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Basic Maya Lighting Tutorial

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Date Added: 9th December 2009
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Not much to see here, but that's partially due to this shader and partly due to the low render quality. But trust me, this is the stuff good models are made of.  If you're following along, try throwing a blinn on there and you may be able to see the highlights much better.  Since this lambert has no specularity, there aren't really any highlights to catch.

To take it to the next level after that, I'm going to smooth it. But I'm not going to actually smooth the model. I'm going to use Mental Ray Approximation smooth so I keep my scene quick moving and it can be more efficient to render like this without crashing Maya or Mental ray when it comes to a lot of geometry. It's not always a huge jump in performance, but it can take you farther.

To apply it, select all your models you want to smooth (or you could do this one by one if you want different smoothing settings for each model) and then go to the approximation editor, like so (Fig.19):

Fig. 19

Under the Subdivision set, first hit the create button. This creates a new approximation setting. This can later be selected by that menu and apply it to any object. To get rid of it, you'll have to delete the node in the outliner (turn off show DAG objects only).
Once it's created click edit and we'll set up the approximation smooth settings.(Fig.20)

Fig. 20

We're going to set the Approx Method to Spatial.
Leave Min Subdivisions at 0.
Set Max Subdivisions to something like 3 or 4.
Length 0.1
Check on Fine and View Dependant.

With these settings we've told it by using fine that it'll render the image in sections which means it doesn't have to subdivide the whole model at once, where you get a little better ability to render large amounts of geometry. Length says if an edge is longer than this, don't subdivide it. Max subdivisions will only subdivide it that many times until it gets to that edge length. If you have view dependent on, rather than going by the scene scale for the length, it'll go by pixel size. So with view dependent turned on, it'll split any edge smaller than one tenth of a pixel, up to 4 times with the settings I have.

(Note, if you're adding displacement, you'll have to add a Displacement Approximation node as well.  Simply set its quality settings to Fine View High Quality.  This sets it up to use Fine rendering like we talked about before, which is view dependant.  High quality because it's max subdivisions is set to 7.  Often people find they can't get a subdivision higher than 3 or 4 on their characters because of all the geometry it creates.  What ever you set your min max settings to here, do not set your Subdivision Approximation settings any higher.  Subdivision approximation won't adjust the UVs, so if it's higher than the Displacement approximation, at least in Maya 2008, you're texture may not fully displace with the rest of the model and parts of the texture become blurred.  If you keep running out of memory or Mental Ray is having fatal errors, turn down your max subdivision levels.) (Fig.21)

Fig. 21

Here's the render I get with those settings. Yay! No more jaggy model.(Fig.22)

Fig. 22

So there are a few other ways we could do to light this thing. We can use bounce cards. Or at least simulated bounce cards. I'm going to throw in a polygon plane into the scene and put a lambert on it that's white with an ambient color of white as well. This will bounce white light onto the model. (Really, it doesn't have to be a card, it could be any shape and size model. But a card is easy to tell where it's bouncing to.) (Fig.23 & 24)

Fig. 23

Fig. 24

Now if I don't want a big white square in my scene when I render this, I better open up the attribute editor for the plane I made and turn off some render settings so it's only casting light but not rendering in the scene and not casting or stopping shadows.(fig.25)

Fig. 25

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Steven Snell on Mon, 14 March 2016 3:42pm
Hey! We shared your tutorial on our most recent blog post: Thanks for the great tutorial.
Lol on Mon, 21 May 2012 5:43am
You can write textbook for these stuffs. Love your writing style :)
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