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Using The Viewport

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This tutorial will be covering how to use the texture viewing, fog, real time lighting, shadows, and high-quality viewport.


Download this scene file. It includes the examples. This scene has one sphere with a checkerboard bump map attached to it, another one is colored with a checkerboard, and another one is colored red. It also includes one spotlight with shadows on and a directional light (no shadows) that's shining upwards to simulate light bouncing back from the spotlight.

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Set the menu set to polygons.

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All of the features are toggles. In other words, to turn them on, click on them (it will be checked), to turn them off, click on them again (it will be unchecked).


This section covers shading.


First let's go into basics of using the viewport: wire frames, shading, etc.

To go to wire frame view, go to shading>wire frame.

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To go to shaded view, go to shading>smooth shade all.

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Now go to shading>smooth shade selected items. It will seem to go to wire frame view. But if you select one of the spheres, it will become shaded.

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Now go to shading>flat shade all. You'll notice the spheres will become choppy and lose their smoothness. This is because, by using normals (not covered in this tutorial), Maya will smooth out the edges.

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Flat shade selected items work just like smooth shade selected items.

Now go to shading>bounding box.

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No, this didn't turn your model into a box. Bounding boxes are cubes that are the same size as the original object. All renderable objects have bounding boxes.

Now go to shading>points.

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This mode will only display an objects points (on a polygon object, this would be a model's vertices).

Now that we've run through all of them, go back to "smooth shade all".

Now let's test out some more stuff.

Go to shading>use default materials.

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Notice how the red sphere turns gray. That's because it takes all the objects and displays them with the default Lambert gray.

Go to shading>wireframe on shader.

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Not a whole lot to explain.

Go to shading>x-ray.

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This makes the objects transparent.

Go to shading>interactive shading... Unlike the other features, this one has options you can change. Click on the box to open the options.

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First let me explain the interactive shading. Whenever you move the camera, this will switch you to the predefined interactive shading mode. And when you stop moving the camera, it will go back to the previous shading mode. The reason one would turn this option on is to lighten the load on the GPU (graphics processing unit). If we set our interactive shading mode to bounding box (the most GPU efficient) and click close, when we move our camera (using tumble, track, dolly, etc. tool), the viewport will change to bounding box mode, and when we stop it will go back to smooth shading mode.

This feature is only really useful when you have a large scene containing a high number of polygons.

Go to shading>back face culling. You shouldn't see a change in the model. What it's doing is making the backside of the geometry disappear. You can see this by going to the underside of our floor plane and you'll see the floor plane has become invisible.

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Now go to shading>smooth wireframe (it's best to be in wireframe mode to see it).

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Basically does what it says.

Texture In The Viewport

In the beginning of the tutorial I mentioned that the center sphere has a checkerboard texture (color) assigned to it. You can't see this unless you render it.

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To display this texture in the viewport, go to shading>hardware texturing... Once again, open the options.

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Texture Blending - You have two options: multiply and over. Set it to multiply and you'll be able to see the surface shaded with the texture on top.

Set it to over, and it will remove the shading and just display the texture, making it look flat, unless your model has a game texture which has its own shading baked in, but that's another story.

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Texture Filter - I recommend you read this tutorial.Link
In short, this smooths the pixels of the texture, making it blurrier. Sometimes this is good, sometimes it's bad. So when it's set to unfiltered, it will keep the pixels crisp. When set to one of the filtering algorithm options (like bilinear), the texture will become blurrier.

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High-Quality Filtering - Does what it says.

In our case, we want to set the texture blend to multiply, the texture filter to unfiltered, and click set.


You can simulate fog in the Maya viewport by going to shading>hardware fog... Open the options.

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Falloff - You have 3 methods. Linear, exponential, exponential squared. Linear enables the options start and end.

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Start defines how far away from the camera the screen will start turning to fog, and end defines when it will be completely fog.

Exponential and exponential squared are very similar. Exponential squared has a more realistic fog. The exponential is a mathematic function that defines what the falloff curve will look like. This wikipedia page explains it in detail.

When set to exponential or exponential squared, this enables the density attribute. The higher the density, the more "fog" will be created.

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Color - This is the color of the fog.

Alpha - This is the transparency of the fog. When set to 0 the fog is completely transparent. When set to 1, the fog is solid.

Note: All of the fog options are only displayable in the viewport. This effect cannot be rendered.

When you're done setting the settings, click set. If you want to follow along with this tutorial, don't bother,but click cancel because this was only added to explain the feature.

Real-Time Lighting

Maya lets you see the lights in the scene in real-time in the viewport.

Go to lighting>use all lights.

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The results are pretty close to the rendering, but the spotlight's edges are very rough.

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This is because this feature uses per-vertex lighting.

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A way of enhancing the edges is to add more vertices to the polygonal plane since this is where we can see this issue the most.

Select your polygonal plane and go to edit mesh>add divisions... Open up the options.

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Set the division levels to 4 and click add divisions.

Now that we've divided up our plane with more vertices, the per-vertex lighting can have more details.

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You can also use only selected lights. Go to lighting>use selected lights. Now select the spotlight. Now the spotlight will light to viewport. Deselect it and it will go back to black.

You can also not use any lights by going to lighting>use no lights. Al the shading will be removed from the objects and only their color will be displayed.

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Shadows can also be viewed in the viewport. Go to lighting and click on shadows.

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High Quality Rendering

You can bump up the quality of the viewport by going to renderer>high quality rendering... Open the options.

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Low Quality Lighting - This sets the lighting to per-vertex lighting. In other words, very similar to what the viewport was already using. In other words, pointless.

Match Viewport Lights - That means use as many lights in the viewport as the graphics card can handle.

Transparent Shadow Maps
- If you have a model that has a transparent shadow map connected to the shader, this feature will allow that to be factored in when generating the shadows.

Occlusion Culling - Basically optimizes drawing. It prevents objects that aren't being viewed from the camera from being drawn.

Culling Override
- When set to single sided, it will work just like the shading back face culling. When set to double sided, both sides will be used.

Color Texture Resolution
- Basically, if your graphics hardware can't compute the shading network, Maya will make a texture from the shading network and put it on the model. This is the resolution of that texture. The higher the resolution, the higher the quality.

Bump Texture Resolution - Works just like color texture resolution, except for bump maps.

Now click set.

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As you can see, the bump map that's assigned to the first sphere can now be viewed in the viewport.


There are some common keyword shortcuts used for all the features above.

4 - Wireframe.

5 - Smooth Shade All

6 - Smooth Shade All & Hardware Texturing

7 - Use All Lights

Final Note

The graphics card and driver that you have defines the look and the results, so yours might look different from mine. Some graphics cards won't support any of these features.

When in high quality mode, it's a good idea to turn on interactive shading. This will free up the GPU.


I hope this tutorial taught you how to use the Maya viewport.

Good luck.

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