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Raytrace shadows are another way to calculate cast shadows when rendering with mental ray in Maya. In this example scene, I have the tree on a hill, and I have a spotlight that is shining down on the tree. I'm going to rotate this down a little bit, and I'm going to turn on raytrace shadows by selecting the light, going into the Attribute Editor, to the spotLightShape1 tab, and under shadows, I'm going to scroll down past the Depth Map Shadow settings, all the way down to this section right here: Raytrace Shadow Attributes, and I'm just going to turn this on.
And I'm going to create a render with raytrace shadows, so we can see how they look, and I haven't adjusted any other settings. This is just the default settings. You can see that the shadow is nice and crisp and clean, and I don't have to do any adjustments like I do with the depth map shadows. The other nice aspect of raytrace shadows is that they calculate transparency correctly without having to turn on any additional settings. So I have a sphere in here, and I'm going to unhide it by pressing Shift+H, so now you can see the sphere, and the sphere has a transparent Blinn shader applied to it.
So, when I create a render, you'll see, without having to change anything else, I've get a nice shadow created. So you can see the transparency of the shadow cast by the sphere on the ground plane. The disadvantage of raytrace shadows is that, unlike depth map shadows, you can't save and reuse the shadows. They're calculated every single frame of the animation when you render. So that's one down side, so they can add a little bit to render time. The advantage of raytrace shadows is that they calculate correctly, especially with transparency, and you have fewer settings to worry about when you're tuning the quality of the shadow.
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