Lighting Demoreel - Sascha Bähr

Lighting Demoreel - Sascha Bähr

Sascha Bähr
by SaschaBaehr on 29 May 2022 for Rookie Awards 2022

Welcome to my entry for this year's Rookies Awards! Here I will show you 2 projects in detail of my Lighting Demoreel which I created during my education at Pixlvisn Media Arts Academy.

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Hi, my name is Sascha Bähr. In this entry I want to show you 2 of 4 of my Demoreel projects in more detail. The projects were created during my education at Pixlvisn Media Arts Academy. The focus of these projects is Lighting for Animation. The other two projects were created during my Mentorship at Thinktank online.

Also check out my entry for VFX Lighting to see the other two projects of my demoreel in detail.



· lighting
· texturing, lookdev, uvs
· layout and idea
· compositing
· modeling
· all illustrations and logos


This is my first demoreel project. Here I wanted to show that I can create every aspect of a 3D scene on my own. Furthermore, I wanted to create 2 cameras that visually fit together and still look aesthetically pleasing.


For my first demoreel project, I decided to do an interior. Since I‘m a big fan of the 50s/60s style, I wanted to steer my setting in that direction. For this scene I thought of a little story. Someone built the bomb in the attic at the beginning of the war. The individual parts of the bomb were delivered in the various boxes. The builder gave this bomb the name "Devil's Gift" and sprayed it on the bomb. The bomb was completed but never detonated. Over time, the bomb began to rust and one of the cylinders containing the explosive liquid broke. From this broken cylinder grows the flower, as a sign of hope. The shot of the scene was taken when the war was over. The whole theme can probably be understood under the term „war and hope“.

The next step was to find suitable references for all planned elements.

I assembled the bomb from various references of atomic bombs. I created the illustrations on the bomb and the boxes in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. In Substance 3D Painter I created the textures of the whole scene.


It helps me early on to position the lights after creating the camera in the blockout of the environment. I pay attention to a good composition and in the case of this project to a clear focus. I create a render layer for a clay render early on in the process so that I don't see the textures and can focus on the light and shadow.

This allowed me, for example, to move the assets so that they created an artificial vignette in conjunction with the light at the end. Among other compositing rules, this setting further increased the focus on the Hero object.

After some research, the color palette was clear to me very early. The colors from that time, or much more the colors from the 2nd World War were drab and not very saturated. The desaturated factory palette of the textures helped me to get the threatening "war character" into the scene. The only "saturated" color should be the flower growing out of the bomb.

In conjunction with the environment and the camera, I built the scene in such a way that guidelines are created, which increase the focus on the hero object. This makes it easier to add a "focus" later during lighting

I also made sure that the main lit area in the room is in the center of the image.

My goal was to convey the feeling of hope with light. For this I chose warm colors for the light entering through the window. The environment outside the light should seem more threatening. For this I chose a cold color temperature.

After the lights were placed and ready, I prepared the required AOVs and set the render setup.

For control I checked again the set values for the Ray Depth in the render settings. To avoid unnecessary reflections, I went through the number of light reflections needed for the surface-comlexed objects in the room. After some render tests with a small number of frames I was able to determine the optimal number of samples and lightsamples.


First I put all the elements in Nuke together. Foreground elements, the bomb with stool and background were rendered separately with render layers to avoid errors with depth of field. The godrays were also rendered as layers to give the scene more mood.

I integrated the dust particles into Nuke using the particle system and linked them to different shapes, so as not to always show a repeating dust particle or just a sphere.

As for the global color corrections, I tried to stick to my concept. The shadows should have a bluish cast, while the light area is bathed in complementary light.


War is over was my first Demoreel project and I learned a lot from it. I also continued to train my eye for design, realism, and quality.

In hindsight, it would have been more time-saving for me to work with a finished concept at the beginning. However, the advantage was that by constructing the light independently, I was able to try out and learn creative and conceptual storytelling ideas.



· lighting
· compositing
· modeling, texturing, lookdev, uvs of hero tree
· layout


The focus of my 2nd demo reel project was the exposure of an animated character or creature. In order to have an appealing shot with an animation at the end. 
For this I worked together with Dinh-Trang Bui who was responsible for the animation.


Dinh wanted to let a leopard climb down a tree. The idea sounds boring at first, but I could well imagine the result with the finished exposure.

During the further planning of the project with Dinh, we came up with a concept to make the project more interesting.

The story should be about life and death and how man destroys nature. For this we created 2 scenes, the first should be friendly and warm, the second cold and foggy.

In my final demo reel I decided to only include the 1st scene. Are you interested in the complete project? Then take a look at Dinh's entry.

Next step was coming up with references for the mood and how the light would react to the fur of the lepard. The main inspiration for the mood and lighting came from the films Jungle Book and The Lion King.

Furthermore, I made a retouch very early on to agree on the look.


To accomplish a scene of this size, I imported the trees via Arnold as standin's.

The camera work should be as natural as possible, like that of a nature filmmaker. The fast movements of the leopard are not always predictable. This made the placement of the trees and other elements a bit difficult in the beginning. I used composition rules as a guide, which helped me a lot with the placement. However, the most important thing was to place the elements in a balanced way so that the weight would not visually tilt the image to the side.


Very early on, I had the idea of having the leopard jump out of the shadows. The compromise, however, was never to show the leopard too dark, so that you can see the animation.

The compression was to place the leopard in the shadow area of some leaves. First lighting designs were always too dark and made the leopard look too threatening. We wanted to have this sunny day to fit the overall concept. In the process, I lightened up the shadow areas a bit. We planned the scene from that moment on without a real reavealing shot of the leopard.

To project the leaves of trees onto the body of the leopard, I used a leaves gobo. The advantage was that I could adjust it until no elements covered the leopard's head. I also took care not to create any unsightly shadow patterns or random unwanted symbols.


After bringing all the elements together in Nuke, I did the depth of field very early on.

Then I brought in the background image and adjusted it to the set blur.

In the next step I did a color matching to make all elements look homogeneous in combination with the background.

I rendered the godrays out of Maya and placed them not too obtrusively over the middle ground.

After that I did a global color adjustment which should make the appearance of the image a bit warmer. After that, different layers of vignettes were used to focus the center of the image. In the last step, I set a lens distortion to support the concept of the nature filmmaker.


Of all the projects I had worked on, this was the biggest and hardest. I realized too late that the total tasks I had set for myself were too much for my project time. In retrospect, it would have been easier for me to rebuild an existing concept.

Furthermore, I did not see the amount of problems coming. We were always struggling with compromises. For example, grooming the model only worked with the Shave and the Haircut plugin in Maya 2018, and I could only use an outdated version of Arnold to make the grooming work. Due to the fact that I couldn't update, we had to deal with some annoying bugs that kept affecting the lookdev, lighting and rendering. I think I learned a lot during this time to stay calm, check facts, look for information and find a workaround for the problems.

Thank you

Thanks to everyone who supported me during my time at Pixlvisn and Thinktank. Special thanks to Brandon Martin as well as Stefanie Knopp who provided me with feedback along this journey.

Also thank you for taking the time to read my entry. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.



[email protected]

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