Wednesday, October 6, 2010

SimplyMaya Production Workflow Review

SimplyMaya has recently released a new Effects tutorial based on a Production Workflow for creating a simple dynamic simulation of golden rings bouncing out of a falling wineglass. I was given the privilege of reviewing the tutorial and writing up my thoughts on it. This was a fun, relatively short (1.5hr) training kit that walked through importing simple geometry, creating and baking a rigid body simulation, adding shaders and lights (including FG, IBL, and GI) and rendering out two layers (a beauty pass and a depth pass). The depth pass was used in After Effects to add an animated depth of field filter, resulting in quite a beautiful 6 second animation that showcases some of the exciting things Maya is capable of without a tremendous amount of effort. The final animation and tutorial can be viewed and purchased, respectively, here.

The video training includes scene files and final renders, which is nice, since I didn't take the time to render out my final piece, so I could use the supplied frames for the DOF section. Though the version of Maya used in the tutorial was 2011, I used 2009 and had practically no problems tracking with the latest release. I did run into some issue importing the wineglass geometry, but got around it without too much trouble. Perhaps including an obj for the wineglass would save some version incompatibilities. (Update: It looks like an obj will be added to the assets folder on my suggestion.)

The instructor moves reasonably quickly, though the pacing is such that following along is generally feasible and the instruction remains clear and concise. It is made clear that the scope of the training isn't to slog through info on every attribute that is modified in this tutorial, which is fair enough. I might have liked to get a bit more information on some of the rigid body attributes, since I wasn't completely satisified with my sim. The rings felt quite "floaty" at times, and I didn't know how to fix that, though to be honest, I didn't spend much time on my own tweaking all the attributes. In the same vein, the lighting and rendering section was more of a recipe to be followed than a how-to, but since this wasn't a lighting tutorial, I wasn't expecting anything else. The tutorial did cover many good points on dynamics and lighting/rendering and I was happy to see a pleasing result appear on my screen with relatively little time and effort. The instructor's approach and British sense of humour also made the video training fun and interesting for the duration.

The real strength of the tutorial was to bring the viewer's attention to a myriad of components and features that can be exploited in a thousand ways to bring added appeal to whatever project one might be working on. For example, I was practically unaware of the attribute spreadsheet, which seems essential for modifying the attributes in a large number of objects. I was also unfamiliar with mental ray's approximation editor, so while the tutorial didn't explore either of these in great depth, they are editors I am aware of now and will study up on. Exploring After Effects a bit more was also fun, and introduced to me the power of depth of field and how it can be easily used to add punch and polish to any animation. I'm definitely going to adopt this DOF workflow in my animations.

So in summary, while there could be more depth and detailed explanation in this worflow tutorial and a beginner might scramble to keep up, it really is an excellent overview of many topics and was very enjoyable to work through. I'd recommend this tutorial for any intermediate user who wants to stretch out beyond the typical modelling monotony and explore some of Maya's other offerings.


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