Tips for dealing with a VERY large scene (miles)?

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Old 04 April 2013   #1
Tips for dealing with a VERY large scene (miles)?

I've got a shot I'm planning out that's set in the middle of a desert highway in California.

The actual location where the main action will be happening is fairly small (a few dozen meters), but I was thinking of using topographic data to model the surrounding mountains and project their texture from a 360* HDRI I've shot on location. This would make the scene a couple of miles across from one end to the other...

I'd like to keep everything to scale for accurate lighting and whatnot, but I've never attempted working with a scene this large so I was wondering if anyone had any tips or experience working with very large scenes like this before I dive in head first.


Modeler / Generalist TD
Old 04 April 2013   #2
Use fewer polygons on the far away stuff. You can even get away with lower res textures on the far off stuff as well
Old 04 April 2013   #3
You're right about the importance of keeping everything to scale.

Keep Maya units to cm (if you change it to anything else it actually just multiples under the hood, which can be bad), but use those units as metres (or something else; feet or decimetres etc.).

That way you can keep a large environment more managable. Don't forget you can increase the clipping planes of your cameras to keep everytihg viewable.
Old 04 April 2013   #4
I haven't worked with scenes at that size too, but out of curiousity, is there a special reason why you want the distant environment to be so detailed and accurate? Is that same location visible in multiple shots from multiple perspectives or so?

Cause generally what people do is use the HDR they shoot and rebuild their set extension in Nuke and bring in Maya camera info etc to composite the main action infront of it

Maybe modelling the nearest hills with your hero elements, and projecting the rest in comp might cut it too.
"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex & more violent..." Einstein
Old 04 April 2013   #5
Yeah good point. unless there is a decent amount of translation, you won't see the modelling of stuff in the distance.
Old 04 April 2013   #6
Large scene data seems to work well when you keep your camera near the center of your scene. I worked on a project where everything used UTM coordinates. Everything was to scale and our area of interest was about 400 miles from the origin. Not fun. Everything breaks down that far from the origin. If you keep things pretty centered you should be ok. If you are doing a creative project, not a geospatially referenced project, I wouldn't worry about exact scale too much.
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Old 05 May 2013   #7
Thought I'd chime in, since this is a recent thread and I'm looking for scaling guidelines.

I'm doing an industrial scene similar to this one , with large equipment on the top of the ground, but focusing down to a much smaller scale to demonstrate the function of a subterranean tool. If you look at the linked animation (which I though was very well modeled), I'd say my job needs to zoom at a ratio of 3-4 times that shown in the youtube video, widest to tightest shot. I guess I mean from an establishing shot of the large (100 foot) equipment on the ground, some of which also needs to be detailed, down to an inch-scaled illustration detail underground.

I've thought of using several scenes and just segueing between them in post, but am wondering if Maya will have trouble with the large jump in scale if I decide to do it all in one scene.

Thoughts, tips and suggestions appreciated.


Old 05 May 2013   #8
Thanks for the tips everyone, I'll keep you updated if I run to any troubles.

Mustique - I'm just afraid my HDRI isn't high-res enough to hold up as a clean backplate, so I figured using geometry and projection might be needed. But it's a good idea and I will try it out to see if it looks alright.

Modeler / Generalist TD
Old 05 May 2013   #9
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