Lighting Artist (VFX)

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What does a lighting artist do?

Lighting artist enable depth and realism to be added to a computer-generated (CG) scene through lighting, just as a director of photography (DoP) does in a live-action film.

They adjust the colour, placement and intensity of CG lights to create atmosphere, add realism and depth. Using reference photos taken on set or location, they match the illumination of virtual 3D objects to the look of the on-set production and cinematography.

Lighting a shot requires a blend of artistry and scientific knowledge of how light falls on objects. It also involves reflecting the look and style set out by the director of the film or TV programme. This can create technical challenges.

The role of the lighting artist varies depending on the size of the VFX studio. In larger studios, lighting artists light the shots while a lighting technical director works with the pipeline TD to overcome the technical challenges and create the software tools that the lighting artist needs. In other studios, those two roles are combined, so the lighting artist needs considerable technical skills as well as artistic ones. Lighting artists work in-house in a VFX studio.

What’s a lighting artist good at?

  • Art and design knowledge: have a strong understanding of colour theory, perspective and design theory
  • Understanding lighting: understand colour space and the scientific principles behind creating realistic lighting and have a strong knowledge of lighting techniques
  • Knowledge of 3D lighting software: V-Ray, Arnold, Redshift and Renderman as well as rendering packages and digital paint software like Photoshop
  • Problem-solving: overcome obstacles, use the most cutting-edge technology to find new ways to achieve a creative vision
  • Organisation: communicate constantly with other departments about schedules and deadlines and work to these efficiently

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