The Gnomon Workshop

Creating Trees in Maya / Onyx

Forests Techniques, part Four with Alex Alvarez


This title explores how to incorporate the Onyx Tree suite of programs into a Maya and Mental Ray workflow, while demonstrating scene layout and rendering techniques that apply to any artist interested in natural environments. We begin with Onyx Broadleaf, an invaluable tool for quickly creating a diverse library of physically accurate trees. The user interface is explained while demonstrating how to export geometry to Maya, including wind animation and a custom Gnomon mel script for importing Onyx animation. Beyond Onyx animation, we also look at how to use softbody lattices to manually animate tree leaves for quick turnaround animation. A thorough demonstration of physical sun/sky, final gather and miaMaterials for trees is then provided including a detailed review of how to create custom leaf textures from scans. Broadleaf techniques culminate in the creation of an overgrown Highway scene with a final 4k composite in After Effects that includes beauty, Zdepth, fog passes and post-process effects with the Lenscare, Magic Bullet and Sapphire plug-ins. Moving on, we then explore Onyx Conifer, Palm and Bamboo in equal detail discussing library and rendering techniques for each type of tree concluding with a photorealistic bamboo forest that introduces final gather techniques for deep shadow environments. We wrap up the lecture with a demonstration of Mental Ray proxies, allowing environment artists a methodology for populating scenes with billions of polygons. Suited to both students and professionals, Alex shares his in-depth knowledge hoping to inspire artists to delve further into the world of natural CG environments.

Duration: 552 minutes

Format: HD 1280x720

Alex Alvarez

Founder / Director The Gnomon Workshop and Gnomon School of Visual Effects

Alex is founder and director of The Gnomon Workshop and of the Gnomon School of Visual Effects in Hollywood. Having dedicated the last decade to educating students and professional artists 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 courses at several major trade conferences. Alex is president of the Los Angeles Maya Users Group and sits on the Advisory Boards for and CGsociety. He continues to work on personal and professional projects, recently as a creature development artist on the James Cameron film Avatar. 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 tutorials, 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 tutorials encapsulate what I gush about. Crazy and creative character design coupled with empowering technical know how. "

    - Neville Page
    Character / Concept Designer