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Looking For Help With Lighting

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Phil-424 vertex
Hi all, looking for some help and advice with the lighting I have in my scene. At the moment I'm just blinded by the good bits but I feel like there are still areas that need improving and I don't know how to improve it. I feel like the shadows maybe a little dark or the light in certain areas may be a little light.

It's all built and rendered in UE4, I had a static lighting setup when I started but I couldn't get the resolution on the landscape to produce the quality shadows that I wanted. The shadows where very blocky and low res and upping the lightmap resolution ended up killing the engine with the scale it's at. So I switched over to a dynamic lighting with dynamic shadows and that gave me the resolution I was after at a small hit to performance. I have used an Ambient Cube map in the Post Process settings to lighten up the shadows and put in a small amount of fog to catch some refraction in the fog to help with the shadows, but I feel like I'm missing something. Obviously someone with a better eye than mine could help out here.

Here are some screenshots from the project to show the environment off for the client, anyway to improve the lighting in the scenes to make them really stand out. I know there is a few texture issues but at this point I'm focused on the lighting.


  • leleuxart
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    leleuxart polycounter lvl 9
    Are you only using an ambient cubemap? Or do you have a Skylight in the scene? I'd try disabling the cubemap and use a Skylight, as they generally provide better, and more accurate, results for ambient lighting. It automatically captures everything after a threshold in the scene, which is essentially only the skybox. Right now the shadows are very dark and in most shots, you lose all the information there. 

    Regarding the rest of the lighting, it's very monochromatic. Your lighting is very warm and/or your vegetation is coming through very warm. Do you have any reference you were following the lighting style? To simplify the process, because UE4 has a lot of features that can affect lighting/color, I prefer to start with the dominant light and skylight, with exposure at default(it's in the Show window in the viewport I think, should be at 0). Once I nail down the overall lighting from the primary light source, I work with the Lightmass/GI settings to bring the rest of the scene up to par with bounce lighting and AO. Afterwards, then I start playing around with any localized lights, hand-placed bounce lights, post-process volumes for exposure, tonemapping, and color adjustments. 

    The fog looks pretty good in most of the screenshots, but in the second it has a pretty harsh edge. I'd soften that up if possible.

    Edit: I mentioned the tonemapper adjustments in the post-process, which I'm not sure if you're aware of, but they're great settings for controlling white, black, and midtone values to bring back contrast, brighten up deep blacks, etc.
  • Phil-424
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    Phil-424 vertex
    I have a Directional Light as my main light source with a skysphere and a skylight to catch the sky and soften the shadows around the foliage however the skylight didn't catch the inside of the temple. So I looked into and found the ambient cubemap to help with the deeper shadows in the temple, but if you say that tonemapping help with that then I'll have a look into that as well and try combining features from all. 

    From a really quick experiment of adjusting the skylight and the ambient cubemap and playing with a few of the tonemapping settings I wonder if this looks any better?

    I think it may be a monitor calibration issue primarily, after viewing the images on a few separate devices i have seen a drastic change and the shadows are way too dark on the other devices. Will have to look at some calibrations on my monitors.

    The reference I'm using is that of a tropical hot climate rain forest

  • Phil-424
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    Phil-424 vertex
    After a little bit more tweaking and playing with the post process and lightmass settings I feel like I've made progress with the lighting

    Adding a slight green hue to the post process makes it feel more like the light is interacting with the foliage, I feel like I should probably go into the foliage material and make it more a two sided foliage shading model and take advantage of the subsurface scattering and opacity, maybe that will help with making the shadows less intense. I think at this point maybe the fog is a little too intense, how do people feel about the fog in the environment?
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