Setting up Billboard in Maya

Create the billboard geometry

1. After following this tutorial for creating your .tif image with transparency in photoshop, Open Maya.

2. If you are starting a new project, File->Project New. Give the project a Name, specify a location, click defaults at the bottom of this window.

3. In the finder, copy your .tif file into the source images folder.

4. Back in maya, File->Save your scene and give it a name.

5. Go to Create->Nurbs Primitive-> uncheck "interactive creation"

6. Go to create->Nurbs Primitive-> plane

7. With the plane selected, look at the construction history attributes (control a) of the plane.

Give the plane a width, and set the ratio to match the ratio of the source image

Set the Patches to 1 in u and v unless you plan to bend the plane

Translate and Rotate the plane to position it.

8. Create a ground plane stand-in object using polygons or nurbs with 10 patches in each direction.
Create the Shader and Apply to the geometry

9. Open the Hypershade window, click on the Lambert icon on the left to create a new shader. If you are using Arnold, you should use the aiFlat shader instead and you will need to also folllow these steps to set up the viewport and make the object capable of showing transparency.

If you are not using Arnold (you are using raytracing), In the attribute editor, give the shader a name, Turn the Ambient Color all the way up - so the photograph does not require light to reproduce its local color, Turn the Diffuse Down, so the light in the scene will not brighten the local color of the image. Turn the Shadow Attenuation down to 0.0 or you will have a halo where there should be transparency.

10. Click on the checkerboard button next to color in the shader attributes. When the dialog pops up choose "file". navigate to your billboard image .tif file. If you intend to work with an animated sequence, finish reading this tutorial, then jump to the Animated Sequence Billboard tutorial.

11. Click on the plane, then under the "rendering" tab of the program,

go to "lighting/shading->assign existing material->yournewShader_lambert.

make the perpsective view active, then hit "6" on the keyboard to set it into display textures mode.

Create Lights, Camera and Render

12. Create a point light and position it above and in front of the object.


In the light attributes - turn on "Use Ray Trace Shadows"

Set the light radius. 0.0 will be sharp shadows, the larger the number the softer the shadow

As the light radius increases you will need to increase the shadow rays to avoid grainy shadows. Start slowly and work your way up with both of these settings.

13. Go to Window->Rendering Editors->Render Settings.

Render Using: set to Mental Ray or Maya Software or Arnold (if mental ray is missing from this dropdown, you will need to activate it by going to window-> setting/preferences-> plug-in manager and turn on Mayatomr.mll).

For Maya Software - Click on the Maya Software Tab, set quality to high, and under raytracing quality turn on Raytracing

For Mental Ray - Click on Quality tab, Set Quality Preset to Production

Under the Rasterizing Quality Section, You may want to decrease the Multi-Pixel Filtering to 1 and 1, or 2 and 2. If you have movement in the scene you may want to stick with 3 and 3

For Arnold you will need to set the "samples" in the arnold light attribute in the lights attribute editor. This will impact render time so raise it until it is acceptable, don't go further..

14. In the Perspective view, zoom and pan to frame the billboard for a render

15. Click on the clapboard icon on the top of the screen to render the view

Joshua Mosley 2018