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Creating a Lava Lamp in Maya 2009

By Kristina Johnson
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Date Added: 10th November 2009
Software used:
Maya
Select keyLight. Open the Attribute Editor and select the keyLightShape tab. Set the Intensity value to 1.1 and the Cone Angle value to 140.0.

LMB click on the arrow next to Depth Map Shadow Attributes to open the roll out. Uncheck the Use Depth Map Shadows option. Shadows will be required later on, but it is faster to check the lighting setup without shadows first.

LMB click on the arrow next to Raytrace Shadow Attributes. Ensure that the Use Ray Trace Shadows option is turned off and then select Fill Light.

In the Attribute Editor, select the fillLightShape tab. Set the Intensity value to 0.6 and uncheck the Use Depth Map Shadows option as was done for the keyLight. LMB click on the arrow next to Raytrace Shadow Attributes. Ensure that the Use Ray Trace Shadows option is turned off.

Select the camera1 viewport, and create a test render by clicking on the button highlighted in the image below (Fig.40).

112_tid_maya_lava_lamp_tutorial_40.jpg
Fig. 40

Click on the Render Settings button, which is the button at the right hand side of the image above. It is time to adjust some options to achieve a better quality render.

LMB click on the Maya Software tab and set the Quality value to Production Quality. This will preset many of the other options. Set the Shading value to 2 and the Max Shading value to 10.

Click on the triangle next to Raytracing Quality to open the roll-out. Check the Raytracing option to turn it on. Raytracing will be required for the glass section of the lava lamp. Set the Reflections value to 10, the Refractions value to 10 and Shadows value to 2. Then close the Render Settings window.

Creating Materials Metal

The lava lamp cap and base need surfaces that appear to be made out of metal. An excellent shader type for creating metals is the Anisotropic shader.

LMB click on pBase to select it. RMB click and select Assign New Material > Anisotropic from the pop-up menu. LMB click on the Color swatch. The Color Chooser will appear. At the bottom of the Color Chooser, change to RGB and 0 to 255. HSV works fine, but RGB values have more meaning to me. Set the color to R=209, G=226, B=232. This is a pale blue-grey color.

Set the Diffuse value to 0.7. Metals have a very low diffuse value, in reality much lower than even this value. Diffuse means how much color a material takes from its environment. A value of 0 would be appropriate for a mirror surface that only shows its environment. A value of 1 would be great for something that takes almost no color from its environment, such as an illuminated neon tube.

Open the Specular Shading roll-out and set the values as follows:

  • Angle value to 0
  • Spread X value to 10
  • Spread Y value to 3
  • Roughness value to 0.9
  • Fresnel Index value to 12.0

Leave everything else as the defaults and name this new Anisotropic material "lavaLampMetal".

Glass

LMB click on pMiddleGlass to select the object. Before a glass material is created, the glass section of the lava lamp will need to have a thickness just as real glass does.

With pMiddleGlass selected, go to Edit > Duplicate Special > Options (the little square). In the Duplicate Special Options window that appears, change all of the Scale values to 0.995.

Click the Duplicate Special button. There will now be a new object in the scene called "pMiddleGlass1", which is very slightly smaller than pMiddleGlass.

With pMiddleGlass1 selected, go to Edit UVs > Flip. This will flip all of the normals of the surface. Normals are which way the surface is pointing - either towards or away from the camera. Flipping all of the normals basically turns the object inside-out. The glass lava lamp middle now has a glass surface pointing outwards, and a glass surface pointing inwards - like a regular drinking glass does.

RMB click pMiddleGlass1 and select Assign New Material > Anisotropic from the pop-up menu. Name this new Anisotropic material "lavaLampGlass".

Select pMiddleGlass. RMB click pMiddleGlass and select Assign Existing Material > lavaLampGlass. LMB click on the Color swatch and the Color Chooser will appear. Set the color to white then LMB click on the Transparency color swatch. In the Color Chooser, set the color to R=253, G=253, B=253 and then set the Diffuse value to 0. Clear glass has no colors of its own. Any color it shows is a reflection of the environment that the glass material is in.

Open the Specular Shading roll-out and set the values as follows:

  • Angle value to 0
  • Spread X value to 35.5
  • Spread Y value to 4.64
  • Roughness value to 0.3
  • Fresnel Index value to 1.2

Uncheck the Anisotropic Reflectivity option and set the Reflectivity value to 0.1.

LMB click on the little arrow next to Reflected Color. The Create Render Node window will appear. Scroll down to Environment Textures and select an envCube type texture.

LMB click on the checkerboard next to the Right option. The Create Render Node window will appear again. Select File, the second option from the top in the right hand side column.

The Attribute Editor will change to display the file chooser. LMB click on the grey folder next to Image Name and a directory window will open. It will default to the /sourceimages directory of the current Maya Project. Select a photograph from somewhere on the hard drive. An image with a lot of sky in it will work well.

LMB click on the button marked with the orange square in the image below to move back up a level in the shader hierarchy (Fig.41).

112_tid_maya_lava_lamp_tutorial_41.jpg
Fig. 41

Add the same image to all of the other sides of envCube1 and then LMB click the hierarchy button again to get back to the top level of lavaLampGlass.

Scroll down in the Attribute Editor for lavaLampGlass and click on the little triangle to open the Raytrace Options roll-out. Check the box to turn on Refractions and set the values as follows, leaving all other values as their defaults:

  • Refractive Index value to 1.33. This is the real world refractive index of glass.
  • Refraction Limit value to 10.
  • Surface Thickness value to 0.4.

Liquid

Now the lava lamp glass bottle has two surfaces with plain glass material applied to them. A lava lamp must contain a liquid for the blobs to float around in. The easiest way to achieve this effect is to tint the inner surface a different color.
Go to Window > Rendering Editors > Hypershade. The Hypershade window will appear. All of the materials for the scene will be shown on the Materials tab.

Select the material lavaLampGlass and MMB drag it to the Work Area in the bottom half of the window. Still in the Hypershade window, go to Edit > Duplicate > Shading Network. This will create a copy of lavaLampGlass called "lavaLampGlass1".

LMB click on lavaLampGlass1 to select it and then go to the Attribute Editor to see all the parameters of lavaLampGlass1. The Hypershade can now be closed. Rename lavaLampGlass1 to "lavaLampGlassTint". Choose a new color for lavaLampGlassTint. This particular project is going with a magenta color, as a nice complement to the orange blobs. Set the Diffuse value to 1.0 and the Transparency slider to about 75%, as shown in the image below (Fig.42).

112_tid_maya_lava_lamp_tutorial_42.jpg
Fig. 42

Leave all the other values as they are and then create a test render (Fig.43).

112_tid_maya_lava_lamp_tutorial_43.jpg
Fig. 43


Blob

Those orange blobs need a bit more intensity so select any of the blobs created. RMB click on the blob and select Material Attributes.

The Attribute Editor for blobLambert will be displayed. Set the shader Type to Blinn. The Blinn shader is particularly good for plastic. Change the name of this new Blinn material to "blobBlinn" and set the values as follows:

  • Diffuse value to 0.9
  • Translucence value to 0.8
  • Specular Roll Off value to 0.3
  • Reflectivity value to 0.0

Power cord

Simplest thing first - apply the lavaLampMetal material to pProng1 and pProng2. Then LMB click to select pProng1, hold down the shift key and LMB click to select pProng2. Release the shift key. RMB click on either pProng1 or pProng2 and from the pop-up menu, select Assign Existing Material > lavaLampMetal. LMB click to select the pCord object and then RMB click on pCord and select Material Attributes.

The Attribute Editor will display the material cordLambert. Set the shader Type to Blinn. Change the name of this new material blinn1 to be "cordBlinn". Set the Diffuse value to 0.95, then scroll down to the Specular Shading roll-out and set the Reflectivity value to 0.0.

Create a test render (Fig.44).

112_tid_maya_lava_lamp_tutorial_44.jpg
Fig. 44



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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
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(ID: 234513, pid: 0) Sofia on Mon, 18 November 2013 1:36am
Great tutorial! I followed it and learned a lot, thank you!
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(ID: 91487, pid: 0) Writer650 on Wed, 07 March 2012 9:43pm
Very nice tutorial with some very terrific material settings.
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