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Topics - rowan

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Mac / DPX4Mac
« on: August 25, 2012, 10:38:56 AM »
.dpx is a logarithmic format commonly used by high-end digital cameras and digital intermediates. This includes the RED Camera. You are likely to come across it in your careers, particularly if you work in visual effects. I found this app useful,

It's a small open source program that builds upon the 'Quick Look' feature of Mac OS, allowing you to preview .dpx files as you would a .jpg, .tga, .png or whatever. This is great because it's one of the few formats Mac OS doesn't natively preview, since they added EXR support a few years ago. It will make your dealing with the files that much easier  :)

<3 Rowan

Mac / Total Finder
« on: January 22, 2012, 09:22:59 AM »
If you've subscribed to the RSS Feed of Damian's Blog you'll already know what this post is about, but I'm sharing this one more widely because every mac owner is going to want this.

Basically it makes your finder behave more like an internet browser, with tabbed windows and several upgrades over the standard Finder window. Advanced features include you can now cut & paste  :-[ (yes I'm serious) and it builds in defaults that make it more akin to Windows Explorer, which is a good thing because Finder out of the box is fairly rubbish and requires tinkering to work well.

Total Finder costs $18 and has a 2 week trial, it is available here.

A worthwhile upgrade to your built in Finder is forcing it to display the file path at the top of the window, just like on Windows Explorer. This is easy to do, open terminal and execute this command;

defaults write _FXShowPosixPathInTitle -bool YES

Tested on Snow Leopard and Lion.

Happy tinkering.

<3 Rowan

Maya / Important information regarding render layers
« on: December 01, 2011, 12:28:47 PM »
Render layers are wonderful things, but according to my experience and lengthy forum searches, since render layers were built into Maya, there has been some serious bugs with the system, and they are yet to be resolved.

The symptom you may one day experience is an error when attempting to assign shaders to geometry. The warning will read "error while parsing arguments". Once this starts happening, your scene is essentially ruined. You must delete all render layers, revert all objects to the intial shading group, and re-build them from the ground up. Autodesk built a script into Maya 2010 which was supposed to fix this, you can try it, execute "fixRenderLayerOutAdjustmentErrors;" and it will clean the connections. However in my experience this does not fix the problem.

You actually have to avoid it from happening in the first place, here's a few tips.

NEVER assign materials to components

There's nothing wrong with assigning a material to several faces of an object normally, but when working with render layers, simply do not do it, the second you do, is the second the layers will corrupt.

When creating, importing, combining, or seperating objects, do so on the master layer

Make sure if you're creating new nodes, that they belong to the master layer first, then add them where necessary.

Never put a camera on a render layer

There's no reason to in the first place, but you can do so by accident, and it causes problems.

Always save your files on the master layer

This is a hard habit to get into, but it is a very good idea, especially when command line rendering.

Render layers are at best, a patchy system, and require meticulous technical practice to work. Be careful and you'll be fine, if not you can find yourself spending many hours repairing or working around the problems. Remember you can also save out entirely separate scenes with different shaders and things applied as an alternative to render layers. Of course this is a problem if you want to tweak any animation etc.

Good luck,

<3 Rowan

Maya / Setting end frame in render globals
« on: November 01, 2011, 10:13:27 AM »
There seems to be this bug in 2012 (even in the service pack) that prevents you from setting the end frame in the render globals, when attempting to change it from its default 10 it just switches back to 10. An obvious work around is to specify an end frame in the batch script, but it's still annoying.

It seems that it's supposed to be a fail-safe thing, to make sure you set your frame padding correctly, but put simply it's broken. So to work around it what you can do is adjust your frame padding, move it up, then back down to say 1, then adjust your end frame to say 99, then move your frame padding back to where it needs to be in the first place (usually 3) and then you can set your end frame once more.

I know, it's dodgy, but it's an easy enough workaround, fingers crossed it's resolved in 2013!

<3 Rowan

Maya / Maya 2012 graph editor - wont display multiple attributes
« on: September 30, 2011, 02:43:10 PM »
There's a major bug in Maya 2012 that prevents the editing of multiple attributes in the graph editor simultaneously if you're using character sets. It was resolved in hotfix 4, unfortunately the labs don't run this (yet) so if you come across this problem you'll have to decide - what's more important to you, being able to animate effectively, or having character sets? On your home computer be sure to upgrade your student version to hotfix 4!

<3 Rowan

Maya / Draw errors when dealing with real world units
« on: August 22, 2011, 07:33:51 PM »
Here's something I first thought was a graphics glitch (I even reported it to pat at one point) but I've finally put a finger on it.

Basically if you're smart you make your scenes reflect real world units, the tools behave better, the dynamics perform accurately, you know inherently how large something should be. It makes life easier.

However the cameras don't like it, at least at their defaults. The first and most obvious thing you have to do is adjust your far clip plane as to not crop things but 10 metres away, fairly obvious, the second is less obvious, you must adjust your near clip plane to a more meaningful value, say 1 (1 cm from cam, very close indeed). The default value of 0.01 simply doesn't' work, scale your near & far clip planes proportionally.

Doing this will allow real world scale models without working your GPU too hard, default quality rendering doesn't artefact.


<3 Rowan

Mac / Don't rush to lion
« on: August 09, 2011, 09:38:46 AM »
I'm sure lion's great and all that, but sit on it for a while, read the current official standpoint from Autodesk:

Compatibility statement
Important notice for Autodesk® Maya® 2012 software, and prior Maya version, users regarding the latest Apple® Mac OS® X operating system release, version 10.7 “Lion”. Testing Maya 2012, and prior versions of Maya, on the Mac OS X 10.7 operating system, has identified platform compatibility issues.

The issues:

    * Installing Maya on Mac OS X 10.7 may cause the installer to hang.
    * Operating Maya on Mac OS X 10.7 may cause stability issues.
    * When submitting a crash report while operating Maya on Mac OS X 10.7, may cause the crash error reporting system to hang.

If you upgrade to Mac OS X 10.7, you may encounter these issues. Autodesk recommends that users of Maya 2012, and prior releases of Maya, do not upgrade to the Mac OS X 10.7 until the compatibility issues have been addressed by Autodesk and Apple. Teams from both companies are working closely to resolve these issues and a notification will be issued once the issues have been addressed.

Note: As of this time, Autodesk® Maya® 2012 software has not been qualified to run on Mac OS X 10.7. Please consult the qualification charts for more information.

This is also the standpoint of Avid on Protools. A lot of people in fact are having a lot of trouble with the new OS, be patient, wait for the desperados to test it before making the move.

<3 Rowan


Hi everyone,

I'd hate to be the bearer of bad news but while viewport 2.0 is significantly improved in Maya 2012, just be aware if you attempt to use DOF (if that camera has it active) and you viewport 2.0, you may not only crash maya, but also the entire computer. I've sent a formal report to Autodesk let's hope it's fixed in SP1.

<3 Rowan

Rendering / Specify all cores - mental ray rendering
« on: July 05, 2011, 12:55:05 PM »
By default mental ray defaults to use 2 threads for batch rendering. Be sure to modify this by selecting the rendering menu set, render, render option box and change the number of threads to suit your system, this is 8 in the main lab. Be sure to also change the batch render options under the same menu as these are independent of the interface render settings.

All computers in the lab will have to have this setting changed the first time if you are not copying your preferences folder from computer to computer or you will dramatically slow your render time. As a fail safe include the flag -n 8 in your scripts to force mental ray to use 8 threads (or whatever suits your system).

<3 Rowan

Rendering / Simplify command line scripts / cmd commands
« on: July 05, 2011, 12:00:37 PM »
If you've ever done any command line rendering on Windows before you'll notice that on most computers you have to specify the full path to Render.exe, as opposed to being able to simply call 'Render' from the cmd. This makes scripts a little long winded, harder to read and a bit fiddly. Other commands, system commands like msconfig or compmgmt are only one word commands because the environmental variables are set to check the system 32 directory (amongst others) for these commands - this is a windows system default. You can modify these environmental variables in windows to check the installation directory of Maya for commands from the cmd, so that you don't have to specify the full path ever again (on that system). Straight off the bat I will say this tutorial will not work in the labs because you will require administrator rights, I will email Pat about having this set up for the next image. For you home PC however;

Go to Control Panel
Advanced tab
Environment Variables
Under system variables locate the 'Path' variable, select it
Click edit
At the end of the entry add a value, ";C:/Program Files/Autodesk/Maya/bin/" without the "", and obviously specifying the directory in which Render.exe resides
The ; divides values in here
Hit ok twice

This simply changes the search path the cmd uses for finding commands and flags. Obviously the more values you add here potentially the more time it will take to search and find your command, but we're talking milliseconds. This will mean next time you type Render into cmd, or call this command in a .bat script, you will not need to specify the full path, Windows will check the directory you specified first.

E.g a typical script line;
"C:/Program Files/Autodesk/Maya/bin/Render.exe" -r file sickRender.mb
Render -r file sickRender.mb

As always, remember you must specify the Maya file's full directory, unless the .bat script is run from that directory or you cd (change directory) to that location prior to the Render command.

<3 Rowan

Television / Hungry Beast on the Uncanny Alley
« on: May 11, 2011, 09:51:59 AM »

A great show, this particular episode addresses a very prominent issue in CG animation at the moment, the conundrum that characters lose appeal the more realistic they become. Includes an interview with Animal Logic Creative Director, Bruce Carter. Watch the first 5 minutes.

A reminder to us all that cameras are for realism, animation is for story telling and enhancement of stories that otherwise could not be told (in the form of visual effects or otherwise).

<3 Rowan

Maya / Maya 2011 File Navigation
« on: April 15, 2011, 09:36:20 AM »
When Autodesk released Maya 2011 they introduced a more sophisticated file / project navigation window, the pros being it neatly displayed all your project directories on the left, the contents in them middle, and any options / previews on the right (pinched from mac os x...). The cons of this as some may have noticed is you can't necessarily navigate to anywhere you want to go (especially on mac os x...) and at times it's just plain clunky. I recommend reverting to the native file dialogue box because as the saying goes, if it aint broke, don't fix it. I think this feature honestly causes more problems then it's worth.

Go to window > settings / preferences > preferences > choose the files / projects tab > right at the bottom under file dialog choose 'OS native'.

Obviously this is a matter of preference, but particularly on mac, I think this is significantly easier to use, especially with a magic mouse so you can gesture to navigate through your project, which of course doesn't work in maya's dialogue window.

<3 Rowan

Mac / iMac 2010 external display bug
« on: March 23, 2011, 11:55:27 AM »
Ok so there aren't a lot of us here that own macs but if you own a 27" iMac one you may notice that when you plug in an external display that the mouse behaves erratically. Resetting the PRAM fixes this (hold command+alt+p+r on startup, wait for chime, when it reboots and chimes again, release). Unfortunately I've noticed every time you patch Mac OS (10.6.5 to 10.6.6 to 10.6.7), it reoccurs, and you have to reset the PRAM yet again I'm in the process of harassing Apple about this.

<3 Rowan

Rendering / Batch rendering on Mac OS
« on: February 20, 2011, 09:23:56 PM »
Hey guys,

I know mac users are still the minority in this degree, but if you've only recently migrated like me you'll probably quickly wonder what differences there are when it comes to batch rendering.

This official Autodesk article is probably the best source to answer that question;

Autodesk Article

I can vouch that that approach works, but it's a little clumsy compared to the windows .bat scripts, especially with Hayden's excellent Batch Script Generator. But this free application from creative clash is a very flexible and easy to use tool for batch rendering on Mac OS;


Happy rendering.

<3 Rowan

Animation / Timeline navigation shortcuts?
« on: February 06, 2011, 10:41:29 AM »
I've always wanted to know this, but none of my text books / any of my google searches is proving fruitful. I'm doing some dynamic simulations at the moment for Gob & I'm sick of having to hit stop, rewind, play, stop, rewind, play etc. Is there not a keyboard shortcut for "Return to first frame" and "Play" and "Stop"? Surely there must be something.

<3 Rowan

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