View Full Version : Maya to Compositor WorkFlow

08 August 2009, 08:38 AM

I'm very new to the compositting world. Would anyone have time to explain to me how to go through a compositing workflow? I have Maya, Discreet Combustion, and After Effects. I tried doing it on my own and with the help of tutorials that I find online, but they never seem to work.

You don't have to hold my hand through the process, but if I can at least get help troubleshooting my process, that would be awesome. :)

We can exchange files etc so things can be cleared up.

Thank you


08 August 2009, 08:09 PM
I feel your pain. There are plenty of bad multi-pass compositing tutorials online that will only lead you to a dead end or incorrect results. This information is very difficult to come by, and in this case, you really do get what you pay for. Here are the resources I recommend looking into purchasing:

1. Maya 2009 Multi-Pass Rendering for Character Production ( This is actually my own tutorial. I made this because I found every training tutorial on the subject to be insufficient. I go through the entire process from start to finish and cover things you won't find in any other tutorial on the subject.

2. Digital Tutor's Maya 2009 Render Passes ( It's mediocre. Covers a lot of cool stuff with Maya's pass presets and refractions, but what they demonstrate only works in very limited scenario. You'll quickly run into problems trying to incorporate their workflow. Still, it is a nice resource to have.

3. Gnomon's Character Texturing for Production (includes pass rendering) ( - This is one outstanding resource. But there is one MAJOR setback, they use a plug-in for pass rendering that only works correctly with Maya 2008 ext 2, on a Mac. Still think it's well worth a purchase.

4. Gnomon's Multi-Pass Compositing ( - Uses 3D Studio instead of Maya, but has some very helpful multi-pass tips and tricks. It's not going to cover all your bases, but it is a great introduction.

If you have the money, go with all four, but if you don't, definitely go with my tutorial. You'll get the most value and as I mentioned, the other tutorials are insufficient by themselves.

On one final note, I strongly recommend staying away from After Effects. It's fine to use it for some slight color correction or basic post effects, but managing a lot of passes with it is asking for a migraine. Don't know how capable Combustion is, but if you can upgrade to Toxic that would definitely work. Really though, Nuke and Fusion are you best bets.

08 August 2009, 08:52 PM
Awesome. Since the time I created this post, I actually got a copy of Nuke so I'm well underway with that installed and everything. I think I'll go with your book since the others seem less broad for what I'm going for. I'm just looking for an overall class on compositing in book form. The only problem now is that I don't have enough money to buy Fusion or else I'd definitely grab your book.

For starters, do you think I'd gain somewhat of an overall concept of most of the settings in Fusion so I know enough to apply that knowledge to another project? I know I won't be learning the entire program, but if I can get enough just to be creative and innovative with the program then your book is right on the money.



08 August 2009, 09:39 PM
Actually it's a video tutorial, not a book. Also, Fusion, Nuke, Shake, and Toxic are practically identical. As long as you know the basic blending modes (screen, add, multiply, invert, etc) it should be easy to follow along. That goes for just about any compositing tutorial. In fact, I learned how to do most of this stuff from Shake demonstrations while still working in Fusion.

08 August 2009, 08:49 AM
Wanted to say thanks to crispy4004 (again... just sent you email few hours ago :D ) for your multi-pass rendering tutorial! It was really useful!
I`m currently trying to figure out and set up proper workflow, and pipeline for our studio (recently started), including small render farm, and i`m too really confused about this multi-pass compositing workflow...
How does it apply to whole project!? Before i found such a thing as multi-pass, i rendered my sequences straigth out, sometimes making BW masks to separate objects, to do little color correction in After Effects. Whole light adjustment, color, gamma etc matching was done purely in Maya... now it seems that there is no color/light tuning in maya, anymore... instead everything is rendered in linear space and modified in compositing software!?
For simple ilustration image, or just character head it is understandable for me... but what happens when you have whole scene, with fore/mid/background, characters. How can you set the right lightning, GI, achieve the right mood etc, if you render completely with no lens shader (like mia_exposure_simple), and in linear space?

I hope at least you could give us some guidlines about this!? :)

08 August 2009, 07:05 PM
In all honesty I haven't tested multi-pass rendering on a large scale scene yet. The workflow in in theory however should be the same. Just with a lot more RGB masks and/or possibly separating stuff like the background into separate Render layers.

As for as setting the mood for the scene, you have quite a bit of freedom with having separate lighting, indirect lighting, and ambient occlusion passes. Not to mention all the other compositing effects. Say for instance, you want a warmer tone to the scene. Color correcting the indirect pass to a red Hue should be a good starting point. If you want even more freedom, you can separate each light in your scene into a different pass, but Maya's setup for that is a bit of a pain. That is, at least compared to the awesome but unfortunately buggy Nexus shaders.

As for the Mia exposure lenses, you can adjust the gamma of the lighting in the scene very easily with compositing as well. The Mia lenses do have some extra features, but in my opinion the compositing route is in most scenarios is the better approach. This Gnomon Multi-pass compositing tutorial ( does a good job showing the workflow for a scene.

One last important thing I have to mention however, from my understanding Maya 2009 has a Custom Buffer bug ( that can dramatically increases render times for custom passes. Until then, you may want to use ctrl_buffers with Maya 2008 (2009 overrides them). Hopefully this will be fixed in Maya 2010.

09 September 2009, 02:18 AM
Found out from the Maya support blog that the Custom Buffer bug was fixed with Maya 2009 SP1a. :applause: Wanted to correct myself in this thread.

09 September 2009, 05:32 PM
Thanks for the help crispy4004!

10 October 2009, 07:57 AM
crispy can you send me that link to your tutorial? i can really use it.

10 October 2009, 08:30 AM
I gave the link in this post ( along with a wide assortment of other training materials you may want to consider also purchasing.

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