I've been modeling in blender for several years now, but only recently started doing some animation.

This thing I'm currently working on requires controlling hundreds of little lights turning off and on. If I was just doing a couple, I'd merely animate the emission materials as needed. But for something of this scale, having tons of individually animated materials seems rather impractical. They also need to be animated in patterns, which depending on the solution could make it harder or easier.

This is a rough example of what I'm going for in terms of shape and number Lights

Thus far, my attempts at google have resulted in nothing, and so I turn to the ever helpful boards. If any more experienced animators had any tips or recommendations, that would be lovely.

I'm working in Cycles if that matters.



2 Answers 2


The basic principle is the same as this:


Where you have an array of light bulbs.

enter image description here

An empty in the scene to control the size and placement of the texture. And a texture to control the strength of an emission shader:

enter image description here

Animating the texture mapping of the texture you can make the lightbulbs make any pattern:

enter image description here


Having hundreds of light objects is probably gonna kill your performance and render times and result in very noisy images, not to mention being very impractical to manage.

Not being at all an animator myself I would probably go with some sort of image sequence/animated video texture driving an emit shader strength, with whatever patterns you want your light grid to display. Probably model a single lamp as a mesh and use an array modifier to populate the grid. Manually adjust UVs in the texture nodes to match the number of lines and columns of the array.

The texture can be of relatively 'low resolution' as in one pixel per lamp (it is either in or off), and your can animate it easily elsewhere with black and white textures or objects drawing whatever patterns you need.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your answer! The trouble though is that the lights are the main focal point of the animation, so they have to have 3d definition. Also, the noise is fairly easy to do deal with. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 21, 2016 at 1:26
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe my answer wasn't clear enough, I suggested actually modeling the lamp as a mesh object with all the needed detail for a foreground object. The 'low resolution' texture is only meant to simplify the animation process without having to individually control each lamp. You will never actually see the "big pixels" as they would cover each whole lamp, they are meant only for controlling if each lamp is 'on' or 'off', you will never actually see them individually. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 21, 2016 at 1:45
  • $\begingroup$ Well don't I look silly. I see what you are saying now. That's certainly a stride or two in the right direction. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 21, 2016 at 1:58

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