Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Procedural Eye

Download the eye and Mental Ray shaders for Maya 2013 ( Maya Binary ).
Download the Maya Ascii version. 

This is an eye that I use for personal art pieces. Everything is procedural from the size and shape of the cornea to the vein textures. Normally I set the detail lower than what you see above but the detail is there if I need it.

This was inspired by Alex Alvarez's free tutorials:  http://www.thegnomonworkshop.com/store/category/167

The backgrounds / light probes are from Paul Debevec.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Sketch Club Mark - 12-10-05

Another Sketch Club mark. The sculpt took about 30 minutes as did the render, so an hour total.

 ZBrush sculpt, Mental Ray in Maya render

Time lapse of the sculpt.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sketch Club mark 12-09-22

Another Sketch Club mark.

I didn't have time to add his Flashdance inspired t-shirt.  Most likely he doesn't look too much like the sketch, if at all.  My view of him was limited, even though I flagged him as a possible mark. He headed across the street before we could do a casual no-we're-not-looking-at-you look at him.  So this is how I envisioned he should look.

Oh well.  It was a fun sculpt.

ZBrush sculpt and texture, Mental Ray in Maya render and Photoshop touch ups.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Anatomy Practice

This started out as a simple anatomy exercise. I found some stock images from Marcus J. Ranum that really appealed to me in their elegance and simplicity.  From there I thought I would just do a one hour sketch.  After a few ( lot ) more hours I decided to call it done.

There is plenty that I could do to refine the sculpt.  I have only blocked in the head, hands and feet, lots of the anatomy is soft or vaguely defined.  Even though it's not super polished, I'm happy with the result.

Above are the steps from start to finish. Far left is the ZSphere base.  I had the stock images in the background in ZBrush while I built the base.  From there I stopped using the images in the background, and opened them in a separate window.  I didn't want this to be a match-the-photo practice, rather an observation practice.  The middle three figures are stages in blocking in the form.  The far right is as much refinement as I could do before the self-imposed time limit.

The renders are done in Maya 2013 with Mental Ray.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sketch Club Mark - 12-09-06

Every week artists gather in Culver City and sketch passers-by.  As we gather to leave we pick a "mark" and have to go back to our desks and draw them from memory.  I have some spare time this week so I sculpted the mark.

I'm revising my workflow in an effort to loosen up the sculpting process and treat it as if it was a pencil and paper sketch.  The large shapes are just deformed spheres that were massed in quickly to define the overall proportions, then dynameshed if necessary, then refined somewhat.

Overall I am on the fence about this one.  Design wise I can do better but the process itself was faster.

Sculpted in ZBrush, rendered with Mental Ray in Maya.

For those interested in Sketch Club, check out the blog.

Monday, August 27, 2012

RenderHelper - Maya Mental Ray render utilities

Download RenderHelper.zip

This is a collection of Mental Ray for Maya utilities.  I found myself repeating the same Mental Ray setup steps or building the same node graphs so many times I made small convenience shelf buttons.  The number of buttons grew so I collected them all into a single UI.

This should work in Maya2012+, at least it does for me...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Angel WIP #2

This has taken me much longer than I expected and it's still not complete. Normally I take a couple days at most to make a piece, and this has been weeks.

I always tell my crew that the mistakes you make are the most important part of your growth process. When you look at them as a learning experience, then there are no such things as mistakes, but opportunities in disguise. Retracing my steps for this piece has pointed out some places where I can improve my workflow. I'll note them after the jump.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Angel WIP # 1

This will be a present for my wife. She loves angels.

Inspiration board. A jumping off point for design and lighting. The intent is to make a classical inspired piece. I want to make something with moody lighting and luminous skin tones, plus I would like to show some movement in the hair and dress.

The images:

A mannequin I built in Maya.  This helps me establish a quick look at the pose, proportions and early lighting.

I bring the separate pieces into ZBrush, merge the body masses ( head, torso, arms, legs ) then sculpt. It took an entire day to get to this point. The head is separate because it can have as many points as the entire body.  ZBrush is a 32-bit app, so I keep tool size in mind when constructing the whole body.  As long as I maintain the proportions from the mannequin head to the sculpted head, it will turn out fine.

Even though the arm is made from 24 pieces, I can sculpt on them as a whole. ZBrush does a nice job in filling in the gaps between pieces as long as everything is in the same sub tool.  The arm on the left shows the separate poly groups which allows me to hide/unhide sections at will.  You can still see some seams on the arm on the right, that comes from smoothing across pieces.  This can't be avoided, but overall it doesn't matter because I can retopo or dyna mesh the arm to get a single surface.  I'm not worried about that at the moment since form and proportion are the priority.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sketch Club - Sweet, little old lady

Each week I go with some friends to Sketch Club where we spend our lunch our sketching the denizens of Culver City.  This week a sweet, little old lady was waiting to cross the street.  She was chosen as our "mark".  We can look, but we can't draw her until we get back to our desks.

This week I have some spare time, so I sculpted, painted and rendered my version.

The usual, ZBrush for sculpting and painting, Maya and Mental Ray for rendering and slight tweaks in Photoshop.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Sculpt was done in one or two hours, then I spent the better part of a day fixing the hair and rendering.

The hair was too thin, so after hours messing with it, I ended up exporting 27k curves and writing a quick scriptlet to extrude a ribbon on each curve.

The data was so heavy that everything crawled and the smallest tweaks took a long time to process.  Guess I found the limit of my home rig.

Sculpt in ZBrush and render in Maya using Mental Ray.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How I write a MEL script - Example Script

We are ready to write the actual script.  Using the template, we add inputs, error check and do the work.  You can download the MEL script and view it while I break it down section by section.

Reminder: We are making a script that will create a matte render suitable for use in Photoshop.  As an extra, I've modified the code so we can also make RGB mattes.

Monday, April 2, 2012


My son spends most of his free time composing music.  Bear in mind that he's 14 and could be spending his days as I did watching cartoons.  Sure, he does his fair share of texting, but the kid logs serious hours composing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How I write a MEL script - Idea to Scriptlet

The Idea and Scriptlet phase is quick.  I see them as a sketch or thumbnail; something that can be quickly roughed out, changed and erased.

Reminder: The example will be to help lighters make a matte render.

How I write a MEL script - Identify the need

Here we will identify the need for the proc.  This not only helps us clarify our vision but could potentially stop us from writing code that has no clear purpose.

In order to illustrate my script writing process, I'll identify a need, come up with an idea, make a scriptlet, then write the proc.  The example will be to help lighters make a matte render to use in Photoshop.

Monday, March 19, 2012

How I write a MEL script - Template

Most scripts that I write, except the tiny scriptlets, all follow a template.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

How I write a MEL script - Overview and Guidelines

Before we get into the code writing process, let's take a look at some simple rules I follow.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Procedural cloth shaders ( Maya2012 - Mental Ray 3.9 )

Four procedural cloth shaders. You can download the Maya2012 file. The top left is polyester, top right is silk, bottom right is denim and bottom left is cotton.

They all use Maya's procedural cloth node, a ramp shader for the Fresnel effect and a mia_material_x shader. The camera has a mia_exposure_simple lens shader and colors have a gamma node to stay in a linear color space.

Edit #1: 03/22/2012
Update coming soon.  I'm updating the shaders based on some excellent advice on this blog.  She is using a sampler info node to simulate a Fresnel effect, where I tend to use a rampShader.  I like her method better than mine since it gives control in one location.

Edit #2: 03/29/2012
New shaders have been uploaded.  The denim is WIP and will be updated when I have some extra time.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Reel 2012

*Updating Reel*
Visual Development work for Sony Pictures Animation. 

The clips are all pre-production pieces my team and I put together very early in the design process.  The idea is to model, texture, rig, animate and light the main characters for our feature films as quickly as possible.  This gives all of us a chance to see how the characters work in the environment.