Collection of Maya Quirks

Our 3D toolset of choice is Autodesk Maya. It is extremely powerful but it has a steep learning curve, with many workflows that are particular enough that they feel like design flaws. Regardless, we love it and have learned some specific ways of working in Maya to steer clear of these quirks and bugs.

Quick tangent: Most studios in the fulldome industry seem to use Autodesk 3DS Max. From what I understand this is partly because of its unlimited render nodes for render farms. Power to ya!

Bump Map: lighting falloff fix
This is a problem where you can see where the light reaches the end of the bump map and has a very sharp abrupt ending; not a smooth falloff. I see this most often on a sphere where I want the clouds shadows to have a smooth falloff. This is due to the fact that its not a displacement and is only affecting the lighting, not the poly. So its technically doing the right thing, but looks horrible since we want the bump map to has a nice fall off.
1. Go into your lightShape node > raytrace shadow attributes.
2. Change the Light Angle to 20 or whatever looks right.
3. Or change the Ray Depth Limit to 0, but this will make the falloff of the bump map extend to the near back of the planet and you will have no control over it.


Glow Flickering Fix
Glow is a post-render process. Depending on what leaves or enters the frame, the glow intensity will change and seemily pop between different brightness levels. Such as a bunch of stars that are all different distances from the cameras… So if your glow is flickering, then you need to manually create the settings instead of relying on the automatic settings.
1. Within the Hypershade, select ShaderGlow1
2. Turn off Auto Expose
3. Then drop and tweak: glow intensity, glow spread, halo intensity, halo spread

NaN Error Fix
A rare issue, often due to some strange lighting setup or rig. NaN stand for “not a number”. They typically show up as tiny black dots within your render. Its often because of some Mental Ray and Maya relationship and can be tweaked in some way.
Possible Fixes
1. First try setting your render globals: raytracing acceleration = BSP2
2. Switch to a MR light
3. Switch to a MR texture

Mental Ray – memory optimization
The Mental Ray Settings Dance of Doom
Mental Ray for Maya rendering limitations – (outdated but surprisingly helpful)

Active Rigid Bodies – huge simulation tips
Lets suppose you want to have a HUGE active rigid body simulation with thousands of objects. And you don’t care if they intersect from time to time… And need to see it in a timely manner. Try this!
1. Apply ‘Active Rigid Body ‘ to models in small batches. Otherwise Maya will crash.
2. Change the rigidSolver ‘solver method’ to midpoint. Its the fastest but least accurate. It will wildly speed up huge dynamic simulations of pieces breaking up and such.
3. Set all of the rigidBodys performance attributes: stand in ‘cube’. This greatly speeds up the simulation by skipping real geometry and using a cube for simulation caching.
4. All other settings are default. Tweak as needed.
5. Once happy with the simulation: go to Edit > Keys > Bake Simulation

Maya Plugins & Scripts
free tools that I wouldn’t want to live without

— Renderview Extension – Wish you could have the maya render window do a short series of frames without a full on batch render? Or want to skip every 10 frames and just see the movement? Also helpful in those rare cases where you’re batch render just isn’t outputting the same files as your render window.
— Displace D – DisplaceD is a deformer driven by a 2D/3D Texture. Holy mackrel is this thing powerful.
— SOuP – A collection of nodes for Maya that are based on the principles of building a flexible, non-destructive procedural pipeline. Many of the nodes are designed to work at component level allowing the artist to extract specific data, alter it and pass it on. Its this level of design that allows SOuP nodes to work seemlessly within Maya’s existing architecture
— Copycatz – Creates flocking type motion. Depending on your system and settings, allows for realtime adjustment of behavior.
— DupCurve – The purpose of this script is to try to ease the pain that other similar scripts put you through when duplicating along a curve.
— fRay Boolean Master – Create and animate booleans with multiple objects
— Facer – A palette with handy features for rebuilding meshes, checking for problems like ngons, triangles, holes, and it has a bunch of other modelling scripts that are helpful. I built it to have quick access to a lot of things I do on a regular basis when fixing up stock meshes or just working on clean topology meshes in general.
— iCollide – A deformer for Maya which allows to add simple collision effects to a mesh without the need of simulations. The mesh can have simple ground collisions as well as collide with other mesh objects.
— PolyScatter – Distributing objects across a surface
— Crazybump – Tool for creating normal maps from a texture
— Meshlab – Processing and editing of unstructured 3D triangular meshes

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