HDRI setup in cycles with hi rez backplate and lo rez environment lighting

I searched around the interwebs but couldn’t find a single, comprehensive resource on how to setup a world material for Cycles that combines the best of both worlds, i.e. a high resolution backplate with hdri lighting, without requiring an enormous amount of ram. In the end I pieced all stuff together and wrote a small blog article, with explanations and sample node setups, including info on where to position the camera and how to rotate the backplate and environment lighting in a synchronized way:


(with thanks to all sorts of scattered sources around the web).


@Jeff: thanks! I didn’t encounter the references you give, but it is always good to compare solutions. I will certainly check those references to see whether those solutions are better than the one I came up with.

edit: the solution by vitos1k in the thread you mention is indeed identical to my solution, except that I added some nodes to rotate backplate and env map in sync.

Using the example in the video I posted. If you use the high Rez image (for reflection), in the sphere, as he did. Shouldn’t we be able to rotate the image using the x/y/z coordinates? Then the two images could line up where you want them?

yeah but then you’d have to rotate both the background environment (for the light) and the sphere with the hi-res image used for reflection.

I do not really see the advantage of using such a spehre set up because as far as I can see everthing can be done with (multiple) background shaders. If the quality of the reflections is very important you could use the light path node to not only select shaders based on camera rays, but also based on glossy reflection rays. Diffuse reflection rays and shadow rays would then still be sampling the hdri env map.

Cool. I’m completely new to all this. I just started looking in to HDR lighting not too long ago. I’m also just now learning about using the node editor, and figuring that all out. A lot of the compositing stuff I’ve learned through tutorials, are things I normally would do inside of After Effects. I bought the camera tracking DVD, from blender.org, and its making me learn about nodes, as part of the training. Once I finish that, I’ll start messing with lighting more. Ill have to figure out the method you’ve described.

If you ever come across a tutorial, demonstrating this, or felt like creating one, I would love to learn it. Again, having just starting learning about node editing, I think I can wraps my head around it.

If you had a screen grab of a setup like that, showing all the different shader nodes, please post sometime.

I am not a video tutorial kinda guy :slight_smile: but the final node setup is present in a screenshot at the end of my blogpost:

It is the basic setup (hires backplate seen by camera rays, lo res hdri map for everything else)