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© Hwiyeon Cho
© Hwiyeon Cho

V-Ray for Maya renders student contest-winning image


Hwiyeon Cho’s eye-catching “Poppyland” won the Jury Prize in our “Illumination” student rendering competition. Discover V-Ray for Maya’s role in its creation.

The theme for our most recent student rendering competition was Illumination—and jury winner Hwiyeon Cho tackled it perfectly. Her piece, “Poppyland,” features a carousel illuminated by hundreds of lightbulbs, demonstrating a talent for lighting a scene and a good eye for composition and detail.

We caught up with Hwiyeon to find out the story behind creating this stunning render with V-Ray for Maya.

“Illumination”—Jury Winner

© Hwiyeon Cho

What I love about Hwiyeon’s image is its use of light and color to create an atmosphere which is both haunting and inviting. Hwiyeon has embraced the challenge’s topic with a literal golden circle.”

Lon Grohs, Head of Creative, Chaos

About Hwiyeon Cho


Hwiyeon lives in Seoul, South Korea. After graduating from high school, she worked as a web designer and learned to do VFX at the Science-Fiction Film School, starting with basic modeling and V-Ray functionality. She then progressed to the portfolio class and studied on her own, asked teachers for advice and learned additional features. 

See more of Hwiyeon's work on Artstation.

How did you feel when you were announced as our jury’s favorite in the Illumination contest?

It was amazing! Honestly, I submitted my piece without expecting to hear anything, and I was so happy to learn that I won first place. I was proud that my hard work achieved great results.

You won the jury’s hearts with your project Poppy Land. Could you tell us more about the idea behind it?

The merry-go-round scene is part of my portfolio, which is set in Poppy Land, the enemy base in the movie Kingsman: The Golden Circle. I had already created the existing background, but I added rides to make it look like an amusement park. These are my favorite environments; fun and full of colorful things.


In line with the theme of the competition, your scene is lit beautifully and has a distinctive mood. How did you achieve that? 

I tried to capture the beauty of the merry-go-round at night and the numerous light bulbs, reflective materials and camera angles were important for this. The bulbs and materials are arranged to reflect light and highlight the decorations. Wet patches on the ground reflect the ride so that the picture does not look empty. I accentuated the ceiling light with a low camera angle that avoided the dark roof of the ride.

© Hwiyeon Cho


Were there any features in V-Ray that particularly helped you get the look you were aiming for?

I used VRay2SidedMtl the most, which is used with materials on both sides. This was a great way to control the way the light was transmitted and ensure it spread smoothly and evenly.

© Hwiyeon Cho

If you could give your fellow students one piece of advice when it comes to studying rendering, what would it be? 

In this scene, everything was important. I started with a basic knowledge of materials, light and cameras. This project became hard halfway through because I didn’t look at references while I was making it. It is a good idea to study theory, look at relevant objects and save images on social media.


One of the jury winner prizes was the V-Ray Education Collection. Is there any new tool within the Collection that you’d like to try/learn and adopt in your workflow in the future?

I want to study the new V-Ray 5 for Maya lighting workflow more deeply and I’d like to try V-Ray for different products. Also, I want to study various rendering programs more and find out what makes them different.

© Hwiyeon Cho

Why do you think students should enter challenges like this one? What was your biggest motivation?

I learned so much about how much work I can do through entering this challenge, and I plan to enter more to increase my momentum. In addition, you can get feedback from people, learn a lot from other people's works and get the motivation to develop further. And I think it's good to gain recognition and feel proud if you win.


What’s the next big thing you want to achieve in 2021?

My main goal is to completely learn about new tools and create new workflows through them. I want to grow and increase my value. I hope that 2021 will be a year when I gain a lot.

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