The case of the disappearing particles

In this case, nParticles (render type = point) weren’t visible behind a refractive plane:

For the points render type, you get an Arnold points shape (with mode “disk”), so I exported an ASS file to see the parameter settings on the points node. I noticed the visibility 243 right away (the default visibility is 255, which is visible to all rays). And sure enough, in the Render Stats for the particle shape, some rays were turned off (and the check boxes were disabled too).

I used the User Options to force the visibility to 255
and the particles behind the refractive surface appeared:

This is a Maya thing. For most particle render types, the particles are not visible in reflections or refractions. It says so in the docs:

You can turn on reflections, refractions, and shadows when you software render Clouds, Tubes, and Blobby Surfaces

I’m not sure where the default values are set, but I did find the AEtemplate code that disables the render stats for all particle render types except the “s/w” type:

// C:\Program Files\Autodesk\Maya2015\scripts\AETemplates\AEparticleLayout.mel
		if( $value == 7 || $value == 8 || $value == 9 ) {
			// software particle type
			editorTemplate -dimControl $nodeName "visibleInReflections" false;
			editorTemplate -dimControl $nodeName "visibleInRefractions" false;
			editorTemplate -dimControl $nodeName "castsShadows"    		false;
			editorTemplate -dimControl $nodeName "receiveShadows" 		false;
			editorTemplate -dimControl $nodeName "primaryVisibility" 	false;
		} else {
			// hardware particle type
			editorTemplate -dimControl $nodeName "visibleInReflections" true;
			editorTemplate -dimControl $nodeName "visibleInRefractions" true;
			editorTemplate -dimControl $nodeName "castsShadows"			true;
			editorTemplate -dimControl $nodeName "receiveShadows" 		true;
			editorTemplate -dimControl $nodeName "primaryVisibility" 	true;

So, since that AE template code just enables and disables UI controls, but doesn’t change the actual values, another way to enable Visible in Refractions (or Visible in Reflections) is to do this:

  1. Change the Particle Render Type to one of the “s/w” types, like Blobby Surface.
  2. Now the Visible in Refractions check box is enabled.
  3. Select the check box.
  4. Go back and change the Particle Render Type to points.

Now when you render, the points are visible to refraction rays, so they show up behind the glass.