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In Maya 2011 Essential Training, George Maestri demonstrates the tools and feature set in Maya, as well as the skills necessary to model, texture, animate, and render projects with this deep and robust piece of 3D animation software from Autodesk. This course takes an in-depth tour of Maya's interface, including navigating and manipulating objects in 3D and customizing the workspace. The course also covers object creation and modeling basics, shading and texturing, surface mapping techniques, character rigging, and lastly, rendering and final output. Exercise files accompany the course.
In Maya there are two types of shadows: depth map shadows and Raytrace shadows. We are going to look at depth map shadows first. These are shadows that are actually created using a bitmap. They render a lot faster, but they are not quite as accurate as a Raytrace shadows. But they are actually really good at creating soft shadows, doing shadows quickly. There's definitely advantage to using depth map shadows. So let's take a look at them. I have a very simple scene here. And the scene actually has a light here.
So we've got a simple Spot Light in the scene. So if we go into my Perspective window, we can turn on Use All Lights, and you can see that the Spot Light illuminates the scene. And if I do a quick render, you can see there is actually no shadows here. But if I want, I can select this light and turn on shadows. So I can do that in the Attribute Editor for the light. So when I go into the light, I can change the color of the light. And if you move down here, we have Shadows.
So the first thing I could change is the color of the shadow. We will get to that in a second. The other one is what type of shadow. We have Raytrace and Depth Map. I am going to use depth map shadows. You can only use one or the other. And in fact, I can even see this in the viewport if I turn on Shadows. You can actually see that the shadows work. So if we just turn on Shadows very quickly and do a quick render, you'll see that, oh, yeah, the shadows work. But we can change the Shadows as well.
A depth map shadow works with a bitmap. And the resolution of that bitmap is here. So if I dial this down, let's say I make it a very low number, you will see that the bitmap gets very, very blocky, because I don't have a lot of pixels to create that shadow. So when I render it, I get a blocky shadow. If I bring this up to say a high number, say 2000 or 2048, you will see that the shadows get very, very sharp. So when I render this, you get nice sharp edged shadows.
So this actually determines the sharpness of the shadow. The lower the number, the blockier the shadow. The higher the number, the finer the shadow. Now, this is combined with a second parameter here and that's called Filter Size. And what that does is it blurs the edge of the shadow. So let's bring the shadow map size down to a lot. And then if we bring up this Filter Size, what happens is it blurs out these edges. So when I render this, you can see it actually softens it up so I don't get that blockiness I had before, and it gives a much softer edge.
So what you can do is you can combine the Resolution of your bitmap versus this blurring factor or this Filter Size to get a good type of shadow. Now, typically you want a shadow with a little bit of Resolution and maybe some Filter Size here. And you can see that gives a nice kind of shadow. Now, if we want, we can also change the color of the shadow. So if I want I can make the shadow a little bit more gray. And that will kind of lighten up the scene. There are a few other parameters with shadow.
One is called Bias. And there are times when you have objects where the object is so close to another object that the shadow kind of messes up, because it's trying to create a bitmap on an object that's on top of an object. Basically what it does is it pushes the shadow away from the object by just a little bit. So typically you want your Bias to stay low. Now, there are some other things that you have to pay attention to with depth map shadows. One is that it will not render transparency. So if I look at this tabletop and I do a quick render, you'll see that even though the tabletop is clear, I don't get that reflected in the shadow.
And that's one of the key downfalls of depth map shadows is it does not retrace. It does not do transparency well. But other than that, it's a really great way to do shadows that are quick and easy and render very, very fast.
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