Simple light setup for outdoor environments

On his website, Iñigo Quilez (known for a wide range of notable contributions at RGBA, BeautyPi and Pixar; talk about an over-achiever! but I digress already), recently described the light setup he often uses for outdoor environments.

Capture of his technique in action

From the article:

This articles describes the lighting rig I use when doing such tiny computer graphics experiments with landscapes. It’s basically made of 3 or 4 directional lights, one shadow, some (fake or screen space) ambient occlusion, and a fog layer. These few elements tend to behave nicely and even look fotoreal-ish if balanced properly.

Setting up lights is not an easy task, so this article is a very welcomed insight. I especially like the trick of using an opposite directional light to fake global illumination. I also very much agree on using actual fill lights. Constant ambient alone is not enough, as you lose any sense of volume in the shadowed parts.

I am not too fond of the shadow penumbra trick though, which he described previously already. I must admit it indeed gives a warm look, but it doesn’t make any physical sense. So I suspect this should rather belong to the tone mapping part of the rendering, just like the square root he used to apply to the diffuse fall-off really was really working around the lack of gamma correction.

The recommendation to keep albedo near 0.2 is an interesting one. Indeed, your typical rock and grass albedo is nowhere near the albedo of snow (a quick look at Wikipedia gives this comparison chart). But if it is stored in a texture in a typical rendering pipeline, the question of precision lingers. I wonder how big game studios typically address this.


More and more material and news are being released about the next edition of SIGGRAPH, so here is a short summary.

Technical papers

The video teaser of the technical papers has been published. It looks like there will be some really cool stuff to see. As every year Ke-Sen Huang maintains a page with the list of papers.

Real Time Live!

The Real Time Live! program looks very nice too, and it is good to see at least two demoscene related works will be presented there (the community GLSL tool ShaderToy by Beautypi, and some experiment by Still with a LEAP Motion controller on their production, Square).


Not much to say, it looks great and I want to see most of them… The Advances in Real-Time Rendering in Games and Physically Based Shading in Theory and Practice courses are a must see as usual. The Recent Advances in Light-Transport Simulation: Theory & Practice and Ray Tracing is the Future and Ever Will Be courses sound promising too.

Our work to be shown at SIGGRAPH

Lastly, we had some awesome news yesterday, when we were told our last released demoscene production, F – Felix’s workshop, has been selected to be shown as part of the Real-Time Live! demoscene reel event.

Released last year at Revision and ranking 2nd in its category, Felix’s workshop is a 64k intro: a real-time animation fitting entirely (music, meshes, textures…) within a 64kB binary file meant to run on a consumer level PC with a vanilla Windows and up to date drivers.

I was also told Eddie Lee‘s work, Artifacts, was selected as well. His outstanding demo won at Tokyo Demo Fest earlier this year.

How to use light to make better demos?

This is the third day at Revision, and my contribution this year is the talk I gave yesterday. Unlike last year, this seminar is not technical at all but focused on the design aspect and, to some extent, how it relates to the technical one. The context is demomaking, but many ideas are still valid in other media.

There were some issues with the recording unfortunately, which means some elements are missing (you will notice some blanks at the beginning). In particular after 5mn, there is an important point which was completely cut out. The text was:

Throwing a new technique at whatever you’re doing is not going to make it any better. It’s only going to change what you can achieve. There are two sides of image creation: the technical one and the artistic one. Different techniques allow to do different things, and the more techniques you master, the better you understand what you can and cannot do with them, and how to do it. Technique becomes a tool that changes how you can express yourself.

Here are the slides with notes (~5MB), or a low quality version (~1MB).

For more demoscene related talks, here is the full list of seminars at Revision 2013.

Talking about light at Revision, 2

Last year I gave a talk at Revision in which I summed up some of the things I had been gathering on light shading.

This year too I will be attending Revision, in Saarbrücken, Germany, and will give a talk about light again. I will present some of the new stuff I learned. This time the topic is going to be focused on the use of light from a design perspective, in particular in the context of demo-making. It will also be an opportunity to improve on the things I wasn’t happy with regarding the performance: hopefully a better diction, flow and construction.

The talk is scheduled for Saturday, March 30th, at 12:00: “How to use light to make better demos?”. Please come and don’t bring tomatoes. :)

Also make sure to have a look to the complete list of talks, there is a lot of exciting stuff scheduled.

Tokyo Demo Fest 2013

This is a long due post, but I have been busy recently and couldn’t take the time to write a proper party report. Later being better than later, here are a few words about the third edition of the Japanese demoparty, Tokyo Demo Fest, which took place in the center of Tokyo a month ago.

Jade, by Offwhite, winner of the graphics competition at Tokyo Demo Fest 2013

This party is still very young. When the first edition was launched, it was a one day only event, had under 50 visitors, and I understand it took place in what seemed to be a meeting room they rented. The demoscene culture is something very little heard about in Japan, so kudos to these enthusiasts for organizing it. I wasn’t part of the team yet, and joined them a few months later, with the hope I could bring a European point of view and some of the experience from organizing Prologin for eight years (a French thing, most likely you’ve never heard of it; anyway it has a few points in common with demoparty).

The next edition was organized in a club in Akihabara which, while being way too narrow and not suited for coding sessions, certainly allowed to have a better party feeling than a cold meeting room. Around 80 visitors attended.

Sinus meets square

Étude des fluides, by Caty Olive, as part of the exhibition for the Mois du numérique

Then we went onward to the 2013 edition, with more experience and more expectations. And for some reason, many things went very well. The invitation intro, released at Function, won the PC 64k Intro Competition. Various sponsors supported us, including last minutes ones, securing us both on money and equipment. We met with the Institut français de Tokyo (a public funded cultural institution) and agreed on organizing the party in their buildings, as part of their event “Le mois du numérique” (“The Digital Month”, which had Éric Chahi as a guest star by the way). Suddenly, Tokyo Demo Fest had grown up from a nascent demoparty wannabe, to a full featured demoparty, with a warm party place wide enough for over a hundred visitors, seats and tables, real equipment (audio, video, light, network…) and other fancy stuff like an actual theater room for projections and seminars.

Demoshow at Tokyo Demo Fest 2013

Demoshow in the theater at Tokyo Demo Fest 2013

But then there was one problem left that wouldn’t be a matter of infrastructure: the mood. Would the audience participate? Would we have a real party? From my European point of view, it seems to me that Japanese people have a very hard time being spontaneous, and I understand it is somehow considered inappropriate in the Japanese society to openly show your emotions. They would watch a competition staying quiet and silent, only to give a contrived applause at the end, light years away from what we may experience in Europe, with people shouting and whistling on every bit they like. How to get this to work here was the big question, and the Japanese organizers who had attended other demoparties and experienced this uplifting feeling of being part of a crowd enjoying the event, were wondering too.

Party hall at Tokyo Demo Fest 2013

Party hall at Tokyo Demo Fest 2013

Well, I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if it’s a matter of reaching a critical mass, the opening icebreaker talk by Kioku (the lead organizer), the party place, the productions, or because we had many western visitors who by their behavior became the sparkle that would ignite the fire, but the atmosphere we had was a complete blast. That was it: Tokyo Demo Fest was now a solid demoparty, a mix of Japanese and European spirit that worked. I invite you to read this party report by Setsuko Hyodo for a more in-depth description.

Group shot at Tokyo Demo Fest 2013

Group photo with Mickey from Israel (far left), Eddie Lee (right) and Chibi-tech (far right)

Finally, on top of the cupcake, was the cherry. If you ever attended a small demoparty, you probably know the level of the releases is not going to be outstanding. Let’s face it, as fun as competitions are in such parties, you can consider yourself very lucky if you get anything, say, worth watching for people who did not attend. So how lucky exactly are we supposed to consider ourselves when we had for example a demo like Artifacts by IllogicTree (winner of the demo competition, and given how it was received outside the party, it is a good bet to say it is going to be one of the best demos of 2013), an artwork like Jade by Offwhite or a music video like ATOM – Galaxy Man by In-Sect?

Technology showcase by BeautyPi

Back in 2009, Iñigo Quilez was leaving everyone in awe by releasing the milestone 4kB intro, Elevated, in cooperation with the group TBC. If you haven’t seen this masterpiece, watch it, and keep in mind this was generated from only 4096 bytes worth of data (just the text of this article is already more than a third of that).

After that, news were that he was hired by Pixar, and besides some in progress screenshots from time to time and some live coding experiments, not much was heard from him.

Then a couple of months ago this interview was published, and more recently this praising article of CGW, where we could read he had been in charge of the vegetation rendering in Pixar’s Brave. Needless to say, many people were looking forward to seeing what he would do next, especially in the real-time domain.

Today the group he’s part of, BeautyPi, which seems to be focusing on interactive animations (they presented their work earlier this year at SIGGRAPH), has published the following video. Being a showcase of their last experiments, it is not entertaining like an animation, a clip or a demo are. You could even say it’s boring. But it is visually very impressive, both technically and artistically. Although this is some real-time material, the quality is not that far from movie standards. Regarding the interaction, I am suspecting they are only scratching the surface and they may come up with some very interesting things. What these folks are doing is definitely worth following.