Lighting Club #16 – RenderMan “Woodville” Art Challenge

Hullo everybody !

It’s been a while ! Happy new year ! We hope you will have fun with your lighting this year 🙂

Talking about having fun with lighting, our Lighting Club #16 is about a challenge. The RenderMan Woodville Art Challenge. The brief is simple enough :

” In this “Woodville” Art Challenge, you’ll get to work with a fantastic scene from Pixar’s Undergraduate Program and SpeedTree, providing you with production-quality assets to showcase your shading, lighting, rendering, and compositing skills for the possibility of winning amazing prizes ! “

And then your image will be reviewed by 8 judges, all from Pixar. The deadline for the challenge was Wednesday November 13th, 2019 and winner has been announced the November 31th. And talking about winner.. The first prize has been win by Michał Pancerz, and guess what ? We interviewed him about his image :).

whenthehunterbecomeshuntedfinalcompress3 (1)

Hey Michał,  thanks a lot for answering our questions ! Tell us more about you.

Hi, it’s my pleasure 🙂 My name is Michał, and I have been professionally engaged in computer graphics for 8 years, while for the last 5 years I have specialized in lighting and rendering. Like most people in this industry, I combine my work with hobby :).

You recently won the PixarRenderMan Art Challenge with an incredible image, could you tell us more about. What was the goal of the challenge ? 

The goal of the challenge is to create the best picture using the model provided by Pixar and using the RenderMan rendering engine. The final image needs to have physical shading and lighting, but generally, you have a lot of freedom in creating. Personally, my main goal was to improve my skills and try RenderMan for the first time

What was your references lighting wise ?

I gathered a lot of references, starting with interesting framing examples, through light, colors, and design of individual assets such as stones, moss, trees etc. At the end, I had 1 GB of image files. By the way, I really appreciate the applications to organize reference images (like pureRef or Kuadro). It’s very convenient.

How did you start your lighting ? What was the idea behind ? What is the story you told to yourself ?

As a lighting artist, setup the light was the most fun part of the work for me. However, it is known that a good lighting itself is not enough. In this case, as I was responsible for creating the whole scene, I had the comfort to start thinking about light already at the stage of creating the layout and framing.

The main idea was to show a treehouse in the forest, illuminated by the light coming through the tree branches. So I started with a very simple scene with a few assets and a simple light rig to test different possibilities and find the one will work best with the main asset.

The story was quite simple. I showed a fisherman who, by fishing himself, became the target of a crocodile attack 😉

whenthehunterbecomeshuntedfinalcompress3 (1)

What has been the tricky part of creating this image lighting/lookdev wise ?

To be honest, finding time after work haha 😀 but when it comes to light / lookdev, it was probably the hardest part for me to find a compromise, which part of the picture should be the most important, whether the competition asset which was a tree-house or the characters making the story.

Could you explain your lighting process ? How did you setup your lightrigg ? Why ?

In this case, like here, lighting the exterior scene during the day, I started by create a simple sun & sky system and then using the IPR (which is really great in RenderMan!). I checked various options to choose the most interesting and most readable key light setting, angle, the intensity, color and width of the shadow cast. Then I add elements that cast shadows to add more contrast and to draw attention to the most important part of the image.

The next step was adding volumetrics, which helps a lot in getting the image deep. At this stage, I also sometimes make minor layout corrections, of course, as far as possible. For example, I moved some objects slightly so that their shadows fall in the appropriate place, and add some object in the foreground to create the impression of a frame, which also emphasizes the depth. 

If all this works well, I usually replace the default sky with custom hdri map (without the sun which I leave as a separate light for better control).

The last step is to add additional lights in some places that enhance the impression of global illumination (but this is gentle and subtle, as nowadays rendering engines do this job great).

whenthehunterbecomeshuntedfinalcompress3 (2)

What is the part of lighting and comp ? Do you prefer do your tweak in CG or in Comp ?

It depends on the amount of time I have, and what kind of tweak there are. The things I always do in compositing are combining layers (beauty + volumetric), adding lens distortion, glow, vignetting, chromatic aberration, and usually also dof. 

If I have enough time, I prefer to improve in 3d, but if there’s no time for rerender, it’s a great option to have cryptomate for all objects and be able to tweak it in comp.

What would be for you a good lighting ? And a good lighter ?

Good light helps us perceive the world the way we would expect it (usually as expected by the director ;). The same object lit in different ways can evoke different emotions.

From a technical point of view, good light should show the shape and form of objects, show the depth of the scene, help tell stories, direct the viewer’s attention where we would like it to be and create the right mood.

A good lighting artist is a person who can read this idea and based on acquired knowledge and experience choose the light that will best suits the director’s vision.

What did you think about latest Pixar Soul trailer’s lighting ?

As usual, it looks gorgeous. My first associations when I think about lighting, are the films “whiplash” and “la la land”. I like them very much and I think they have great photography. 

It is interesting how Pixar is using the lighting (light) to create totally different worlds.

First one, like normal life: city, work etc, they are very dynamic and full of different lights and colors.. And the second world in which the main hero is concentrated on his passion. Scenes lit by only one main source of light are more dramatic and show that this is something really special. 

Thanks for answering our question Michał, and welcome in the Lighting Club, any last word ?

Thanks for the opportunity to be in such a great place 🙂 ! And by the way, greetings to all colleagues from the Platige Image ! 😀


Now you know every secrets about this incredible image (or maybe not all the secrets), thanks a lot to Michał for his time and to be kind enough to send us some great breakdown images. As he noticed he is working at Platige Image Studio. This is a VFX/Cinematic studio in Poland, well known for their work on Love Death & Robots for example or more recently the tv serie The Witcher. Feel free to have a look to their awesome website and who knows, perhaps you will join Michał more quickly than you think ;).

Michał arstation :

Platige Image website :

If you want to see the other winners images :

Thansk again for your time and fidelity, as usual, see you next month for the next Lighting Club Article 🙂







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