Most of the lighting effects can be found in the rendering tab of Maya:
From left to right, we have: ambient light, directional light, point light, spot light, area light, and volume light.
- Ambient lights, they ARE BAD so just avoid using them. They tend to make the scene very flat-looking.
- Point light, ex) light bulb, the light comes out in all directions from a single point
- Directional light, ex) sunlight, where the light is continuous rays from one direction
- Spotlight, ex) something conical, like from a light with a shade or a stage light
- Area light, ex) through a window or glowing sewer hole, it comes from a particular area and set to a square in Maya
- Polygon light emitters, ex) neon lights, where the light is actually coming from the polygon itself and you adjust the brightness/settings
- Environment shapes sky dome, which is relatively self-explanatory, where you create an over-arching dome around your scene
- Volume Light, ex) light from a candle, where the light occupies a certain amount of finite space
I didn’t make the above in Maya, I found it online, but it does show the differences in each type of lighting that can be used in Maya.
The three point lighting theory is something we were introduced to, which isn’t just used in games but also the film industry. You have a direct light (or key light), a fill light, and a back light (or rim light). You need to keep in mind the decay rate of the light and its shadows: you can use depth map shadows on the key light, which produces a more natural shadow, or ray traced shadows, which are softer and more transparent. Light linking lets lights only effect certain objects.
There are a number of adjustments you can do on the light you’re placing in your scene, including changing its intensity (so a spotlight might have more intensity than a flickering candle) as well as the light’s colour (a red developing light versus a yellowed flashlight beam). Cookies (known as a cucoloris or cookie for short) can also be used to change the kind of light being thrown from off screen, in the form of a texture or pattern (so the light will only go through the window panes, not the entirety of the window, and cast light/shadow on the other side).