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Video of Realisitc 3D Set Design and Lighting for Pre-Production Visua


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Good afternoon all,


I'd like to present a video I have done to demonstrate the ability to create previews of set and light designs for theatre. The goal of this video is to show that detailed and realistic renders can be done to explore production possibilities in a quick and timely manner. Please click on the image below for the video.


Click on Image for Video. Video size is 10 megs.



My background includes 15 years spent working in technical theatre in the NorthWest. I followed up a B.A. degree in Lighting with schooling in 3D animation. This project was done to see the feasability of realistic theatrical renderings done in a professional and timely manner.


The video above shows a set with over 50 lights that have been focused and hung from conventional light positions (2 Front washes, Down lights, Side lights, Dance Booms, Cyc lights and specials. Each light can be colored to match any gel a client would like. The snow you see was created using the model of snow drops placed in two rows US of lighting positions overstage. Other common theatre effects such as gobos and fog are also available. In this video I have used 3D art figures to stand in for actors. This way clients can ask to see scenes lit with specific scenes and moments in mind.


The set was built using an AutoCAD complient software meaning that any work done by me preproduction could be sent to production staff to help in any way they see fit. The set was built up using layers common to scenic painting techniques I have seen. Each project can be done so that different "views" of the design coudl be rendered out, meaning that a view from Row 3 Center, Row 3 House Left/Right and Balcony Front could all be done to better realize what the audience will be seeing when they sit down.


Everything in the video is computer generated 3D, no physical set pieces or models were used.


I hope you find this interesting and I would like to hear back on any critiques or comments you may have.



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Hi James


Well done, your demo file was interesting and well presented. I would be interested in what software/renderer you are using and what kind of timescale the project ran to.


As a lighting designer who also has finger in the 3D animation pie, I thought I would add some points to try to spark a bit of debate on the whole subject of pre visualisation as it applies to theatre and live event. The comments below are not directed at yourself, James, but just some of my thoughts on 3D CGI of stage lighting.


My background? I use both 3DMAX and Maya to create many lighting visuals for shows plus have been know to break the WYG out now and again. I have also worked with some professional CGI production houses doing lightng and modelling.


1. Produced in a timely manner. Nothing in CGI could be said to be timely and using 50 light sources has a huge overhead, both in terms of modelling and rendering time. I always look at the 3D CGI method as exactly the same as photographing a designer's set modelbox, lit with 3 birdies. The point of it is to show the director/client a "fake" of what it might look like.


The good thing about MAX etc. rather than packages like WYSIWYG is that you can fake absolutely everything. This does rather mean that as an LD, you have to know what it will look like, in order to present it.


I have also never really found that animation, rather than higher quality still renderings, is particularly attractive from a time/cost point of view.


2. I have never made any actual money doing this. The whole pre-visualisation thing is fast becoming part of the fabric of the industry, particularly in corporate events and no one is really willing to pay extra for this kind of thing. It is just part of the service which gets you the gig. The funny thing about LD's is that they all also play around with CGI and Web Development. Must be genetic.


Anything directly earned from CGI, for me, has always been in working for CGI productions, doing lighting/rendering or materials. It is quite a tricky business to get into and I have found there are thousands of young turks, straight from media school, available with a limited number of jobs. The CGI industry is still evolving, particularly in the UK.


Anyway , I would also be interested to hear everyones thoughts on using CGI for visualisation and the future.

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Time was a huge concern for me. After all if you can't give quick updates, why do previs on the computer? With the workflow I have now once a scene is laid out, I can give updates in a matter of minutes, complete with color and light intensity changes. I'm currently using a combination of packages including Photoshop, Max and XSI.


Part of the reason for this video was my friendship with a builder in Seattle. This friend often told me of the eneormous amount of money wasted on productions. He would lead the build on projects that cost thousands of dollars (if not more) that would be thrown away because they were found to "not work" after they were up. Or, conversely, have to build new set pieces overnight at a large expense because the the design was found to "need something more" after the first day of tech.


This fell into the scenario I had seen of lighting designs having to change overnight because the result was not what the director or producers had expected. Of course working on any large production has it's problems, but a gread deal of them seemed to come from a lack of a unified understanding of what the final result would be.


I would like to hear from everyone about how usefull a realistically rendered 3D visualization of lights and set would be? Pretty but pointless? Extremely usefull? Would set and light designs be enhanced by showing a much more realistic view of their ideas? Is the ability to make drastic changes to the set or lights pre-production and show those results usefull? If you are a TD would having an autocad file of the 3D set be a nice reference tool? Waste of time? Potentially a money saver?


I'd like to hear any comments the technical community has on these ideas.



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