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Last Of Us lighting artist offers devs a tip: set the mood with a single light

While it sounds oversimplified, if you can get a strong base for that end result as much as possible, it goes a long way," Naughty Dog lighting artist Gabe Betancourt tells 80 Level. "Less is more."

Alex Wawro, Contributor

April 18, 2017

2 Min Read

"If at all possible, find a really good reference from a photograph or a film that captures the overall color or mood you’re going for and try to match it with just one light. While it sounds oversimplified, if you can get a strong base for that end result as much as possible, it goes a long way."

- Gabe Betancourt, a lighting artist at Naughty Dog, sharing game lighting advice with game dev hub 80 Level.

If you're at all curious about what it's like to light the cinematic games they make at Naughty Dog, we've got good news: game dev hub 80 Level today published a thorough interview with studio lighting artist Gabe Betancourt.

It's a neat read if you're interested in learning more about how a lighting artist works within a big studio; fellow devs may also appreciate that Betancourt offers potentially useful tips on how to light your game effectively. More often than not, his advice could be summed up as "do more with less."  

"Less is more. The key light is master. Every other light, element, and detail should support the key and allow it to stand out as much as possible," he says at one point.

"The ideal light rig accomplishes with a handful of lights what would feel like dozens.  Often too many lights being used in a scene results in muddy, confusing direction. When this happens, I recommend deleting all lights and starting again with the key."

For more insight into how the folks at Naughty Dog think about game design through the lenses of photography and film, check out this recent talk from studio art director Robh Ruppel on cinematography for game artists.

You can find lots more input from Betancourt, including some nitty-gritty details on how Naughty Dog's production process works and what tools Betancourt uses, in the full interview.

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