Review: Digital Lighting and Rendering by Jeremy Birn
Jeremy Birn’s Digital Lighting and Rendering is a masterful treatise on digital lighting and, in my opinion, a must have on your bookshelf if you’re a 3d artist. While the text is clearly aimed at pre-rendered art, for example in animated movies or live-action effects, most of the concepts are fundamental enough to apply to lighting real-time scenes in games, or even more traditional art mediums. I found the pace to be good, and lots of important areas are covered. The chapter list includes lighting design, shadows and occlusion, environments and architecture, characters, cameras, composition, the science of color, rendering algorithms, textures, layers, production pipelines, and an appendix for getting a job in the industry. Though there are lots of books that cover specific topics or software packages (such as modeling in Maya), it’s more difficult to find higher-level books that focus on the fundamentals. Of course, it’s important to understand the tools you are using, but without a solid foundation you will likely end up making avoidable mistakes.
My interest is definitely in real-time rendering, so many of the topics were not directly relevant. However, I do have some experience with pre-rendered content creation, mostly noticeably during my time in art school, and some of the topics here were even beyond what I learned getting a 4 year degree. I will say that the material would be most apt for people doing film, and the book is certainly catering to that audience. However, in my case, I find a lot of the real-time books to be too narrowly focused on the algorithms and maths and not enough time is spent telling you how to use those methods to produce quality art. So I like looking at other sources to get a different perspective. Even in games there is some crossover, for example in cut-scenes or making promotional images, so the knowledge can still be useful. All-in-all I enjoyed the book and I would highly recommend it to any current or aspiring 3d artist.