What is sIBL?
sIBL stands for Smart Image-Based Lighting. It is a completely free, cross-platform, stand-alone application written by a community of 3D programmers and volunteers which helps organize your High Dynamic Range libraries and sends them to a 3D application for quick and easy setup.
Why use sIBL?
There’s several different reasons:
- First of all, it is a great organizer of your HDR libraries. If you ever tried viewing a HDR library, you’ll know that it is difficult because of a general lack of thumbnail support and plus HDR files tend to be very large in size. Loading each one just to preview it can take a very long time. sIBL “cuts” the HDR down in size significantly and allows you to easily sort HDRs via location, time, keywords, author, and thumbnail previews.
- Secondly, it is highly optimized for Image Based Lighting renderings and purposes. Large HDRs are truly unnecessary. sIBL automatically splits a HDR into several components – a thumbnail for a quick preview, a very low resolution blurred HDR for environmental lighting, a medium-sized non-blurred HDR for reflections and refraction, and a tonemapped background image so that a background image appears to look more correct than an unmodified HDR alone. The file size and efficiency is so effective, that a 80 megabyte HDR can be consolidated down to roughly 20 megabytes instead. A .jpg thumbnail preview can be less than 100 K making? it very efficient to browse.
- You’ll generally obtain much higher quality 3D renderings. sIBL files are automatically preset for high-quality settings and optimal lighting conditions.
- sIBL automatically adds a sun or multiple lights within your scene to match the location of light sources within your HDR environment and background. This gives you greater control over lighting and shadows. If you ever used a HDR by itself, it generally doesn’t give you accurate and sharp shadows due to some technical limitations. Some HDRs by themselves may give you sharper shadows, but they generally are “faked” into doing so. This is a proper method often used by movie studios.
- Last but not least, once sIBL is installed, it is very easy to use. You simply select the HDR preview and hit “send” then it sends the HDR sIBL automatically to the application of your choice.
Why does HDRSource provide sIBLs?
Quite honestly, I didn’t have to as it takes a little more work to have set these up. But, I really believe the positives far outweigh the negative (setup time being the only negative.) For now, it definitely is the best system for easy HDR organization and quality lighting setup. Providing this format may also encourage some people to purchase the HDRSource HDRs that may otherwise not. Plus, I am using the sIBLs myself. I can’t imagine not using them. I really feel it’s the best HDR lighting system out there.
Which 3D programs are supported by sIBL?
Most major 3D applications and third-party rendering solutions are supported. Other 3D applications are constantly being added by the volunteer community.
Currently, the following programs are supported:
- Lightwave .
- 3D Studio Max – Mental Ray, Maya, and Vray. Some support for Final Render and Brazil.
- Maya – Mental Ray, RFM, Turtle, and Vray.
- XSI – Mental Ray.
There’s discussion of adding support for the following:
- Cinema 4D
- Other 3D applications and rendering programs pending.
Since the sIBL community is a volunteer group who program this in their spare-time, they are actively seeking additional volunteer coders that can help improve sIBL and add additional programs to its support list. Your participation and contributions to the community is welcomed!
How do I set up and install sIBL?
I’ve written an easy-to-follow installation guide as an example for users using 3dsmax and Vray here:
Similar steps may apply to your specific application.