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A Quick Rundown to Using XGen with V-Ray 3.0 and Maya 2015+

I finally got around to really testing XGen with the V-Ray 3.0 beta and it works great. After a brief snag, I discovered that you have to have XGen and all the V-Ray plug-in components set to auto-load in Maya’s plug-in preferences to get everything to work right. Considering how finicky auto-load can be in Maya, maybe look into using my tip from 101 Autodesk Maya Tips to force load plug-ins with a text edit to userSetup.mel. So, with everything loaded correctly, I did a quick little test and it’s working great. There is too much in XGen to cover in one little blog post and the the V-Ray 3.0 XGen docs online cover some other V-Ray specific things, but here is a fast walkthrough to show how you might use it for a simple hair setup in Maya:

The end result there reminds me of the Fred Smith Alva skateboard from the eighties (yes, I’m that old):

Anyway, great to see the progress being made for Maya-specific tools and V-Ray. The 3.0 release is going to be pretty huge.

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moore-ima asked: Maya on Mac – is there a way for the Maya dialog to recognize my second internal drive? I have a primary drive for OS and apps, then a secondary drive for files. I can switch to OS native dialog to do it, but curious why it doesn't show up in Maya dialog.

Maya’s Qt (default) dialog has some odd behaviors so I always use the OS dialog. If you want to switch back and forth between the Qt style one and the native OS one, I made a script that I put in my shelf:

int $dialogStyler = (!(`optionVar -q FileDialogStyle`)); optionVar -iv FileDialogStyle $dialogStyler; if ($dialogStyler == 1) { print "Dialogs set to OS Style"; } else { print "Dialogs set to Qt Style"; }

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renatomarques asked: Hey! I was wondering if you know if Vray supports open cl for mac. Using this way vray rt. Or if there is any other render that takes advantage of the 2 graphics card on the new mac pro. Thanks in advanced!

Hi, unfortunately V-Ray RT’s OpenCL mode has issues on AMD hardware on all platforms. It’s not just a Mac issue, actually. The good news is that the new progressive renderer tech in V-Ray 3 is not GPU-based so everyone will be able to use it, regardless of their hardware. As for other GPU renderers, there are a bunch out there and I just read that Redshift is coming out with a Mac OS X / OpenCL version in the future as well. Hopefully we’ll see that at SIGGRAPH or something soon. But I’m a big V-Ray fan so I just use the distributed rendering with the 3.0 beta’s progressive software renderer.

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How to Improve Your Favourite Program – An Idiot’s Guide to Filing a Bug Report

A lot of people ask me about particular bugs or things they see with programs and I generally tell them the same thing: file a bug report. Even if I knew of a workaround for some bad behaviour in Maya or another program, you want your issue fixed as soon as possible and that means getting your issue known to the developers. Autodesk works hard to squish bugs in Maya and the recent transition to make the viewport 2 the default will likely cause some issues for people. They will want to see these issues resolved as soon as possible, so you need to tell them as soon as possible if you see something wonky. This, more than any complaints on Twitter, is how you improve your beloved graphics program. It’s not a lot of fun but it’s the way you get things done in the software and OS improvement world. So here is an idiot’s guide to filing a good bug report for any program.

As a long-time beta tester of Photoshop, Maya, V-Ray and Mac OS X, I frequently file bug reports and – if you can brag about such a thing – I am quite good at it. If you are an exceptional beta tester and the developers are feeling generous, you sometimes get free copies of the programs or discounts on the release for your assistance (this is generally very hush hush because they don’t want others asking for the same thing). Being “good” at filing bug reports means hitting all the right targets when filing them:

  • Communicate clearly what the problem is
  • If possible, show an example of the bug
  • Provide an accurate profile of your system and software
  • Most importantly, try to provide a step-by-step way to recreate the bug. This can be difficult but try to retrace your steps because, if the developer can’t recreate the bug, it won’t help them fix the issue.
  • Attach crash logs if possible. If you’re on OS X, you can frequently see these logs reference in Console.app output or programs like Mari or Maya have their own logging setup.

So, if I file a bug for Maya's viewport 2's z-fighting, I give a little movie to show the behaviour vs. viewport 1:

I use ScreenFlow for my screen recordings but QuickTime Player in OS X includes screen recording functionality if you want a free option.

You can imagine that this process of bug reporting can get repetitive and time-consuming so use templates or scripts where possible to make this process less so. If you are filing a bug report for OS X, you provide your system profile by entering “sysdiagnose” in the terminal and hitting enter. This runs a series of verbose profile tools and wraps the info into a gzipped bundle that you upload to Apple’s bug report page. I use this Automator Workflow to put the system version in the required field on the bug report page to save me tracking that down elsewhere. It is just a convenient way to get output from this shell script right into your active text field:

system_profiler SPSoftwareDataType | grep "System Version" | sed 's/^......//g'

The output:
System Version: OS X 10.9.3 (13D61)

So there are efficient ways to do this tedious but very important task. Bug reporting is a crucial part of being a pro user – you want your OS and your software to do what you need to but sometimes you have be the one to report the issues because many people use programs differently and so they inevitably find different problems.

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My Ars Technica Article on Creating a Small Mixed-Platform Render Farm

I wrote an article that should appeal to a lot of my readers – it outlines how to make a render farm with relatively modest means and with an outline of how to do it with a mix of Mac, Windows and Linux platforms. Read on!

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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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