If you are reading this then you are probably thinking of taking an online course or workshop at TDU. TDU offers a host of online courses designed to improve your animation and VFX skills.

Apart from helping you become a better artist, TDU lectures come with assets, video demos, and mentor feedbacks to make the learning experience even more fun and engaging. We also offer a mentorship program for personalized learning.

Here’s a trivia for you: Most film companies do not care what software packages you know. Production companies have proprietary renderers, animation applications, and workflows so being adept at NUKE or VRAY does not guarantee that you’d make a cut.

Production outfits are always on the search for artists who have the ability to create stunning images that elicit an emotional reaction from viewers. This is what our courses and workshops focus on! We are here to help artists create a cohesive, well-composed image that shows an artistic eye.

The VFX and animation industry is complex and challenging – technically and artistically – that’s why it’s important to hone your skills and invest in your talents. You have to ask yourself what goals and skill level you’d like to achieve. Choosing the right training will be critical to your success.

Of course, not all students know what areas of expertise they’d like to improve on. TDU offers a comprehensive selection of online courses so choosing just one (or two) can be overwhelming for some. If you are still thinking about what course to take or what skills you’d like to improve on then this guide is for you!

TDU Online Courses

The Ultimate Lighting Bundle

The Ultimate Lighting Bundle is one of our school’s most comprehensive courses. This online course will help you build a demo reel and complete a job as a lighting artist. The course is comprised of 9 courses:

  • The Power of Light
  • Character Lighting for Animated Films
  • Environment Lighting for Animated Films
  • Materials for the Lighting Artist
  • Compositing for the Lighting Artist
  • Lighting an Animated Film
  • Getting & Succeeding in Your First Job in Animation
  • TDU’S Arnold for Maya Workshop
  • TDU’s Redshift Workshop

TDU co-founder and mentor Mike Tanzillo is your instructor in this class. He’ll teach you how to get from point A to point B in one complete package. This is the best class to take if you’d like to become the ultimate lighting artist.

To ensure that students get the quality mentorship they deserve, the course is only opened for a limited time each year. To register for this class, enroll in our Free Lighting Challenge.

The Power of Light

Proper lighting is key to creating realistic, highly detailed images. If you’d like to learn all the secrets to perfect CG lighting then this is the best class to sign up for. The Power of Light course provides all the tools and lessons you need to build and develop your lighting skills.

The Whys of Lighting

  • Introduction
  • Creating Mood
  • Directing the Viewer’s Eye
  • Visual Shaping

The Hows of Lighting

  • Overview of CG Lights: Point, Directional, Spot
  • Overview of CG Lights: Area and Ambient
  • Lighting Attributes: Color, Intensity, and Decay
  • Lighting Attributes: Shadows and Gobos
  • Maya Lighting: Point, Area, Directional
  • Maya Lighting: Spot and Ambient
  • Preview Maya Lighting

The Art of Reference

  • The Flaws of Memory
  • The Importance of Reference
  • Interior and Exterior Environment Reference
  • Preview Using Painting, Film, and Other Sources of Reference (3:33)
  • Breaking Down a Reference Image
  • Organizing Reference
  • Challenge

Bonus Content

  • The Hows of Renderman
  • KitBash3D Victorian City

Senior Lighting TD Michael Tanzillo will conduct the lecture. The Power of Light class will focus on implementing the fundamentals of 3D lighting so that you could create stunning images regardless of the software package you use.

Sign up for The Power of Light class here.

Character Lighting For Animated Films

The lighting and color enhance the overall visuals of a demo reel so your work looks polished and professionally made. This online course covers all the important concepts of character lighting including shaping, hero color, Rembrandt lighting, and everything else in between. With this training, you’ll learn how to get a character to read off a background, light a villain and create stunning visuals for your demo reel.

Lighting Assets

  • Mr. Bean by Bruno Ponte
  • Drogon
  • PhotoReal Louise
  • Rigged Cartoony Carrot
  • KitBash3D Victorian City
  • TDU Knitted Bunny

The Essentials of Character Lighting

  • The 3 Components of Any Great Shot
  • Lighting For The Character’s Shape
  • Creating Character/Background Separation
  • Emphasizing the Character’s Hero Color
  • Lighting To Heighten Emotion
  • Preview Make the Eyes Look Amazing!
  • Animal Eye Look From Finding Nemo
  • How to Light Black & White Characters
  • Utilize Specularity to Improve Character Shaping
  • Hero/Villain Lighting
  • History of Character Lighting

Movie Breakdowns

  • Preview There Will Be Blood – Breakdown
  • Lincoln – Breakdown
  • Epic – Breakdown
  • Light That Character
  • A Simple Approach To Lighting A Character
  • Character Walkthrough #1
  • Setup
  • Key Light
  • Secondary Light 01
  • Secondary Light 02
  • Eye Lighting
  • Character Walkthrough #2 – Mr. Bean in Renderman
  • Preview The Entire Walkthrough

The course also comes with a rigged character and background plates in case you don’t have a character to light. Mike, who is a Senior Lighting TD at Blue Sky Studios, will conduct the lecture.

Sign up for the Character Lighting class here.

Environment Lighting for Animated Films

Your backgrounds should be just as visually stunning as the characters and objects that you designed. Unfortunately, most schools do not teach the importance of lighting environments and interior spaces. Using the right combination of colors and lighting will help you achieve realistic results. The course will cover all the techniques that will elevate the environment lighting on your demo reel including:

  • Interior Lighting
  • Creating Shaping on a Flat Wall
  • Understanding the Difference Between Tungsten, Fluorescent, and Other Light Types
  • Making a Lamp Look Like a Lamp
  • Lighting from Televisions and Computer Screens
  • Understanding and Utilizing Radiosity in Interior Spaces
  • Balancing Window Lights
  • Exterior Lighting
  • City Lighting
  • Street Lamps and Other Manmade Lights
  • Lighting Vast Landscapes
  • God Rays
  • Gobos
  • Balancing Black Points

TDU offers a comprehensive course on environment lighting in both interior and exterior scenarios. The curriculum will cover the following:

Interior Lighting

  • Key Components of Interior Lighting
  • Gathering Reference for Interior Lighting
  • Analyzing Interior Reference
  • Artistically Shaping Interiors
  • The Sun’s Influence on Interiors
  • Tungsten vs. Fluorescent and Other Light Sources
  • Ray bounces and Secondary Lighting Effects

Exterior Lighting

  • Start Intro to Exteriors
  • Preview Analyzing Exterior Reference
  • Gobo Lighting
  • God Rays and Atmospheric Effects
  • Horizons, the Sun, and Lighting the Heavens
  • Preview Depth of Field
  • Matte Paintings and Projections
  • Preview Lighting An Urban Space
  • Underwater Lighting

The lecture also includes lighting walkthrough and downloadable assets.

Sign up for the Environment Lighting class here.

Materials and Shaders for the Lighting Artist

TDU’s materials and shaders course is perfect for lighting artists who want to elevate their lighting to the next level. By taking this course, you will learn how to create proper texture maps to control specularity, reflectivity, and bump mapping. This course will help you create stunning visuals by analyzing reference images and applying what you learned to shade your own character from scratch.

Surface Attributes

  • Looking at the World Differently
  • Overall Color
  • Specularity & Reflectivity
  • Textures
  • Translucence
  • Incandescence
  • Refraction
  • Challenge

Breakdown of Materials

  • Preview Breakdown of Metal Material
  • Breakdown of Plastic Material
  • Breakdown of Water Material
  • Breakdown of Sub-Surface Scattering Material

Style Guides : Creating the Look

  • Why do you need a Style Guide?
  • Creating a Style Guide : Part I
  • Creating a Style Guide : Part II
  • Challenge

Creating Textures

  • What’s a UV?
  • The process
  • Creating UVs : Part I
  • Creating UVs : Part II
  • Painted Textures
  • Procedural Textures
  • Creating Texture Maps
  • Challenge

Creating Materials/Shaders for Computer Animation

  • Start Using a neutral lighting rig for creating materials/shaders
  • Start Shader Attributes
  • Start Broad Strokes
  • Start Bunny ears
  • Start Hair shading (stylized, not fur)
  • Preview Eye shading
  • Start Scarf shading
  • Start Shirt shading
  • Start Skirt shading
  • Start Boots shading
  • Start Skin shading
  • Challenge

The lecture also comes with bonus content, including an interview with the supervisor of the Materials Department at Blue Sky Studios

Our co-founder, P. Jasmine Katatikarn, who’s a Senior Lighting Technical Director at Blue Sky Studios, will conduct the lecture. By the end of the course, you will have a complete character to present on your demo reel. The lecture was structured in a practical way so you’ll be able to create textures and shaders for Mia, our exclusive TDU character to add to your portfolio.

Sign up for the Materials and Shaders class here.

Compositing for the Lighting Artist

This course is created for light artists who’d like to be compositors too. In this course, you will learn how to control color corrections, render passes, depth of field, and other design principles that’ll make a dual-threat out of you.

The History of Compositing

  • What Is Compositing?
  • Preview Compositing Through the Ages

Compositing Basics

  • Intro to Node Based Compositing
  • The Viewer Node
  • Preview Merging Images
  • RGB Channels and Beyond
  • Rotoscoping and Garbage Matting
  • Unleashing The Power Of Mattes
  • Transforming And Resizing Images
  • Animating Values In The Compositor

The Power of Compositing

  • Mastering Color Correction
  • Learning To Wrap Light
  • Diffusing The Highlights
  • The Most Controversial Compositing Topic – Lens Flares
  • Creating A Vignette
  • Depth Of Field
  • Cryptomattes
  • Eliminating Render Noise
  • The HDRI Workflow
  • Scripting & The Compositor

Compositing Walkthrough

  • Compositing Walkthrough 01

Compositing Walkthrough 02

  • Intro
  • The simple composite
  • The less simple composite
  • Challenge

Compositing is a massive undertaking but thanks to this lecture, you’ll learn how to work faster without sacrificing the quality of your demo reel. By taking this course, you’ll know all the tricks of the trade that’ll have you compositing in seconds, not hours.

Sign up for the Compositing class here.

Lighting an Animated Film

Add a WOW! Factor to your demo reel, this course is as close as you will ever get to working as a lighter in an animated studio. From gathering reference images to compositing a final animated short, this course will help you learn all the proper techniques to light a fully animated film. It has all the learning materials you need for the training, including animated characters and complete sets. By taking this course, you will learn how to generate color keys, make your own master rig, light all your shots and create a dynamic and cohesive final sequence.

Most TDU courses have one lecturer per class but this course is comprehensive so Mike and Jasmine will see you through every step of the lighting process. The best part about taking this course? You will get your hands on all the animated assets you need!

Overview of the Process

  • Let’s Get Started!
  • Establishing a Goal/Gathering Reference
  • What is Master Lighting?
  • Master Lighting :: Exterior Scene
  • Scene Setup
  • Making The Sky
  • Creating The Key Light
  • The Sky Dome
  • Preview Gobo Lighting
  • Character Light Linking
  • Ohhhhhh….Volumetric Lighting
  • Taking Advantage of Aerial Perspective
  • Start Setting Up Ambient Occlusion
  • Creating Separation With Rim Lighting
  • Layer Breakouts
  • Initial Comp Setup
  • Sky Tracking
  • Rack That Focus!
  • Cryptomattes
  • Notes and Feedback
  • Creating a Window Reflection Pass
  • Final Render Settings
  • Preview Final Composite
  • Prepping The Scene To Passoff

Shot Lighting – Exterior Scene

  • What is Shot Lighting?
  • Beginning Shot Lighting
  • Getting Familiar with the Master Lighting Rig
  • Viewing the Master Comp
  • Dropping the Master Light Rig into the Shot
  • Lighting the Shot
  • Lights .. Lights … Lights
  • Creating the Eye Dings
  • Compositing the Shot
  • My Love for Iterations!
  • Shot Lighting Recap

Master Lighting – Interior Scene

  • Interior Setup
  • Creating the Interior Sun
  • Interior Dome Light and Sky Portal
  • TV Light Setup
  • TV Flicker Testing
  • More Lights!
  • Render Test
  • Shadom Mattes
  • Initial Comp Setup
  • Notes & Feedback
  • Final Comp

Shot Lighting – Interior Scene

  • Scene 02 :: Shot 02 :: Swapping Out Animation Reference
  • Scene 02 :: Shot 02 :: Dropping in Master Lights
  • Scene 02 :: Shot 02 :: Adjusting The Master Rig
  • Scene 02 :: Shot 02 :: Compositing
  • Scene 02 :: Shot 02 :: Lighting Iterations
  • Scene 02 :: Shot 03 :: Initial Setup
  • Scene 02 :: Shot 03 :: Compositing
  • Scene 02 :: Shot 03 :: Lighting Iterations
  • Scene 02 :: Shot 04 :: Initial Setup
  • Scene 02 :: Shot 04 :: Compositing
  • Scene 02 :: Shot 04 :: Lighting Iterations
  • Scene 02 :: Shot 05 :: Initial Setup
  • Scene 02 :: Shot 05 :: Compositing
  • Scene 02 :: Shot 05 :: Lighting Iterations
  • Color Grading & Final Editing

Bonus Content

  • TDU Extra :: RGB Eye Lighting Setup (4:11)
  • KitBash3D Victorian City

Signing up for this class also gives you access to TDU’s private Facebook Group. By joining our private FB group, you will meet professional artists who will provide feedback and critique, which will be crucial to your lighting journey. You will also meet fellow students who will share this amazing journey with you.

Sign up for our Animation Lighting course here.

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