Steel finish in MAYA

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Although creating the world light for the piston strut the other day gave a nice finish with a bit of reflectivity and the ability to combine and display those different materials, I still wasn’t happy with the so called metallic finish.

I’ll leave that piece as is and start work on another part of the arm for my side robot project, knowing that if I successfully find a technique for the look I’m after I will be able to replicate it over the new parts of the body.

Today I have worked on the piston head, the second part of the arm. It was fairly easy to create the starting model, a cylinder, then push in the center, use another polygonal solid cylinder to punch the holes out of the main section, and then model the curved joint area with a handbuilt shape, extruded from a starting cylinder.

Eventually I discovered a tutorial for a steel finish on a model, that was in the same version as my MAYA (it seems to have changed tools and methods for achieving this a LOT over the years) so it was essential to find one on the 2013 build. It had images so I could see what it meant by a metallic finish, again something to watch as what a few of the guys giving tutorials mean by metal finish is not what I wanted!

And although it took longer than it should have, MAYA hiding menus and click points again, especially when trying to find the connection editor (click on the arrow between nodes in the hypershader) I am really pleased with the results.


it looks excellent, and because it saves it as a node (like a style sheet in MAYA) you can click and apply to every bit you want to look like steel, cool..

This is the link to the best tutorial I have found…

These are all really useful things to keep going over, because a robot with hard lines and finish should be easier to create than the bird I will work on over this module and then finish in my Masters project itself next year, it’s all about pushing, pulling and then refining shapes using edge loops or single vertices.

I know that MAYA is not a programme that you can dip in and out of if you want to be efficient and make the best models you can.

Piston – Maya

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So today I made this in maya, a piston for a robot I’m working on. This is for a side project and also as part of my development of skills within maya. Again I find Maya tricky and secretive, hiding plug-ins and settings away in menus that aren’t obvious.

My notebook for Maya is now half full and I’m still really on the basics!

This project has given me an insight into reflections refractions and using an image for the lighting which places the object within an environment for it to reflect back, really interesting stuff, but the basic rendering model used for these advanced attributes is hidden away in the render settings, Render using>Mental Ray.

There are many tutorials out there for reflectivity, but some are using old maya and others dont have sound…  very hard to follow and really frustrating trying to wade through the dross. However I eventually found one that showed me all I needed to render up my object and put it in an environment,


So I post it here for all the others that might be struggling on getting that glossy finish.


backwards and forwards

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Spent most of today going backwards and forwards, from tutorial to live file, from image to UV, even from college to home and I feel as though I have got absolutely nowhere. Although I did have a breakthrough with regards to my deformation of shapes with animation. Again went back and looked through all of the relevant tutorials and found one where good ‘ole George Maestri ( painted his weights using a colour ramp, not just the black and white that I had been using. Quickly found the tickbox in my live project and ‘hey presto’ that’s where it’s all being affected from. Not only was the top of the leg deforming the front of the chest, but the long neck which goes down inside the body shape was distorting as well.



this screengrab shows how the colour ramp lit up the areas which had me scratching my head for most of the previous day.

It felt good to get this problem sorted and I merrily painted away those nasty blue deformities!

Unfortunately the rest of the day was a total bungle, I wanted to bring this ready to animate model onto my home machine as it has 2013 Maya installed and the Collada exporter needed for processing into the Aurasma stage is within the plug-ins already. I obviously can’t install the plugin on a college computer as I don’t have admin rights. But on my home machine I couldn’t get the file to load up, now I had spoken to resident tech expert Leigh, one of the technicians at NUA about how to assure I wouldn’t have any problems when I got home and thought I had covered all of the bases, but it was not to be. I tried importing, I tried opening, I tried turning my machine on and off, in case of a bug, but nothing worked… I couldn’t continue with the rest of my planned day, it was already 2pm what to do…?

Obviously the swear box got filled up at this point, and the chocolate tin raided and my machine was shut down in disgust…

After a cup of coffee, I no choice but to go back into college and again bother Leigh with this silly problem. Fortunately he was still in and free to go through with me on the college machine exactly how the file hierarchy works and where to open it from –  by the way never ever import (tip from the top) – but to my annoyance what he showed me meant I should have been able to open it at home… But, but, I decided to make a new project folder and hope that this would aid me in my efforts to open the right damn file when I got back. Leigh said I was doing really well, which is very kind of him seeing as I have done nothing but bug him for the last two weeks, but not being able to open a file is just unheard of for me… Back home I went.

I can’t open the file… I couldn’t open this cottonpickinhotename file… aargh, I’m going to give this up, it’s now 4pm and I haven’t achieved anything, I wanted to do so much today, I wanted the animation nailed. But I’m stuck not being able to load a file….

Right, back to the old days, associate the file with maya – which I really shouldn’t have to do – all of the tests files/models I’ve done solely on my home machine show up as a lovely maya file, but none of the ones from college, I can see them but I cannot open them.

Success…. sigh of relief, quickly save scene as onto my machine.

right at last onto the animation, god this is hard.

I had rigged up some IK rigs for the leg and proceeded to try and animate with them, but it seems so fiddly, if I want to animate the body – because it’s currently a seperate shape – I have animate it by itself and set it’s own keyframe, if I click off of the body I can’t see where the keyframes are, try the dopesheet says George, um, ok don’t understand that. Move something accidentally – now I’ve shifted my whole model… oh god, this is a horrible nightmare of animation… ok, ok, lets just do a few simple moves, so delete everything, start again and just do a few frames, then test that through Aurasma, see if I sweat blood and tears over the animation, if it will even work. I’ve had a few weird things turn up getting the static model into Aurasma.

Great, Maya won’t even export the .dae file I need, keeps coming up with errors about nodes and maybe I might want to update my .dae plugin.. ok I dutifully update it, go to export and same error message.. that was worth my while then, then the error log has a problem with some of my objects, I look in the outliner and it is referring to my ik joints…. so I delete them, it buggers up my animation, so I patch up a few keyframes and try again… no, it cannot find my bind poses now….this time it suggests maybe I might want to bake my animation…. I do everything I can. At the end my Great Bustard is just gliding along the floor as I’ve removed every single thing I possible can and this time maya exports it….

I put it with the thumbnail image (256×256 .png), convert to a .tar file using 7z and upload it to the Aurasma studio, it’s 9pm at night and I have had a rubbish day, please Aurasma accept my model.. I watch the whirly spiral of time whizzing round… and then the dreaded no entry sign pops up, cannot build model, random error code, please contact Aurasma…

I go back to maya, bake the animation, again delete the history, remove the lights, delete anything extraneous in the outliner window (that is a tip from me to keep your work streamlined – look in the outliner!) and re submit it to Aurasma…

Could not validate augmentation: Not enough key frames in animation

ok I give in

I shut down and pledge to start again with the static model that has nothing on it and nothing in it’s history tomorrow…

Maya – Rigging 101


So my first day spent trying to rig my model, and it feels like I went 1 step forward and 3 steps back, the actual jointing all made sense and after watching the tutorial I created my leg joints.


I quickly drew out the hip to knee to ankle joint and was able to mirror the leg rig and  feeling buoyed by  my success I set about adding a body, neck and tail rig.


But can you spot the deliberate mistake? Of course I had based this on working from the hips, the same way as the tutorial, birds don’t have hips, their ‘knees’ bend backwards and they have wings… My model for the purposes of this module doesn’t have wings as I felt it would be far too much to try and model and control in my first MAYA project. But, I needed to go back and create a more birdlike structure for the rig.


A quick google and I actually managed to find a skeletal illustration purporting to be a little bustard, so hoping it was close enough, I worked up a new rig for my model (again leaving out the wings structure).


That was better, it seemed to fit well and after checking it from all angles, looked good enough to move onto the next stage, IK rigging, which would give me more control over movement.

After viewing the online tutorial I decided to give the IK rig a go. Firstly I tried rigging the whole leg from hip (in the main bodyroot joint) to toe, but this wouldn’t give the mobility I wanted and actually moved the whole model, rotating it from the spine, so I had to go back, delete the leg joints and create an intermediary joint which would act as the hip…

After applying the IK rig again, it still wouldn’t move the third joint, what we would perceive as the ‘backward knee’ but is in fact the birds ankle. This is the joint which we see move the most, so I deleted the IK rig and decided I’d have to do it a different way… After a bit of thought, I wondered if I could put two IK rigs into the same leg. I did this from the hip to the ankle and from the ankle to the toe and it seemed to give me more of the movement I required.

The next step is to bind the skeleton to the model, selecting the rig and all of the Great Bustard shapes I used the smooth bind to put the bones inside my bird.



I then intrepidly selected the move tool and had a go at bending the left leg. It wasn’t great, it takes in too much of the surrounding shape, affecting the other foot with the lower ik rig and distorting the torso way too much with the top part of the leg rig. It was so disappointing, I tweaked and painted weights and went back and forth from tutorial to model, taking the unbinding the skeleton and trying different parameters but I just couldn’t get it working how I wanted to.

I will go back tomorrow and try and find some research or back information on rigging a bird as all of the tutorials and ready made rigs are humanised in MAYA so, of course, mine all needs to be custom made.. The software will not beat me!