Forest Path

I’ve been obsessing over natural environments lately, developing my workflow for plants/trees and techniques for object placement. Maya, Mental Ray, Paint Effects, Onyx and a little Zbrush for the path. 110 million polys. Rendered with physical sun/sky and all miaMaterialX. Surprised by how many polys I can throw at Mental Ray!


28 Responses to “Forest Path”

  1. moonna Says:
    June 28th, 2012 at 1:56 am

    Most amazing botanical work made with maya/mr i’ve ever seen.
    I think this surpassed alesandro prodan’s work on farnsworth house.

    Have you any plan to make a tutorial on this workflow.That will be great.

  2. Santiago Vivanco Says:
    June 29th, 2012 at 10:59 am

    I would be awesome to watch some tests with wind physics simultation to the scene. Great work as always

  3. sina Says:
    July 4th, 2012 at 2:00 am

    i loooove you alex ,and i love your works and i hope one day meet you…

  4. Ben Cooper Says:
    July 5th, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    Incredible work man, you are clearly very passionate about your work :) I would like to send you some images of a short film i’m part of, which takes place in a enchanted forest.I also have a link for you to a short film that we recently finished which also made it to the Toronto International Film Festival.The two projects are styled for animation, so it’s not VFX type work, but i’d like to share it with you to hear what you think.I specialize in lighting, shading and compositing.Lightwave is currently my weapon of choice, but i am also familiarizing myself again with Maya, as i’m looking to get some international experience and most places i’ve seen use Maya.

  5. abhay sharma Says:
    July 7th, 2012 at 5:55 am

    Absolutely stellar! now I can understand how powerful maya paint fx is.

  6. Brad Says:
    July 13th, 2012 at 5:57 am

    I don’t know why I bother even trying to save money when you go and post incredible stuff like this and then offer tutorial DVDs on it. My hand clicked “Buy” before I even finished reading the blurb. This is some beautiful stuff.

  7. juancho3d Says:
    July 25th, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    I love your work, it is very nice, but I have a question you plan to do this work in Spanish?

    sorry for my english

    me gustaria que hicieras un trabajo de estos pero en espaƱol

    thanks friend

  8. Mustafa Says:
    August 12th, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    A few comments about second recent dvd. When you talking about how to place an abject on a surface that orient itself according to the normal of that surface I think your expression is not clear and there was some unnecessary assignments to the variables.

    For example :
    your code :
    // orient the instance
    particleShape2.aimDir = $normal;

    In the particle instancer node you assigned Aim Direction to aimDir.

    This assignment is not gonna do anything since Maya is gonna ignore this assignment due to the fact that you assigned rotation to something else (Maya only reads the first rotation assignment out of three and I learned this from you). This confused me in the beginning and I had to go back to Maya’s documents to make sure I remember things correctly.
    Now the $normal vector, according to assignment you made your dvd, is the projection of the a UNIT vector that is perpendicular to the surface on at a particular point. Since it is a unit vector then its projections on the x,y and z are gonna be between -1 and 1 and hence it can be described by sin and cos (any of these function would be sufficient to describe these values but these is an optimal choice for our purpose which is the sin function imo ).

    In the next expression line you want to figure out the rotation around x,y and z so that to assign these values to to Rotation in the instancer node. Your expression is the following :
    // solve each angle, convert to degrees
    float $rotX = rad_to_deg( atan2( ($normal.z), ($normal.y) ) );
    float $rotZ = rad_to_deg( asin( -($normal.x) ) );

    I think the first part is not unnecessary and you could have written that just using the asin function as follows:

    float $rotZ = rad_to_deg( -asin($normal.x) );

    float $rotX = rad_to_deg( asin($normal.z) );

    then do the final assignment to Rotation exactly as you did in your dvd. (no need for the Aim direction) i.e.


    This expression, however, (yours and mine I explained here) has one serious drawback in some situation. This assignment only works when the vector of the $normal vector of the surface points UP in the positive direction and it is gonna give you completely wrong results in case you want to have some normal vector that points down. This is due the fact that the the range of asin is between -90 and 90. To fix this you need to define Rotx and RotZ by some if statement according to the sign of the $normal.y. I do not meant to lecture you Alex, you are my teacher in Maya after all, but I thought posting that would be beneficial for everyone. Thanks for the DvDs and if you like I can send you my file. Thanks again.

  9. Mustafa Says:
    August 12th, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    in my previous comment i meant :


    instead of

    Sorry for that.

  10. xgiovio Says:
    August 29th, 2012 at 5:13 am


  11. Bart Says:
    September 3rd, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Excellent tutorial and great choice of subject matter.

    Is there a way to effectively convert the Onyx meshes to Quads and further reduce the tree resolution?

  12. darviniusB Says:
    September 14th, 2012 at 7:31 am

    Outstanding work!!! I was speechless a few minutes when i first saw the trailer. Makes me wonder what you could do if u would go for a blockbuster movie like avatar with this technique for vegetation creation but i can bet it would have no big problems. I think this dvd series really shows the real power of mental ray on big production scenes scenario. I work for 10 years with mental ray and other render engines but still continues to surprise me, and always i see i have underestimated the speed and power of this render engine.

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    September 25th, 2012 at 7:04 am

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    December 8th, 2012 at 2:42 am

    Probably i have to disagree with you, if you search in google, you can find info completely different what you said, so who should i believe ?

  15. villa dipuncak Says:
    December 14th, 2012 at 12:01 am

    that is really cool indeed

  16. Sinba Says:
    December 27th, 2012 at 4:07 am

    I am blown away ! I have been a fan of your work since 2006 and I’ve learnt a lot from you, your work has always been great inspiration.. Thank you !

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  18. Tushar Dobriyal Says:
    February 18th, 2013 at 11:19 am

    M a big fan of ur works… love ur works…

  19. Cesar Says:
    April 22nd, 2013 at 5:39 am

    Not sure how you went about creating this, but absolutely love your work thus far. Look forward to seeing much more of it.

  20. Read More Says:
    May 31st, 2013 at 9:53 am

    This really answered my question, thank you very much!

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    May 31st, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Thanks for spending the time to share, I feel strongly about it and love reading more on this topic. Please keep updating your blog with additional information!

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  23. Rickie Rhinebolt Says:
    June 8th, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    You are so cool! I don’t believe I have read something like that before. So great to find someone with some unique thoughts on this subject matter. Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This web site is one thing that is required on the web, someone with some originality!

  24. Ahmed Says:
    July 6th, 2013 at 4:39 am

    Hi Alex how are you i hope you doing great… i love all your works and tutorials it is really helpful .. Can you tell me what is the best way to do tree growth in maya ,, i really love yo know this effect if you have time for me

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  26. jezebel deva Says:
    August 27th, 2013 at 5:37 am

    Make particle instances orient to surface normal???? mate i can’t get this right!!!! why????? i did everything you asked and dont get any kind of errors! Am on maya 2011

    every expression seems to execute, nearestpointonmesh loaded..but when i play it, only the random rotation is working. the object in the instancer don’t respect the surface normal!! please help

  27. ASHLEY Says:
    November 6th, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    Awesome stuff! Show some more!

  28. milad Says:
    March 18th, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    you Are the best ….My Teacher
    Very very I Love You …
    just you

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