July/August 2014

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48 CINEMONTAGE / JUL-AUG 14 48 CINEMONTAGE / JUL-AUG 14 The next chapter goes into Python, which, like MEL, is a popular scripting language in the animation industry that can be used in Maya. One of its benefits is that it is fully object-oriented. Also covered is PyMEL, an open-source Python module for Maya that functions as a bridge between MEL, Python and Maya's internal API. Later in the chapter, Maya's nCloth system is used to create debris. Next up, Maya's Rigid and Fluid Dynamics systems are used to create dust puffs, trailing smoke and fireballs, followed by a chapter on animating fire and water, and inflicting damage in the shot, which happens to be an 1800s Western mine scene. Both of these chapters contain a lot of information, such as creating 2D and 3D fluid containers, caching simulations to disk, creating an explosion, and animating Fluid attributes, as well as a bit on Maya's Ocean system, which can be used to create complex ocean surfaces. Later on, though, Maya's Pond system, a 2D Fluid system, which is more suited to creating smaller bodies of water, is used to create a large puddle in the scene. Damaging the environment and the mine cart is done with Blend Shapes and a Lattice Deformer. Chapter 8, "Building Reference Models and Motion Tracking with Maya and MatchMover," explains techniques on how to integrate or match 3D computer- generated imagery with live-action footage shot on film or video. Several advanced programs exist for 3D motion tracking and camera solving, and Autodesk has its very own that comes bundled with Maya; it's called MatchMover. In this section, Lanier constructs a reference model of a building in the live-action scene of an abandoned water station with Google SketchUp (which he states has tools well-suited to model geometry from photos) and imports the model into Maya. He then switches over to MatchMover to do the track, and exports a solved camera back to Maya when finished to use in the 3D environment. In the following chapter, "Creating Complex Destruction," the tower in the live-action scene of the old water station is exploded and destroyed with a combination of techniques, including nCloth, nParticles and Fluid Effects, as well as the Shatter tool, which is applied to the tower that has been updated to contain a higher level of detail than the rest of the model. After shattering and creating shards at the point of destruction, an explosion with trailing smoke is used to destroy the structure. Although the name might be misleading, Maya's Fluid Effects are an effective way to simulate believable explosions. While you can render out all the elements in your scene into one final sequence of frames, it is a common technique in visual effects to render out separate passes and recombine (or composite) them later in a compositing program such as NUKE, After Effects or Autodesk Composite. This gives you a lot of control over the look of the final image without having to go back and re-render the scene every time you want to change something. By rendering things out in passes, you can do things like darken shadows, decrease reflectivity, make smoke more transparent, and affect the hue and saturation of particular layers. In the final chapter of the book, "Rendering and Combining Render Passes," Lanier gives us a lot of information, including how to work with dynamics caches, create render layers and set up Mental Ray render passes. There's also information about how to render out layered PSD sequences as well as OpenEXR files (a popular file format originally developed at Industrial Light & Magic that is popular with visual effects artists). The chapter ends with a demonstration of how to composite the rendered elements and OpenEXR files in After Effects, Composite and NUKE. CONCLUSION Lanier's book is a very good guide to the visual effects side of Maya that is brimming with an abundance of information and techniques. If you are involved in the creation of visual effects and you use Maya, it's a volume that you will benefit from reading and keeping in your library for continued reference. There are some interesting enhancements coming in Maya 2015, such as the addition of the BiFrost Procedural Effects Platform, based on Naiad's photo- realistic liquid-simulation technology. Based on a demo I saw of BiFrost at Autodesk's booth at NAB, it looks very promising, especially if you are doing complex water, splashes and liquid simulations. f TECH TIPS Lanier's book is a very good guide to the visual effects side of Maya that is brimming with an abundance of information and techniques. If you are in- volved in the creation of visual effects and you use Maya, it's a volume that you will benefit from reading. CineMontage_Jul-Aug_14-4.indd 48 6/18/14 5:54 PM

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