maya physical sun and sky tutorial

the ‘Make Cool’ button: Maya Physical Sun and Sky tutorial

Need a quick lighting solution to show off your models or animation?  Physical Sun and Sky is different than most things in Maya and Mental Ray: it’s easy to use, and it looks good right out of the box.

Why Physical Sun and Sky?

Well, first and foremost: it looks cool. It mimics time of day effects without any user input – so sunset is more orange, and high noon is more blue. Cool!

Second, it is easy to use: hit create, and then render, and your scene looks better. BAM! That’s why I call it the ‘Make Cool’ button.

Last, it renders fast. Really fast. It’s basically just a single directional light and a sky dome! But this is definitely a case of the whole adding up to more than its individual parts.

Maya Physical Sun and Sky tutorial video:

What you need to know:

Two nodes are created when you click the ‘Create’ button under the Indirect Lighting tab in your Render Settings: mia_physicalsky, and sunDirection.

The mia_physicalsky node handles the visuals of the effect – not just the way the sky looks, but also the appearance of the sun.

The sunDirection is exactly that: a directional light that controls the position and the angle of the sun.

Time of day effects

What’s really cool, is that by rotating the sunDirection light around, you control not just the angle of the sunlight, but also the time of day effects built in to the system.

So: when the light points straight down, it’s a bright blue day with very strong daylight. Tilt the sun down towards the horizon though, and your scene becomes more orange and takes on the look of sunset/sunrise.

One of my favorite features

And in the amount of time it took me to write that last paragraph, you could have rotated the sun around a few times and re-rendered. That’s what makes this system so cool: it’s easy to create, it’s easy to manipulate, and it renders fast. It’s basically the opposite of everything else in Maya!

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