Class 1 - Week 2 - Rendering

This is a subject that I ended spending way too much time on during
Class 1, and I hope that by giving you these tips, it allows you to
spend more time on your pose and less trying to get them out of Maya
and uploaded to AM. Also, I would suggest only rendering your Stu
poses and just playblasting your animations (which I'll go over next
week) until week 12. Rendering animations can take a very,
very long time and brings in many elements that don't need to focused
on at the moment.

To begin with, let's start with an amazing tutorial done by the
AM Brony, Joel Finney. He does a fantastic job explaining how to
get a shot rendered from start to finish, so be sure to check it out.

Also, check out all the other awesome tutorials he has on his vimeo
page as well. If you use his method, be sure leave a comment on his
vimeo page and thank him for all the work he does putting these
together for everybody.

This next tutorial was given to me by my class 1 mentor, Anthony Wong.
Rendering Tutorial

Along with the tutorial, he also gave us a few tips to improve the

"Put a "Directional Light" in the scene, this will be your main light
source. You can rotate it to make the light come from the direction
you want. I suggest scaling it up so you can tell which way it's

"Then place in an "Ambient Light". This will essentially fill in the
darks. You don't want it to fill them up too much, so I'd suggest
lowering the Intensity of the Light in it's attribute settings on the
right to "0.3" or lower. You can also change the color of the light
to a very de-saturated light color of your choice to get a mood."

"For getting shadows that look soft, click on your Directional Light.
Look at the attribute settings, and open up the "mental ray" tab.
Under "Shadows", click on "use mental ray shadow map overrides".
For Resolution, type in "4096"
For Samples, type "512"
For Softness, type "0.400"
For everything else, leave it as is."

"To keep the render looking sharp, inside your render settings, after
having mental ray loaded, go to the "Quality" tab. Under "Quality
Presets" select "Production". Scroll down to "Multi-Pixel Filtering".
Under Filter, select "Lanczos"."

For my renders, I found that the Ambient Light was a tad too bright
and lowered the Intensity to 0.25 and I got rid of the Directional
Light entirely. It was adding too much work for me because now I had
to think of where the light should be coming from, at what angle the
shadows would be and how they would work together with the
composition of the shot.

Some of these tips, such as the shadow resolution, don't really apply
to the other rendering methods I mention, but changing the
Multi-Pixel Filtering is a great way to get any of your renders to
look sharper.

Finally, we come to my favorite and also the easiest rendering
method, which was created and given to us by Bob Wilson, a fellow AM
student who is now taking Animals and Creatures. To get started with
it, download the following scene file and text file as well as both
images. These will be useful later on so you don't have to keep
referencing to this later on. To save the following links, right click
on them and choose "save as".
Setup Notes

Once you've got everything downloaded, you will need to;

Import the "lightsetup" Maya file into your current shot, which you
can do by going to "File > Import" in Maya. You will get a new
spotlight and a groundplane in your scene. If you already have a
groundplane, just delete the new one. If not, scale the imported one
to the size you need.
Next, go to the attributes of the camera you will render from, and
under the Environment tab, set the Background Color to white by
sliding the bar to the right. To get to the attributes, open up the
outliner by going to "Window > Outliner", select the camera, then hit
ctrl + a.

Go to your render settings, which you can find under
Window > Rendering Editors > Render Settings.

Make sure you are rendering with mental ray.

Under the Quality tab, set the "Quality Presets" to production, then
under the "Indirect Lighting" tab, open up Final Gathering and set
the "Point Density" to 15.

Now all that's left is to position the spotlight how you want it and
render away! To position the spotlight a little easier, I find that
selecting the light, then going to "Panels > Look Through Selected
Camera" in the viewport makes it much more intuitive.

While you have the camera selected, another setting I like to change
is the "Penumbra Angle" in the channel box. Set it to 10 and it will
make the edge of the spotlight nice and soft.

One thing Cameron and I found to be very helpful and a great
time-saver no matter which render method you use, is to create a base
lighting file to use with all our Stu Poses. All you need to do is
open up a new Stu file and set up all the lighting you want in it.
Then, save the scene out as Stu_BaseLighting or some other such name.
Now whenever you need to do create a new pose, you can open up that
file and have all your lighting and render settings ready for you.
This is extremely helpful because from now on, you don't have to worry
about spending time setting up the render and can focus soley on your
assignment. Just remember to save your pose out to another file so
you don't lose the BaseLighting file.

I hope that was helpful and remember, this is AnimationMentor not
RenderMentor. The only thing your mentor will care about is how good
the pose is. Rendering should be kept to a minimum and should not
take up too much of your time.