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Enscape Lighting Fundamentals: Time of Day and Sun Position

Interior Lighting
3D Interior Lighting

Imagine waking up to a sunny day, then imagine waking up to a rainy one. They are so different right? Also depending on which one you wake up to, it might determine how you feel the rest of the day as well. Time of day and sun position exactly feel like that. They are key points in lighting and play a crucial role in determining the overall look and feel of an image. 

Before we get deep into what time of day and sun position are, let's go back to where it all begins. References, they are our gameplans in rendering. Before creating the lighting or the image itself, we must make a mood board and look for references. References can help us both in capturing our ideas, or in igniting one. When we as 3D artists capture an idea in mind, they are vague and blurry. Reference images help us to translate the ideas, make them clear. References could also be the one to spark an idea in us, and be the inspiration. Which is why before time of day and sun position, it is important to firstly determine our references.

Time of day

There are many varieties of time of day, sunrise, sunset, noon, night time, after rain, etc. Time of days are the base in which we want our images to feel. To determine time of day, it comes back to the references we have in mind. A clear game plan aids in the process of determining the time of day and what we want to show in our images. Maybe we want to show the cozyness and comforting morning situation in a render, thus we choose a leaning towards cool-toned white hue for our sunlight. It represents when the sunlight comes in contact with us; it is warm, not hot.

Sunposition (azimuth and altitude)

To start, you might be wondering “what is azimuth and altitude?”

“Azimuth – Rotation of the sun around the building. Altitude – Rotation above and below the horizon line. By adjusting these sliders you will see the time of day change to the desired result.”

Azimuth and altitudes are two settings 3D Artists must experiment through trial and error to get the feel of it. There is no fixed formula to the azimuth and altitude, to achieve the lighting we want. Every project has their own unique situations, be it terrain, geography, weather. For example, normally for sunset lighting you can start off at 14 degree azimuth and 12,5 degree altitude.

Remember there are no fixed formulas to this, those numbers are just to be a starting point for us to then tweak and find the perfect combination. It aids in our process so that we do not have to start looking for the perfect azimuth and altitude from zero. As you become more familiar with it over time, you will know naturally how much azimuth and altitude you would need to start off on for other images. To see a sunset lighting done with 14 degree azimuth and 12,5 degree altitude, check out our post for your reference.

Light tone is set according to the many other factors that determine it, be it the time of day, sun position, and again your own game plan. 

Flat lighting

Sometimes, the render appears flat, meaning the image does not seem to have a clear direction. For instance, in one of our projects “Duta Indah”, we want to show a morning situation of the room, a bedroom, and communicate the comfort of the bed, while at the same time showing that the outside world feels airy and fresh. 

So, we created strong contrasts. Kindly imagine if the image lacks light and shadow variations, viewers would be unsure where to focus. Without a concept or reference, viewers might miss the comfort we aim to convey if the lighting feels flat. 

In Duta Indah’s 3D image, the sunlight is intentionally bright and overcast, giving a warm feeling. However, if it is too bright outside, viewers might focus on that, missing the point we want to highlight. We aim to show that the view is refreshing, like when we open the window, not polluted. 

Common mistakes regarding lighting

Often common mistakes regarding lighting is the lack of reference, therefore we’re unable to have a clear image on what we want our images to be. Whether we want our image to be day time or night time, and if so for example night time, how dark do we want our night time to be? Without a clear game plan in mind, we might keep making our night time image darker and darker, and end up with an image that is way too dark. So remember, gameplans are the base of our renders which we create our image upon.

Creating a moodboard and looking for reference images that capture our ideas which we can use as the main idea in which we center our images upon, to not lose sight of what we want to create.

A few tips from one of our 3D Artist, Ryan Bagus Nur Alif, our 3D Artist who worked on “Duta Indah” project:

There are 3 types of time of days Ryan absolutely adores, which are early mornings, night time, and after rain.

For Ryan, early morning renders feel motivational and encouraging, because early mornings are the start of all activities. Whereas night time renders is the time of day when all activities end and we can rest, it feels stress-relieving when looking at night time renders. After rain is when the skies are still cloudy, and the mood feels cold and gloomy. Therefore making the colors feel more colorful, more calibrated. When rain falls, pollution levels lowers, meaning the Global Illumination our render becomes very blue. For more time of day references, check this instagram post of ours.

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