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Controlling Displacement Maps

By Jeremiah Grant
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Date Added: 9th December 2009
Software used:
Maya

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With the newly created plane selected, you can right click on the lambert2 in the Hypershade and choose Apply Material To Selection

Now if you can't see the checker pattern on your plane in the view port, the most likely you need to be in the Texture mode. You can get there just by pushing the number 6 on your number row. If you render, you should see a checkered plane.

Terrific! So now you know the very basics of the Hypershade and nodes. How about I show ya'll the coolness of Displacement

Displacement Nodes

Displacement in Maya is actually a shader node that gets plugged into the shader group and actually moves the vertices of the object around. The whiter the map is, the farther out it pushes the geometry, and the blacker the map is, the farther in it pushes the geometry.

Now that we have a shader that has a black and white color map applied, we can also use the checker map as a displacement map. The white will be pushed out, and the black will be pushed in. Here is an example of what I mean (and what you will make in a few minutes).

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Many of you, I'm sure have used displacement in textures in Maya, if not in another package. If you've used the displacement map in Maya before, you may have noticed that you can't change its intensity, except by changing the contrast of your displacement map. We will create a node structure to allow us to adjust the intensity of the displacement. We will first create the shader without a multiplyDivide node to illustrate its downside, then add it into the network. This should give you a full understanding of how the node structure is working together to build the final rendered output.

Here's a preview of the final node structure.

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You'll note that there are 3 nodes that I haven't discussed yet. The far right colorful one is the Shading group (SG). It is, as Maya's help says, "a collection of materials, textures, and lights that efficiently describe all the necessary attributes required to shade or render an image affect the final render of the surface". Geometry without a SG is just a wireframe. You already have this node in your structure. To view it, select checker1 and go to Graph - Input and Output Connections. Alternatively, you can right click on checker1 and choose Graph Network.

The other two nodes are the multiply-divide node, which conveniently looks like multiply and divide symbols, and the displacementShader1 node, which is the one that looks like a checker plane with displacement!

Here's a small diagram showing the upstream and downstream connections to checker1.

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You may have noticed that the displacement is connected into the Shading Group. This is because displacement is a shader. The SG has a specific connection for the displacement. You can see that by selecting the SG and looking at it in the attribute editor (ctrl+a).

Lets create the displacement node and connect it in to our shader network. In the Hypergraph, scroll down the left side pane to Displacement.

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Middle-mouse drag the icon into your work area. Our input into displacement is the outAlpha attribute of the checker1 node. Lets open up the Connection Editor to connect the checker into the displacement. Note, in Maya, there is a gazillion and one ways to do any one thing, so I'm showing you a few different ways to create connections

 

Wow. It's the connection editor

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