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Creating Trees in Maya / Paint Effects

Forest Techniques, part Three with Alex Alvarez

Sample Clip

In this DVD, Alex demonstrates how to use the Paint Effects engine in Maya to create realistic trees. We begin by looking at the default PFX library, which has been converted to polygons for a Mental Ray workflow in an interactive instancer driven scene. Alex then thoroughly demonstrates how to customize a tree, using a library preset as a start point. All relevant paint effects attributes as discussed so that it becomes clear how to create trees that match the desired look for branching, leaves and behavior. Creating custom textures in Photoshop and setting up miaMaterials is then explored using Physical Sun/Sky and photographic camera exposure. Tree animation with wind turbulence, including how to create a randomized library from a user-defined preset, is generated in preparation for incorporating trees into a high-poly park scene. Techniques for populating the park with trees, as well as plants, grass and ground leaves, are discussed in a dynamic and flexible workflow via surface emission, instancing and particle expressions. Alex renders the animated scene, including his ZDepth workflow, compositing the final result in After Effects using the Lenscare, Magic Bullet and Sapphire plug-ins. He also shares his techniques for using volume primitives to create volumetric fog effects, rendered as a separate pass, creating a final 4k comp of the park scene. In conclusion, a variety of tips for creating custom trees are shared in order to make the default library a more useful start point for professional projects including broadleaf, palm, pine, willow and bamboo.

  • Paint Effects Trees
  • Customizing Trees
  • Wind Animation
  • Line Modifiers
  • Scene Layout Techniques
  • Particle Instancing
  • Physical Sun/Sky
  • Hero Leaf Techniques
  • Palm, Pine, Willow, Bamboo
  • After Effects Compositing
  • Lenscare, Magic Bullet, Sapphire
  1. Paint Effects Library Analysis
  2. Customizing a Tree, part one
  3. part two: Twigs, Leaves, Wind
  4. Branching Options / PFX Modifiers
  5. Textures, Materials and Rendering
  6. UV tiles, Wind Animation Tests
  7. Duplicating/Randomizing with History
  8. Park Scene Set-up Workflow
  9. Park Scene Rendering, ZDepth, Compositing
  10. Park: Volume Fog, Final Composite
  11. Leaf Resolution
  12. Palm Trees
  13. Pine Trees
  14. Willow Tree
  15. Bamboo

  • Product Code: AAL25
  • ISBN: 1-59762-746-1
  • UPC: 805366018153
  • Duration: 434 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

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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