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Lighting and Rendering with mental ray in Maya with Eric Keller shows how to master practical mental ray techniques for rendering models created in Maya. This course walks through the most efficient and innovative mental ray techniques, including direct versus indirect lighting methods, creating different types of shadows, using the new ShadowMap camera, and reusing shadow and final gathering maps. A chapter on optimizing render times and enhancing render quality is also included. Exercise files are included with the course.
There are a number of controls that you can use to improve the quality of depth map shadows cast by a light. So, I have my spotLight here, and it's casting depth map shadows on the surface of the ground using the tree. So, if I do click render here, you can see that the shadow is very grainy and not very high-quality. So, I am going to store this image here so that we can compare it as we work. If I select the light, open up the Attribute Editor to the spotLightShape1 tab, I can scroll down to the Shadows section, and under Depth Map Shadows, I have a number of controls that can help me to improve the quality of the depth map shadow.
The first is Resolution. The way depth map shadows are created is that an image is essentially being rendered from the source of the light, and it's projected onto the geometry based on what the light itself can see. So, just like any other computer image, the quality of the image is determined by its resolution. But the setting of 512, which is the default setting, I am essentially creating a square image that is 512 pixels wide by 512 pixels high. So if I start to increase this, say to 1024, and create another render, logically we should get a higher-quality shadow by increasing the resolution, but you'll notice that it's still very grainy.
So if I compare this with the previous render, you're not going to see much of a difference. The problem is that there is a certain amount of filtering that is applied to the shadow that's causing a blur. This is meant to help improve the quality of the shadow, but you can see in this case it's working against us. So I can actually lower the Filter size or turn it off altogether and now create another render, and we should see a sharper shadow. So, now you can see the shadow looks a little bit better. So now what I am going to do is zoom in closer so that we can start to see the effective resolution on the shadow itself.
So if I just do a render here of just the shadow by itself, this is what we get. You can actually see the blockiness on the edge of the shadows. This is created by the resolution. So if I save this and increase the Resolution to 2048, we'll start to see an improvement. Now you can see that the edge is much sharper, and it's getting better. So, increasing the resolution improves the quality of the shadow along the edges of it, but will add to render time. Setting Filter size to 0 will remove the grainy blur.
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