Egads, a post on my website!
First Character Test from Jared Martin on Vimeo.
Egads, a post on my website!
Now available for purchase at core-cg.com, Mental Core is a great re-integration of many mental ray features in Maya, including features currently not made available in the UI by Autodesk at all. I’ve been using the beta versions fairly regularly and have found it excellent! A much nicer passes system, new shaders, cleaner linear workflow and many other offerings make this an excellent workflow enhancer. Check out a bunch of YouTube clips covering the whole system.
Introductory pricing lasts until the 15th of January and I’ll be picking up a copy myself!
Yes… so I’m a bit late in posting this as it has been a few weeks since the new version went live, flew the coop, hit the streets of render town etc.
For those who don’t stalk me enough, I love Maxwell Render. I’ve been using it since the beta days and was lucky enough to get myself onto the testing team. I feel particularly satisfied with this release as I was able to commit a lot more time to testing it than usual, and it was a lot of fun coming up with ideas for the Maya integration in particular. The guys at Next Limit (the developers) are really nice and really do try to think of everything and make each release great. Their Maya plugin developer is doing a fantastic job as I’m sure the other plugin devs are. Some highlights of this release are:
(essentially a bunch of object lights attached to a character rig)
A super cool added bonus for Maya users is that because Maya Hair uses Paint Effects strokes to render, Maxwell is actually rendering those Paint Effects strokes as hair… meaning this extends to other Paint Effects uses too! Here’s an example from my testing (a WIP scene basically):
The grass, bushes (not very good…) and spikey plant are Maya Hair while the entire flamingo structure and the vines on the wall are Paint Effects. The Paint Effects support is limited at this point to only one level of growth I believe, as in you can’t have a tree with branches and leaves. It’s a great start though and renders fast with no need to do any conversion to polygons.
There’s lots of other new features and tons of fixes and tweaks, but those are the main ones I can think of! I use mental ray and Maxwell about evenly these days and there’s a lot to like about both of them. In terms of unbiased renderers, I don’t think I’ll be switching from Maxwell anytime soon!
Funnily enough, not long after I posted my riveting summary of the Wom Archlight, a friend of mine using the light in production ran across an oddity and asked me about it. As it turns out it’s easy to fix, so I thought I’d post about it here. When using the Wom light shader attached to an area light he noticed that it didn’t behave as you’d expect. I give you exhibit 49f:
I’ve set the light to be visible in order to show the ‘problem’. The light is shining out of both sides of the rectangular area light! This is not the normal behaviour of a flat area light such as the rectangular and disc shapes. Generally you only want lighting coming out of the ‘front’ side that is represented with a little line, so you can light specific areas of a large object or perhaps just one of many objects and not those behind the light. Luckily this is as easy to fix as checking a checkbox. Because that’s what you do.
Ahh, good old ‘Cosine Distribution’! What? There’s quite a good technical explanation in the PDF manual supplied with the shader, but basically it tells the light to drop off it’s intensity as you reach perpendicular to the light’s surface. In a physically based way of course. The related attribute, ‘Cosine Exponent’ affects how quickly this falloff occurs:
So there you go! Quite useful for more precisely directing your light, a bit like an area spotlight but.. not. I imagine the Cosine Distribution attribute is off by default so that you can use spherical area lights with a light profile attached, which I know a lot of people in archvis use. The more adventurous among you could quite easily modify the AE Template script for this shader to enable it by default if you wished. I haven’t decided yet!
Peace out, light distributors!
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…
…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:
If 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:
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’.