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Maya 4.5 Materials

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Incorporate materials into your 3D animation and focus on the basics of creating materials and adding complexity and realism through mapping.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book 

In This Chapter

After you build a dollhouse or assemble a plastic airplane model, you can't wait to paint it and stick decals on it. With 3D animation, it's usually the same feeling! This chapter addresses creating and applying all manner of materials. One of the delights of 3D animation is trying out all those "what-if" material choices. What if the car was painted chrome with red leather trim, or purple plastic with chrome polka dots? Simulating these surfaces with Maya is a straightforward task when you use Maya's Hypershade—the material "laboratory." Applying revised materials and rendering the scene again is a snap. In this chapter, you'll focus first on the basics of creating materials and then learn how to add complexity and realism through mapping:

Using Hypershade An overview of Maya's material creating and editing tool.

Creating materials Building a surface type from scratch.

Using maps Replacing a material's solid color with an image.

Using procedural textures Replacing a material's solid color with a solid texture created by a mathematical formula.

Bump maps A texturing method that gives the impression of bumpiness on a surface.

Using maps for any attribute Replacing a solid color or a fixed number with an image to change the value across an object's surface.

Key Terms

material The definition of all the ways a surface responds to light, including shininess, color, bumpiness, transparency, and so forth.
shader A shader refers to both the material and the lighting of a surface with respect to rendering.
texture map A 2D image applied across a surface; typically, a bitmap image, such as a photo of wood grain, that can be tiled.
UV coordinates Position information embedded in a 3D object, used to size and position a texture map on it. Objects can have multiple sets of UV coordinates.
environmental textures, environment map A simulated surrounding world for a material to reflect.
volumetric material A material type for simulating non-solid materials, such as steam, smoke, dust, or clouds.
procedural texture A 2D or 3D texture created mathematically.
bump map Applying a texture to create the illusion of perturbing a surface's smoothness.
Phong A material type with sharp, tight highlights.
Lambert A flat material type without highlights.
Blinn A material type with softer highlights.
Anisotropic A material type with non-uniform highlights.
transparency The opposite of opacity; the ability to see through a material, such as glass.
translucency Semi-transparent, but with a scattering of light, such as light seen through a green maple leaf.
specular color The component of a material that reflects a light source—the highlight.
self-illumination The material's sensitivity to light; fully self-illuminated materials are not affected by scene lighting, nor do they emit light.

Hotkeys to Memorize

Shift+S open the Script Editor
6 enable Hardware Texturing
t show Manipulator Tool

Materials Overview

Novice animators often gloss over applying materials and lighting to scenes. "Add a few lights, make this red, that blue—we're done!" The results are typically washed out, flat, and harsh. Much of traditional media artists' criticism of computer art is based on seeing crude, simple renderings that emphasize only the limitations of the process. Good art is possible with Maya, however. It just takes time to get more interesting and complex shading. CG artists spend as much, if not more, time on lights and materials as on modeling.

Materials are a critical part of creating attractive images and animation in a 3D program. Materials interact with lights, so lighting drives some material choices; for example, if your overall lighting is bright, you might need to make your scene materials somewhat darker. Generally, you build your scene with lighting and materials progressing together, with frequent renderings to test your adjustments. Compensating for the limitations of virtual lights to create an effective and subtle light layout is an art, one that's discussed in the next chapter. In this chapter, you'll concentrate on materials.

What do we mean by materials? It's a catch-all term to describe all aspects of what a surface looks like. At first glance, novices usually notice the surface color—red, wood brown, metallic silver. To an artist, however, there are many other factors: An object isn't just metallic silver, for example—it's a mirrored smooth finish that relies on the reflected surroundings for its appearance. In addition to factors of color, shine, and reflection, Maya also considers transparency, incandescence, translucency, refraction, bumpiness, and many other user-controlled parameters. Attention to these details gives your rendered results more subtlety and complexity.