Kitchen at Night

Kitchen at Night lighting and rendering, Pixar RendeMan

with volume fog

original sketch concept by Paul Felix

original color concept by Paul Felix

modeled by set modeler at Pixar Christina Faraj

kitchen at night lighting references

early lighting setup and camera angle

early stage lighting and shading test

study of real lighting and reflection

lighting setup development

final lighting setup

mid stage shading test

shading of kitchen floor

examples of shading

Kitchen at Night

lighting and shading



This is a photo-real interior render image generated in Maya using RenderMan. I was responsible for everything but the modeling, thanks for Christina Faraj, modeler at Pixar, providing the scene through RenderMan community.  The purpose of this project is creating a photo-real render and getting better understanding of shading and lighting. I also used this project demonstrating several workshops on "generating 3d content".



The original concept was created by artist Paul Felix, his sketch introduces the environment and atmosphere well, which provides me many ideas on shading and lighting the scene. At this point, I will keep the camera angle since it is simple and capturing a lot information. 


This is the color concept by Paul Felix I like, however, it might be too colorful and cartoony for my photo-real idea. But I will keep the harmony and balance of palette.


Christina Faraj did a great job on translating Paul Felix's concept into 3d models​. In order to provide a real existing kitchen, I randomized and un-perfected most of the meshes by beveling edges, moving position, rotating, and pulling faces with soft-selection tool. For instance, the second drawer at sink area is tilted a bit which is a good example; there are two cups hanging with hooks near the curtain, which needed a fix. They are against gravity now, and they are parallelized to each other, so I need to simply rotate them to a natural position( you can see in the final render). 


My idea is create a kitchen at night which is cozy and homey without any crazy camera angel and perspective. I have collected many photo references indicates different material choices and lighting situations. Before I do anything with shading, I need to UV unwrap some of the main meshes in the view of camera so that I can easily texture them in Photoshop or Quixel suite.


Here is the early lighting setup and camera angle which has actually been changed several times already. I do like to keep the camera simple at his point, but it needs to keep "the rule of third" so we can have a feeling of balance of weight. And there are many objects in the kitchen which draws too much attention but losses the focus, so i tried to separate the kitchen into front and back sections with a space in between, which can provide a depth into the space and lead the viewer subtly. 

Originally, there are two main lighting sources in the scene, one is the ceiling light and the other is opened-refrigerator light.


Here is the testing IPR render with one of the early setup. It was too bright and did't provide a homey atmosphere, however, it successfully lighted the scene up for me to think more about the lighting development and shading. I was thinking about using opened-refrigerator light as key light, and then set up other lights to fill the space. At the same time, I started to shading some meshes. For example, I added a digital screen to the old oven, using PxrLayerSurface material with a little mesh glow. 


Since I decided to use opened-refrigerator light as the key light, I took a picture at my kitchen with refrigerator door opened as reference. Which demonstrates the shadow and reflection pretty well and this is what I wanted at this point. 


Lighting is really important in this scene. I tested out several lighting setups and tweaked them in order to have a comfortable feeling. I got rid of the ceiling light and added several sphere-lights and rect-lights representing lights from other room and light from street or moon. I also photoshopped a fake back-wall image for reflection in the mirror (you can see in the right corner image). 

Also I recommended a book called Digital Lighting and Rendering by Jeremy Birn, he is the lighting TD at Pixar Animation Studios. This book can solve most of your problems when you want to light and render a 3d scene, and also provide a lot useful information about understanding camera, color, composition and rendering technique, etc.


Here is almost the final lighting rig for the scene. 

  •  A doom light with a night HDRI image, and also two portal lights at windows hooked to doom light.

  • A sphere light inside refrigerator as key light.

  • Two sphere light at ceiling in the next room, to fill the room a bit more and some bounce lights.

  • Two rect-lights out side the window indicate street light and moon light, I also added Gobo- light filter to soft the light down with patterns.

  • Two mesh-lights under the shelf at far corner as night safety lights.

  • Many other small mesh-lights at plug-in and oven switch panel.



This is mid stage shading test with current lighting setup. I actually used a lot procedural texture inside RenderMan material browser. And a lot PxrLayerSurface material for glass with dirt, crayons, spoon with milk, dirty rag, etc.

Also tried batch render with Denoise function, which got rid of a lot grainy problem. 


This is the shading result of ground tiles. First, I simply UV unwrapped  with planner map which work perfect here. Second, I created a tile-able pattern and Photoshopped into a tile floor texture. Third, I detailed the shading with Quixel Suite to get some dirty oil effect and random dirt effect. Fourth, Imported texture maps into RenderMan Material and played with the setting for better looking result. 


Those are some other basic shading results done with Quixel Suite. 


This is one IPR (Interactive Photorealistic Rendering) test render with a close-up camera angle, which shows  most of the current shading result.

The grainy issue is caused by IPR and lower setting, also it is without Denoise function.

shading IPR render

breakdown of process

2017. 5

Blacksburg, VA                                  |                                                             |                                   (540)357-8743 

© 2017 Xindi Liu.  All rights reserved.