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Grass and Plant Instancing in Maya/Mental Ray

Forests Techniques, part Two with Alex Alvarez

Sample Clip

In this DVD, Alex covers how to create realistic grass using Maya, Paint Effects and Mental Ray while also sharing his techniques for developing a complete natural environment. We begin by evaluating the default Paint Effects grass library with discussion on the basic adjustments needed to make grass more natural. Techniques for covering large areas with grass are then explored via curves and instancing. Through the use of instancing, particles and surface emitters, Alex shows how to populate large scenes with grass geometry, rendering millions of polygons with a minimal RAM footprint. Included is an expression based technique for orienting instanced geometry with the normal of the generating surface, an issue less important for plants or trees but often very important for grass. When elements need to be interactively and precisely placed, Alex also demonstrates the use of a freely available geometry paint script, as well as how to bake particle instances to geometry. Generating textures, miaMaterials and workflow in conjunction with Physical Sun/Sky is thoroughly discussed. Alex also demonstrates how to render and utilize zDepth passes to add post depth-of-field and fog effects, how to render true volumetric fog effects, as well as Photoshop and After Effects post techniques to increase realism through the use of color correction and plug-ins, including Magic Bullet, LensCare and Sapphire.

  • Grass with Paint Effects
  • Coverage Techniques
  • Particle Instancing
  • Texture Emission
  • Geometry Paint
  • Physical Sun/Sky
  • miaMaterials
  • Photoshop Compositing
  • Z-Depth
  • Volume Fog
  • After Effects Compositing
  • Baking Instances to Geometry
  1. Paint Effects Grasses
  2. Grass Shaders
  3. Grass Coverage, Z-Depth, Depth-of-Field
  4. Cliff: Integrating Grass into a Scene
  5. Meadow: Instancing, part 1
  6. Meadow: Instancing, part 2
  7. Meadow: Instancing, part 3
  8. Meadow: Geometry Paint
  9. Meadow: Additional Elements
  10. Meadow: Photoshop Comps
  11. Meadow: Final Layout
  12. Baking Instances to Geo
  13. Render Setup
  14. Final After Effects Comp

  • Product Code: AAL24
  • ISBN: 1-59762-748-8
  • UPC: 805366018146
  • Duration: 521 minutes
  • Formats: DVD-ROM, Digital Download

DVD-ROM Requirements:

  • 1GHz or faster processor
  • 521 MB RAM
  • 64 MB Video RAM
  • DVD-ROM Drive
  • 5 GB of hard disk space
  • 1280 x 1024 display

DVD-ROM and Digital Download Requirements:

Minimum Operating System:

  • Microsoft® Windows® Vista®
  • Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional
  • Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional
  • Apple® Mac® OS X 10.2


  • QuickTime Movie Player (Version 7.0 or higher)
  • Acrobat Reader (Version 5.0 or higher)

For more information on DVD and Digital Download policies click here here.

  • Software Used:

  • Autodesk

  • Adobe
    After Effects

  • Adobe

Alex Alvarez

Founder, Director The Gnomon Workshop
Gnomon School of Visual Effects

Alex Alvarez is the founder and president of the Gnomon School of Visual Effects in Hollywood, the Gnomon Workshop, Gnomon Gallery, SketchTheatre and Gnomon Studios. Having dedicated the past fifteen years to educating students and professionals around the world, Alex has helped change the face of computer graphics and design education. He has been published in industry magazines, websites and books, plus he has taught workshops at several major trade conferences. He continues to work on personal and professional projects, recently as a creature development artist on Avatar, Star Trek, Green Lantern and Prometheus. Prior to Gnomon, Alex worked for Alias|Wavefront as a consultant and trainer for studios in the Los Angeles area. Alex is an alumnus of the Art Center College of Design and the University of Pennsylvania.

"Whenever I need to breathe life into my characters, Alex Alvarez is where I go. Whether it be to collaborate on concepts with him directly or to watch his DVDs, I am always confident in accessibility to great information. Not only has his technical prowess pulled me out of many holes, but his character sense has given rise to some wonderful moments on some major motion pictures (Avatar and Star Trek). These new DVD's encapsulate what I gush about. Crazy and creative character design coupled with empowering technical know how."

- Neville Page
Character/Concept Designer

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