Compositing - Beauty Fix Tutorial

Compositing - Beauty Fix Tutorial

"Go to a film studio", "Go do compositing", "You'll learn so much" was what one of the mentors while I was an apprentice at Disney told me one night. While I agreed since I have seen some of the amazing things that live action compositors do with all their tricks and hacks but oof, live action sounds like a lot of roto and rotopaint.

I somehow did end up as a compositor for live action at Ingenuity Studios, and my previous experience was a semester of Intro to Nuke class in school. It was quite stressful since I was unsure if my work was good enough quality and working in primarily episodic TV meant that it was a far faster pace than feature film. I did learn a lot though such as how to stabilize my shot first before doing rotos and rotopaints and then matchmoving it back, 3d tracking, split screens, fluid morphs, etc. One very scary thing that I learned was how to do beauty fixes since this means not only can I use Photoshop to touch up photos but now I can also touch up videos, too! Never tell your friends and family!

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Creating an Ocean with VRay Water

Creating a full ocean can be a daunting task, especially if you are not well versed in dynamics. Even then, creating the water is only half the problem as rendering also needs to be taken into consideration. Let’s try to keep things in what we can do in Maya; Houdini is out of the question. Maya does have decent ocean presets but unfortunately they do not render well or at all with VRay. Thus we look at VRay Water.

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Quick and Basic Lighting & Rendering

Here is a super fast way for animators to texture, light, and render shots to spruce up pieces to have a finished quality for reels. What’s great about this method is that it can be as simple as you want or as complex as you want; like baking a cake you can have plain yellow cake made from a mix out of the box or you can continue to add sprinkles, frosting, and rum to it.

In this tutorial I will be using Mental Ray and in Maya 2014 but it can be done with any render engine and across different platforms as long as you render out the necessary layers of at least the diffuse (color) and occlusion.

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Reset Maya UI Positions

One of the most annoying thing about working across different computers with Maya is that the not all the computer screens have the same resolution and thus if you save your file with a window in a bad position, on a different computer you won't be able to find it again.

The quick solution is to delete your Maya preferences to reset everything but I hate doing that since I have quite a few things set up. Luckily there is a mel script that you can run that just resets the stored UI positions!

Original script by "Stefan", found on Autodesk Maya Feedback Forums.

string $openWindows[] = `lsUI -windows`;
for ($i=0; $i < size ($openWindows);$i++) 

if ($openWindows[$i] != "MayaWindow" && $openWindows[$i] != "scriptEditorPanel1Window") 

deleteUI $openWindows[$i]; 
windowPref -remove $openWindows[$i]; 

Troubleshooting Flicker in VRay


One of the more agonizing things about being a lighter is finishing a shot to render but getting back files that are unusable due to unaesthetic flicker. While the flicker can be fixed by increasing render settings globally, that method comes at the cost of increased render times. Instead, narrow down where the flicker is coming from and solve the issue at the root instead of trying to "throw more money at the screen and hope for the best".

Super important to render things out in passes so that not only will you have control over every single aspect in comp but it breaks the render down into its elements for trouble shooting.

The Pass column is the pass that you want to check if the flicker is coming from. The material column is the source of the flicker. The Flicker column is what needs to be changed to resolve the flicker. If the flicker seems to be coming from the lighting pass, the source is the diffuse of the material, and what you want to do is increase the light rays for the shadow. If the flicker is in the specular pass, increase the subdivisions of the light.

The exception to the above is hair. Hair shows up in the reflection and refraction passes but the VRayHairMtl doesn't have subdiv attributes to make adjustments on. In the case of hair, to resolve flicker, what instead needs to be done is increase the subdivision/fine tune the GI. This is because the flicker shows up in the refraction pass which is a secondary light ray. As there are no refraction subdivision settings in the VRayHairMtl, the only other way to adjust the secondary light ray settings in this situation is to adjust the GI.

The other type of flicker that may be seen is what is known as “fireflies”. Fireflies appear as large dots of light and are most prominent in the specular and reflection passes.

As of VRay 3.0, it has been found that VRay Sphere Lights tend to cause fireflies in the reflection pass. Disabling “affect reflection” of the light does not solve the issue and neither does increasing the material’s reflection subdivision amount. If this issue occurs, the solution is to go to the Render Settings, under the VRay tab, expand Global Options - Advanced and enable Clamp Max Ray Intensity and set the value to 1.0.

HDRI Environments in Vray

Partly to share and partly because I can never seem to remember which files are suppose to go where specifically, here is a post about HDRI images and setting up an environment for rendering in Maya. HDRI images are amazing and beautiful. They're also extremely useful for texturing and lighting as reflections work off of reflecting things in the environment. It's hard to get good reflections and know what something is going to look like if your object exists only in a strange gray world. This is particularly necessary to match reflections on objects that will then have to be composited into a live action plate.

HDRLabs.com is an amazing resources to get some hdri images from.

Upon downloading one of their environments you will get a a zip file with different image files.  There may be files such as an .ibl file, a 2k .hdr file, a bg .jpg file, a env .hdr file, preview. jpg, and a thumb .jpg. Not all of these are necessarily used as some are for imaged based lighting but for now I am just talking about using the images to create an environment for whatever assets is being rendered.


In Maya, go to the render settings, and under the Vray tab there will be an Environment section which can be expanded out. Turn it on first with the checkbox "Override Environment" The largest file in dimension size, usually a .jpg file file will connect into Background Texture. The medium sized high quality file will connect into Reflection Texture and Refraction Texture The smallest file in dimension size and blurred image file will connect into the GI Texture