I used ZBrush for the fish and tile texturing; in particular I used the ZAppLink plug-in for easy texturing, which can be interlinked with Photoshop and ZBrush (and vice versa) (Fig.12b).
I made specular, reflection, and all three skin layer maps from ZBrush for the MR SSS shader in Maya. I noticed how glossy fish skin is, so I needed to make a glossy map to represent this. The SSS shader's specular attribute had quite detailed options in order to generate the skin as realistically as possible (Fig.13a & Fig.13b).
Lighting & Rendering
I used Mental Ray and Maya procedural shaders for the whole scene, which gave me very nice results. I used a basic three light setup - photonic key, fill and rim light. I used a key photonic light for the whole layout and the other two lights were just linked to the fish because of the back scatter effect.
I used GI photons for better results in the scene. Because of Mental Ray's dielectric shader and DGS refracted and reflection values, I also used the caustics photons. I was excited by the double-bounced shadow layer when light reflected through the main photonic Light - it gave me the real water shadow effect that I had desired (Fig.14).
I made a proxy/dummy box under the water level to the floor with refracted glass and assigned a transparent shader to it. This was just for the refracted effect. Overall, I tried to make the lighting setup formal and simple, but in some areas that was a little tricky.
I faced a challenge when rendering the occlusion pass, especially where refraction appears in the underwater portion. A simple solution was to manually assign overrides in each light property and shader (Fig.15); i.e. in the occlusion pass, I made an AO shader - the proxy box had the same refracted shader, but I assigned an AO shader to all other objects apart from "proxy box".Â