Introducing mental ray for Maya 2016 Render Settings

This is the first in a series of posts on mental ray for Maya 2016 Render Settings


We significantly changed the mental ray for Maya 2016 Render Settings User Interface (UI) in order to reduce time spent adjusting renders. The defaults aim for no-fuss rendering of the most frequently used and up-to-date features. Of specific note, our newest Global Illumination (GI) mode significantly increases ease-of-use and productivity.

We provide almost everything a user needs here within this UI. For example, a user should not have to type in string options anymore.


Members of both NVIDIA ARC and Autodesk, including UI designers and developers, collaborated to make this change significant. As stated in the Maya 2016 documentation for mental ray Render Settings, we aim to:

  • Enable complete rendering without requirement to adjust or enable most settings. The defaults should enable the most frequently used features.
  • Increase ease-of-use when adjusting settings to control for optimization and quality.
  • Provide single global controls to reduce repetitive and potentially error-inducing settings across scene elements.

We also want to retain the flexibility of mental ray for production users. So we provide an Advanced Settings option on each of the new tabs. We hide less frequently used features in favor of a cleaner, more productive and simpler control for basic workflow. This leads users of all levels to what is fundamentally important to control.

Render Settings Tabs

We re-organized the mental ray Render Settings into four main tabs:

The Quality tab contains quality settings for controlling sampling. By using quality settings, instead of sample counts, we take advantage of better optimization schemes internally. We also believe it will be conceptually easier, once the community gets familiar with this style of control.

The Scene tab contains shared settings across scene elements, such as camera settings that should be applied to all renderable cameras. This is where we provide the new simplified mental ray Passes.

The Configuration tab contains settings that are more likely to be used across Maya sessions, and how a user likes to work with the scene. For example, the interactive rendering control for progressive rendering depends on a machine’s resources.

The Diagnostics tab contains settings that help a user with problem solving, or identification of areas for optimization.

Quality Settings

Here, we provide an overview of how to adjust your scenes with the new UI, suggesting our recommended practice.

For new scenes, use the Overall Quality setting in the Sampling section as the primary control for speed vs. quality. It is located at the top of the Quality tab.This controls samples across a scene. Samples are not fixed per pixel. Rather, they vary in density per pixel region. More samples are taken in each region until the quality is matched.

In the next section, we provide detail to better understand how to adjust quality beyond the Overall Quality setting. With better understanding, we hope you can more quickly achieve your desired results. 

Understanding more about quality adjustment

Here, we introduce the concept of global vs. local sampling. This concept is key to adjusting quality now and in the future, as rendering technology evolves.

The Overall Quality setting is a global setting that controls samples across a scene. Each sample starts a ray traced from the camera out into the scene. In essence, we sample the scene from the eye (E). Below, we show an eye ray (in green) over a work by Albrecht Dürer.

durerWhen an eye ray intersects an object, the eye ray may split into several samples. We will call those the local samples, in contrast to the global samples, because they are local to each eye ray. Below, we show a diffuse distribution of local samples split out for diffuse reflection.

eye_rayWe separate the local samples into two categories at an intersection point: the samples used for lights and the samples used for materials.

For materials, the sample directions depend on the type of surface at the intersection point. For example, above a diffuse surface creates samples in the hemisphere above the intersection point. Because these samples tend to hit objects, it represents indirect light.

For lighting, the samples are taken from all visible lights in the scene. Below, we see a single light sample for the same intersection point. There could be more light samples depending on number and size of lights. Light samples represent direct light.

light_rayTraditionally, lights were only those elements specified explicitly as lights in the scene, and they had no size. However, as rendering implementations evolved, so did lights, from point to area lights, and now, emissive objects. Also, consider the light from an environment. Environments convert automatically into light sources by enabling environment light emission. When enabled, we provide a separate quality control for the environment lighting.Note that it is grayed out when not enabled. Furthermore, now one can create such a light more directly. See for example Create > Lights > Environment Image (IBL).

Similarly, we provide a separate control for indirect diffuse (GI) quality in materials, even though it is conceptually a part of material quality.As global illumination techniques have evolved considerably, so have the ways to control these techniques. Yet, the Indirect Diffuse Quality applies to any Indirect Diffuse (GI) Mode selected, and to any material used.

In our next mental ray for Maya 2016 Render Settings post, we provide more details and examples for Adjusting Quality.

14 thoughts on “Introducing mental ray for Maya 2016 Render Settings

  1. bgawboy says:

    Please look in Scene tab, under Camera>Passes. This is a simplified passes UI based on using mila_material. We will have a specific blog post about it later.

    1. bgawboy says:

      Indirect Lighting is about indirect diffuse. We discuss it more in the next UI post, Adjusting Quality in Maya 2016, . If you are talking about using the legacy settings for indirect, click on the Advanced Settings in the Quality tab, and look in the bottom Legacy section.

      However, we hope that you transition to the new indirect controls, and use GI Next as much as possible in the future.

  2. Rhys says:

    hi, My Diffuse passes are coming out black in Maya 2016 with Mental Ray, what have i missed? I’m using mia_material_x_passes materials and legacy passes enabled in Render settings

  3. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this
    oto a co-worker who was doing a little research on this.
    And he actually bought me dinner because I discovered it for him…

    lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanks for spending time to discuss this matter here on your blog.

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