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Spot Light

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Distant Light Example

The Spot Light looks and acts like a real world Spot Light and obeys the physical law of inverse square falloff of intensity. Light radiates from a single point outward in a cone shape widening the further the subject is from the light itself. As with all Items, the Spot Light controls are located on the Properties tab when the light is selected. Spot lights have Position and Rotation options as well as controls for the intensity of the light, shadow type, and other settings covered fully below. Using the Transform tool with the Spot Light selected provides interactive handles for editing position, rotation, cone and soft edge angles. To control the lights color, shadow color and other material related properties, refer to the Light Material page of the documentation.

Spot Light

Directional Light PanelName: This data field displays the current item name. Users may easily change it by LMB-clicking within the field and typing the new name.


Position: An Item transform that allows the user to numerically position the light item in XYZ space. By default, Position transforms originates from the items center position.

Rotation: An Item transform that allows the user to numerically set the rotation of the light item. By default, Rotation transforms originates from items center position.

Order: Allows the user to set the order that rotations are applied to the light item. Changing the order that rotations are applied can sometimes help to reduce or eliminate gimbal lock.

Reset: Resets the selected transform values to (0,0,0) returning the items back to the world space center position.

Zero: Returns the light items Center position to the world space center (0,0,0) without changing the position of the light item itself.

Add: Transform Items are the channel groups associated to an item that store its transform values, controlling its position, rotation and/or scale. By default, new items do not have any transform items associated with them (even though they are visible here within the Properties panel). This is useful as an optimization as only the necessary transforms are added on an as-needed basis, reducing scene overhead. There are several ways to add them. One is by simply transforming the target item with one of the various transform tools (or by editing the values input fields). This action will cause the particular transform item to be added automatically to the 'Channels' viewport list. The 'Add' function here can also be used to add the selected set of transforms to the Channel list while keeping the default 0,0,0 values (a necessary step for 'Referencing', in order to override the channels, they must first exist).

Set Target: By selecting the Light item, and a single additional item in the item list, and then pressing 'Set Target', this function allows users the ability to target specific items in a scene, automating the rotation of an item, so that it continuously points toward the targeted item. Once activated, additional options appear--
Remove Target: Removes the target link between the two items.
Enable: Toggling this option off temporarily disables the targeting function while retaining the link between the items.
Set Focus Distance: This option sets the focal distance for DOF when targeting camera items to other item.
Roll: Provides the ability to offset the items rotation angle away from the target.
Time Offset: Provides users the ability to time offset, by a number of frames, how the light follows the target item. It can either be delayed behind it with a negative value, or run ahead of it with a positive value.

Spot Light--

Render: This drop down menu allows the user to select from 3 choices, when set to 'Default', the user can enable/disable lights using the visibility function "eye icon" of the item list. When the light is visible, it contributes to the final rendered scene and when invisible, it will not. On some instances the user may prefer to fix this state, setting the light as 'On' (enabled) or 'Off' (disabled) regardless of visibility. Also useful for workflows that auto toggle visibility, saving the user from manually enabling lights for test renders.

Dissolve: When the 'Dissolve' function is set to any value above 0%, the lights overall affect on the scene will attenuate as the value increases. When set to 100%, the lights effect on the scene is completely disabled. This function providing a convenient way to dim a lights effect within a scene.

Radiant Intensity: This value controls the intensity of the light and uses the standard physically based unit of Watts per volumetric meter. As you would expect, increasing this value will increase the amount of light coming from the Spot Light and decreasing the value reduces the light intensity. With Spot lights, the area of light generated in the scene is very small and therefore large values are likely necessary to illuminate the scene how the user would expect.

Tip icon

TIP: Keep in mind that a lights intensities and falloffs adhere to real world scale values, scenes that do not adhere to a real world scale factor will likely require intensities to be adjusted accordingly to achieve appropriate illumination.

Falloff Type: Light in the real world isn't a uniform brightness, its intensity diminishes with distance. Photographers will be familiar with the concept that a light will be a quarter as bright at twice the distance away, know as the Inverse Square Law. MODO lights default to this setting providing a realistic way to light a scene, however there are times when users may not wish to have this behavior, so MODO provides three falloff type options-
None- No falloff, light is consistently bright across its distance.
Inverse Distance- Light is half as bright at twice the distance.
Inverse Distance Squared- Default behavior, Light will be a quarter as bright at twice the distance.

Shadow Type: This popup offers options between 'Ray Traced' , 'None' and 'Deep Shadow Maps'. In situations where users want a light to cast a shadow, Ray Traced will give the most accurate results. The traditional hard edge of ray traced shadows can easily be softened using 'Spread Angle' value in any light item. Deep Shadow maps are useful for volumetric lights and fur rendering, where a great deal of calculations are required to produce shadows; producing similar results to ray traced shadows while reducing the number of calculations.

Shadow Map Res: The 'Shadow Map Res' Sets the resolution for the calculated deep shadow map in pixels. This option is only available when Deep Shadow Map is selected.

Control Light Linking: Illumination on a surface is generally controlled by the 'Shader' item in the Shader Tree. Within the Shader it is possible to control a lights affect on a surface with Light Linking. As its name describes, it links the illumination affects of a Group of Lights to specific Items or Material Groups. When the 'Control Light Linking' option is enabled on a Light item, it will act as an individual Light Specific override to the Shader, allowing users to 'Include' or 'Exclude' a specific lights illumination on a group of items.

Item Group: The 'Item Group' option determines the specific Group of item layers in the scene that will be affected by the Light Linking. The Group needs to be defined in the Groups viewport panel. This can be done easily by selecting the target items while in 'Items' mode and then in the Groups palette LMB+click the 'New Group' button. Define a name for the group in the pop-up dialogue and choose the 'From Selected Items' option and click 'OK' to accept. Once the Group is defined, select the named group here.

Mode: The 'Mode' option determines whether the light will be 'Included' meaning it will only affect the Items in the specified Item Group, and 'Excluded' by all other surfaces, meaning it will be ignored by any items in the specified Item Group.

Radius: The default value of 0m results in crisp hard-edged shadows. Increasing the size prompts MODO to sample lighting from an array of positions within the defined radius, the various samples are blended together producing the soft edged result. Keep in mind that increasing this value too high will result in noisy shadows unless the user also increases the number of samples.

Spread Angle Example 1
A radius of 0m produces a crisp shadow.


Spread Angle Example 2
A radius of 2mm produces a softer edged shadow.


Spread Angle Example 3
A radius of 10mm produces a softer but noisy shadow.


Spread Angle Example 4
Increasing the 'Samples' value produces a smoother result.

Samples: As the Spread Angle increases, additional samples are required to smooth out the resulting soft edge shadow. If the shadow appears grainy, increasing this sample setting is the most likely solution. The default value of 16 is a good starting point for balancing speed and quality. As the spread increases or the resolution of the image increases you can drive this number higher to account for any grain that appears. Keep in mind that increasing the number of samples will also increase render times.

Simple Shading: When generating soft shadows with a radius greater than 0m, MODO calculates the shadow as if sampled from an array of lights, these samples are blended together to produce the smooth result. With the 'Simple Shading' checkbox enabled, MODO will calculate the specular and diffuse values for a surface as if the light were a single point, regardless of the radius size. However, with 'Simple Shading' disabled, MODO uses the same light array as the shadow to calculate the specular and diffuse values. This results in diffuse and specular shading that is 'soft', like the shadow but can also become increasingly grainy with a greater 'Radius' value. Increasing the number of 'Samples' will reduce grain in the diffuse and specular shading as well as the shadows at the expense of longer render times.

Cone Angle: Spot lights emit their light in a cone shape that originates from the lights position toward the default -Z direction. The 'Cone Angle' defines the shape of the cone that is generated; larger values produce wider conical shapes and therefore larger areas of illumination, while smaller values produce tighter cones with smaller areas of illumination. A setting of 360° produces light similar to a point light radiating in all directions equally. This value can also be set interactively with the Transform tool in the 3D viewport.

Soft Edge: The soft edge defines an illumination falloff inside the edge of the spot lights cone producing a more natural look. The soft edge is contained within the 'Cone Angle', and attenuates illumination at the edges; a 40° Cone Angle with a 10° falloff would really be a 20° cone angle of full illumination that would falloff 10° across the outer edges of the cone. This value can also be set interactively with the Transform tool in the 3D viewport.


When light shines on particular matter suspended in the air, such as water vapor, smoke or even pollution, the light rays become visible. In computer graphics this effect is known as volumetric lights, their affect can be subtle or pronounced, either way it can add a good amount of believability and atmosphere to renders. Additional Settings related to volumetrics can be found in the Light Material item.

Volumetrics Checkbox: The 'Volumetrics' checkbox toggles the effect on or off. When enabled, the sample, height, and radius options become available.

Samples: Any objects that intersect the light beam volume will cast shadows through it. You may have witnessed this when sunlight shining through the clouds creates streaks of light sometimes referred to as 'god rays'. The 'Sample' setting defines the degree of accuracy that MODO uses to calculate these shadows through the volume, higher numbers of samples will give smoother and more accurate results, while lower values will render more quickly but become increasingly grainy. The sample below demonstrates the difference between 32 samples on the left and 256 samples on the right.

Volume Sphere Samples   Volume Sphere Samples

Height: This is the depth of the volume as measured extending out from the front of the light. A setting of 20m will extend the rays 20m from the light including falloff.

Base: The 'Base' value sets the circular region around the light where volume effect will originate from.



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