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How to Create Lights in 3D Studio MAX 3

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This article is provided courtesy of Peachpit Press.

coverExcerpted from Chapter 11 of 3D Studio MAX 3: Visual QuickStart Guide, by Michele Matossian

YOU CAN CREATE FIVE TYPES of lights in 3D Studio MAX 3. As with cameras, the parameters for the different types of lights are nearly identical. By default, all lights are turned on when you create them. Shadows are turned off by default, except for sunlight system shadows.

  • Omni lights: The omni light is the most generic type of light. Its rays shine in all directions from a single point in space, like a lamp that does not have a shade (Figure 1).

    Figure 1  The omni light looks like this in the viewports.

  • Default lights: By default, 3D Studio MAX includes a single, dynamically positioned omnilight at the viewer position in each shaded viewport. Or you can use two omni lights in any viewport. The brighter light, or key light, is positioned above and to the front of the origin. The dimmer light, or fill light, is positioned lower and to the right of the origin. These lights are invisible and unselectable until you add them to the scene.

  • Spotlights: Spotlights illuminate an area within a cone of projection, similar to a stage light. Spotlights, like cameras, come in two varieties. Target spotlights point at a target that you set. Free spotlights have no target, so they can easily be maneuvered (Figure 2).

    Figure 2  The target spotlight (left) and free spotlight (right) both have cones.

  • Directional lights: Directional lights have a cone of projection and light controls similar to spotlights. The difference is that directional lights illuminate an entire scene unidirectionally, as if the source is millions of miles away and the rays are traveling parallel to each other. Like spotlights, directional lights can be either targeted or free (Figure 3).

    Figure 3  The target directional light (left) and free directional light (right) both illuminate the scene with parallel rays, like the sun.

  • Sunlight System: This is a hybrid light source that combines a free directional light with a Compass object. The compass helps you orient the light to a specific direction in the scene. The orbital distance, time, and location settings give the sun altitude and place it in the sky at a particular time and geographic location (Figure 4).

    Figure 4  The Sunlight System lets you simulate daylight that changes over time.

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