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Grass and Plant Instancing in Maya/Mental Ray

Forests Techniques, part Two with Alex Alvarez

Paint Effects Grasses


In this title, Alex covers how to create realistic grass using Maya, Paint Effects and Mental Ray while also sharing his techniques for developing a complete natural environment. We begin by evaluating the default Paint Effects grass library with discussion on the basic adjustments needed to make grass more natural. Techniques for covering large areas with grass are then explored via curves and instancing. Through the use of instancing, particles and surface emitters, Alex shows how to populate large scenes with grass geometry, rendering millions of polygons with a minimal RAM footprint. Included is an expression based technique for orienting instanced geometry with the normal of the generating surface, an issue less important for plants or trees but often very important for grass. When elements need to be interactively and precisely placed, Alex also demonstrates the use of a freely available geometry paint script, as well as how to bake particle instances to geometry. Generating textures, miaMaterials and workflow in conjunction with Physical Sun/Sky is thoroughly discussed. Alex also demonstrates how to render and utilize zDepth passes to add post depth-of-field and fog effects, how to render true volumetric fog effects, as well as Photoshop and After Effects post techniques to increase realism through the use of color correction and plug-ins, including Magic Bullet, LensCare and Sapphire.

Duration: 521 minutes

Format: HD 1280x720

Alex Alvarez

Founder / Director The Gnomon Workshop and Gnomon School of Visual Effects

Alex Alvarez is the founder and president of Gnomon, which includes the acclaimed Gnomon School in Hollywood, California, as well as The Gnomon Workshop, which provides professional online training for artists. He has been described by Fast Company Magazine as a visionary who has helped change the face of computer graphics education, having dedicated the past twenty years to educating students and professional artists around the world. Alex has been published in industry magazines, websites, and books and has lectured at many international conferences. While his career these days is focused on education, he has worked as a creature development artist on such projects as James Cameron’s Avatar, JJ Abram’s Star Trek, Super 8, Ridley Scott's Prometheus. He is an alumni of the University of Pennsylvania and the Art Center College of Design. 

  • " Whenever I need to breathe life into my characters, Alex Alvarez is where I go. Whether it be to collaborate on concepts with him directly or to watch his tutorials, I am always confident in accessibility to great information. Not only has his technical prowess pulled me out of many holes, but his character sense has given rise to some wonderful moments on some major motion pictures (Avatar and Star Trek). These new tutorials encapsulate what I gush about. Crazy and creative character design coupled with empowering technical know how. "

    - Neville Page
    Character / Concept Designer