The Freelancer’s Guide to Arnold for Maya

Whether you’re a freelancer starting a new job, or a seasoned artist who’s facility has decided to change their primary rendering engine, if you need to get up to speed fast on Arnold for Maya this is the tutorial for you! This video was created to be your quick start guide to rendering in Arnold, and I’m confident we’re going to get you rendering here on day one. In this video we cover everything from sample settings, Lights, shaders, rendering, optimization, and everything in between.

Lets get started!

You can download the scene file here —-> http://maxdepth.tv/public/

***UPDATE 3/23/14***

Due to the large response to “The Freelancer’s Guide to Arnold” (over 7,000 downloads to date!) we wanted to add a few extra thoughts on optimization not covered in the video. The first thing we want to point out is that this video is meant to be an introduction to the core settings and techniques for first time users, and the viewer needs to keep in mind that different scenes and materials will yield different results/render times. There is no such thing as a one set of settings fits all, and you have to keep in mind what level of render cost you are willing to pay vs. beauty of render as this will be the main hurdle you face in your unique scene. In this video we tried to touch on most every option available to you in Arnold, and obviously in most cases you’ll not always need to use every technique covered here. A handful of viewers have questioned us on the 9 hour render time of the final frame in the tutorial, and we would like to offer answers to those question now.

To start there are three main factors that lead to this render time, first the translucent quality of the light scattering through the curtains, the large amount of clear refractive/reflective glass, and using an HDRI mapped Sky Dome light in conjunction with area lights on an interior scene. Keep in mind that you don’t HAVE  to use all of these techniques in your scene, and we are just introducing them as options available for you to use. It’s up to you to decide what you’re willing to pay for when it comes to increased render times, and what kind of look you are trying to achieve vs. the optimizations available.

Optimizations for tutorial scene.

1) You don’t have to use a sky dome light for an interior scene, and in most cases wouldn’t want to use a sky dome light for an interior scene because they are better suited to exterior scenes. You can cheat the effect of exterior light bounce well enough with a few strategically placed area lights for a dramatic decrease in render time.

2) Using the Backlighting setting on the diffuse for the curtains in this scene will add roughly 2 to 3 hours to the render with the sample settings necessary to reduce the GI noise of the skydome light in the final render. Translucent backscatter is one of the most computationally taxing effects you can add to any scene, and the time it adds to your scene will be directly proportional to your level of sampling. The more bounces you use to get rid of noise, the more this will increase backlighting’s contribution to render time. In an optimized interior scene that is not using a sky dome light for GI you will see less of a render hit with backlighting, but it will always be a computationally render expensive effect to use.

3) Any time you have a large amount of highly reflective/refractive glass in a scene you will have increased render time due to the amount of rays and light bounces necessary to reduce noise to a desired level.

4) Any kind of SSS will increase render times

The video itself, and keeping these optimizations in mind at the end will be a great way to get yourself rendering in Arnold like a pro! Enjoy!!


17 comments on “The Freelancer’s Guide to Arnold for Maya

    • admin

      It has the settings that took 9 hours 8/3/3/2/2, but you should start from the default of 3/2/2/2/3. Also the render time will depend on your machine, textures etc.

  1. Matt

    Is it just me that has issues with the scene file? 125MB ish and after opening, I get no errors, but nothing is in the scene. Odd

    • admin

      Now that would be cheating! lol Follow the video, and you’ll be able to recreate the scene completely. I want you to learn how to do it yourself. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Videotutorial gratuito per Arnold su Maya | Imaginaction

  3. Ntitn

    Nice tutorial, but isn’t the render time(6 hrs) too high for 1 frame, is there anyway to bring it down 🙂

    • admin

      This video was meant to cover the basics of getting up to speed with Arnold, and I didn’t want to go down the rabbit hole with extensive optimization techniques before the viewer has a chance to get up to speed. For instance a major factor to the time that can be decreased is to optimize the geometry in the scene. I found that scene model on a CG talk challenge page, and the geo is ridiculously subdivided on the couch and the curtains. The first thing I would do is spend time retopologizing those two things, and I bet it would reduce the polygon count in the scene by 3 million polygons easily. Add in a few tweaks here and there, maybe convert the geo to standins and I bet we could shave a few hours off that time!

  4. zdroski

    I think this scene is a good candidate for a Vray vs Arnold comparison. The few test that I’ve done with scenes where you need have a lot of bounces/big ray depth(light going into caves, basements/ I mean little amount of direct light) made me think that it actually imposible to work on look dev with Arnold. Vray seemed to me like the only way to go in scenarios like these. I’d like hear your opinion and even better see a comparison by an expert guy like you.

    As you understand no freelancer in animaton/vfx is going to wait for a 25hour/frame render. Arch Vis is another story..

    Thank you for the time you put in this tutorial!

    • admin

      I am working on a Freelancer’s Guide to Vray as we speak, so when that is finished we can compare the render times and the quality. Stay tuned!

  5. Hello to you.

    I followed your tutorial from the beginning to the end and I must say, it really helped me saving a lot of time, especially for an interior scene I’m working on as we speak.
    Your crash course clearly explained Arnold’s peculiar way to handle sampling and kudos to you for this !

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