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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.
Now let's go ahead and actually light a simple scene in Maya. When you light a scene, you probably want to find a frame, a representative frame of the scene. Now, typically when we light a scene, we light towards the end of the process, so typically you'll animate most everything, and then you'll light to the animation. That way you can highlight the action with light as it's needed. So lighting is pretty much one of the last steps before final rendering. So in a scene like this, we probably want to have a fairly simple lighting model.
It's probably going to be daylight, so we'll have a main source light, and I'm probably going to use a spotlight to do that, and then maybe one or two lights to fill in, just to make sure that we're not getting weird shadows or anything like that. Now, when you light a scene, make sure that you always start simply. Start with your main light source, and then fill in only as needed. A lot of people will dump a bunch of lights into the scene and pretty soon it'll be like this rat's nest of light, and you can't figure out what light is affecting what object. It's always best to start with your main light, and then just very judiciously add other lights.
It's kind of like spicing a meal. You want to have one main strong spice and a few others to support it. So in this case, I want a main spotlight to represent the sun. So I'm going to go ahead and just Create > Lights > Spot Light. Now, in order to see the effect of this light, turn on Use All Lights or hit the 7 key on the keyboard, and then I can move this light. We have a pretty big area that we need to light with this light. We're not just lighting character, but we're lighting all the background.
So one way to do this is to turn on this Show Manipulator tool, and go ahead and place a target here under the character, and then just start moving this light out. So I'm going to go into my Top viewport here, and go ahead and put that Manipulator on the character, and then take my Spot Light and move it pretty far out. Now if I want to, I could also zoom out here in my Front viewport and take a look at it. Now this is disappearing because I have the grid turned on. So, if I turn grid off, you should be able to see this a little bit better.
Another way to do it is to actually look through the light itself. So right now, I have my Spot Light selected. I can go into one of my viewports, and under Panels, say Look Through Selected Camera. Even though I'm looking through a light, it kind of works like a camera. So I can highlight this, go up here, and actually look through it to see exactly what this Spot Light is seeing. Sometimes, it's an easier way to frame your scene. So I know that this is the cone of my light, and that it's going to be framing this much of my scene.
So, if I zoom in, you see that, oh, yeah, I'm only lighting this part. You can even see where it falls off here and falls off here. So what I want to do is I want to kind of pull back so that I'm lighting the house, all of these trees, and maybe even a little bit more. So once I have that, let's go ahead and just do a quick Test Render. Now, I could do IPR, but this is actually simple enough, so I could do a very quick test render. And I am going to be rendering in mental ray. So with this, you could see that, yeah, I'm getting a pretty good basic lighting, but I'm getting a little bit shadow on this side and so we can work with this a little bit, but before I do that I'm actually going to go ahead and play with this light a little bit more.
I'm going to go into my Attribute Editor and I want to turn on some shadows. So in this case, I want to use Depth Map Shadows, just because they are fast to calculate and also we really don't have that much detail under the shadow, because he is actually going on a dark surface, which is this road, so you're not really going to see that shadow all that much. So we don't need to have that extensive Raytrace shadow. That's just going to take more time to render. So now, when I do this, you'll see that, oh yeah, I'm getting this kind of graininess to the shadow, and that's because I have a very low-resolution shadow.
Now the one thing about depth map shadows is that the further the Spot Light is away, the less bitmap you have per unit area of the scene. So what I want to do is go ahead and pump up that value. I'm going to pump it up to 2048, which is a much bigger. I'm actually quadrupling the size of that depth map shadow, and that will give me a lot less of that graininess. Now I'm still getting a little bit of that, but I can also change some of that by affecting this Filter Size.
So let's go ahead and bring this up, and actually, I'm going to make this a pretty blurry shadow. Now, you can see by blurring the shadow, we get kind of a nice shadow effect, but again, it's much more subtle. But we still have a problem with this darkness along the side of his face and so on. So we need to add a little bit more light into the scene. So for this second light, I just want kind of more of a generic light. I could certainly add another Spot Light. But just for the sake of difference, I'm going to go ahead and add a Point Light. So let's go ahead and add that Point Light in.
I'm going to actually go ahead and jump out here, and go into the Top viewport, and I want to place it in front of him, more towards the houses, so that way it's illuminating that far side of his face. So I'm going to go ahead and put it over here. Let's go into a side viewport here. Again, I'm going to turn off my Grid here, so we can see everything. Notice how when I turn the Grid on, some of this disappears. That's just because the grid is so fine that it makes things disappear. So I'm going to just go ahead and turn that off. Also I don't want that light coming out from underneath them.
That's kind of horror movie type lighting so I want to make sure that it's a little bit higher. It's somewhere around there. That definitely takes care of that, but look what's happening to his face. In fact, if I do a quick IPR of his face, you notice that he is kind of a little blown out. So what I need to do is start reducing the values of my lighting. Now, you have to remember that every time you add a light into the scene, you're doubling the amount of total light in the scene, because everything comes in with an intensity of 1 and No Decay.
So unless you start turning on Light Decay, every light is going to basically start blowing out the scene. Typically for a rendered scene, you're going to want your total light value to be somewhere around 1, unless you're using Decay, and then that's a whole different story. Let's go ahead and just do this for standard lighting. So what I want to do is go ahead and reduce this light quite a bit. So, let's go ahead and reduce it almost by a third, and you can see how when I do that, what it does is it basically gets rid of that blown-out effect. When it's really high, notice how it's like I'm getting all these blown-out highlights, and so I can actually bring this down quite a bit.
0.325 is what I have here. Let's do a render of most of this, and let's see what this looks like. So now one thing that I really still don't get from this scene is that generally it's supposed be a happy bright sunny day, and so I'm still getting a lot of darkness in here. So what I can do is just get a general overall tone of lighting to just kind of lift that lower threshold. I can do that with what's called an Ambient Light. So I'm going to go ahead and just stick an Ambient Light in the scene. What this does is it just lifts the overall level of light in the scene.
Now, it feels like it's slightly directional, but it's really not that much. Now again, remember that this has added one more light to the scene. So now we have our original light, which is an Intensity of 1, our Point Light, 0.325, and this one, which is an Intensity of 1 again. So if I do an IPR of this, you're going to see that his face is going to be really blown out. So the IPR shows us that this particular light is really just adding way too much to the scene, but what we really just want to do is just kind of dial this down again.
Basically, this is just bounce lighting in the scene. That's generally what you use Ambient Light for. If you had a soft box and you want that bounce lighting, that's kind of what it's for. It's like the reflector under the model's chin type of lighting. So I just want that to be just a little bit. So I'm going to make it around a quarter. Right now, I have a 0.244, which seems about right. So now once I have all of these lights in place, I should have a pretty good lighting model. So let's go ahead and just do a quick render. That looks pretty good.
I actually like this render. So let's go ahead and use this as our lighting. Now remember, when you start lighting a scene, start with your main light and then add in the other lights very, very carefully.
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