May 212011

If you’re using mental ray as your renderer, chances are that you aren’t going to get a whole lot out of the passes system, especially if you’re trying to write custom color buffers. It’s a slow, buggy, work-intensive process to get a lot of passes out of mental ray that Vray has absolutely no trouble with. You could use render layers instead of custom passes, but mental ray also has a particularly long translation time for complex scenes (think of any scene where you see mental ray hang for about 10 minutes before it even starts to render a frame). So you can’t exactly add render layers haphazardly… you need to condense things as much as possible.

Someone told me about a neat trick that they saw at a studio they were freelancing at where three data channels would be written to RGB channels, almost like an RGB matte pass except with “technical” passes instead of mattes or beauty or whatever. Since the data being written only needs a single channel, you can get three kinds of data written to one image and then split them apart later in post. Simple enough when you think about it…

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May 182011

A big part of how I started learning Python was to find out ways to port my old MEL scripts into Python. It’s always easier writing it the second time, not only because I already have the logic of the script down but because Python is a way, way better language than MEL. Seriously, I can hardly stand to look at MEL anymore. Anyways, one of the simpler scripts I wrote when I was starting off with MEL was a copy/paste script for the channel box. Maya is one of the most complex programs I’ve ever encountered and yet there is no built-in way to copy and paste attributes between objects. Whatever.

The script was really handy, but because I was really new at MEL it didn’t copy and paste between separate instances of Maya, and it only copied transform channels. This new one in Python takes advantage of the pickle module to store variables to a temporary file on the user’s hard drive, and retrieve them later when running the paste operation. Here’s what the code looks like:
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May 172011

As promised, a useful post! And probably a long one.

As far as rendering goes, the problem that I see people running into more often than anything else is render layers mysteriously breaking, especially when file referencing is involved. The symptoms are typically either objects disappearing or Maya simply being unwilling to switch to a specific render layer, claiming in the Script Editor that there are “overrides to a node in a missing reference” or something to that effect. A lot of less experienced or just less technical types will try to solve the problem by either importing their references into the scene (which is rarely a good idea), or by screaming obscenities (which is exhilarating but ineffective). There is a better way to get your scene to render with no problems, and be able to use file referencing. The trick is to use shared render layers properly, only allow certain edits to your references in your final scene, and make sure that your references are clean.

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May 142011

I made a ton of progress on the demo reel today; I should easily have everything online and ready to go in less than a week. The pixel art is incredibly time-consuming, but not nearly to the same level as the music. I’ve been composing everything in Famitracker, an NES soundchip emulator, which is a fantastic tracker but like any other tracker it basically looks like you’re composing in hexadecimal on a Commodore 64. Building music this way really gives you an insight as to why NES-era music and SFX sounded the way they did.

Next up: actually cutting the stupid reel. Then some more work in Flash. Never thought I would have to look at Actionscript ever again.

May 122011

I’m starting up this blog to document all of the garbage I deal with as a 3D technical director, both for my own benefit and for other TDs who are running into the same problems I encounter. Hopefully it will all be of use to someone.