Damn it, Maya. Just… Damn it.

Give up, and learn Max.

Think Maya hates you? Think again. Maya really hates you. I mean, really, really hates you. And this blog is dedicated to helping out in whatever way it can. You're welcome.

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Well This is Awkward

So, a year on, and my book on pipelines has gone down the tubes, so-to-speak.

I hope to revisit the idea at some point, but since the studio where I work has moved to Houdini for a large portion of their pipeline, I really have no reason to keep investing time digging into the guts of Maya.  Maybe Houdini will provide a better platform for independent production as well — who knows?  If I get a chance to work with it for more than a few months, I just might bring up the idea of the pipeline book again.

I’ve been plenty busy in the meantime — my first credit on a feature film will premiere on Nov 1 of this year, the production of which has been a truly massive undertaking for the truly talented crew at ReelFX Creative Studios.

I’ve also started another side project, where I’m collecting a variety of material under one roof: The Kludgeworks.  Eventually I’m aiming for the site to be a full-featured educational platform for seminar-style classes on a variety of CG topics.  For now, it’s just a place for me to put some stuff that’s been gathering dust elsewhere.   This blog included.

This will be the last post on Maya Hates Me — because although she still does hate me, she can’t hurt me any more.  I’m quits with you, Maya.

From time to time, I might drop by to leave an expletive or two, but it’s goodbye for now!

-Ed

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Going Forward

This blog started out as a way to help out with Maya’s small annoyances and strange behaviors.  But just like that wonderfully broken car that won’t start unless you lean just so, and turn the key at just the right pressure, eventually, you get used to all the little quirks in Maya, and you stop even paying attention to them.  In some ways, you learn to love ’em, because somehow you feel better having mastered the weirdness.

So I figured I could use this space for tutorials, and workflow tips.  Of course, then I started doing tutorials professionally, and I’ve neglected this little blog ever since.

But in truth, Maya still hates me, so there’s got to be *something* of use that I can put here.

Well, I’m starting a new project that I’m pretty excited about… it’s a book about zero-pipeline pipelines for small studios and students. It’s a long-term project, and it’s outside of my purview as a professional tutorialist.  Sounds like the perfect thing for this space.

Lighting Sucks: Inverse Square in Lighting

I want to correct a misconception about the “Inverse Square Law”.  It’s not as easy as it’s cracked up to be.

The ISL ONLY applies to point-sources of light, which do not exist in the real world. It’s a generalization that is useful, but only if you know what you’re doing.

Consider a white fluorescent light — one of the long ceiling ones.

Let’s say you put your hand close to one end. Let’s call the amount of illuminance you receive X. Now, move your hand to the other end of the bulb. Has X changed?

You’ve moved a significant distance from the original point, but the intensity of the light arriving on your hand has not changed a bit. Why?

It’s because you’re dealing with an area of light, which contains an infinite number of theoretical point sources. When you move away from one point, you are actually moving towards another.

The same holds true when dealing with distance *away* from the light, instead of just *across* it. Moving your hand away from the light, you are moving a different distance from each theoretical point source. Doubling your distance away from an area source does NOT halve the illuminance, especially when you’re very close to the source.

This is why it’s very important to use multiple-sampled area lights to simulate these kinds of light sources.

However, if you are far enough away from the light source, then the ISL is a “close enough” approximation that works really well, so long as you are using a linear workflow.

Maya Hates Me: mental ray Doesn’t Load

The Problem:

We’ve all been there.  It’s annoying as all hell, but about a third of the time, Maya just won’t load the mental ray plugin, no matter what checkboxes you click in the plugin manager.  And since the standard Maya renderer is about as effective as a fart in the wind, mental ray really ought to be the default renderer anyways.

The Solution:

So far as I can tell, there really isn’t one. Sometimes Maya just decides it doesn’t like to load your plugins.

The Workaround:

The good news is that plugins are still handled within the framework of MEL, which means that it’s very easy to put together a simple script to load mental ray when you need it.  Just type the following code (and watch the capitalization) into the Command Line in maya:

loadPlugin Mayatomr;

Highlight the text, and middle mouse drag it to an empty spot on a shelf.  Hey-presto, you’ve got a one-click solution for loading mental ray whenever you need to.  No more hunting down the plugin manager and checking stupid boxes that Maya ignores anyways.

-Ed

Our new home

Welcome to the new home for Ed Whetstone’s Guide to Maya!  I’ll be getting back into the swing of things shortly.

Maya and mental ray Hate Me: The Linear Workflow

Today, we’re going to dive into the murky waters of the linear rendering workflow in Maya and mental ray.  Hold on to your hats, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.  Much, much more below the fold.

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Maya Hates Me: The Best Way to Learn MEL… maybe.

MEL, Maya Embedded Language, is the backbone of the Maya system.  In fact, almost all of what we call “Maya” (the interface, the menus, the buttons and gizmos)  is generated by MEL.  The actual application of Maya is essentially just a MEL interpreter.  You could completely rewrite the Maya interface using MEL.  Everything you model, animate, or configure in Maya, no matter how complicated, could potentially be replicated through a MEL script.  This makes MEL quite possibly the most powerful tool in the toolbox of a dedicated Maya artist.  You can automate repetitive tasks, and procedurally generate models and animations that would otherwise take hours or days to achieve — if not be impossible to do so at all.  As I continue to learn MEL, I’ll be posting some tips, tricks, annoyances, and the like.  Might even throw in my scripts as a philanthropic gesture.

So, the question is… what is the best way to go about learning this stuff?  Honestly, I don’t know.  But if you’re keen on teaching yourself, here’s some advice.

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ATEC Hates Me: I don't have the right Maya version

PROBLEM: I Don’t Have the Right Version of Maya

At some point, the smart folks at Autodesk decided it would be a good idea not to make any of their software backwards compatible. However, if you’re willing to accept the risk of some data corruption, you can work around this limitation.

Solution 1:

Make sure to delete all history on your scene in the newer version, then open the older Maya. In the File menu, click on the check box next to “open”. Then, check “ignore version”. This will allow you to open many older files without too much data loss.
If this doesn’t work, try importing the scene using File – Import.

Solution 2:

If you’re working on only a few models, you can export them as OBJs by loading the “obj exporter” plugin. To do this, go to Window – Settings and Preferences – plugin manager. Now, when you go to file – export you will have the option to save as an obj file. You can also combine all the geometry in your scene, then export it all as one obj. This technique has gotten me out of some very tricky situations.
Then, you can export your shaders from the Hypershade and import them later. This is a tedious workaround, but it works most of the time.

Solution 3:

If you save your file out as an MA instead of an MB, it will create an editable text document defining your scene. This also includes metadata that contains the version of Maya it was created in. Just hit Ctrl-F and search for 2009, 2008, 8.5, or whatever, and change the number to the version you want. Maya WILL try to load the file if you do this properly, but if it can’t handle the data, it will crash.

Mental Ray Hates Me: The Blank Render Panel

Sometimes, if you move between computers or between versions of Maya, you might get this when you go to your render options:

Seriously.  WTF.

Seriously. WTF.

Absolutely nothing.  This is caused by the new panel layout for Mental Ray in 2009.  Whenever you move to another version, Maya freaks out because it can’t find the panels.

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Maya Hates Me: Mental Ray Runs out of Memory

I am by no means an expert, but I hope this helps.  If anyone DOES happen to be an expert, please let me know where I’m wrong, and please offer whatever advice you have.

If you’ve been using Mental Ray for any length of time, you’ll probably be familiar with this message: “Got 8 satellite CPUs… Rendering with Mental Ray… Mental Ray is out of memory… Mental Ray is out of memory… Cannot allocate 223000 bytes… Go eat bleach and die, because Mental Ray hates you”

Well, maybe not the bit about bleach.  But the Mental Ray Memory Grinder is a true annoyance.  The problem is flushing.  No, really, that’s the term that programmers use, and the analogy is pretty apt.  The way that Mental Ray is set up by default is like having a toilet that doesn’t flush.  The poo (in this case your scene and textures (no offense)) just keeps piling up until the smell can kill household pets.  Then Mental Ray commits seppuku and you’re left with a cryptic message and an excuse for Todd Fechter that just won’t fly.  Keep reading to find out how to make the damned thing work.

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