Friday, September 14, 2012
"Physically Accurate Lighting in mental ray" from Simply Maya
I have the privilege to review a tutorial from Simply Maya called "Physically Accurate Lighting in mental ray". This is a 2.5 hr tutorial designed to get you up to speed on using the physical sun and sky system and other indirect lighting principles to light interiors (and exteriors). The tutorial starts with a solid explanation of linear workflow, which I have heard a lot of enigmatic references to but never had the courage to tackle. While the descriptions and demonstrations of linear lighting and gamma correction far from satisfied all my questions, I now feel like I have enough to go on and I will definitely try to use linear workflow on any future lighting projects. I am also curious to explore Gen's PMM Linear Lighting Buddy plugin.
The goal of this tutorial is to create a lighting setup that can be very easily modified for light at any time of day. As such, physical sun and sky figures prominently. Portal lights, final gather, and global illumination are all utilized to supplement the main lighting provided by PSS. I found the explanations of PSS and portal lights to be more detailed than FG or GI. FG and GI are often described more in many introduction to lighting tutorials.
After setting up the lighting system, the room is textured using mia_material_x and misss_fast_shader2_x exclusively. I found some of the shader connections to be quickly done and confusing, but they ended up being repeated several times, so it becomes clear what is being arranged. There are several good tips and tricks offered to both optimize render time during testing and also improve quality in the final render.
To summarize, this tutorial is not a lighting basics course. It assumes a good understanding of maya's interface and general lighting principles. The main purpose of the tutorial is to take lighting in mental ray to the next level of accuracy and realism. Explanations are well articulated, while leaving room for further study (much like a lecture can be supplemented with textbooks). The final render is rather pleasing, and it is easy to imagine applying very similar workflows to many kinds of projects. I'd highly recommend this tutorial for anyone wanting to explore linear lighting techniques and physically accurate setups.
Thanks for reading.