Light Key to Visual (and Transmedia) Storytelling

Light is a key component of visual — and therefore, transmedia — storytelling. Light can draw the viewer’s eye to a specific point in an image, bringing into focus something that the visual storyteller wants to highlight. The use of contrast — light and shadow, for example — can heighten the sense of conflict and drama. Color and tone can provoke an unconscious emotional response in a viewer.

Claire’s Ghosts is the first is a short series of 3D computer graphics used to illustrate a story in which the main character sees the “ghosts” of her past. The image will be combined with text to describe a moment during which the character becomes aware of the ghosts following her. As such, the text and image together need to convey a variety of information about Claire’s past history and her present physical, psychological, and emotional state.

Figure of a woman in her late 20s or early 30s against a background consisting of a dark, barren landscape and a sky in which the sun barely peeks through dark, heavy clouds.

Figure 1: Claire’s Ghosts is the first in a short sequence of images used to tell a story visually. This final image was produced using 3D computer graphics software to pose and render the character. Photoshop was used to create the composite image, integrating the character and the background.

As originally rendered, the image was lit from two sides, producing a fairly flat image that really doesn’t seem connected with the somber landscape behind her.


Figure 2: Fairly even lighting makes the image look flat.

A small adjustment to the two virtual lights used to illuminate this scene adds depth to the image, helping integrate the two. The deep shadow along one side of the character’s face adds to the drama of the scene.


Figure 3: Adjusting the lights in the scene adds deep shadows to one side of the character, heightening contrast in the image and increasing the dramatic tension.

In the final image (Figure 1 shown at the top), the color of both the foreground character and the background have been adjusted to more closely match each other, helping integrate the two elements into a unified image. The bluish-grey tint to that image is much cooler than the warm tones of the initial render. In particular, the cooler tint of the character’s skin makes the image much more ghostly, in keeping with the content of the text that will accompany it.

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