Blender upcoming feature – Shadow Catcher


Very often in visual effects you’ve got to deal with shadows. If you’re adding a CG object or character to a scene, it’s almost certain that somewhere else in that scene it’s going to be casting a shadow. This is typically dealt with by using a shadow pass, one of the many render passes you can output when rendering. In Blender, the shadow pass usually entails a little bit of work in the compositor to setup. There’s multiple ways to do it, and if you use the camera tracker and the scene setup, the nodes will even be created for you.


The current way I set up shadow passes in compositing.


The way the Scene Setup button in the Movie Clip Editor sets it up for you.

However, there’s an easier way being developed. The shadow catcher object. This feature is still heavily under development and many features aren’t yet completed (or even started!). In fact, this may be one of the first builds available for testing. But it’s out there, so I gave it a shot. The goal is to make setting up shadows much easier and faster, and to be able to use those shadows right in the rendered viewport.

You can read the gritty details of the development right here. You can follow along on BlenderArtists, as well, right here.

Check out the video below to see how to start testing it out and playing around with it. So far I’ve only seen Windows builds, so if you know of a Linux or Mac build, please post in the comments and I’ll update the post.

Most recent Windows build (10-5-16):
GraphicAll Shadow Catcher build

Previous Windows build (8-31-16):
Build 1 (Thanks tungerz!)

Older Windows builds:
Build 1 (Thanks tungerz!)
Build 2 (Thanks SoCal Blender gang!)

EDIT: It turns out that the problem in the video where the cylinder emission light is causing the ground plane to become dark is simply a matter of the the green metal sphere casting a shadow on the entire plane. Moving the emission cylinder shows this, see the screenshot below. 



  1. I wonder if the mesh lamp is changing the total white value of the light in the scene? Sort of like normalising values. Anyway looks really great. Thanks for doing the video.

    1. After recording the video, I was thinking that maybe it’s simply that the sphere is casting a shadow on the entire plane from the emission cylinder. I’m going to test it by simply moving the cylinder around tonight and seeing if the value on the plane changes.

  2. Neat tutorial, thanks! Just wondering: Does it (or can it be manipulated to) pick up emission from a mesh light such as a glow from an explosion and overlay this on the footage, as well as shadows?

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