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HDRI - Lighting and Reflections Tutorial
Added: 2004-12-25 | Views: 70216/159438 | Software: 3D Studio Max
OK, people have been asking me to create tutorials on HDRI since my last tutorial, i've had quite a few requests now. There are already other tutorials out there which explain the reflections side. However, i have yet to see one on setting up HDRI lighting, which is strange since in most cases the two go hand in hand. For this tutorial i am using 3dstudio MAX 6 and brazil 1.2 to render. Do not dispair though if you do not have brazil, its only a renderer, the tutorial goes through how to make it with 3dsmax alone. Brazil just speeds up the rendering process for my benefit. Unfortunately if you are using 3dsmax3 you will need to upgrade.. if you are using 4 or 5 you will need to download this

and if you are using max6, then thank your lucky stars, its already installed for you (isnt that nice of good old discreet?)

Note: HDRI light probes can be downloaded from

HDRshop can be downloaded from
HDRshop is a must have for any 3d enthusiast and also essential for working with hdr images. Although not in this tutorial.. i dont have time to explain hdr shop nor setting up probe images from mirrored ball to latitude/longitude.

1. OK, firstly, if we are going to make lighting and reflections, we need something to light up and reflect the environment (well duh! ;) ). As you can see from the image below, i have really pushed the boat out and created, not just one sphere, not two or three, but FOUR (oh golly gosh!!) , and to further advance my cg talents, i've also created a plane for my four amazingly complex spheres to sit on [edit- oh what the hell lets add a torus knot in there too just to add some real pinazz!). And doesn't it look spectacular right now? (does anyone notice a hint of sarcasm at this point) .. really the objects arent important, since noone really uses HDRI to light 4 spheres anyway, just use the tutorial to light any scene you like :)

2. Now that we have our briliantly creative starting point. Lets create some HDRI reflections.

Firstly, download this -

Secondly lets add the reflection map: goto rendering> environment, under background, click the "environment map:" box (its the one that currently says none in it), choose bitmap and then choose the apt-probe that you just downloaded, after you click ok it brings up another window, press ok on this one too. Now, with the environment window still open, open the material editor aswell. Drag and drop the "map #1 (apt-probe.hdr) into a free slot in the materials editor setting it as an instance, and follow the next instructions: -In the "coordinates" rollout, change the mapping type to "spherical environment" (its in the drop down box next to mapping if you get stuck looking), and change the blur to 0.1. now scroll down to the "output" rollout and set the RGB level to 100 (or any number, it really depends how you want you reflections to look).

3. Great our shiny objects are now reflecting nicely :) Lets make some nice lighting. Create a skylight and place it somewhere in the middle of your scene above your objects.

Download and then place it in the "none" box underneath "sky colour" in the modify proerties of the skylight. Do exactly the same as you did for the apt-probe by instancing it into the mats editor and using the same settings as the reflection map. Note: you will have to ensure the "environ" button is checked in the "coordinates" rollout before you can change the mapping to spherical environment render, and there you have it.. HDRI (wooooo!)

Obviously my scene was rubbish, but it wasnt meant to be anything spectacular, just a reference for how your scene should look after each step.. feel free to email me at : if you have any comments or questions.. but if you are going to as a question, please, firstly just follow through the tutorial slowly and try and figure things out, i get bombarded with questions where answers are in the tutorial after every tutorial i write.. if you really are stuck however i\'ll reply ASAP :) hope this helped you all -kassinopious
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