TIL: The ‘Wom Archlight’

The ‘Wom’ as it’s called is a fantastic light shader for mental ray in Maya (and also XSI). Created by ‘wombat778’, I essentially use this light shader on all my lights, all the time. There’s a long running thread on CGTalk about this shader here where it can also be downloaded along with a PDF manual. It is also available on Creative Crash here.

So what’s so good about it? Well, here’s a screenshot of the settings…

Wom Light Attributes…divided into 3 columns as there’s a lot of them! If it looks scary and very different to what you use normally, don’t worry it’s actually not that complicated I swear. Not to mention it’s very useful to understand how more complex lighting like this works and what it can achieve for you.

This mental ray shader can be used in Maya as both a light shader and photon shader simultaneously, which means that if you want to create GI or caustic effects this light can automatically generate photons that are the correct colour and intensity for the light. This is unlike most Maya lighting where you have to manually type in an intensity value, which for me is a bit too arbitrary and inaccurate. You connect this light shader up to your point/spot/area light like this:

Wom Light ConnectionsIf you aren’t going to use GI or caustics, obviously you don’t have to plug it in as a Photon Emitter. Now, in that screenshot you can see there’s an empty Light Profile slot where you could potentially attach a shader to utilize an IES or Eulumdat light profile (giving your light a realistic falloff shape based on real, measured lightbulb data). In this case these effects are handled within the Wom shader itself, so you don’t need to plug anything in there separately.

I won’t go into everything the Wom light can do, because the post would be very long and there’s already a good manual for it. The reasons I use it though, are:

  • It has physically based falloff, adjustable to fit the scale of your scene units.
  • You can use real light units such as Watts, Lumen, Candela etc.
  • It works well with the Mia Photographic Lens shader and Sun/Sky system.
  • It has a bunch of settings for the visible rendering of an area light, not just on/off.
  • Has light presets such as a 40 Watt bulb, and can take it’s colour from the correct light temperature.
  • Makes using light profiles easy.
Honestly, I just find it to be a quicker and more reliable way to achieve photographic results in mental ray. I love it! There are studios here in Australia using it daily now too.

Tools I Like (TIL)

Maya is like a giant paddock full of sheep. The goal is to get the sheep to go where you want them to go. By default you are given a sheppard’s staff, a sheep dog, perhaps a horse and a megaphone. There is a lot you can achieve with these things already, but better yet there are lots and lots of other sheppards out there creating new and strange tools to help you out. Of course you can make your own, too! I find a wolf costume to be particularly effective, others a bazooka. What is the point of all this? I don’t really know.

As the first post category of this revived website, I’m going to go over some of my favourite 3rd party tools for Maya, and just like Oprah’s favourite things I’m giving them away to my entire audience for free. Mainly because they aren’t mine and were already free to begin with. I hereby dub this series of posts TIL, for ‘Tools I Like’.