Adding fur to an animal character

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  08 August 2013
Adding fur to an animal character

How would you go about adding a believable coat of fur to an animal character? It doesn't need to be dynamic for the kind of result I'm aiming at (short fur), but a texture won't really do, as it would need to be VERY high-res and thereby clunky to work with in order to diffuse the silhouette of the character properly.
I've had a gander at Maya fur, and it looks promising enough visually, but I have a few questions as to how to work with it.

Firstly, how do you increase the viewport density? As it is per standard, on my character, the fur ends up very scarce, the face of the animal having like 10 follicles in total, and it's hard to do anything with it as it is per default.

Secondly, How would you go about making the fur point the way its supposed to, to look believable? Waaaay back when I first started fiddling with 3d graphics, in 3dsMax, there was a plugin that I tried where you had tools to basically use a brush to comb the hair into hairstyles or proper coats of fur. The directional attributes on the fur in Maya seems rather sparse and clumsy to work with, by comparison, even when you try to paint the attributes (for instance it seems like you can't control the bending of the hairs, only tilt the follicles, and that they only tilt from upright to 90 deg. two ways, like positive X and positive Y, not over the other way, to the negative values. Or maybe I'm just doing it wrong. Some pointers on shaping the fur would be most appreciated.

If you think that Maya fur won't do to create anything beyond believable balls of fluff using the presets, what solution would you use instead? I'm open to any solution, as long as it's fairly intuitive to work with.
  08 August 2013
if you have time wait for xgen...
it should be available for subscription user in september...
  08 August 2013
Yeah I'd agree with that. Wait for XGen. It looks like to be a real game changer. Any time you spend learning Fur and Hair will be wasted because of it. Maya Fur and hair will probably only continue to appear in Maya 2014 Extension, M2015 & M2016 for compatibility purposes and then phased out after that like Sub-Ds were.
  08 August 2013
I'd like to broaden this topic slightly and ask about the mental ray rendering pipeline for fur. Historically, the best way to render fur in mental ray was to use rasterizer for 3d motion blur and detail shadow maps. With most modern rendering pipelines incorporating ray traced area lights, IBL and final gathering, what's the best workflow for rendering fur and hair in such an environment?
Chad Gleason
Creative Director
Outpost 12 Studios
  08 August 2013
Well when I was following the advice on a well known TD blog page:

I went along with exploring mental ray detailed shadow maps. However, I found them not to be the best solution for short fur. Longer hair... not too sure.

Bald skin and fur traditionally get rendered out as separate passes.
An Area light (or a spot with a radius) can be used for the background and bald character
and you can have as many 'Shadow Rays' as required to get soft non-noisy results. Most projects I've done 'Shadow Rays' have needed to go from 8 rays for the rim and fill lights and as high as 32 for the Key lights. However, Shadow Rays of 8 - 32 on short hair / fur is overkill. A raytraced spot light, with only "Shadow Ray = 1" is required.

So, the easiest way to have the best of both worlds to batch render the backgrounds and the bald character as 1 pass, and then when it's done, change the light parameters from 'Shadow Rays' from 8-32 down to 1 again.

Indirect lighting of any kind for the fur render pass is overkill... only for feature film work. Add a few extra lights of very low intensity to simulate bounce lighting.
Final Gather and flickering animations go hand-in-hand. When you apply final gather points to something small like fur, you're in trouble.
Ambient Occlusion for fur is also overkill for simple stuff.
  08 August 2013
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