Shading/Lighting Technical Director

  • Shading/Lighting Technical Director

A shading/lighting technical director is a crucial versatile member of the CGI team who adds surface qualities to objects: adding depth to sets and characters with shadows, as well as light to provide illumination that helps accentuate the mood and emotion of a scene. Many shading/lighting technical directors also spend a great deal of time writing programs and code to be used during the rendering process.


The main duty of the shading/lighting technical director is to make sure that effects look as good as possible with the available resources and to guide all areas of production shading and lighting. Shading/lighting directors develop and implement the appearance of texture and color of objects, creating shader code in rendering software for CG in a variety of ways, including 3-D paint and regular texture painting. It is the duty of shading/lighting technical directors to write tools to facilitate lighting and shading rendering techniques so that shots can maintain the highest standard and continuity as required in the pipeline. Shading/lighting directors work from references that may be from paintings, drawings, photographs and film, as well as actual reference objects and locations, though they can also create with only verbal or written descriptions. These technical directors will work with a variety of different departments, including modeling, art, digital paint, and lighting, so knowledge of the requirements and processes of each department, as well as clear communication through the pipeline, should be priorities of every shading/lighting technical director.

Skills & Education

The highly technical and artistic nature of this position makes it one that requires extensive education and experience. While knowledge of basic artistic concepts like shading and composition are a good foundation, an education in computer science, mathematics, or engineering are just some of the degree programs that many shading/lighting technical directors pursue. The leadership aspect of the job also requires that candidates possess at least minimum a few years of experience in visual effects or equivalent work before becoming shading/lighting directors. Coding, procedural shading, and software knowledge is an absolute must, and shading/lighting technical directors commonly write surface, light, displacement, and volume shaders for rendering software such as RenderMan, Mantra, and Mental Ray. Many companies require knowledge of C/C++, Python, and PyQt, as well as familiarity with professional graphics packages such as Maya, Nuke, HDK, Liquid, and Shake, among others; it is also advisable to keep up on the changes in technology, as it evolves at a rapid pace. In the end, while artistry will go a long way for a shading/lighting technical director, technical proficiency and knowledge of the rendering process are crucial to the job.

What to Expect

Shading/lighting technical directors can expect to work in a variety of different stages during a production, but will spend most of the job in rendering. Computer scientists are more suited to the job than the solely artistic type, so if you want a more artistic job in visual effects may want to consider another career; however, a career as a shading/lighting technical director still gives you a great amount of artistic and creative freedom, provided you know how to write the shader programs and work in almost every operating system there is. Depending on the project, a shading/lighting technical director may need to write just a few lines of shader code or a dozen pages’ worth, so a comfortable computer chair is recommended, though not always provided. However, after a few years and a few successes as a shading/lighting technical director, you can be sitting pretty in almost any chair you like.


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