LIGHTING TECHNICAL DIRECTOR

DEPARTMENTS
3D COMPUTER ANIMATION

OVERVIEW

  • Ensuring there is consistency in lighting, colour balance and mood between the various elements of a shot or sceneMaking sure the computer-generated imagery looks photorealistic to match the live action
  • Adding the lighting that creates atmosphere, and adds realism, tone and depth to a scene

For this role, you will need to:

  • Have a strong sense of light and shadow demonstrated by artwork, photography, theatre, film or CG work
  • Have knowledge of colour theory, including through art history knowledge
  • Be able to follow design reference and have sympathy with wide range of styles
  • Be able to light characters and environments, interior and exterior, different times of day, etc.
  • Have an understanding of composition and the ability to enhance mood by lighting
  • Have a good working knowledge of computer animation packages
  • Have a good working knowledge of 2D paint software and various industry-standard rendering programmes
  • Have good working knowledge of palettes and CLUTs (Colour Look Up Tables)
  • Be able to do UV mapping
  • Have a good understanding of maths and physics
  • Understand the principles of cinematography including depth of field, density, use of filters
  • Have good problem-solving skills
  • Be able to work with a minimum of supervision
  • Be able to function as team leader, if required
  • Have good communication skills
  • Have good team-working skills
  • Be able to take direction and be willing to address constructive feedback
  • Be able to deliver on schedule, working calmly and efficiently under pressure
  • Show respect for the procedures and requirements of a particular studio, production or pipeline
  • Have knowledge of the requirements of the relevant health and safety legislation and procedures

WHAT DOES A LIGHTING TD DO?

Lighting TDs make sure there is consistency in lighting, colour balance and mood between the various elements of a shot or scene. When appropriate, they ensure the computer-generated imagery looks photorealistic to match the live action plates.

Lighting TDs add the lighting that creates atmosphere, increasing realism, tone and depth in a scene and clarifying location, weather and time of day. They balance individual elements to enable the compositors to produce a convincing image. They refer to the production designs and apply that visual style as faithfully as possible, taking care to maintain continuity.

They match technical skill with aesthetic judgement to create images that not only look good but are easy to render.

On some projects, they may be involved in the research and development of different effects for the Art Director or Lighting Supervisor. In a large company or on a larger project, they are often part of a team, but they need to be able to work with a minimum of supervision, understand the tools available and know how to use them to create the desired effects. On smaller productions, the role of Lighting TD/Lighter may be combined with that of Modeller or Texture Artist.

Lighting TDs need to work closely with the rendering and compositing departments to understand what is required at the next stage and ensure their material is easy to use and delivered on time.

On smaller projects, lighting is a fundamental skill required by generalists who cover more than one role. On larger productions, there is likely to be a team of dedicated Lighting TDs.

In many companies, particularly facility houses, Lighters are called Lighting TDs (Technical Directors) and can work their way up through the lighting department, starting from Junior TD. In feature animation, they are known as Lighters or Lighting Artists.

Will I need a qualification?

You will ideally have a combination of arts and maths qualifications if you want to become a Lighting TD. You will probably need to have a degree in computer graphics or computer science, or one of a variety of different disciplines including art-related subjects, photography, computer animation, maths or physics.

Solid experience in at least one of the industry-standard 3D packages will be expected and familiarity with other programmes would be an advantage.

You don’t absolutely have to be a graduate, though. In some cases, you might achieve a junior level position in this field having gained enough relevant professional experience. In such a case, you would need a portfolio that demonstrated you had the necessary talent and skills.

WHAT’S THE BEST ROUTE IN?

There are several levels of Lighting TD from junior through to a Senior Technical Director or Supervisor. This job profile relates to a mid-level grade.

There is no traditional route you can take into the lighting department. However, it is unlikely that you will get a job in this department when you are just starting out.

You could move into this kind of work having been a Lighting Designer in the theatre, a photographers or a fine art painter, if you have technical understanding of computer processes.

RELATED JOB ROLES

COMPOSITOR
Compositors construct the final image by combining layers of previously-created material, including computer animation, special effects, graphics, 2D animation, live action and static background plates

ANIMATION DIRECTOR 
Have overall responsibility for the quality of an animated product

3D COMPUTER ANIMATOR 
Animators in 3D computer animation produce three-dimensional images which create the illusion of movement

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