Intro to Rendering Pt.2 | Environment

By August 23, 2013One Comment

Continuing on our conversation about rendering, the environment is the virtual space in which you are rendering your model.

Types of environments include:

  • A lightbox
  • A studio
  • A simulated environment (other 3D models in the space to represent the scene)
  • A composite scene (usually added in later after the components are rendered or, like with some programs, Included in the rendering itself…like Keyshot does)


Think of the lightbox as a small room where you are taking a photo of your model with a few specific lights in place. These lights include a fill light, a directional light, and sometimes a secondary light that may or may not be colored. The lightbox type of environment is usually reserved for small to medium sized product renderings and often times will have some sort of solid or subtly textured back ground.
In this example, I’ve got a watch floating in the space to show some detail on the side. There is an overhead light which is providing the overall illumination and some directional light that is lighting up the rest of the scene. This was rendered in Keyshot with the stock softbox background. ┬áThe lightbox as an environment isn’t always full of shadows. Often times in a lot of product renderings, the rendering artist will blow out the background so it feels like the space goes on forever. This is a very popular technique and offers a lot of flexibility when you are setting up a render.


This is probably the most common environment for rendering (or at least for single subject matter type renders). The studio type environment mimics an actual photography studio in the way the lights are set up as well as the scale. This is used for cars, retail, entertainment and all sorts of other types of rendering. I use this type of environment for my medium to large sized product designs as well as exhibit work. In this example, I’m showing a slight tip-up of a computer. The floor has a gloss and the main fill light is coming from the global illumination of the scene. The background was completely white and I added in the vignetting and soft shadows in a second pass of the rendering.

Simulated environment

The simulated environment rendering is my most favorite way to render because it gives valuable context to the subject matter that you are rendering. In this setup, you are using the lights in the space, often paired with a simulated sky, global illumination, and often times additional lighting to simulate real lighting in the space. This can be amplified with the use of HDRI lighting (which we’ll discuss a little bit in the lighting video).
In the example, I’ve got a retail table set up. This was for the Chinese brand Anta. I was showing what an imaginary product launch might look like within their store. Versus going to the space and trying to composite the renderings in, I modeled the space and then added in lighting and the concepts. This way everything had a consistent finish to it and made for a more fluid presentation. This is the biggest benefit to the simulated environment as a rendering space is that you get a consistent polish to the renderings. Think about 3D animated movies, these are all renderings within a simulated environment which leads to dynamite results.


Composite environment renderings rely heavily on accurate lighting via HDRI and accurate shadow and light setup with correct photography or video backplates for getting the camera angle to match just right. For all of you VFX people out there, you probably have already felt the pain of your first rotoscoping job or adjusting the color temperature on your scene versus the rendering. Composites can be the most challenging to type of render to pull off and not look super synthetic, but it is possible with time and patience.

I do most of my composite work in Photoshop and After Effects, but when I do product renders or rendering tests, I recommend Keyshot for its immediate results. This example is a shot from an article I co-wrote about Keyshot for Cadalyst Magazine ( when it was still Hypershot by Bunkspeed. It’s speed and ease make it really fun and rewarding to use especially now that Luxion is the company that owns it. In the last video in this rendering series, I’ll be doing a rendering in Keyshot as well as V-Ray so you can get a sense of how each works as well as how choosing and setting up the right sort of environment is critical to the final output of the rendering.

In the next video, we are going to cover the main types of lights that you’ll use for your rendering.

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