Production Quality Rendering in Maya with MentalRay

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April 2013 
8 hours 23 minutes 
This course, taught by Jon Tojek, aims to help take your lighting and rendering skills to the next level. The course starts by setting the foundation of knowledge which you'll need to create high quality imagery and then build in complexity over the duration of the term.

The first first part of the course will examine tools such as Skyprobe (, providing HDR capture of sun and sky, the perfect exterior HDR pano image. Creating your own HDR panoramic images with a standard DSLR, nodal ninja, and wide angle lens. Stitching and merging the HDR image, both interior and exterior examples with PTgui. He'll cover the three ways in Mental Ray to achieve image based lighting: , the standard Maya IBL, mib_sphereical_lookup, and the newest Environment Lighting. Tojek will also utilize a simple exterior scene lit with an HDR sunlight image to compare & contrast the renders between Mental Ray, Vray, and Arnold from a render time, noise, and image quality perspective.

The latter part of the course moves into taking this knowledge and applying it to several projects. The first project is a table top lighting setup, with a 30” photo studio tent and lights. This example will focus on photographing glass, jewelry, and metal appliance, and then replicating those setups completely in the computer with HDR pano, HDR lights, and color grading to integrate the renders into the photo. While a still might seem basic at first glance, the reality is that with a static image, there's no room to hide imperfections in the render.

The second project takes a more traditional vfx perspective, utilizing motion footage and on-set HDR photography. Members will be provided a Maya scene that is already tracked and ready to be lit so they can focus on the lighting and rendering. Tojek will work through the details to create a photorealistic render, including the final grading and comp tweaks and tricks to sell the shot.

In addition, the final lesson will include a review of members work on either of the two projects. It's a great opportunity to get constructive feedback from a working professional.

Tojek has been working in 3D animation production since 1994. His experience with Maya goes back to its birth, working for SGI and helping west coast film clients integrate the software into their pipelines. After spending time making commercials, independent short films, music videos, and managing artists at post houses in Chicago and Brazil, he moved to LA to be a lighting TD at Sony Pictures Imageworks. His specialization is now doing lighting, look development, and effects work on high profile projects including Polar Express, Monster House, Happy Feet, 2012, Avatar and Super 8 at a dozen places like ILM, Animal Logic, Hydraulx, Psyop, and Method. In between films jobs, there are always commercials to keep Jon busy, working on national spots for clients like BMW, Lexus, Mercury, NFL, and Transamerica
Production Quality Rendering in Maya with MentalRay
Watch our overview of the course

Class Listing

Class 1

Rules to follow when working in Physically Correct Lighting. Adjustments to compensate for inherent gamma.

Class 2

We will break into three examples of lighting with HDR images, or Image Based Lighting (IBL).

Class 3

Camera Projection - filmback - interior lighting with HDR images. Building a virtual set, 3D camera matching, and MR productions shaders.

Class 4

Lighting with area lights, mia look dev, rendering mip-matteshadow in AOV passes and comp with Nuke.

Class 5

New Maya Render Settings UI to expose Unified Sampling and Environment Light, HDR sunrise sequence. Placing characters into tracked footage - exterior example

Class 6

CG integration into tracked footage.

Class 7

CG integration into tracked footage, part 2.

Class 8

Shooting and stitching an HDR Pano for use as a texture map in a 3D set geo.

Class 9

This lesson will continue the concept started earlier, with a different background in the light tent. These things come with 4 different colored pads to get a variety of looks in your photography, so we will work with the blue floor and back wall.

Class 10

Manual set reconstruction from an HDR panoramic image.