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Students & Alumni

Trick Of The Light

February 6, 2014

Lighting artist Scott Knapp has done lighting for AAA games, movies and even Super Bowl commercials
Male student holding young child
Scott Knapp

“Lighting artists’ jobs are essentially to bring things to life”
— Scott Knapp

“Lighting artists’ jobs are essentially to bring things to life,” muses FIEA alumnus Scott Knapp. Since graduating, Scott’s been breathing life into a diverse group of projects not only in the game industry, but film as well.

This suits Scott just fine, as his personal ambitions always lay somewhere between the two.

“I really wanted to get into game cinematics originally,” Scott recalls. “I loved all the Blizzard cinematics and thought it was an awesome way to tell stories and bring more narrative to games.”

Since graduation, Scott’s career journey has taken him back and forth between the film and game industries, where he’s used his skills as a lighter to enhance the visuals of extremely diverse projects.

“In the past two years, I’ve had to learn two game engines and three different renderers for film,” says Scott. “I think what transfers is the critical eye and knowledge of how light behaves. There are different smoke and mirrors for both realms. If you have a CG character, they better look like they belong in the practical environment.”

“In games, it’s very important because it affects not only the mood of the game, but also the gameplay itself. We help shape paths, hiding places and important parts of the environment that we want the player to focus on. Many times, visual fidelity needs to take a hit in the name of game play.”

In a general sense, Scott describes game lighting as making everything look great from all angles whereas film is about making things look perfect from the camera’s fixed vantage point.

This is particularly evident in Turtle Rock Studios upcoming game, “Evolve,” where teams of human hunters are tracking a monstrosity that must hide in the environment until it can mutate into a form that can overwhelm and destroy its pursuers. Scott is particularly proud of his work on this project and calls the experience “amazing.”

“The owners really value input and the teamwork vibe is really strong there,” says Scott. “I think that helped shape the game into something people really like. The lighting lead and art director/owner were really open to suggestions and loved new ideas.”

Working with the powerful CryEngine 4, Scott says he and the lighting team were able to not only make the game look great, but use lighting to create hiding places for the monster and highlighting paths and choke points for the hunters.

Scott recently returned to film, having joined the Vancouver-based Moving Picture Company, where he’s serving as a lighting/look dev artist on upcoming films “Night at the Museum 3” and “Batman Vs. Superman.”

Scott’s previous experience includes a seven-month stint at EA Tiburon – his first big break – where he worked on “Madden NFL 25.” Work carried him out west to LA, where he worked at Zoic Studios, doing lighting work on popular TV shows “Once Upon A Time” and “The Flash.” Scott would soon find himself working on NFL projects again, performing lighting duties on a Super Bowl commercial starring Rob Riggle and James Franco.

“For movies, it’s crucial to communicate to other departments and always show iterations as soon as possible,” says Scott. “It’s best to get the supervisors’ and clients’ eyes on your work early, that way you can refine and find the look they’re going for. A lot of times, it’s not enough to integrate assets and characters in an efficient way. You have to be mindful of what the viewer should focus on and how to make important things pop.”

All of these projects have taken place within team-driven processes, and he credits FIEA with preparing him for that kind of environment. He notes that teams fall apart when members have their own priorities rather than pursuing a unified vision of the project.

“I didn’t think I would ever get a Master’s degree,” says Scott. His undergrad program shares space with FIEA in downtown Orlando, though, so he regularly ran into FIEA students and staff. “Our class took a tour with [FIEA art director] Brian Salisbury and I immediately knew I wanted to go through the program.”

Scott and his wife had their second child, Stella Scarlett, on Dec. 2, 2014.