View Full Version : A better way to do nav lights? LW11.6

01-23-2019, 11:15 AM
Hi All,
I've been working on a simple sequence, a zoom in to a space habitat.

The person I am doing it for is not happy with the coloured nav lights - they look good when you get in close, but disappear with distance.

I understand why - as lights are invisible, I'm using small sphere with a luminous texture and glow applied. Looks good when they fill a pixel, but when further off, not so much.

Any alternative approaches that would address this? I've considered a lot of tiny lens flare, but they are kind of soft, and I'm pretty sure that a small soft flare would look very unrealistic for what it is meant to be...

I also recall stories of cosmonauts attempting docking who found it very difficult to spot lights on the docking target.


01-23-2019, 11:39 AM
Nice animation Nick! Not currently at my LW computer, but have you tried linking the glow and/or sphere size inversely with camera distance?

01-23-2019, 01:00 PM
Well, I've boosted the glow repeatedly, and it still doesn't work well at distance.

I had thought of trying to make a morph target for the luminous bits, but that seems a bit perverse to say the least.

01-23-2019, 05:07 PM
Might it be something you could do simply in compositing with a sepearte pass? The Flare2Alpha image filter might help in that case.

01-23-2019, 11:39 PM
I like the way the lens flares look when they're subtle. Sample LW11.6.3 scene attached:

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MOV file: 143931

A couple of comments on the posted video: first, it looks like the navigation lights are hidden under the rim of the hull from the top, so even if they were really bright, it looks like they'd be occluded by the hull. I think navigation lights are usually white, yellow or red for visibility and stand off from the hull for visibility. The green / purple lights seem out of place to me (more artistic than functional).

In the sample scene attached, it's just a simple lathed shape for the "space station" (nice model in the video, BTW), and then I selected every fourth point around the largest circumferences of the shape by selecting the ring of points and using Selection=>Select Nth Pattern. Copy-n-paste those points, then stretch them out from the center so they stand off from the hull. Use Items=>Polygons=>Make 1-point Polygons to make polygons of the points and then cut-n-paste them to another layer. In the other layer, use Add Luxigons (may have to find it in the menus, I have it in the Items=>Add menu). It doesn't matter what Light is specified in the Add Luxigons popup since I create "template lights" in Layout to tune the Lens Flare, color, intensity, etc. before having Convert Luxigons clone them into place.

In the sample, there are three layers of Luxigons so I can have one with red lights, one with white lights, one with yellow lights. Save out the object, send to Layout.

In Layout, I hid the Hull structure, created three points Lights (RedRunningLight, YellowRunningLight and WhiteRunningLight), then tuned the Lens Flare parameters. Specifically, there's an Envelope on the Lens Flare Intensity with the same interval envelope on the Light's Intensity to light up the hull around it with a Linear Fallof of 30m (it's a big model). I set up different intervals on the different lights so they blink independently. The Lens Flare has no Central Glow (which is *always* red regardless of the Light color - too bad!), a very small central ring (1.0 size rather than 22), and a 4x4 Star filter. The Fade With Distance is set with a nominal distance of 40 meters.

Having the running / navigation lights illuminate the hull around them means they're a bit more visible even from a distance. Making the Lens Flare intensity higher than 10% as in the sample would also make them more visible, and of course the nominal distance for Fade with Distance should be tuned for the scene. But most importantly, the running lights need to stand off from the hull so they're visible from the "necessary" approach angles for visibility.

Once the "Template Lights" are set up as desired, select each subsequent Layer, use Convert Luxigons (once again, may have to find it in the menus) to put one of these lights at each point. Repeat for Red, White and Yellow light layers.

Have fun!

01-25-2019, 05:59 PM
The Luxigons idea is a good one.

Another idea is to create the light 'box' or luminaire with a semi-transparent surface (or double-sided checked in the Surfaces panel if the polys single polygons without depth), load it into a new scene, add a null, parent it to the null, add a point light, parent the point light to the same null, set the light color, Save the scene, and then Load From Scene the lamp and luminaire combination and place them individually on the station. Yes, I know, it's a lot of work.

Then you'd enable shadows and render away -- tweaking the falloff and other parameters.

As for the blinking of the lights, try changing your envelope to a square wave set to Linear.


01-25-2019, 09:06 PM
Hey Star Base,

I simply used both geometry and a light with no lens flare. That worked best for me doing a Star Trek starship. That way you can see the light come on and then have the light shine on nearby objects.

Hope this helps,

Good Luck

01-26-2019, 09:22 AM
I simply used both geometry and a light with no lens flare. That worked best for me doing a Star Trek starship. That way you can see the light come on and then have the light shine on nearby objects.

yes, way thinking along these lines as well.
one could even scale up the lumi-polys when at a distance (for more effect)

01-26-2019, 11:22 AM
hm, turned out to be more tricky than i thought...


scene file attached >

01-27-2019, 08:11 AM
closer... (no morphs)


scene file attached >