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In this week's Developer Diary, we chat with Marko "Vuks" Vukovic, Senior Lighting Artist. When he's not spending time with his family or gaming, he can be found capturing high resolution lighting and photographic data of the sky to help create the hyper realistic environments in Modern Warfare.
Who are you? What do you do at Infinity Ward?
My name is Marko Vukovic aka "Vuks".
I am a Senior Lighting Artist at Infinity Ward.
When did you join Infinity Ward? What did you do beforehand?
I joined Infinity Ward two years ago when I was approached by Dave Blizard, our Director of Lighting. He told me he was assembling an “Avengers” like lighting team and invited me to join.
Before joining Infinity Ward, I worked as a Lighting Artist at Insomniac Games on Spiderman PS4, I also previously collaborated with Dr. Paul Debevec at his ICT Computer Graphic lab and I worked on several blockbuster feature films like Watchmen and Jurassic World as a Lighting Technical Director at Sony Pictures Imageworks and Industrial Light & Magic.
What do you like to do outside of the studio in your free time?
I enjoy spending time with my daughter and wife, doing photography, gaming, cards and puzzles, playing my guitar, and I am a huge fan of the great cinematographer Roger Deakins, a master of lighting.
What have you been working on recently?
Recently, I have been involved with capturing high resolution skies to use with image based lighting for the majority of our levels in Modern Warfare. While it sounds easy to just take photographs of the sky the work is very challenging and involves “boots on the ground” in various lighting conditions. We climb mountains to get the lighting data and we take light measurement ratios from the real world. It is very much a team effort.
Here is an image of us, taken with a drone, walking up a mountain with our gear to do our sky capture:
We setup our camera gear at the edge of the overlook and take multiple exposure high resolution images of the sky.
Rapid acquisition of the sky and a clear view are very important in terms of quality of lighting data, we currently capture a full 360 panoramic image with multiple exposures in under a minute.
Clouds move, the earth spins, winds can be intense and the relentless sun does not stand still so, we have to work fast.
We take this RAW sensor data, process the images that make a 360 view panorama and calibrate our lighting data from real world measurements to light our game environments.
For Azhir Cave (night) we captured this twilight sky, which had a really beautiful transition of colors after the sunset, to use for the night level.
For the Day version of Azhir Cave we used a completely different sky capture lighting data.
We also use cinematic techniques like depth of field and film grain to further simulate the look of real cameras. Here is an example from the mission “Wolf’s Den” in the single player campaign.
Lighting is very much a team effort and I am very proud of our sky library that we have built over the last two years.
Our sky library has a variety of lighting conditions and is the culmination of countless days and several location captures that our team has traveled, from New Mexico and Wyoming to Poland and many other places.
Activision and Infinity Ward have provided us with excellent resources to get the highest quality lighting data with the best gear available.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into your field of work?
Best advice I can offer is to not just sit in front of your computer, go out and capture the world. Reference is good but going out and doing the work yourself is better. No one is going to teach you more than your own experience.
Spend time learning to use camera gear and keep an eye out for new technology that will help improve your lighting work.
What do you know about working in games now, that you wish you knew before?
Color science! I wish I had a better understanding of color science because it is so important to the look of lighting. The challenge to every lighting artist is finding that balance between what looks physically real and what plays well.