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Projecting Tension in Virtual Environments through Lighting.

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Interactive synthetic environments are currently used in a wide variety of applications, including video games, exposure therapy, education, and training. Their success in such domains relies on their immersive and engagement qualities. Filmmakers and theatre directors use many techniques to project tension in the hope of affecting audiences’ affective states. These techniques include narrative, sound effects, camera movements, and lighting. This paper focuses on temporal variation of lighting color and its use in evoking tension within interactive virtual worlds. Many game titles adopt some cinematic lighting effects to evoke certain moods, particularly saturated red colored lighting, flickering lights, and very dark lighting. Such effects may result in user frustration due to the lack of balance between the desire to project tension and the desire to use lighting for other goals, such as visibility and depth projection. In addition, many of the lighting effects used in game titles are very obvious and obtrusive. In this paper, the author will identify several lighting color patterns, both obtrusive and subtle, based on a qualitative study of several movies and lighting design theories. In addition to identifying these patterns, the author also presents a system that dynamically modulates the lighting within an interactive environment to project the desired tension while balancing other lighting goals, such as establishing visibility, projecting depth, and providing motivation for lighting direction. This work extends the author’s previous work on the Expressive Lighting Engine [1-3]. Results of incorporating this system within a game will be discussed.
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