3D Modelling Pipeline – Week 3 (Lighting, Rendering, and Compositing) – MDU 115

Part three of four blog posts outlining the production of a 3D model (or scene) from pre-production to final rendering.

Now that the model has been textured, rigged and animated, it’s time to get into the really technical stuff –


Without some decent lighting, how would anyone see that finely textured, animated model? Lighting for 3D animation can be as simple as using an area light source to light up a model for a product shot (or a simple render, if the model/animation is to be used in a showreel, and not a narrative for example) or, if the scene calls for it, as complicated as using various different kinds of light sources (such as ommi, spot or volume light) in different colours so as to set the mood, and adding ambient occlusion to give that extra touch of realism.


Rendering could be simply described as the 3D animation version of developing a roll of film. There are different rays to render a scene depending on what it’s intended to be used for – games require a process called ‘pre-rendering’ in order for the player to be able to see what is going on in the scene in real time, whereas rendering for film can obviously take longer, and be more complex on account of the fact that none of the rendered fames need to be seen until the end result is composited.

There are also different styles in which scenes can be rendered – many games and films are rendered in a more realistic style, requiring complex techniques to be used, like ray-tracing and radiosity, although a number of different styles are becoming popular, like cel shading (popularised in the game Borderlands and its sequels, or the web animation series RWBY, or the newest technique coming out of Disney, where the film is animated and rendered so that it resembles an old, 2D film.


The final stage of the 3D pipeline, wherein the final touches are added to the rendered film/frames, which rarely (if ever!) comes out looking perfect, and ready for release. This typically involves colour correction, lighting fixes, or adding atmospheric effects like mist or depth of field. It can also be used when 3D animation and live action film are to be combined (as can be seen in almost every major action movie currently being released) or when 2D cell animation is to be added to a 3D film.

Depending on the scale of the project, this is typically done in software such as Adobe Premiere,  but for smaller scale projects, involving far fewer or single frames, these can be assembled in Adobe Photohop, though this is hardly ideal.

A before and after comparison of a render and a fully composited image – from Rich Hinchcliffe of GreyScaleGorilla.com


Adamkiewicz, A. (2013, May 30). Crash Course: Cel Shading in Video Games. Retrieved from http://www.gatheryourparty.com/2013/05/30/crash-course-cel-shading-in-video-games/

Birn, J. (2002). What is 3D Rendering? Retrieved from http://www.3drender.com/glossary/3drendering.htm

Hinchcliffe, R. (2010, October 25). The Importance of Compositing: A Layer By Layer Breakdown in After Effects – Greyscalegorilla Blog. Retrieved from http://greyscalegorilla.com/blog/tutorials/the-importance-of-compositing-a-layer-by-layer-breakdown-in-after-effects/

Kinkley, J. (2014, December 16). The “flat” 3-D look: A brief history of cel shading in video games · For Our Consideration · The A.V. Club. Retrieved from http://www.avclub.com/article/flat-3-d-look-brief-history-cel-shading-video-game-212807

Slick, J. (2014). The CG Pipeline – Lighting Techniques – Standard 3D Lighting. Retrieved from http://3d.about.com/od/Creating-3D-The-CG-Pipeline/a/3d-Lighting-Techniques-Standard-3d-Lighting_2.htm

What Is 3D Compositing? (with picture). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-3d-compositing.htm


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