[MtoA] Hiding the image file statistics in the Arnold log


Here’s a good example of why you might use the User Options, and how it lets you set Arnold parameters that aren’t exposed by MtoA in Maya.

If you set the verbosity level to Warnings + Info, you’ll get some detailed image statistics in the Arnold log:

image_file_statistics

But what if you’ve got thousands of image files (eg udims)? You might not want all that in your log. There used to be a check box in the Arnold Render Settings that allowed you to turn off the detailed image file statistics, but we removed that a few years ago.

But the Arnold options.texture_per_file_stats parameter is still there, so you can use the User Options field to set that parameter to false. Just enter the parameter name “texture_per_file_stats” and the parameter value, like this:

render_settings_user_options

Force Translate Shading Engines?


You may have noticed the Force Translate Shading Engine option in the export dialog (or in the Feature Overrides section of the Render Settings).
force_translate_shading_engine

Force Translate Shading Engines forces MtoA to export shape nodes with a shader link, like this:

polymesh
{
 ...
 shader "aiStandard1SG"
 declare mtoa_shading_groups constant ARRAY NODE
 mtoa_shading_groups "aiStandard1SG"
}

where “aiStandard1SG” is the name of a MayaShadingEngine shader node.

This allows you to keep your shapes and shaders in separate ASS files. For example, you could have one standin that loads the shapes, and a second standin that loads the shaders. As long as the shape nodes include links to the shaders, Arnold will resolve the links and render the shapes with the right shaders.

Exporting ASS files to specific locations


For the render -rt 1 command, you can specify the output ASS name in
the defaultArnoldRenderOptions.output_ass_filename attribute. For example:

set PRE_RENDER_MEL="setAttr -type \"string\" 
defaultArnoldRenderOptions.output_ass_filename 
 \"c:/Users/StephenBlair/Documents/example\";"
 
 render -s 6 -e 8 -r arnold -rt 1 -preRender %PRE_RENDER_MEL% 
 C:\projects\Support\scenes\_2016\XSI_deformed_logo.mb 

This will export ASS files named “example.ass”.

The scene should have the Frame/Animation ext set to something like
“name.#.ext”. Otherwise, if it is “name.ext” you’ll get filenames like
“example.ass.0004.ass”

output_ass_filename can have environment variables, but you have to be
careful to use forward slashes. For example:

set PRE_RENDER_MEL="setAttr -type \"string\" defaultArnoldRenderOptions.output_ass_filename \"%OUTPUT_ASS_FILENAME%\";" 
set OUTPUT_ASS_FILENAME=C:/Users/StephenBlair/Documents/example 

render -s 6 -e 8 -r arnold -rt 1 -preRender %PRE_RENDER_MEL% C:\projects\Support\scenes\_2016\XSI_deformed_logo.mb

There’s also the arnoldExportASS command, if you want to script the export.

maya -batch -file scene.mb -command "arnoldExportAss 
-f "/home/blairs/Desktop/example.ass" -mask 255 -lightLinks 1 -compressed 
 -shadowLinks 2 -cam sideShape;"

Updating MtoA 1.2.7.3 with Arnold 4.2.14.0


MtoA 1.2.7.3 ships with Arnold 4.2.13.

If you want to take advantage of the improvements in Arnold 4.2.14.0 (like the increase  in the maximum number of threads from 128 to 256), here’s what you need to do:

  • Download  Arnold 4.2.14.0 and extract the archive
  • Replace Arnold (libai.so, ai.dll, libai.dylib), kick, and maketx in the MtoA bin folder with the versions from the Arnold 4.2.14.0 download
  • Replace the Arnold Python bindings in  the MtoA scripts/arnold folder with the Python bindings from the Arnold python/arnold folder. For example, replace this folder:
       C:\solidangle\mtoadeploy\2016-1.2.7.3\scripts\arnold

    with the python\arnold folder from the Arnold 4.2.14.0 download. For example:

       C:\solidangle\arnold\Arnold-4.2.14.0-windows\python\arnold

You must update the Arnold Python bindings, otherwise MtoA won’t load. That’s because Arnold 4.2.14.0 included a number of API changes, including the removal of some API (like AiLicenseSetServer). The older Python bindings still refer to the removed API, so there will be Python errors that prevent MtoA from loading.

[MtoA] Switching between multiple versions of MtoA


start_menu_mtoa

If, like me, you need to switch between different versions of MtoA, here’s a recipe for setting that up.

First, you have to install multiple versions. As you probably already know, the MtoA installer always wants to uninstall first. I take care of that by zapping the Uninstall registry entry with this command:

reg delete "HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall\MtoA2016" /f

Then I run the MtoA installer and install in a folder with the version name, like this:
C:\solidangle\mtoadeploy\2016-1.2.7.3

I start Maya with a batch file that creates a symbolic link named “C:\solidangle\mtoadeploy\2016” that links to the version of MtoA I want to use:

rmdir C:\solidangle\mtoadeploy\2016
mklink /D C:\solidangle\mtoadeploy\2016 C:\solidangle\mtoadeploy\2016-1.2.7.3
rem mklink /D C:\solidangle\mtoadeploy\2016 C:\solidangle\mtoadeploy\2016-1.2.2.0

set RLM_DEBUG=arnold
start "" "C:\Program Files\Autodesk\Maya2016\bin\maya.exe" %* -log %TEMP%\maya.log

My batch file also adds the location of my custom mtoa.mod to MAYA_MODULE_PATH. My custom mtoa.mod points to “C:\solidangle\mtoadeploy\2016”, and handles all versions of Maya:

+ MAYAVERSION:2018 mtoa any C:\solidangle\mtoadeploy\2018
PATH +:= bin
MAYA_CUSTOM_TEMPLATE_PATH +:= scripts/mtoa/ui/templates
MAYA_SCRIPT_PATH +:= scripts/mtoa/mel
MAYA_RENDER_DESC_PATH +:= 
+ MAYAVERSION:2017 mtoa any C:\solidangle\mtoadeploy\2017
PATH +:= bin
MAYA_RENDER_DESC_PATH +:=
MAYA_CUSTOM_TEMPLATE_PATH +:= scripts/mtoa/ui/templates
MAYA_SCRIPT_PATH +:= scripts/mtoa/mel
+ MAYAVERSION:2016 mtoa any C:\solidangle\mtoadeploy\2016
PATH +:= bin
MAYA_CUSTOM_TEMPLATE_PATH +:= scripts/mtoa/ui/templates
+ MAYAVERSION:2015 mtoa any C:\solidangle\mtoadeploy\2015
PATH +:= bin
MAYA_CUSTOM_TEMPLATE_PATH +:= scripts/mtoa/ui/templates
+ MAYAVERSION:2014 mtoa any C:\solidangle\mtoadeploy\2014
PATH +:= bin
+ MAYAVERSION:2013 mtoa any C:\solidangle\mtoadeploy\2013
PATH +:= bin

 

[MtoA] Unable to dynamically load mtoa.mll …The specified procedure could not be found.


If the MtoA plug-in  does not load and you get a “The specified procedure could not be found” error like this:

// Error: line 1: Unable to dynamically load : C:/solidangle/mtoadeploy/2016/plug-ins/mtoa.mll
The specified procedure could not be found.
 // 
// Error: line 1: The specified procedure could not be found.
 (mtoa) //

then there’s a few basic things you need to check first.

Does your processor support SSE4.1?

Support for SSE4.1 is a minimum requirement. You won’t be able to load MtoA or use Arnold if your processor doesn’t support SSE4.1.

Check the environment in Maya

For example, does the PATH include any older versions of MtoA? If you’re on Windows, run the MEL command system(“set”) to get the environment. On OSX or Linux, run system(“printenv”).

Look for any environment variable that has an Arnold or MtoA folder in it. For example, on Windows, you should not have any MtoA bin folders in PATH.

Get a Process Monitor log

If a clean install of MtoA doesn’t work (and the computer does support SSE4.1), then “The specified module could not be found.” usually means there’s a missing dependency. Dependency Walker is a decent, if aging, tool for checking out dependencies, but for leaving no stone unturned, I prefer Process Monitor.

The MtoA plugin (mtoa.mll) depends on a handful of files only. Here’s the log of loaded DLLs for a working MtoA:

process_monitor_mtoa

Here’s a quick walkthrough (no audio) of how to get a Process Monitor log:

[MtoA] Running a silent install on Windows


On Windows, if MtoA isn’t already installed, then the /S flag will do a silent install:

MtoA-1.2.7.3-2016.exe /S

You can also specify an install location with the /D flag:

MtoA-1.2.7.1-2016.exe /S /D=C:\solidangle\mtoadeploy\2016-1.2.7.1
There’s no help, but I found the /S and /D via Google:

There is no silent install on OSX or Linux.

If another version of MtoA is installed, there will be some pop-up dialogs. You can get around that by doing a silent uninstall, like this:
C:\solidangle\mtoadeploy\2016-1.2.7.1\uninstall.exe /S

or, if you want to keep the existing install around, you could do this:

reg DELETE HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall\MtoA2016 /f

After you delete that registry key, an MtoA install won’t detect an existing installation, so you get to keep the old install, and install a new version.

 

[MtoA] mtoa missing from Plug-in Manager


If mtoa.mll is not listed in the Plug-in Manager, that means that Maya did not find the MtoA module file (mtoa.mod). And if you try to manually load mtoa.mll, you’ll get errors like this:

// Error: file: C:/Program Files/Autodesk/Maya2016/scripts/others/pluginWin.mel line 781: Unable to dynamically load : C:/solidangle/mtoadeploy/2016/plug-ins/mtoa.mll
The specified module could not be found. // 
// Error: file: C:/Program Files/Autodesk/Maya2016/scripts/others/pluginWin.mel line 781: The specified module could not be found. (mtoa) //

To load MtoA, you need to make sure that Maya finds the MtoA module file.

By default, the MtoA installer puts the mtoa.mod file in the user’s modules folder. For example:

C:\Users\StephenBlair\Documents\maya\2016\modules

If you installed MtoA using one user account, and try to run Maya with a different user account, Maya will not find the module file.

The module file has to be in the MAYA_MODULE_PATH. For example, for the user account “StephenBlair”, here are the default places where Maya looks for modules:

  • C:/Program Files/Autodesk/Maya2016/modules
  • C:/Users/StephenBlair/Documents/maya/2016/modules
  • C:/Users/StephenBlair/Documents/maya/modules
  • C:/Program Files/Common Files/Alias Shared/Modules/maya/2016
  • C:/Program Files/Common Files/Alias Shared/Modules/maya
  • C:/Program Files/Common Files/Autodesk Shared/Modules/maya/2016

If you want MtoA to available to all users, then you could copy mtoa.mod to one of the common locations.

[MtoA] Adding per-face and per-vertex user data


With Maya and MtoA, there’s no easy way to add per-face and per-vertex user data attributes to objects. You’ve got to do it with scripting: add an array attribute with addAttr and then provide the values. For example, here’s how to add per-face and per-vertex attributes, which MtoA will translate to UNIFORM (per-face) and VARYING (per-vertex) user data on the shape.

import maya.cmds as cmds
# Add UNIFORM (per-face) user data
cmds.addAttr("pPlaneShape1", dataType="vectorArray", longName="mtoa_uniform_myPerPolyColor")
cmds.setAttr("pPlaneShape1.mtoa_uniform_myPerPolyColor", 4,(0.48, 0.39, 0.35), (0.62, 0.63, 0.44), (0.47, 0.69, 0.33), (0.70, 0.38, 0.29), type="vectorArray")

# Add VARYING (per-face vertex) user data
cmds.addAttr("pPlaneShape2", dataType="vectorArray", longName="mtoa_varying_myPerPointColor")
cmds.setAttr("pPlaneShape2.mtoa_varying_myPerPointColor", 9, (0.46, 0.55, 0.66), (0.29, 0.40, 0.38), (0.69, 0.43, 0.68), (0.36, 0.58, 0.55), (0.59, 0.48, 0.27), (0.55, 0.52, 0.70), (0.48, 0.35, 0.26), (0.46, 0.46, 0.47), (0.34, 0.55, 0.31), type="vectorArray" )

After you run the script to add the attributes, you can use the aiUserData shaders to get the user data values and use them in your shader trees.

aiUserDataColor

For example, here’s the per-face and per-vertex user data colors on a simple grid:

uniform_varying_user_data