Maya

automated path substitution in maya.

I'm trying to build a system right now that can automatically substitute environment variables for paths on a per-scene basis. When a user opens a Maya file, I want to parse that file and set temporary environment variables called $SHOW, $SEQ and $SHOT that point to the show's root folder, the sequence's folder in that show, or the shot in that sequence. The variable names and paths I'm trying to get are pretty specific to the current pipeline I'm working on, but this essentially lets me use relative paths in Maya but WITHOUT using Maya's outdated and inflexible workspace system. I don't want an individual Maya project for every single shot and asset in the entire show, and I don't want all of my Maya scenes to be forced to live within a single workspace, either. I've solved this problem before by using symbolic links to basically force all of the Maya projects generated for every single shot and asset to link to the same place. This makes for a pretty busy-looking file system, though, and symlinks only work on Unix-based servers (i.e. not Windows). This system I'm building now looks a lot more like Houdini's global variables... as long as I define $SHOW or $SHOT or whatever, I can path a reference or a texture to $SHOT/assets/whatever.xyz and it doesn't necessarily have to be within a Maya workspace, and it's also not an absolute path. Read more below... (more…)

By toadstorm, ago
Maya

blanking the viewport in maya

A while ago I posted about how to manage viewports in Maya in order to prevent the screen from redrawing while doing a bake or Alembic export, which slows things down considerably. It turns out there’s a way easier way to handle this, thanks to a hidden (of course) MEL Read more…

By toadstorm, ago
Maya

Snake rigging in Maya

Last year I worked on a Vikings teaser for King and Country over in Santa Monica. The spot was mostly live-action, but there were a bunch of CG snakes that needed to be added in post, and so I finally got to flex my rigging muscles a little bit. First, here's the spot: https://vimeo.com/151070421 Snakes seem like simple problems to solve, since they don't have shoulders or hips or any other nasty bits that are hard to rig on humans, but the problem lies within the lack of control an animator has over a typical IK spline. Most simple snake rigs are just that... make an IK spline, cluster the curve, let the animator sort out the rest. Maybe the animator will get lucky and there will be some kind of control hierarchy, but otherwise they're in for a lot of counter-animating hell. IK splines also suffer from a lack of precision twisting... snakes (especially when you have big piles of them) tend to need to have different twisting rotations along the length of the body, and IK splines can only twist linearly from start to end. Stretching them also typically results in unstable behavior, with the end joint stretching well beyond the intended values, especially when the spline curve is bent quite a bit. Click below for more details... (more…)

By toadstorm, ago
Maya

More pipeline stuff.

I’ve implemented most of my planned pipeline, finally. Just want to do a brief walkthrough to brag about features to show what this set of tools is capable of doing. The pipeline uses symlinks to allow each asset or shot to exist inside its own self-contained Maya project workspace, while Read more…

By toadstorm, ago
Houdini

Rendering huge Houdini meshes in V-Ray.

I'm working on a production right now that involves sending absolutely enormous animated meshes (6.5 million polygons on average with a changing point count every frame) out of Houdini and into Maya for rendering. Normally it would be best to just render everything directly out of Houdini, but sometimes you don't have as many Houdini licenses (or artists) as you'd like so you have to make do with what you have. If the mesh were smaller, or at least not animated, I'd consider using the Alembic format since V-Ray can render it directly as a VRayProxy, but for a mesh this dense animating over a long sequence, the file sizes would be impossibly huge since Alembics can't be output as sequences. Trying to load an 0.5 TB Alembic over a small file server between 20 machines trying to render the sequence and you can see why Alembic might not be ideal for this kind of situation. Hit the jump below to see the solution. (more…)

By toadstorm, ago
Maya

Ptex weirdness in VRay.

I’ve been messing around with using Ptex in VRay for Maya and ran into a particularly weird little problem involving a normal map exported from Mudbox. It’s probably easier to show it than to tell about it (Fig. 1): That wax wrapper looks terrible… not at all like the original Read more…

By toadstorm, ago
Houdini

QF Radio!

My latest gigantic Houdini project is finally live! I was the Technical Director for this one, which also means Houdini tube effects, lighting, shading, rendering, etc. Thanks to my fellow Houdini artist, Alvaro Segura, for handling the inky effects, as well as for helping me to refine the tube generator Read more…

By toadstorm, ago
Maya

dealing with layouts in maya

Many operations in Maya will run faster if Maya doesn't have to refresh the viewport while running them. For example, if you switch the viewport to only show the Graph Editor before baking animation, or caching particles or Alembic geometry, the operation will happen much faster than if Maya had to actually display the geometry for each frame that it's being baked. There is probably a way via the API to tell Maya's viewport not to refresh, but since I don't know shit about the API, here's a workaround using a few of Maya's less-documented MEL commands and some Python. I wrote this method assuming that artists would want to cache out information frequently without it disrupting their workflow. That means that I needed to first store the user's current panel layout, then switch it to something that doesn't require a refresh on every frame (like the Graph Editor), and then restore the previously restored layout. I prefer coding in Python, but some of the procedures I'm running are MEL functions that are found in scripts/startup and so they're not documented and they don't have Python equivalents. A hybrid approach is the best way to handle it, since MEL is terrible. Click for some Python code... (more…)

By toadstorm, ago
Maya

monster roll

A short film that I worked on with a friend of mine, director Dan Blank, is finally out to the public! I was the CG Supervisor, and I handled all of the lighting, materials and rendering in addition to the overall pipeline. Take a look at this article from The Read more…

By toadstorm, ago