer who decide what lights to use and where to place them, so there is a lighting artist in a computer-generated (CG) animation. The difference with an animation is that the lights are created through software and the lighting artist has complete control of what the effects will be.

Lighting artists use light to enhance the atmosphere, tone, depth and mood of a scene. They input different light effects depending on the factors in a frame or scene, such as the weather or the time of day. They make it clear where the light sources are meant to be in a scene.

There’s a technical side to digital animation lighting, which is sometimes done by lighting artists or by lighting technical directors (TDs), depending on the type of studio. Lighting artists light images in such a way that they are easy for the computers to render. They work to create colour keys, which are guides that indicate a range of colour hues in a scene. They use the shader settings to create effects like reflections and the appearance of wet surfaces.

Lighting artists are employed by animation companies or studios, advertisement agencies or graphic or web design companies. Otherwise, they may work as freelancers.

What's a lighting artist good at?

  • Art: understanding of colour theory, perspective and design theory, have a strong sense of light and shadow
  • Understanding lighting: know the scientific principles behind lighting, have a strong knowledge of lighting techniques and materials
  • Problem-solving: overcome obstacles, use computer technology to find new ways to achieve a creative vision
  • Working to deadlines: work within given timeframes, be able to complete work under pressure and deliver on schedule
  • Knowledge of relevant programs: be adept at using compositing programs and digital paint software

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