New Riders' [digital] series is performing a tremendous service to the computer animation and graphics community. The newest addition to this family is [digital] Lighting & Rendering. Author Jeremy Birn has long been regarded as a talented computer graphics artist and generous writer, and he's been sharing his techniques and discoveries for years.
Using computer graphic and 3-D tools to create accurate images is easy; using them to produce beautiful, inviting, memorable images requires more than technical skill. [digital] Lighting & Rendering introduces reasons and techniques for using light, shadow, texture, and composition. The book is not software-specific, but demonstrates techniques that are applicable to almost any 3-D graphics application. It is assumed, however, that your 3-D software of choice supports such basic rendering features as soft shadows, light maps, colored gels, depth-of-field blur, motion blur, and so on.
The first half of the book discusses lighting and shadow: lighting workflow; light types; using lighting rigs, such as three-point lighting; shadows and shadow type; and light quality. Lighting--how it's used, where it's placed, the kind of shadow it casts, its intensity--is critical to any image, whether you're creating a photorealistic computer re-creation or a surreal fantasy picture. [digital] Lighting & Rendering explains not just how to use various lighting techniques, but why.
An outstanding chapter on color and its use through composition and lighting offers insight into how colors are perceived and how color affects a scene. The importance of color, hue, and saturation should not be underestimated, and the examples in this chapter, like in every other, drive home that point.
Additional chapters cover exposure, composition and staging, materials and textures, and compositing. There is no accompanying CD-ROM, but the platform-generic nature of the book (and of the subject matter itself) makes it unnecessary. The book is designed to educate and inform; it is up to readers to apply what they learn to their own projects.
Although fewer than 300 pages long, [digital] Lighting & Rendering is an informative and important book, useful to any computer graphics artist. Each page is filled with fascinating, immediately helpful information about the craft. The publisher spared no expense on the book's production, either--every page is in color, with at least one color photo per page illuminating the text. Mr. Birn's experience and insight are not to be underestimated, and this book is not to be missed. --Mike Caputo