mental ray

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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About a Year Later

It's been a little over a year since I've stepped into pursuing the animation industry and I've already learned so much! With a little free time over the summer I went back to reshade the character, Evelyn, from my first short film, Picture Perfect. As it was a condensed timeline for production (about seven and a half months) and a lot of on the job learning, what was possible was limited but now I'd like to show what can be done with what I know now. evelynsUsing the exact same maps, I have created a comparison between the original version using lamberts, blinns, and phongs, rendered with mental ray, mia materials rendered with mental ray, and a full vray version. The exception being that I had to remake the eyes and added in a cornea for the two new version that I did as the original had some strange structure going on with the shading network and geometry that I could not make sense of and could not render properly with my own shaders. I had originally planned to create a fourth version with an actual hair system and new texture maps  of how I would paint her now but unfortunately there were a lot of issues with the geometry and Mudbox would break everything if I try to import it in. I particularly wanted to rework the skin as it lacked actual textures and correct specularity along with a nicer sub-surface scatter.

A lot of the production was focused on story development and animation as it was key to have those finished by the deadline so that there was something to show. Unfortunately that means certain aspects had to be sacrificed and so the textures were left pretty basic, a choice to use a more simplified and stylized style. While rendered in mental ray, the materials that were used consisted of lamberts, phongs, and blinns. It got the job done but is unfortunate as those three materials were written extremely long time ago thus outdated and inaccurate. We lacked Vray but it would have been great to learn the mia materials that come with and are suppose to be used with mental ray. I can see why though as, while mental ray is a great rendering engine, the mia materials can be very difficult and confusing to use as the implementation into Maya isn't that great with a lot of intricacies that are not readily apparent. One of the most confusing setups to go through is mental ray's sub-surface skin shader as it consists of  a lot of options, hidden nodes, and workarounds that the artist would have to go through. Unfortunately when I learned of the correct method to set up the shader I was devoted to using vray and so I wasn't taking notes and the instructor just quickly went over the method to show how ridiculous mental ray is. When I tried to recreate Evelyn using mia materials it was an interesting journey to try to figure out a method of how to get it working semi-correctly.

Vray is the way to go!