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]; 

Autodesk Maya 2015

Maya 2015 features have started to be revealed! I haven't even really used 2014 yet. I'm still back on 2013 due to VRay not initially being supported on 2014 until recently and many of the projects that I am on decide to stick with the 2013 version. Looking at all these new features I'm excited for the 2015 version and maybe will just skip over 2014.

First up is the XGen Arbitrary Primitive Generator which can be used to creature hair, fur, or feathers and is the same tool that Disney and Pixar uses. Hair has always been difficult to groom and to groom nicely, even with the Shave and Haircut plugin and from the images that are posted, I am looking forward to this tool. [youtube]

ShaderFX. Primarily described as for generating game effects inside Maya but it will be interesting to see how this can be used as a base to use for more high quality textures. [youtube]

Viewport 2.0 will now have Ptex support and displacement map visualization. Yay! [youtube]

I'm one of those rare few people who like to do UVs and to do it in Maya nonetheless. Now the UV tools have been updated for a more streamline and efficient workflow, such as the "distortion shader" which is similar to the red/green/blue in Headus' UV Layout program. [youtube]

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. 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

Lighting and Texturing Cheat for Animators

Often times when you talk to animators, they mainly focus on how good the animation is. They don't particularly care at all about how well the shading/texturing is or how nice the lighting set up is, all that to them is additional bells and whistles that they don't want or have time to think about when animating. While having a fully textured, lit, and rendered shot isn't as important to animators who solely need to show how well they can animate, having a finished piece in a demo reel on top of having great animation can make oneself stand out all the more. There is actually a really easy and fast (both process and rendering) method of getting a "finished" looking shot. This method is similar to what is done for shorts such as Saga of Bjorn, Mac'n'Cheese, and Meet Buck. This is great for animation students or those working on individual projects.

Starting with shading/texture painting. Simply use surface shaders and apply it onto everything with the color that you desire. That's it! One great thing about this method is the versatility. You can be as simple as necessary or go into as much detail as you want. You can use the simple one color surface shader or you can go as far as to detailing the surfaces of objects. If you wish to actually paint the surfaces, unwrapping the UVs will need to be done first. Unwrapping isn't that hard but it's made even easier with tools such as UVLayout or Roadkill where all you have to do is cut the geometry apart, flatten it, then press a button to automatically layout the UVs. As everything is using a surface shader, the rendering time is super fast, a few seconds per frame. diffuseCompd Of course you probably want to give your models some form so that everything doesn't look like cutouts on the screen. Render out an occlusion pass. Rendering an occlusion pass will be take the most extensive amount of time to render as it is done through a calculation by Maya of objects between objects. ao171 Composite the occlusion layer on top of your diffuse; the simple way would be to use a multiply but a more correct method would be to use it as a mask to drive a color correction. Now you have some volume in the scene and it looks pretty decent. aoCompd The above looks like it would work decently well, but you this open window and think nit would be great if there was light coming through to create a grid pattern onto the floor. This is really simple to do; create a new render layer in Maya and right click > create material override and apply a basic gray lambert onto everything. Shine your lights in the scene, and render that out. This renders out very fast as everything is just a basic lambert shader. Now composite this light pass on top of your previous image with a multiply adjustment and there you go! In my example, my lights are a bit more extensive as I actually lit the scene with fill and bounce lights instead of just casting a few spotlights for keys. 171lightlightsCompd

To get super fancy, if you know what you are doing in Nuke or After Effects, add some bloom highlights, god rays, and a depth blur. Additionally, I took the specular, reflection, and refraction passes from my normal render and composited those in also to get this final look. finalCompd

Again, this is a quick and dirty way to get a decent looking render for someone, such as an animator, to increase the visual aspect of a short reel piece. For actual texture artists and lighters this would definitely not work as using flat surface shaders means you lose all the actual texture qualities of the material (specular, glossiness, reflections, sub surface just to name a few).

2 Awesome Rigs and Dynamics

Here are some awesome things that people should look into! ZV Dynamics 2.0 is an awesome plugin that you can get for Maya, and it's free! Developed by Paolo Dominici, a character TD at Animal Logic, the script adds inertial behavior to transform nodes. Some really awesome behaviors that is demonstrated in the video is real time liquid dynamics, easy squash and stretch of characters, and fluid camera controls. Don't forget to check out some of his other stuff! The radial blendshape script looks awesome and the application on facial expressions is amazing. [youtube]

Norman, Morpheus, Bishop, ect are all popular rigs that have been used often and has appeared often on many reels. They are good rigs and easy to use to allow animators to go right into doing what they do best instead of trying to go through the process of modeling and rigging an something completely new. However, as those in the industry have seen these rigs thousands upon thousands of times it may be hard to differentiate  yourself if your reel looks similar to everyone else's. Well here is another rig, Bonnie, that can be tried out and it looks really nice! Created by Josh Sobel, the rig boasts of an advance body rig and expressive facial deformations. [vimeo w=500&h=281]

Morpheus 2.0! Developed by CGMonks, they started a kickstarter project to fund the creation of version 2.0 to the already classic and popular animation rig. They have reached their goal 4 days ago so hopefully development is well underway. They've taken feedback from users and are looking to not only update the mesh and rig but to increase accessibility and customization.[vimeo 51639845 w=400 h=300]