FSU Year 02: Lighting and Shading

FSU LogoThis time we’re going back to Maya and 3D scenes. Instead of animating or making models, we will be manipulating lights and settings to make an interesting scene with convincing materials and textures.

I hated matching every single detail at first… Each of our scenes had to look EXACTLY as the reference image provided. As if we needed to get the exact value for each setting. I say this because this is, by far, the most strictly graded class in my 2 years at FSU at least if you get Professor Sakson.

I learned much about lighting, hypershading, materials and texturing in this class, but the class was poorly set up with the online lectures being inconsistent live classroom recordings and demos and the other instructor had 2-hour sessions of pooely planned content. More on these later.

Despite the interesting and essential knowledge provided in this class, Lighting and Shading with Tony Sakson and Tony Bagsby is totally one of my most disliked class right beside 3DF…

Rendering takes so long.

Heads up to all of you entering this phase of 3D Art. Rendering takes a while on the correct settings, so set aside time to do this properly and learn to render in low quality during the trial and error phase!

Week 01: Render Settings, Mental Ray and Light Positioning

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This week was annoying on my first attempt. When I did it again it made a lot more sense. Render settings is interesting. Render quality plays a large role in noise removal in the examples with Carol from TWD (lol). For the second assignment, getting to know your different light sources and knowing how positioning will change the cast shadows is key. This is basics of the basics. In the later weeks are are taught to utilize unified sampling and much more lights per scene.

Week 02: Rabbit or Fruits, Indoor and Outdoor Lighting

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This was was a little annoying even with the cheat sheet for light placement. We were to display the bunny or a fruit scene to match the provided reference. For some reason, I can’t get the correct placement for the rim light. As you can see in the images, some spots are still casting wrong shadows (very subtle, I know!). This assignment was interesting since we learned about light linking.

Next assignment this week is lighing up an interior for a day and night scene. Here we learned about IBLs (Image-Based Lighting). This is a cool concept and can be used for an overworld map for overworld sky lighting. We utilize light linking here for the night scene in the lamp’s bulbs. My example was totally flawed since I didn’t know how to mess around with shadow softness and decay rates yet. It wasn’t something I easily understood from the poor lectures.

All in all this week was tedious, but it set up the rest of the month, so I’m glad I went through here.

Week 03: Exterior vs Interior Lighting and Learning Materials via Hypershade

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This week was great fun, to be honest. I was a very interesting subject matter.

First off, we did the same thing last week for night and day scenes but this time we worked with exterior scenes. So IBL played a large part in lighting. For some reason, I couldnt get the candles to cast shadows properly here. At first the point lights did not cast any at all. Then after fiddling around, they finally did, but it did not cast them properly to match the reference… So I had to make the decision to deviate from the reference and try to unlink the candlestick, too! As you can see, it looks close. If you saw the other ones prior to this one, this would be the unanimous best, albeit wrong anyway… huhu!

Next up was an intro to Hypershade! That’s mayas internal texturing…thing? lol Anyway, we learned and used Maya’s mia_material_x for all our geometry in this scene. It was great since one material can encompass a good variety of simple textures. I learned that mia_material_x is a great material to use since it’s very energy efficient. It takes from the same pool of resource for diffuse, reflect and refract. In other words, they don’t all render and they are all balanced no matter how they’re tweaked. This was fun since we started to make the geometry in our scene look fairly convincing! Can you guys imagine what next week will have in store…?

Week 04: Textures and Projections!

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This week we finalize all the work we’ve done in our main scenes and finally apply texture maps and displacement maps to them. I chose to use the day time interior scene and I went ahead and mapped fairly common textures to my objects. This is really where hypershade’s UI comes in handy. Getting used to all the nodes and connections makes a ton of setting a lot more understandable. It’s pretty cool!

I learned how to apply a diffuse color map via files; this is what textures technically are. Then we were taught to apply a diplacement map to make the depth in the textures look real when rendered. Pretty cool processes here. Of couse, we were taught how to create textures and displacement maps, and make sure that they’re seamless and ready to use in Maya all by means of Photoshop! No other fancy programs needed here.

For some reason, though, my displacement maps made my renders super puffy, so I had to ultimately break them off… 🙁

I also learned how to project an image on an object. This is similar to putting a decal on something. We placed a “AAA” logo on a thermos and added a stain on our chair. As you can see, someone crapped themselves on the chair on the left… Just kidding, that’s a coffee stain. lol

This week was fun and all, but unfortunately Maya had a major crash (which is common) and took my files along with it (first time this happened)… So, I lost a whole 2 days of work and had to start from scratch. Within an hour I had to recreate all I lost and more. T. T But I guess it tested my mastery since I was able to submit something presentable. The only thing that didn’t work as expected were the displacement maps. Hmm…

Conclusion

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Definitely the most subjective part of this class was that it was primarily tailored for campus than an online classroom.

YouTube videos were almost a total waste of time for online students, due to the inconsistent roaming of the professor allowing his voice to totally fade away and to burst your eardrums if you are not vigilant about the volume. This is a total no brainer failure for those of us who learn from work or a locale that requires you to split your attention between lectures and something else. Demo videos occassionally leave the video silent due to his class doing their work in lab. Although, silent, the demo videos are quite helpful since it shows the entire procedure in a short amount of time. All we really need to learn the ropes.

Finally, the Q&A video sessions which are the ones tailored to online students, are not any better since most weeks’ videos waste 2 hours due to poor planning. There are a lot of “oh, just do this” rather than an actual demo of one of our assignments. Occassionally, we also have the total lack of progression where what is taught on the Q&A is totally off, literally wasting 2 hours of viewing time. It’s primarily a play-it-by-ear type session. It does address what the attendees want to see, but if it’s the only resource for online students that cannot attend, the rest of the questions remain up in the air. I have to admit, though, that August’s Q&A sessions were a little better than June and July’s. They were more linear and direct.

This is partially my fault for having a work lifestyle that cannot accommodate a full on 1-on-1 in Google Hangouts or asking valid questions at the Go To Trainings or not having extra time to work on FSO 4.0 issues to get onto Concept Share for feedback, but either way, I feel like this specific class neglects to set aside time to really address the online portion of the program. And I think that it’s unfair for all the money we are investing to this program that the bias is clearly one-sided.

Lighting and Shading is a perfect example of how FSU Online is a mess. There goes part of my $$$$$. In the end, I think I get a C…? (They’re still grading as of today).

Anyway, my next class is College Math! Another nice change in pace. Week one is percents and interest. See you next month for another class recap! 🙂

As always, if you guys are interested in these things, shoot me some questions here or at the facebook social page! Chime in anywhere it counts and we’ll be around to help! See ya!

2 thoughts on “FSU Year 02: Lighting and Shading”

  1. You wouldn’t happen to have the final project Maya file by chance? I wanted to see what they were into. Or maybe your finished project?

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