V-Ray Lighting – Eleven’s Dreams

In this tutorial I will apply a series of concepts that are very well explained in my V-Ray Course (5SRW method) and in my latest book “Chiaroscuro with V-Ray“. Lighting is simple when you see it applied and explained, but it can be difficult starting from scratch, especially if you don’t know the principles to use.

Lighting Dark Spaces
by Ciro Sannino, Learnvray Trainer & Books Author

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I love introducing movie elements into renderings, especially for the study of light. In another page I already explained how I recreated the style of the movie Gravity this V-Ray Interior tutorial, this time it’s the turn of Stranger Things, in particular I refer to the visions that Eleven has in the second and especially in the last season.

Here is a frame from the series, of which I want to reproduce the same lighting and mood:

It is a completely black space, in which only the objects in the center stand out, reflected on a surface of water.


Although you may think that the reflection was recreated in VFX, this time it’s different! The lighting experts used a real water surface to shoot these scenes.


Lighting Dark Spaces

In the previous photo we can see a big light from the top covered by a large veil, which produces a diffused light. This light is often called ‘butterfly’ and it is very common to find it in automotive sets. I start my scene using some typical furnishing objects, using just that light form the top:

This light makes it possible to have all the objects sufficiently illuminated, so as to be clearly visible in the reflection. Anyway this is only a secondary light since it does not clearly define the shapes of the scene. We then add a primary light by imitating the style of the first reference image.

To have a strong light on the edges we need a backlight (light coming from behind-high). If we isolate the contribution of this single light we obtain the following image and from the result we understand that it is the primary light of the scene, which reproduces the same ‘feeling’ that we have in the reference:


Turning on the two lights and setting basic materials, the primary and secondary light give us the following result:


We are pretty close to the goal but we have a problem: the objects on the right are not clearly shaped. We then add two more lights:


Now that everything is ready we turn on all the lights and we get the following final render. The camera exposure is set to f = 8 / ISO = 100 / shutter speed = 1/10 sec, with +1.8 exposure stops in the V-Ray Frame Buffer – Click to enlarge:

In this configuration I have, only for the detail light 1, used a cone of light with the Directional option set at 0.7. In this way I can only hit part of the objects on the left without altering the light balance.

V-Ray Gold Material

Most of the times, the materials set by me are very simple. A great lighting let the materials shine, even if they’re set in a simple way, the same happened here with this gold material.

The Gold material can be set in two different ways, that produce similar results:

  1. Setting it as a metal: fresnel disabled + colored reflection
  2. Using ‘metalness’: setting a riflective colored plastic + metalness 1.0

If you have an older V-Ray you can use the first method. If you have a more recent version I suggest you use metalness which also gives the possiblity to set mixed surfaces plastic/metallic.


Finally here we have the lighting & Mood comparison:

How to animate small water movements?
Those who have seen the series know well about water can see small movements produced by those who walk on them. You can follow this tutorial to learn how to > Animate water with After Effects < without consuming too much time in expensive rendering sequences.

Keep following me on Learnvray and take a look at my courses!


Ciro Sannino
Author & V-Ray Mentor
Creator of the 5SRW Approach

Ciro Sannino


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