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Two Simple Tips to Speed Up Work with Maya’s Node Editor

The Node Editor was one of the best things to get added to Maya in the past few years but I find that there are two things I usually do right away when using it for materials: expanding it to full mode and graphing the network, so here’s a simple tip to do both at once. Change your Node Editor Default node view mode prefs to “Full Mode” and then use this shelf command to load and graph selected objects when it opens:

NodeEditorWindow;
evalDeferred("NodeEditorGraphUpDownstream");

Then you’ll be ready to start piping stuff together without any added clicks:

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Be Careful With Those Maya FBX Exports

Yesterday I discovered a really nasty bug with Maya’s FBX export. If you export and overwrite a file but it crashes while attempting to save, it will simply zap your old file and save nothing in its place. Considering how much FBX export crashes Maya – sometimes I think it was a deal between Autodesk and fast SSD salesmen – that’s a huge problem. Most programs, including Maya’s save itself, are smart about avoiding this type of scenario and actually save a separate file and then move the other file into the place of the old one on successful write but this is an anomaly. I filed a bug report already. Hopefully it will be addressed soonish.

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A Tip on Using Maya 2015’s Texture Deformer with Painted Masks

So Maya 2015 is out now on the subscription site and it gets a texture displacement deformer à la iDisplace, and I thought I’d show a quick workflow for using it with paint masking of deformer weights:

As you can see, it’s a great way to build procedural shapes with the friendliness of painted masking. If you’re using Maya 2014 or earlier, iDisplace is an essential (and free) plug-in that offers similar functionality, so go grab it.

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Nimble Tools Uninstancer Source Available on Github

If you work with particle animations, you probably know about Nimble Tools Uninstancer. It’s been around for years and unfortunately the developer stopped working in VFX but he posted the source scripts (the pre-built Python plug-in broke recently) but they have been updated and posted here:

https://github.com/redpawfx/uninstancer

It’s the best uninstancer around so look no further. Verified working in Maya 2014 and 2015 late beta.

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A Plug for TextureLib.com and Their Amazing Textures

There are a lot of texture sites out there and I have a ton of stock images that I already use for texturing but I recently discovered texturelib.com and it is hands down the best site for textures I’ve seen. The quality and resolution of the images are great but what really stands out about their images is that they are exceptionally shot, without uneven lighting, wide-angle distortion or bad perspectives. They must be using long focal lengths and cameras mounted on remote-controlled helicopters for most of these because you just can’t shoot stuff like this without some special setup:

Anyway, I just had to spread the word because I just bought the year’s subscription for a paltry $29. Seriously, run don’t walk to get on that stuff.

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ZBrush Polygroups to Unique Coloured Meshes in Maya

Someone on CGSociety asked how to go from ZBrush Polygroups to unique coloured meshes in Maya so I thought I’d post a quick video:

Here’s the script to do the colour part:

uniqueColourMe.mel

Put it in any Maya script folder and run “uniqueColourMe”.

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An Idiot-proof Way to Render a Scene to HDR IBL Image in Any Renderer

If you want to make your own IBL rendering of your scene for whatever reason, you might think that you need to find some special camera that has a weird fish-eye view or something but the way to do it is actually dead simple: make a sphere, make the sphere 100% reflective with no diffuse contribution (black) and bake your sphere’s texture to a 32-bit format like EXR:

A Maya polygonal sphere has the same UV setup as an IBL node so you don’t have any other work to do.

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A Simple Fix for A Huge Increase in Performance with OS X and Large Maya Scenes

In my review of the 2013 Mac Pro, one of the biggest issue I had with the machine was the OpenGL performance and the showstopper was a set of videos that shows how bad the D700 GPUs perform with very large Maya scenes. Well, it turns out that this is due to a Maya bug – you’re surprised, I know – and there is a simple fix for Maya 2014. Just put this line in your Maya.env plain text file ( ~/Library/Preferences/Autodesk/maya/2014-x64/Maya.env):

MAYA_OGS_GPU_MEMORY_LIMIT=6000

That’s for the D700’s 6GB of VRAM. Obviously for your particular GPU, set it to whatever your GPU’s RAM is, or slightly lower if you want to be extra safe. Relaunch Maya and witness the result – a giant performance boost and near-parity with Windows performance:

Glad this was sorted out and this fix will be rolled into Maya 2015. Off to update the review…

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How to Quickly Model a Scroll in Maya

I am making a quick money and bonds 3D illustration for a magazine layout and thought I’d show the fast method I used for the bond scroll. Install the Bonus Tools for your version of Maya because it relies on the spiral curve that is in there.

You don’t need to use a lattice deformer to do such a simple scale operation but it’s the first thing that I reach for when I do stuff like this because it adds a layer of procedural control if I want to add divisions and extra shaping to my sub-shape. If you want to add a bit of personality and squash to your scroll, use a squash deformer:

and here is my draft render (the scene is not finalized yet):

Total time for the scroll? Like four minutes. I will probably add some translucency to the material to get more pleasing bounces inside the scroll because it’s solid currently.

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A Note About Setting Optimal V-Ray Settings for Distributed Rendering

It’s possible if you’re a V-Ray user that you’re wasting time when doing distributed rendering with V-Ray light caches. A while ago, I added a modification to V-Ray Tuner that prompts you if you hit the Optimize button when using distributed rendering is enabled. It will ask for the max threads of the machine with the most threads. While the final render will always use the right amount of threads for your slave, the light cache passes should be set to the max thread count for all machines. So if you have three machines in your DR list with the following configs:

machine 1: 6 cores/12threads
machine 2: 16 cores/32 threads
machine 3: 8 cores/16 threads

You should set the light cache passes to 32. Or just enter 32 in the Optimize prompt in V-Ray Tuner. This won’t cause issues for your machines with fewer cores/threads. If you aren’t using DR, it will set the LC passes and render settings to use the max threads for your host machine, without a prompt. Some people may be avoiding the Optimize button because they don’t want it screwing with your setup or scene but it just does this minimal setup. I also hate scripts that do mystical magic to your stuff to make it faster, leaving you to guess what it’s modified. Any feature in V-Ray Tuner that deals with quality will always be very clear about what it is changing so there are no surprises.

Stay tuned to read about V-Ray Tuner 4 features. I have added a bunch of things like a Distributed Render slave manager that should save people plenty of time when dealing with networked nodes.

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