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Mixing a V-Ray Sun and Sky Environment with HDR Environment Light Image

For a while now, I’ve been mixing V-Ray skies with some HDR environments and was doing it in Nuke because I didn’t realize it was doable in Maya – that is, until Vlado at Chaos Group suggested using a Blend Colors utility. I should have thought of it myself but sometimes you forget just how good V-Ray integration is within Maya, and assume something like that won’t work. But it does, so here is a quick rundown of how to mix V-Ray sun/sky environment with a HDR Environment Light Image:

The only trick to this workflow, as shown in the video above, is to disconnect one of the sun/sky environment connections in the Render Settings dialog and then create a file node for the HDR. This ensures that V-Ray will make the proper VRayPlaceEnvTex spherical UV projection. You could do this manually but it’s just easier to have V-Ray do it automatically when connecting it to the environment slot. Then you make a Blend Colors utility, drop the file node and the sky into the two slots and then MMB-drag the Blend Colors utility into the Environement slots. If you would rather have the lights in your IBL added to your sky, use an +/- Average utility to have the IBL pixels added to the sky instead of linearly blended. Make two Input 3D connections (the 3D in this context is not XYZ, it’s RGB) and then connect the sky and file nodes to the inputs in the Hypergraph or Node Editor:

Then you will have a bright sky and added IBL highlights:

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