All Posts By

Fred Fröhlich

Create a Simple Demo Reel from Stills

By 2D, After Effects, Motion Graphics
  • Go to AE > Composition > New Composition, use the Preset HDTV 1080 24
  • You can switch the timecode unit between seconds and frames by ctrl (WIN) or cmd (MAC) – clicking on the timecode
  • At > After Effects CC > Preferences > Import you can change the default length of the Still Footage before import
  • Import your videos and still footage, drag it into the composition
  • To automatically distribute the layers, select them beginning at the bottom and then hit > Animation > Keyframe Assistant > Sequence Layers, manually cut or stretch the duration of the footage, use the shift key to snap elements
  • Manually adjust the position, scale or rotation of your footage by dragging it in the composition window. To change the transformation values of your layers numerically select the layer, hit P for position, S for scale, R for rotation, T for transparency or click on the little triangle before the layer number and drag the values left or right
  • To make your layers fade in and out select them, go to the Effects & Presets panel and open > * Animation Presets > Behaviors and double click on Fade In+Out – frames (or – msec if you prefer to work with seconds).
  • In the Effect Controls panel you can change the Fade In and Out Duration manually. If you want to apply this customized duration also to other layers select the modified Fade In+Out effect together with the Solid Composite effect in the Effect Controls panel, then go to the Effects & Presets Panel, from the Options Menu select > Save Animation Preset, specify a name and save the .ffx file. For the animation preset to appear in the Effects & Presets panel, it must be saved in the Presets folder. Animation presets that you create are saved by default in the Presets folder located in My Documents\Adobe\After Effects CC (Windows) or Documents/Adobe/After Effects CC (Mac OS).
  • Once you are finished with editing, with the Composition selected hit > Composition > Add to Adobe Media Encoder Queue, apply a preset there like Match Source – High or Medium bitrate and hit the Start button.

UE4 Blueprint Introduction

By Game, UE4

Creating our First Blueprint in a Single Click.

  • Make sure you have the target object selected in the World Outliner panel, and click on the blue Blueprint/Add Script button at the top of the Details panel. You will then see a path select window.
  • Choose Blueprints in the Blueprints folder, inside the ThirdPersonBP folder.
  • To open the Blueprint editor, double-click on this Blueprint in your Content Browser > ThirdPersonBP > Blueprints or with the Blueprint actor selected in the World Outliner open it with Ctrl-E or RMB > Edit …

Detecting a Hit

  • Click on the Event Graph tab above the Viewport window and delete all the default items.
  • To create our hit detection event, right-click on empty graph space and type hit in the search box. Select the Event Hit node when it appears in the search results to bring it on the empty slate. Event Hit triggers actions every time another actor hits the actor controlled by this Blueprint.
  • The Event Hit node has a number of output pins. The white triangle pin in the top-right corner of the node is the execution pin, which determines the next action to be taken. Now that we have the trigger, we need an action that changes the material. Click and drag a wire from the execution pin to empty space to the right of the node. In the search window that appears, make sure that the Context Sensitive box is checked. This will limit the results in the search window to only those nodes that can actually be attached to the pin you dragged. Type set material in the search box and select Set Material (StaticMeshComponent).

Swapping a Material

  • Once you have placed the Set Material node, it is already connected via its input execution pin to the Event Hit node’s output execution pin. This Blueprint will now activate the Set Material action whenever the Blueprint’s actor hits another actor. To set up the material that will be called when the Set Material action is on, make a copy of the initial material and change the colour, texture, etc.
  • In the Blueprint click on the drop-down field labeled Select Asset underneath Material inside the Set Material node to set the new material. In the asset finder window that appears, scroll to find the new material, click to attach it to the Material field inside the Set Material node.
  • Before a Blueprint can be saved and used, it must be compiled. Hit the Compile button in the top-left corner of the editor toolbar, and then click on Save. To test the Blueprint click on the Play button and try running into the actor you created.

Change the State on Leave (Begin / End Overlap)

  • With this hit detection setup the actor remains in the triggered state after the hit. If we want it to return it to it’s default state and have more control over how and where the collision happens, we can use the Begin / End Overlap nodes instead of the Event Hit. In our Blueprint delete the Event Hit node. In the Components tab choose > Add Component > Box Collision.
  • Switch to the Blueprint’s Viewport and move, scale, rotate the Box Collision to match the actor’s geometry. Switch back to the Event Graph. With the Box still selected go to the > Details tab > Events and click + at On Component Begin Overlap and On Component End Overlap. Connect the execution pin of the On Component Begin Overlap node with the execution input of the existing Set Material node.
  • Copy Paste the Set Material node and change the material in the pasted node to the default or another material. Connect the Static Mesh Component node with the Target input of the Set Material node. Connect the execution pin of the On Component End Overlap node with the execution input of the second Set Material node.

Adding Movement

  • To allow our target to move, we first have to change the actor’s Mobility setting to Moveable. This allows an object to be manipulated while playing the game. In the Blueprints window with the Static Mesh Component (Inherited) selected look at the Details panel. Underneath the Transform values, you can see a toggle for Mobility. Change this from Static to Moveable.
  • RMB click on the event graph canvas and type in > Add Rotating Movement Component. If you want to have a permanent rotation, RMB click and type Event BeginPlay. Connect the white triangle of Event BeginPlay with the white triangle input of the Add Rotating Movement Component.
  • If you want to use a trigger object instead, connect the output of the On Component Begin Overlap with the input of the Add Rotating Movement Component.
  • With the Add Rotating Movement Component selected you can change the speed at the Details tab > Rotation Rate. If you want to translate your actor, you can use the AddActorLocalOffset node.

Recording Gameplay with the Sequencer

  • In the top toolbar choose > Cinematics > Add Level Sequence. Specify a name and path. It will then show up in the World Outliner.
  • If there is a Camera Cuts track in the Sequencer, delete it. Create > + Track > Camera Cut Track. In this track add  a > + Camera. From the dropdown menu select the ThirdPersonCharacter as camera and make sure it covers the whole timeline.
  • If you closed your UE4 project and want to continue working with the Sequencer you need to RMB click on the sequence in the World Outliner and choose > Edit LevelSequence or press CTRL-E (double click doesn’t work here).
  • In the sequencer window click on the clapper board icon to open the Render Movie Settings Menu.
  • Use Video Sequence as Output Format, change Frame Rate and Video Resolution, disable Use Compression to avoid compression artefacts.
  • In the Cinematic tab make sure > Allow Movement, > Allow Turning, > Show Player are checked.
  • > Capture Movie and then use the WASD keys to navigate to the hotspots you have created.
  • Convert the output .avi file with Adobe Media Encoder to .mp4.

Importing a Maya Blendshape Animation Into UE 4

By Game, UE4

Create a Blendshape animation in Maya and import it into UE4. Create a screencast with the Sequencer.

For making blendshapes work, the number and structure of vertices must not change during the animation. Start with a simple cube to sphere morph as described below or you can use any other (simple) geometry for the animation.

Creating a Blendshape in Maya

  • In Maya > Create > Polygon Primitives > Cube and in the Modeling Toolkit > Add Divisions 2 times. Rename it to “cube”. Apply a texture map.
  • Duplicate this Object in the Outliner (CTRL-D) and rename it to “target”. Hide the first cube with the h key. Now > Create > Polygon Primitives > Sphere, rename it to “helper” and scale it smaller, so that it’s completely covered by the cube.
  • First select the “target” and then the “helper” and in the Modeling menu set select >  Deform – Create > ShrinkWrap [options]. Make sure > Projection > Toward Inner Object is selected, click Apply. The former “target” cube should have now a spherical shape and lie inside the “helper” sphere. You can hide the “helper” with the h key (don’t delete it yet).
  • With the “target” selected > Edit > Delete by Type > History. Now you can delete the “helper” object.
  • Unhide the first cube with the “h” key. Select the “target”, scale it up to roughly equalise the cube’s and the sphere’s volume. With the “target” and the “cube” selected > Modify > Freeze Transformations.
  • Select first the “target” and then the “cube” (the morph’s initial state is selected last), select >  Deform – Create > Blend Shape [options]. Make sure that Check topology is marked, click Create.
  • Hide the “target”, but don’t delete it. With > Windows > Animation Editors > Shape Editors or in the blendShape tab at the Attribute Editor you should be now able to change the target weight, so that the shape morphs from cube to sphere. Set a keyframe at frame 0 with a target weight of 0 and at frame 200 with a target weight of 100.
  • With the “cube” selected go to > Mesh Display > Soften/Harden Edge [Options] type in an angle of about 45 and > Apply. This softens the edges in accordance with the state of the shape.

Exporting the Blendshape from Maya as FBX file

  • With the “cube” selected > File > Export Selection … In the FBX Exporter dialog make a tick at > Geometry √ Tangents and Binormals, at > Animation √ Animation and at > Deformed Models √ Deformed Models, √ Skins and √ Blend Shapes.

Importing the FBX file into UE 4

  • In UE4’s Content Browser select > Import. In the FBX Import Options make a tick at √ Skeletal Mesh. Expand the > Mesh tab and check √ Import Morph Targets and at > Normal Import Method choose Import Normals and Tangents. Make sure that Animation is checked and change at > Transform > Import Uniform Scale to 100 if you haven’t scaled your model in Maya yet.
  • From the Content Browser open the newly imported Animation Sequence (filename_Anim). Due to a bug in UE 4.17.1 the Blendshape animation might not work yet. To fix it, select the imported Skeletal Mesh in the Content Browser and with RMB choose > Reimport.

Exporting the Blendshape from Maya as Alembic file

  • With the cube selected go to > Cache > Alembic Cache > Export Selection to Alembic [Option].
  • At > Advanced Options you need to check √ UV Write and √ Write UV Sets. Export Selection.

Importing the Alembic file into UE 4

  • In UE4’s Content Browser select > Import. Make sure that in the Alembic Cache Import Options at > Alembic > Import Type > Skeletal is selected. Recompute Normals should be deselected. > Conversion > Scale your model by 100 if you haven’t done it in Maya yet. Make sure, the y – scale value remains negative (to compensate the different axis orientation in Maya and UE4).
  • You can double click on the newly created …_Animation asset to see if the animation works. Drag it into your scene.
  • In UE4’s Content Browser select > Add New > Material and rename it. Double click the newly created Alembic Skeletal Mesh node. In the editor at > Material Slots select this material from the dropdown menu.
  • In the Content Browser select > Import and choose the texture file from your drive you want to apply.
  • Double click on the Material. Drag the imported texture onto the Material editor. Connect the topmost white connector from the Texture Sample with the Base Colour connector of your Material node.
  • If you want to change the specularity of the material, create a simple colour node. RMB click, type: const and select Constant3Vector. Connect the output with the Specular input. Duplicate the colour node and connect it with the Roughness input. If you want full specularity, change the colour node at the specular input to white and leave the one at Roughness black. White = 100 % Specular, Black = 0 % Roughness, you can fine tune the specularity values with different greyscale values.
  • Click the > Apply icon on top of the Material Editor. When the Material is assigned to your alembic file, it should show up in the viewport after a while. In case the material disappears while playing the game / animation, save the project and open it again to refresh the texture cache.

Editing with the Sequencer

  • Go to the Modes Window / Tab and from the Basic tab drag an empty actor into the viewport. This creates a null object which we ca use for a simple camera rig to let the camera rotate around. Move it to the focal point in your scene and in the World Outliner give it a meaningful name.
  • In the Modes Window / Tab type “cam”. Select the simple Camera on top of the list and drag it into the viewport. While the camera is selected you get an preview in the viewport. Move the camera until you are satisfied with the framing.
  • In the World Outliner drag the Camera onto the null object to make it a child of the null.
  • In the top toolbar choose > Cinematics > Add Level Sequence. Specify a name and path. It will then show up in the World Outliner.
  • If there is a Camera Cuts track in the Sequencer, delete it. Create > + Track > Camera Cut Track. In this track add  a > + Camera. From the dropdown menu select the camera you want to use and make sure the track covers the whole timeline.
  • You could also add different cameras and control with their track duration in the Sequencer which camera will be used in the final animation.
  • To animate the rotation of the camera around the focal point, drag the null object into the Sequencer. Expand it’s > Transform > Rotation tabs and by clicking on the little circle set a keyframe at frame 1 for the z value (in UE4 the axis are flipped, Maya’s y axis is equivalent to UE4’s z axis). Go to the end of the animation and type in 170 for z. A keyframe will be created automatically.
  • You might have noticed that values beyond +/- 180 degrees are not accepted here. In the the top menu of the Sequencer on the right click the animation curve icon to show the animation keys in a curve editor. When you select the key there, you can type in any value without restriction.
  • If you close your UE4 project and want to continue working with the Sequencer you need to RMB click on the sequence in the World Outliner and choose > Edit LevelSequence or press CTRL-E (double click doesn’t work here).

Exporting the Animation

  • In the sequencer window click on the clapper board icon to open the Render Movie Settings Menu.
  • Use Video Sequence as Output Format, change Frame Rate and Video Resolution, disable Use Compression to avoid compression artefacts.
  • In the Cinematic tab make sure Cinematic Mode and Cinematic Engine Scalability are checked.
  • > Capture Movie and convert the output .avi file with Adobe Media Encoder to .mp4.

Quick Tips

  • Improve shadow quality and remove the preview mark on materials: Select Light Source and in the Details pane select  > Transform > Mobility > Movable (instead of Stationary).
  • Enable precise physical interactions (e.g. walk on a terrain): In the content browser select the Static Mesh asset. Double click it to open the Editor window. In the Details tab at > Collision > Collision Complexity choose from the popup menu > Change Complex Collision as Simple.
  • Avoid Intersection with other actors: Double click on the static mesh to open the asset editor. At the Details tab scroll down to > Collision and at > Collision Presets choose > BlockAll.

Maya Export to Sketchfab

By Maya, Sketchab

The easiest way to publish a 3D model from Maya to Sketchfab is to download and install the Sketchfab plugin for Maya. The script uses the included FBX exporter in Maya and sets the correct setting for you so your model is exported with included textures to

The process is:

  • Register for a free acount at – see video
  • Prepare your model for export with textures (use temporary textures if you are not there in the process yet).
  • Get the API token/Key from your profile at – see video
  • Use the Maya-to-Sketchfab plug-in script to export and send your model directly to your profile on – remember to set the correct setting before doing so – see video
  • If you have done as listed above, your model should now be on
  • Use “Annotations” (a feature in Sketchfab) to leave comments and questions about your model.
Note: Videos are in Norwegian

Maya & Arnold – 5 Sequence Rendering

By Maya, Rendering

From the IPR window you can directly save single frames. In the Render View Window go to > Save Image … > Options


In the Options popup you need to adapt the Save Mode according to your intended file format. Choose “Save RAW Image” when you want to output .exr or other formats with 32 bit color mode for further processing or compositing with applications like Nuke or After Effects. In most cases you will save a regular 8 bit color jpeg, tiff or png and for these formats you choose “Save Color-Managed Image”, hit Apply and Close” – this is important, otherwise the output will be too dark.


When you select > Save Image … (without Options) you can select your desired File type and save it to the images folder.


For rendering animations first of all make sure you have selected the proper frame rate at > Windows > Settings / Preferences > Preferences > Settings. If you don’t have other requirements you can leave the default 24 fps, it works on most devices.


Go to the Render Settings with the little icon from the shelf. At the Common tab switch to any of the options with the # variable to enable sequence rendering. With File name prefix you can specify a custom output name. Choose your desired Image format and leave the default Gamma at 2.2 for regular 8-Bit jpeg, tiff or png file formats, that’s the equivalent to the option “Save Color-Managed Image” described earlier for single frames. Adjust Frame Range and Image Size according to your requirements.


Switch to the Rendering Menu Set at the top left of the UI.


In the now appearing Render Menu select > Render Sequence (new since Maya 2017). The Render View opens and renders frame by frame to “images” in your project folder.


If you want to stop rendering just close the Render View window.

Maya & Arnold – 4 Camera / Depth of Field Blur

By Maya, Rendering

For animation and specific camera setup we need an extra camera for each shot. If you have not yet created a custom camera in the perspective viewport select > View > Create Camera From View (Ctrl+Shift+C). Rename the new camera and make it the active camera in the Viewport > Panels > Perspective > Your Camera Name. To activate the depth of field blur in the Attribute Editor go to the CameraShape node, activate “Enable DOF” in the Arnold section (not in the Depth of Field section, that’s for the Maya standard renderer) and increase the Aperture Size.


With the default focus distance of 1 cm everything becomes blurred in the IPR.


To find out the right focus distance we need to measure it. Let’s temporarily hide unnecessary objects by hitting the “H” key. Switch to the default working camera in the Viewport > Panels > Perspective > persp. Activate “Snap to points” from the toolshelf and > Create > Measure Tools > Distance Tools.


Click on the camera in the viewport and on the part of the object in your scene you want to have in focus.


Apply the measured distance to the “Focus Distance” attribute in the Arnold section of our camera …


… and this part becomes sharper.


The DOF blur effect is still intense – great for making adjustments. If you don’t want to measure again when the focus distance has changed, first parent the camera locator by MMB dragging it onto the Camera in the Outliner.


Rename the second locator to “Focus”. When you now move the camera or the “Focus” locator, the length value on the distance dimension tool should change. To connect the resulting length of the distanceDimension1 with the Arnold Focus Distance attribute in Camera1 just copy paste the following line into the “MEL” script field at the bottom left:

connectAttr -f distanceDimension1.distance Camera1Shape.aiFocusDistance;

Hit “Enter”. Important: To make the script work, your camera needs to be named exactly “Camera1” and the distance tool “distanceDimension1” in the Outliner. If you want to make it work with different names you need to adapt the strings in the script accordingly.


If the script was successfully applied you can see in the Attribute Editor the Focus Distance of Camera1 became yellow and is now linked to the Distance Tool.


For final rendering decrease the Aperture Size, I used here 2.



Maya & Arnold – 3 Three-Point Lighting

By Rendering, Shaders & Texturing

In the last chapter we have set up an environment light – which is great for outdoor scenes or quickly illuminating an object. Three-Point Lighting consists of the Key Light, Fill Light, and Back Light. It refers to situations in reality where several light sources illuminate objects – typically by night, indoors or in situations with bouncing lights. By directing position, intensity, color, shadow behavior of your lightsources you can actually “paint” with light by emphasizing aspects of your model to influence the perception in the spectator. Watch Light & Shadow, an Emmy winning film from director Steve Weiss (20 min) if you want to learn more about the subject. The basic concept of Three-Point Lighting in relation to 3D applications is briefly explained in this Tutorial.

In physical based render engines like Arnold the scene measures refer to real world values. I scaled the displaced terrain from the last chapter to a size of 40000 units (=400 m) which allows me to place a building of  about 7 x 7 and 12 meters on top of the hill. The object I want to see illuminated is called Breather Surface and the building a modified  Menn´s Surface, both are parametric objects created with the free (and still working) Cinema 4D plugins from Jürgen Meier. Create your own building, make sure you cut out enough area for windows.


The typical approach to Three-Point Lighting is to start with a Key Light. In our case we already have the environment light which we can use as the Back Light. With the IPR window open adjust Elevation and Azimuth in the aiPhysicalSky to bring the sun close to the horizon. With the main object selected RMB > Assign New Material > aiStandard Material, increase specularity – because every object in our physical world has some (more or less) specularity. You can find out more about specularity and energy conservation in this introduction to physical based rendering. Move around your camera to find a nice framing with the sun highlighting the edge of the objects from slightly above or the side. The default camera in Maya comes with a focal length of 35 mm which is fine in most cases. I widened the angle to 28 mm for capturing more from the room and to make the image more dynamic. Don’t worry about the noise, we will fix that later in the Render Settings.


With the small Icons “Resolution Gate” and “Gate Mask” above the viewport you can overlay the aspect ratio of your final rendering. Once you are happy with the framing in the viewport go to > View > Create Camera from View.


Lock your new camera by clicking the small lock icon above the viewport. To move around in your scene and to adjust lights switch back to the default working camera at > Panels > Perspective > persp.


Let’s bring in the Key Light, the dominant light source. In the Outliner select the aiSkyDomeLight and hit “H” to hide it for now. Add > Arnold > Lights > Maya Spot Light. Rotate it above and beside to the camera’s viewing axis. For better visibility you can scale the camera and light symbols in the viewport, it does not affect their beavior. Add some color to the Light and increase the intensity to about 100000. The shadow should be softened slightly at > Radius in the Arnold tab of the light.


To soften and extend the illumination provided by the key light and to make more of the subject visible, add a > Arnold > Lights > Area Light to serve as our Fill Light. I rotated it away from the object, that the light bounces back from the wall to soften it. Increase the intensity to compensate the energy loss, in my case about are fine. Adding subtle color makes the light composition look more interesting.


When working with the IPR make sure you leave the settings for exposure and gamma at their default values 0 and 1 as well as View Transform at sRGB gamma. These sliders can be temporarily toggled for diagnosis but must always be switched back by clicking on the icon. The illumination of the scene will be controlled with the intensity of the light sources as well as the brightness and specularity of the materials. Exposure settings can later be adjusted with the camera settings.


The setup from above.


Key Light, Fill Light and Back Light together.


Finally I slightly increased the intensity for all lights proportionally and added specularity inside the building. To reduce the noise I changed > Render Settings > Arnold Renderer > Sampling > Camera (AA) to 8. In the report at the bottom of the IPR window you can see how that increased the render time. For fluent working it is recommended to stay with the default sampling rates, you can even reduce the Camera (AA) Sampling to 1. You only need to increase Camera (AA) Sampling for the final output and quality previews.


Continue with Maya & Arnold Part 4 – Camera / Depth of Field Blur

Create a Simple Terrain and Distribute Objects with MASH

By Maya, Motion Graphics

Since Maya 2016 Extension 2 the MASH plugin is included, which is an excellent tool for all kinds of motion graphics tasks. In this short tutorial we will use it for the controlled distribution of different objects across a hilly ground. In Maya > Settings / Preferences > Plug-in Manager make sure that the MASH.mll is loaded.

For the terrain we will use free available height maps. Go to the website select a region you like, export the tile and copy the files to your sourceimages folder.


In Maya create a Poly Plane, make it 50×50 and subdivide it by 100×100. With the plane selected go to > Deform > Texture.


In the Texture Deformer Attributes connect the downloaded height map to the Texture slot with a file node. With the Strength slider you can increase the height of the deformation.


To eliminate glitches at the edge apply UV > Planar > (Options) > Project from Y axis. With the handles the placement of the terrain texture can be adjusted.


Now let’s Create > Empty Group several times and rename the null objects in the Outliner. They will serve as our pivot points. Create some different poly shapes and drag them with MMB into the null objects. Make sure that the y-origin of the objects is at zero, otherwise they will be positioned below the ground. With the Control Key select just the parent nulls. In the top right corner of the Maya interface choose from the Workspace dropdown menu MASH. From the now available MASH menu choose > MASH > Create MASH Network > Options. At Geometry Type are two options. With “Instancer” MASH creates instances of the input geometry tending to solve faster. The default “Mesh” option is more versatile and for now we go with that option.


Our input objects turn invisible and we see one input object copied linear. Now select the MASH object in the Outliner and in the Attribute Editor you can see several new tabs. When you go to the MASH Repro tab you can see that the previously selected objects are now part of the MASH network. MMB dragging additional objects from the Outliner into the Objects list would add them to the MASH network.


Now go to the MASH Distribute tab and expand the Mesh Settings options. MMB drag the terrain to the Input Mesh field. The Distribution Type automatically changes to “Mesh” and we get a “MASH: Connected: ….)” feedback in the viewport.


By increasing the Number of Points we can already see the distributed objects on the terrain. By default the copies are oriented along the terrain’s surface normal. To plant them upright untick “Calculate Rotation”.


We still see only one object replicated. To make all different types visible we go to the MASH main tab (the “Waiter”) and Add Node > ID > Add to ID.


Now all Objects are included.


Let’s modify the distribution of the trees, they should mainly grow in the valleys. Create another Poly Plane of the same size and 10×10 Subdivisions, place it beside the terrain. Assign a new Lambert material. Connect the map we used for the terrain to the Color channel. Switch on “Textured” in the viewport.


Open the Hypershade window. MMB drag the second texture file to the graph editor. Search for the Remap Color node and MMB drag it aslo there. Connect the Out Color of the file node with the In Color of the Remap Color node. With the Remap Color node selected change the Output Min to 1 and Output Max to 0 at the Input and Otput Ranges section. This simply inverts the image.


Go to the MASH Waiter and add a Visibility node.


In the Outliner > Display untick “DAG Objects Only” to make all nodes visible.


Now MMB drag the remapColor node from the Outliner to the Strength Map field of the MASH Visibility node. Alternatively you can also MMB grab the node directly from the Hypershade window.


When we increase the Number of Points in the MASH Distribute node it becomes obvious that the distribution of our trees is controlled by the darker areas of the texture file.


To add some finesse we can also control the scale of our trees. In the Hypershade window add a Color Correct node, attach its color input to the Remap Color output and lower the Gamma values to increase the contrast.


Select the MASH object in the Outliner, switch to the MASH Distribute tab and MMB drag the Color Correct node from the Outliner or the Hypershade window to the Strength Map slot. Make a tick at Scale and adjust the Strength.


Voilà. Instead of the height map you could use any kind of texture to control the scattering.


Maya & Arnold – 2 Skydome Lighting and Background

By Rendering, Shaders & Texturing

Every render engine has its own set of lights and materials therefore it is important to pick lights for rendering with Arnold always from the Arnold menu. Add > Arnold > Lights > Skydome Light.


At the Color attribute of the aiSkyDomeLightShape click on the Texture checkerboard icon and in the Create Render Node popup choose the > Arnold > Texture > Environment > aiPhysicalSky. Alternatively you can select the > Maya > 2D Texture > File node and load an external HDR (High Dynamic Range) image. With their higher bit depth (32bit) HDR images are able to capture the lighting information from real world environments which is helpful to illuminate photorealistic scenes. You can downlad free HDR samples from the sibl archive. When you load 32bit HDR images in Maya (.hdr or .exr) make sure to change the Color Space to Raw. Jpeg and everything else should remain at sRGB. Find out more about the new Maya 2017 color management in the Arnold User Guide.


I’m interested in a more artificial look and will continue with the aiPhysicalSky.


Once we have a light in the scene it would render without background:


To add a background go to the Render Settings with the little icon from the shelf. Switch to > Render Using Arnold Renderer. At the tab > Arnold Renderer > Environment click on the Background checkerboard icon and select the aiPhysicalSky.


The aiPhysicalSky node is only available here if you have it created in the previous step with the Skydome Light. If  you have decided to use a HDR image for lighting you can use the same HDR file as background image. Since the background image linked at the Render Settings does not contribute to lighting, you can use any file here (also regular 8 bit jpeg images). The free HDR samples from the sibl archive come mostly with high resolution jpeg images, they should be preferred here.


At the Color attribute of the aiSky node click on the Texture checkerboard icon, in the Create Render Node popup choose the > Maya > 2D Textures > File node and load an external image.


To make the support geometry of the aiSkyDomeLight or aiSky invisible in the viewport you can switch off the LOD Visibility at the Attribute Editor.


Now with the groundplane selected RMB > Assign New Material.


In the popup window select > Arnold > Shader > Surface > aiStandard.


In the Attribute Editor change the diffuse color. Click on the IPR (Interactive Render Preview) button. You might notice a black gap between the terrain and the horizon.iprterrain

The Physical Sky model renders everything black below a latidude of 0 degrees. To fix it create another Poly Plane with no subdivision, scale it to a value of 10000000 (=100 km) place it slightly below the terrain to avoid intersections and with RMB > Assign Existing Material (the same terrain material). If you have changed geometry in your scene you need to klick on the IPR refresh icon to update it. Other changes in the scene like navigation or shader modifications are automatically updated.


In the aiPhysicalSky node you can influence the lighting and color mood by changing Elevation and Azimuth of the sun. More information about the Physical Sky model with example pictures can be found in the Arnold Manual.


Continue with Maya & Arnold Part 3 –Three-Point Lighting