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Apple makes nice hardware and some people are tempted to run Mac machines in Windows via Boot Camp as their main workstation, thinking they are getting the familiarity of Windows with the Apple hardware. Apple’s Boot Camp drivers support the GPU, motherboard chipset, audio, etc. in your machine but there is one crucial difference that I just discovered while writing an article on ExFAT for Ars Technica: Boot Camped Windows runs your disks in IDE mode for installation compatibility reasons and there is no way to run the faster AHCI mode without doing something dodgy like using a custom bootloader like grub. That means that your SSD that will perform amazingly in OS X will be running at just over half the speed in Windows. CPU and GPU functions will be fine but this will definitely affect the overall performance of Windows in your Boot Camped Mac. Applications will launch slower, file saves will take longer and your virtual memory writes will take a serious performance hit. So there you have it - if you buy a Mac, it’s best to use it as a Mac. And that might not be such a bad thing when you compare rendering performance between OS X and Windows (not to mention multitasking abilities while doing those renders).
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I use Python 3.3 for my multithreaded Automator actions in OS X but I just realized that this prevents Houdini from installing properly if you’ve overwritten /usr/bin/python with anything other than Python 2.7. If you have a custom Python version installed, just copy the 2.7 binary back over /usr/bin/python, and then Houdini will install correctly.
V-Ray for Maya has some pretty handy (but slightly hidden) tools that can be added from the Create From V-Ray Plug-in menu and one of the best is the Color Correction node. It’s basically a grading dialog for textures and can do quite a bit, and it can save you trips to Photoshop to just do slight tweaks to hue, contrast, etc.:
The only thing to keep in mind is that the brightness is a gain slider, not a gamma-based correction, so it should be avoided to adjust mid-tones. Also, you can try out the other Color Correct plug-in for yourself but it’s less full-featured than the Color Correction plug-in. Why they are so similarly named is a question for the sages.
V-Ray Tuner 3.4.1 posted for download. There’s not too much new here but there’s an important fix for the Optimize button script for Maya 2014. Maya 2014 has a bug that returns the wrong number for RAM amount for “memory -phy” so, if you’re running 2014, the script asks you to enter your memory amount in GB. Otherwise, the only other new addition is that I’ve added Point Light support to per-light render script.
hi - here is the video that I referred to: https://vimeo.com/12622588
I’ve updated the blog post so that video is included at the start.
Recently, I’ve fielded a lot of questions about setting up a Linux-based V-Ray render box and most of those queries are coming from Mac users who are in need of more oomph but don’t want to shell out for the very dated 2010 Mac Pros. So slavery is all the rage as people are discovering the merits of cheap additional labour. But Linux is the black diamond course of computing, so here is a quick rundown of what’s involved in getting a Linux slave machine up and running with a V-Ray render service.
For my headless Linux workstations, I use CentOS 6.3 (later is fine and may be required by your newer hardware) because it is the easiest to get running with Maya. If you’re unfamiliar with Linux, you want to avoid missing dependencies that have to be installed later, and CentOS runs Maya fresh from the install. Fedora should be avoided unless you know what you’re getting into. Ubuntu is not an option because it’s a Debian-based distro and Maya (like most CG apps) require a Redhat-based distro to function. You can do a bunch of hacks to make it work but it’s just not worth it for a headless slave machine. Ubuntu is all about usability and you won’t be using this machine beyond it’s functions of sleep, wake and render. Hence it’s not-so-glorious title of slave.
So here are the instructions to get CentOS up and running. Install CentOS with the Software Development install option to ensure you have all the necessary libraries installed. It might work with others but this is a good, safe bet. During the install process, enable the network because CentOS disables it by default. If you miss this, you can do it on boot (it’s an icon in top right the GNOME menu bar).
Maya and V-Ray Installation
Install Maya with your serial number – there is no demo option on Linux. You have to use the terminal to run the Maya installation. Open it and cd to the uncompressed Maya installation folder and then type “su” to switch to the root user. Then type “./setup” (all this is without the quotes) – if you just enter the full path to the setup file without cd’ing first, it won’t be able to find anything for the install. That stumped me for a while when I first installed Maya on Linux. Once it’s done installing, don’t run Maya because you’ll be asked to activate it. You don’t need an activated Maya install for use as a slave so skip running the application itself and move on to V-Ray installation.
V-Ray Slave Service Installation
Before you install any old V-Ray version, make sure you get a build of V-Ray 2.4 or later, that does automatic asset transferral so you don’t have to concern yourself with setting up finicky, matched-absolute path network sharing. Currently (2013-04-18), that’s only available in nightly builds so contact Chaos Group to get access to nightlies and you have a non-EDU license. During command-line installation, make sure you register it as a slave service. The slave service won’t start unless you reboot or launch it manually for the first launch. If ever you try and launch it and it fails, that means it’s already running. To ensure that the slave is seen and accessible from other machines, open the V-Ray service TCP port in the CentOS firewall settings. With 3.4 betas, the port is currently 30304.
Some things to keep in mind:
To get sudo access to do stuff like “sudo pm-suspend” to sleep the machine from the command line, you’ll need to use visudo to add your user to the sudoers list. Google that – visudo is just vim and it uses a weird list of key combinations to use it. Otherwise, just su to root and issue the command without sudo.
You’ll probably want to edit your router to reserve an IP for your machine so it doesn’t change. To get the IP and MAC address of the machine, type “ifconfig -a” in the terminal. eth0 is the ethernet connection (or eth1 if you have more than one). That will also give you the MAC network address for use with WOL (Wake on LAN). With a static local IP, you can reliably wake the machine from sleep with a utility like WakeOnMac (OS X) or Wake Me On LAN (Windows). You may need to enable WOL in your machine’s BIOS settings. You don’t have to enable it in CentOS and it’s not dumb like WOL in Windows machines that seem to wake just by looking at them.
Additional Linux and command line tips for newbs
I wrote a guide to getting command line rendering up and running for Maya users on OS X that will probably be helpful to understand Linux as well, since both use the BASH shell by default.
If you’re looking to actually run this machine as a Maya workstation, then you have more work ahead of you, as you get to do all the mind-numbing work of blacklisting nouveau (Google it) to install Nvidia’s drivers and stuff like that. Still, it’s easier and more stable than making a Hackintosh. Luke Olson’s Linux for CG and VFX Production Environments is a really good primer if you want to use Linux with CG apps. He mostly uses Houdini, which installs on Ubuntu without issue, so keep that in mind if you’re wondering why he’s recommending it alongside Fedora. I would steer clear of it personally. Do your worst, Ubuntu zealots!
Michael Comet’s Pose Deformer Mac Maya 2014 build can be downloaded here. I am using the latest updated source that David Johnson has tweaked to fix an issue with compiles on 2014. The Windows version is available on his djx blog here. I’m bundling the Python version of the Pose Reader plug-in but it seems to have an issue where it complains about a missing connection but everything works fine. I’m looking into it.
Maya 2014 is out on subscription so I thought I’d post a few thoughts for those on the fence about the update. I was a beta tester for 2014 so I have a good understanding of what’s been added to the release and it’s a solid upgrade in my opinion. Aside from the beefy scene assembly tools, grease pencil, sweet volume-centred joint tool, Node Editor upgrades, there is plenty new to try out. But this isn’t a review of all the new features, so look at some of the sneak peak videos listed here or read the What’s New page from the Maya 2014 documentation.
Viewport 2 is almost at first-class citizen status so you should be able to use it for almost everything except particle display and some other things like Paint Effects strokes. Viewport 2 DirectX 11 mode and Übershader (that were introduced in the 2013 Extension) are available to Windows users – hopefully Mac OS X and Linux users will get a GLSL equivalent some day because it would really help with mobile game development. Paint Effects has gotten really nice additions that are useful but also encouraging because I think PE has a lot of potential so it’s nice to see it hasn’t fallen out of Autodesk’s vision for Maya’s future. Here’s some of what’s new with PE since I think the collision stuff makes it a lot more useful:
NEX Included – From Now On
The main feature that should be a welcome addition for most long-time Maya users is NEX integration by default. If you’re unfamiliar with NEX, it’s a modeling toolkit that adds a ton of invaluable things to Maya’s tools and I highly recommend watching the individual feature videos to get idea of how to use it. So, predictably, it’s been rebranded as “Modeling Toolkit” in Maya 2014 and it still works much the same as NEX in previous versions of Maya. The main differences are how you load the Modeling Toolkit – it’s in the Plug-ins but you have to enable it in the application preferences and that’s where its options are set:
Then you activate it from the top menu, and the Modeling Toolkit shows up as a tab on the right, with the familiar NEX toolbox:
That’s the quad draw tool with shift held down to split faces into equal-sized quads. The only caveat to the Modeling Toolkit is that it’s very “1.0” in its integration – NEX’s soft selection hasn’t yet been matched to Maya’s so you have to tweak some colours in the prefs to get it closer:
Not great but it’s not a showstopper. I think that the slight potential for confusion between entering the NEX select/move/scale/rotate tool context is why it’s disabled by default.
2014 is not going to make everyone happy and it’s too early to tell what all the major issues are. No, mental ray integration is not much better but I think people should give up on that ever becoming a reality. Once you move on to V-Ray, Arnold or something else that has exceptional support, you wonder why you wasted all that time pining for mental ray with unterrible support. I’m not making excuses for Autodesk here – I just don’t see mental ray in Maya ever becoming what people want it to be.
But otherwise, I do know of one nasty bug that affects high-resolution screens on OS X with most Radeons and some Nvidia cards. If you have a single viewport over 2048 pixels wide in the width or height and drag a selection in viewport 2, your viewport will black out:
It seems to affect 27” iMacs, Radeon-based Mac Pros and retina MacBook Pros that have their Maya screen resolution using the full resolution of the retina display. This isn’t a problem on Maya 2013 and Autodesk doesn’t have an ETA on a fix, unfortunately. As you can see from the video, the only workaround is to make the viewport smaller than 2048 pixels by having the Outliner or something like V-Ray Tuner open all the time. Bleh.
Anyway, go forth and download. V-Ray for Maya users will be happy to know that 2014 Linux and Windows builds are already on the Chaos Group nightly server, with the Mac OS X version coming shortly.
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Not sure about that one – sorry. Best to ask on CGSociety’s Maya programming forum: http://forums.cgsociety.org/forumdisplay.php?f=89
This is not a huge update to V-Ray Tuner but it brings a few fixes and features that affect various things. Here’s 3.4 changelog: