Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Experiment With Maya Physics

Hello Students, 
Your next project is an exploration of Maya Physics. Maya uses a soft/rigid body system and different fields that can modify the interactions of these simulated objects, these fields are things like gravity and wind.... 

Maya Physics Experiment:

Objective: Learn how to use physics engines for complex 3D animations, repeat and experiment for visually interesting interactions. Render with Mental Ray and Image Based Lighting and Layered Shaders for your demo reel.

Your assignment is to follow the simple tutorial below, then create a fun physics experiment and then render it. Don't get too elaborate or your computer will take weeks to complete the calculations in your simulation, keep the number of objects under 20, more will slow down the calculation speed potentially. Use all the skills you have developed up to now to set up your 3D file with a proper project folder, render settings, materials, image based lighting etc.... just as we did in the cornell box project.

Part 1: Basic Physics Simulation

  1. Launch maya and make a new file
  2. Give your timeline at least 500 frames and zoom out the timeline so all frames are visible in the timeline
  3. Create a cube and shape it into a flat  surface like a table
  4. Create another cube, along with a sphere and a third shape of your choice
  5. Arrange the new shapes in a column that is positioned over your first flat table shape that you made
  6. Select the table shape and press down on the spacebar to bring up your marking menu, select "Soft/Rigid Bodies" and choose "Create Passive Rigid Body"
  7. Now Select the column of objects, the cube, sphere and third object of your choice and then press the spacebar to bring up your marking menu again and choose "Soft/Rigid Bodies" and select "Create Active Rigid Body"
  8. With your 3 objects still selected go back to your marking menu... this time select "Fields" and choose "Gravity"
  9. Press the play button to see your objects fall from the gravity and bounce on the tabletop
  10. Congratulations! You just made a physics simulation in 3D!

Part 2: Make Something Awesome
With a little ingenuity and some basic knowledge you can make a really cool simulation, try using more shapes or different types of platforms and passive solid bodies for interesting results. You can give passive objects a pivot point so they spin when hit. You can add a few keyframes to an active rigid body to launch it in a certain direction.  Here are some ideas you can do with just basic knowledge:
  • Make a wheel or sphere roll down a ramp and into a jump
  • Create a Newtons Cradle
  • Make a wheel or sphere roll on a track
  • Make an obstacle course for a sphere to roll down
  • Make bowling pins and knock them down with a sphere
  • Make a brick wall and knock it over
  • Make a tower of bricks and blow it over with a wind field (or sideways gravity!)

Part 3: Render Your Simulation
  • Once your simulation is perfect make some materials for your objects, make some shiny, some glassy and some have a matte surface
  • Set up a project folder for this simulation file, make sure you create the file directory first then "set" the project to that new directory
  • Turn on Mental Ray and load up your best settings, use an image based lighting setup to add some good realism to your scene
  • Render your scene and turn it in as a video file to mad max when it is ready

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

3D Materials, Lighting and Rendering: The Cornell Box

For this project you will be getting more familiar with the workflow and methods in using Autdodesk's Maya to create a 3D scene with objects, lighting, a camera and textures. You will then render this scene and adjust quality, then render an animation to learn the basics of keyframing and render settings as well.

Cornell Box Project: Lights, Camera, Action!

History of the Cornell Box: The Cornell Program of Computer Graphics has become best known for its research on physically based rendering. They believe that computer graphic simulations will never become predictive of reality unless we correctly model the physics of light reflection and energy propagation within physical environments. The Cornell Box experiments have come to symbolize our approach to physically based rendering, it is a simply physical environment for which they have measured lighting, geometry and material reflectance properties. Digital, or synthetic images of this environment are created and compared to confirm accuracy of our simulations with 3D software.

A photograph of the original physical Cornell Box.
For this project you will create a scene to simulate the Cornell Box. You will create an environment, objects, textures, a light source and explore the rendering software available in Maya to try and recreate the photo we see above.

A Cornell Box created by Seth Wilson using Maya. This scene contains the famous Utah Teapot. Textures are made with blinn, lambert, phong, the light is a point light using depth map shadows, the scene was rendered with Mental Ray
Cornell Box Project Part 1: Creating The Scene
  1. Open Maya and create a new scene
  2. Create a cube that is perfectly square, turn on Component Selection and delete the front face of the cube so you have a box
  3. Create 2 more cubes and scale/stretch and move them into position to act as your pedestals in the scene
  4. Create a cylinder, sphere, triange or cone and other primitive objects and arrange them in your scene as above using the move and scale tools
  5. Create a cube and flatten it with the scale tool, position it on the roof of your box to act as a "light" later on
  6. Open your Hypershade window (Window Menu/Rendering Editors/Hypershade) and create 2 materials using the Lambert material, make one have a red color and one green. Double click the material to see the material settings
  7. Select your box and turn on Component Selection, select the right face inside the box and apply your red Lamber material, then select the other side and apply the green Lambert material. Select the face first, then right-click on your Material and choose "Assign Material to Selection" to apply it to that face
  8. Create a point light and move it to the top of the inside of your box using the move tool. Turn on "Use All Lights" in your view options to see it affect your scene
  9. Render your scene and check the quality, if your light is illuminating the scene your are doing great!
  10. Close your Render Window
  11. Open your Hypershade window again and create different materials for each of the objects in your scene, try a blinn, a lambert, a phong and try creating a 2D texture such as a checkerboard patter
  12. Select an object first, then right-click on your Material and choose "Assign Material to Selection" to apply it to that object
  13. To make your roof light cube glow, create a blinn material and set it to have a white color, set the illumination to half way to make the object bright, scroll down to the Special Effects section of the blinn material and set the Glow Intensity to 0.010 and apply the blinn to your roof light cube
  14. Under the Create menu, create a Camera
  15. Change your view point to see through your camera, it will be called Camera1 and it is under the Perspective submenu in the Panel menu of your view window
  16. Center your camera to view your scene straight on
  17. Click the render button to see what you get! Compare with your classmates results

Cornell Box Project Part 2: Render Settings

  1. Your scene may not look like mine yet, that is because we must change some render settings for best results. Go to the Window Menu and under Rendering Editors choose Render Settings and you will see the Render Setting Dialog Box
  2. Under the "Common" tab scroll down to Image Size and set it to 1K square, this will make your render square, notice there are other settings for different resolutions, such as common HD video and film dimensions
  3. On the top of the dialog box, there is a pull-down menu next to the text "Render Using", change the pull down menu to Mental Ray, now there are new tabs available to peruse
  4. Under the Quality Tab choose Final Gather, open up the Raytracing section and set reflections and refractions to 10, Max Trace Depth to 20, Shadows to 2 and Blur Limits to 1
  5. Under Features make sure that Global Illumination, Raytracing, Final Gathering, Shadows are all checked on, along with the other defaults
  6. Under the Indirect Lighting tab make sure Global Illumination is checked on, set Accuracy to 500
  7. Under the Indirect Lighting tab make sure Final Gathering is Check on, Accuracy set to 1024, Point Density to 1.00
  8. Under the Indirect Lighting tab, open Final Gathering Map, set Rebuild to On
  9. Its a good idea to save these render settings as a Preset so you can call them up again later for other projects
  10. Now close the Render Settings, save your file
  11. Click the Render button and see what kind of results you get, there should be a serious improvement over the previous render
  12. Save your render as an image from the Render window to look at later so you can lean back and admire your hard work!

Part 3: How To Use Set Up a Project for Rendering in MentalRay and use Image Based Lighting

Step 1: Load Mental Ray

  • Open up your Maya file and go to Window Menu / Settings and Preferences / Plug-in Manager
  • Scroll down in the Plug-In Manager and find Mayatomray.bundle then click load/auto-load and close

Plug-In manager in maya

Load Mayatomray.bundle to enable Mental Ray

Step 2: Set Up Your Project Folder

  • Go to File Menu / Project Window
  • Click New and Navigate to your Project Folder (you should have this already created)
  • Click Accept
  • Go to your project folder through the finder and confirm that the folder structure was created

Project Window in Maya

Your project directory should show all these folders and files
Step 3: Set Up Image Based Lighting

  • Search online for HDR Probe or go to this link and download an image probe that is suitable for your scene
  • Place your HDR Probe or Enviroball Image into the Source Images folder of your Maya Project Directory
  • In Maya open your Render Settings by going to Window Menu / Render Editors / Render Settings
  • Go to the Indirect Lighting tab and click the Create button next to Image Based Lighting
  • An Attributes Window will open for your Image Based Lightning node, click on the folder next to the File Name area and navigate to your Source Images folder and select your HDR Probe
  • In the same Attribute Window scroll down to Render Stats and uncheck the option for Primary Visibilty, this will make your Probe lighting show up in reflections but not in the background of your rendered images
  • Your should see an Envirosphere in your maya scene, create a test render to see it interacting in the reflections on your objects
  • Render a large resolution image and save it to your folder for credit

HDR Probe courtesy of Paul Debevec

Maya's view window with an Image Based Lighting setup
3D Objects rendered with Image Based Lighting in Maya, no actual lights were used in this scene

Friday, September 15, 2017

Getting Oriented to the 3D World of Maya

Hello Students,
Today we begin a new project in using a 3D program to create computer generated imagery. We will be using Autodesk's Maya, a cutting edge program widely used in the entertainment industry. We will begin with the basics and move on to more complex projects such as creating 3D models, and adding lights, textures and cameras and animating them and move on to more complex tasks such as merging video and 3D together with motion tracking.

Tasks: Follow the tutorials below to create the model below:

Maya Basics:
Find and launch Maya on your computer, then open each of the links below if safari. Read through each page of the 3 lessons below and try out the steps for your self in Maya. These lessons will teach you how to use the Maya interface, how to create and manipulate objects and how to control your objects and your view of your objects. Create something with the skills you develop here and save the file as "" and copy it to the external drive to turn it in.

Link: Getting Started with Maya

Link: Creating and Manipulating Objects

Link: Viewing and Controlling your 3D Scene

Monday, September 11, 2017

Lightsabers, Camera, Action!

Hello Students,
To develop our motion graphics and visual effects skills we will work in teams to shoot a short video and use After Effects to apply a lightsaber effect. There a several ways to achieve this effect and I will demonstrate them both to the class. There are tutorials listed below to illustrate effective technique. This project will utilize masks, keyframing and effects to achieve the final result. The techniques and methods in this project can be utilized to achieve a wide range of special effects.

Lightsaber Duel VFX Project:

  • Work in teams of 2-3
  • Shoot a short lightsaber battle sequence that consists of at least 3 different shots, don't make too many shots where the lightsabers appear or you will create too much work for yourself
  • Create a short storyboard that shows each shot and include dialog, camera angle and camera action (camera pans left, camera tracks right, etc)
  • After shooting, copy the video footage onto each team member's computer, each team member must produce their own final video with their own VFX, SFX and final edit.
  • There are 2 methods for creating the saber effect, using the Beam effect or using solids with animated masks and glow effects added, this is the preferred method and will achieve the best results
  • Add sparks, lightning or lens flares to enhance the effect from our stock footage library
  • Add SFX to complement the illusion
  • When complete, export your final movie and copy to external HD for credit
Resource Links:
Tutorial: Using masks and glow to create lightsaber VFX

Grading Rubric:
2 Points for storyboarding and smooth camera work
2 Points for effective use of VFX methods
2 Points for clean editing, no glitches, added sound effects
2 Points for turning in on time
2 Points for good team work and participation by all team members

Due on tuesday, have fun!
 - Mr.W

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Parallax Effect (Aka: Ken Burns Effect) Project

Hello Students,
AE has some amazing capabilities such as the ability to animate in a 3D space using 2D objects. This method is referred to as 2.5D. This method was made popular by the famous documentarian Ken Burns. The same technique is also referred to as a Parralax effect, which is a technique that shows objects that move against each other from the foreground to the background to create an illusion of depth. This is used in cinema, cartoons, video games and can even be created using HTML5 to add an creative and eye catching feature to websites.

Parallax Project (Aka: Ken Burns Project)
  • Find or take a photograph that you can animate using the 2.5D/Parallax method, this photo should be high resolution, include good amounts of detail and have a good balance of foreground and background, as a rule your photo should have at least twice the resolution of your composition
  • Open your photo in photoshop and create layers for your animation, use selection tools to isolate your foreground subject from the background. If you take your own photo make sure to take a version with no subject so you have a clean background to use and you can skip the next step
  • On the background layer in photoshop use the "fill with content aware" and touch up area with the clone tool where you need to cover up
  • Save your photo as a Photoshop document with your layers ready and import it into After Effects
  • Make sure to click "import as composition" to preserve your layers for use in AE
  • Create a new composition in AE for your project
  • Open your PSD composition and Copy/Paste the layers into your main composition
  • Enable the 3D button for all layers
  • Create a 3D camera for your scene
  • Use the camera manipulator tool to zoom into your Photograph layers and frame your "shot"
  • Using the move tool, select your subject layer and drag it on the Z axis towards the camera a little bit
  • Move the background away and scale up if needed
  • Use the camera manipulator tool to explore the range of motion that looks good, create a set of keyframes for the camera position, then move the playback head to the end of your composition and move your camera inwards and to the right or left in a subtle movement
  • Preview your animation to get the camera/layer position just right
  • Use Ease-In on your last set of keyframes to slow down the motion
  • Add a vignette, tint, depth-of-field effect or other enhancements for full credit
  • Having trouble? Try googling "parallax effect in AE" and look for a tutorial video, there are some very good and easy to follow tutorials online
Due on tuesday, have fun! - Mr.W