Studio lighting with Blender and Renderman: best practices and freebie

I always say that I am lucky enough to have a job that I love and that I am never tired of. Having this love affair with computer graphics and creative software brings me to try out a lot of different solutions to understand what better suite my needs and gives me the opportunity to deliver the best possible solutions to my clients. This is one of those times.

In the last days I played a bit with the free non-commercial version of Renderman renderer from Pixar with the dedicated addon for Blender. I don’t have to tell you the thrill to have the same tools that brought to life movies like Wall-E or the latest Finding Dory. From my little experience, I really liked the additions that Renderman brings into Blender: from the outstanding frame buffer called “It” to the Pxr Surface node and the ready to use shaders, from the quality of the light to the nice integration with the Blender interface. If you can live with some random crash and the costant hurry of saving the scene, I strongly reccomend you to try it out by yourself.

While I was playing with Renderman I decided to put together a couple of really simple renders to showcase how to light properly and object in a studio setup environment. Not long ago, with a bit of research and study about photography and lighting, I figured out that I was always doing something wrong when I needed to light a virtual shooting environment for some still images about products design.
The main things to remember are to keep the setup simple, to always refer to real studio setups and to stick with real dimensions. For most situations the three lights setup will work flawlessly.

The key light alone is already an interesting setup for strong, contrasted images. Adding the fill light, instead, gives you a uniform, blend image that is not what we are looking for. The magic happens when we finally switch on also the rim light. This third light, that from the back of the subject is pointing straight on top of it, clearly defines the shape and makes it pop from the background.
Here the different setups I used in this case:

In this other example, using the Blender mascotte called Suzanne, we can see how this extremely simple setup brings up all the shapes of the model.

From here you can download the .blend file with this light setup so that you can experiment by your own.