Basic rendering with physical sky

From TOI-Pedia


In this tutorial the basics of rendering an image with a physical sky will be explained. This method of rendering is especially useful for outdoor-renderings. A sky-like environment (including a sun disk) will be created with which you will control the lighting of your scene. This tutorial will cover how to create and adjust a physical sky and the render settings you need to create a nice image. At the bottom of this page you can find links to more elaborate information on the subject.

Creating a physical sky

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Open your Render Settings: use the button in the Status Line Render settings status line.jpg or go to Window » Rendering Editors » Render Settings.

Set Render using to Mental Ray.


If the Mental Ray option is not shown in the pull-down menu of the Render Settings, go to: Window » Settings/Preferences » Plug-in Manager and make sure the check-boxes for Mayatomr.mll (Mayatomr.bundle on Mac) are checked.

Open the Indirect Lighting tab and open the Environment section:

Mr fg IBL create.jpg

Click the Create button for Physical Sun and Sky

Maya creates a directional light in the origin of the scene that acts as the main lighting of the scene, a blue environment and a sun disc. The location of this sun disc is adjusted according to the angle of rotation of the directional light. To adjust the direction of the light, you can select the directional light and rotate it:


The physical sky and physical sun have now been set up and provide physically accurate lighting to render your scene.

Setting the render settings

After creating the physical sky, open your render settings again by clicking the render settings button.

First start with the settings in the Common tab. In the Image Size section set the image size, using one of the presets, to 320x240 for test renderings and to 640x480 or full 1024 for final renderings:


Open the Quality tab and go to the Anti-Aliasing Quality section and open the Raytrace/Scanline Quality subsection. Set the Max Sample Level to 2; the Min Sample Level will automatically be set to 0.


Anti-aliasing quality controls the smoothness of edges in renders. The image below shows the difference between high and low settings of anti-aliasing. High settings improve the quality of the render very much, but will increase render time significantly.


In the Features tab, make sure Raytracing and Final Gathering are enabled.


Rendering and saving an image

Now the settings are setup to make a render. Press the render button to start rendering. The render view will automatically pop up and your image will appear gradually.


When the image is finished rendering you have to save your image to the hard drive to keep it. (maya is finished rendering when the yellow text at the bottom of the render view is replaced with white text showing render details) For saving the image, in the render view you select File » Save image.


You will be asked to define a location and name for the image file. Your are also able to choose an image file type. To maintain the highest image quality choose either Photoshop (*.psd) or Targa (*.tga). The Jpeg file type is also an option, but will result in a low(er) image quality.

Additional settings (optional)

With the basic setup described above, one will, in most cases gain sufficient results. However some tuning might be needed with the general lightness of the image. Therefore the tone mapper can be use. For detailed explanation of the tone mapper, have a look at Rendering Mental Ray: Tone mapping.

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