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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.
When rendering, one of the first things you need to understand is lighting. Maya has a number of different lighting types, and some of it depends on the renderer you are using, but let's just go over the main types of lights that apply to both mental ray and the Maya Software Renderer. Now, I am going to actually be rendering this in mental ray, because I have an object, the scooter, which actually has a mental ray material on it. So we are going to be rendering in mental ray, but it applies just as easily to the Maya Software Renderer.
We have a bunch of different types of lights. If we go under Create > Lights, you will notice there is a whole slew of them. Also, under the Rendering shelf, we have icons for each one of these. So we have Ambient Light, Directional, Point, Spot, Area, and Volume Light. Now, let's go to the most common ones first and then we will go to the ones that are a little bit more esoteric. Probably the most common ones are Spot Light and Point Light. Let's show you the difference between those. Point Light is basically the bare 100-watt light bulb in the room.
It's just a light that emits from all directions. And if we want to kind of see the effect of this, all we have to do is make sure our Render is on High Quality Rendering, and let's turn on Use All Lights, and so you can kind of see how this works. So you can see how this particular light illuminates here, here, and here. Now, if we want to do a quick render, we can certainly do that. Just hit the Render tab here and you can kind of see the quality of light that this provides.
It really is just a light that shines in all directions. So there is not a lot of control over it. The next most important light is the Spot Light. I am going to go ahead and delete that Point Light and just create a Spot Light. Now, if you notice, the Spot Light itself, well, it works kind of like a flashlight, kind of like a spotlight. You can see it has this cone here. I think if I turn off that grid, you can see it a little bit better. So you can kind of see how this works.
Now, if you want you can move it, you can rotate it, and you can position it really anywhere you want. Now, an easier way to manipulate Spot Lights is by using what's called the Manipulator, which is right here. When I turn on that Manipulator tool, what it does is it gives me a target. It gives me this, which allows me to point the light in any direction. So when I move this target and set it down, it says the light is going to be pointed there. And so now I can kind of adjust my light a little bit more easily.
And I can turn that off if I want by going back to the Move or the Rotate tool and I'll be able to adjust this accordingly. So if we want we can do a quick render of what this looks like. One of the things about Spot Light is that by default it has a hard edge. Now, there are a number of things you can adjust with Spot Lights if you just go into the Attribute Editor by hitting Ctrl+A. Now, this is the case pretty much with any light, but let me show you some of the parameters that you can change.
Now, the first thing you can change is, well, the type of light. It doesn't have to be a Spot Light. It can be Point Light or any other type of light. You can change the color of the light here, just really to any color you want. It's really whatever color fancies you. We can change the intensity. So we can turn the light up or down, in terms of intensity. And then we can also change what the light affects. So we can change whether the light affects diffuse or specular. So in other words, is it going to illuminate the whole thing and highlights? We can also add in things such as decay.
So if I want, I can have the light decay as it falls off. So right here I have got No Decay and so the light is constant no matter what. But if I turn on decay, I can turn it onto Linear, so it falls off evenly. Quadratic, which is real world. So that's inverse square law. So it falls off with the square of the distance. That's actually the way that real lights work. And Cubic, which is actually more intense. It falls off with the cube of the distance.
So if I selected Quadratic, you would see that, oh my goodness, the light doesn't work. Well, that's because my Intensity is not nearly enough for this light at Linear falloff. So what I can do is I can type in a much larger number, say like 100 or maybe even 1000, and you can start to see how this light works. So now you can kind of see how the Intensity works and you need a lot more Intensity when you have Quadratic falloff. But the upside of that is that you get much more realistic rendering.
So you have a light that falls off with distance, so one light doesn't illuminate the whole scene. You get a much more realistic lighting effect. Now, the next thing is what's called the Penumbra Angle, which is basically that soft edge on the light. So if I want to, I can make that edge very, very soft. Now, in addition to this, we have Light Effects and things like Shadows, which we will get into, so you can add fog to a light. You can add shadows, that sort of stuff. And there are mental ray parameters for the lights and that gets into things like Global Illumination and Caustics and that sort of stuff like that, which is more advanced rendering techniques.
So once I have this, you can say I have got a Penumbra. I have got some falloff, and you can get a much more realistic lighting effect. Now, there are other types of lights, and let's just go ahead and play with some of these. So, for example, in addition to Point Light, we have one that's called Directional Light. Now, Directional Light does not have falloff. Basically what it is, it's like the sun. It just comes from one direction, and it comes consistently. So it's not like the Spot Light. It's directional, but there is no falloff.
So for this, I have to bring this back down to say about 1 or so in order to make this work, and then when I render this, you can see it gets the same lighting as the Spot Light but without the cone. So it's almost like just a light that comes from a very specific direction. The next one is called Area Light. Now, what that is is that's a light that emits from an area. So it's more like an overhead, like a soft box or something like that. And the last one is called Ambient Light. And what that is is that's just the Ambient Light in the room.
So if, for example, you don't want your shadows to be completely black or you want a little bit of glow in the room, just put a Ambient Light in the room with a very, very low Intensity, so somewhere around 0.1 or 0.2, and that will just give a nice kind of base level. So it never gets darker than a certain level. So an Ambient Light, in conjunction with other lighting, just kind of brightens the room. It kind of makes it look like there is light scattering throughout the room. So those are some of the basics of lights in Maya.
Now, remember, with every light, you can control color and intensity, and also with other types of lLights, such as Spot Lights and Point Lights, you can control how the light falls off with distance, and then with Spot Lights you also get control of the cone of the light, as well as the Penumbra Angle.
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