Skydome maya

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Ai Skydome Light

This simulates light from a sphere or dome above the scene, representing the sky. It can also be used with high dynamic range (HDR) images to perform image-based environment lighting. This is the node which is typically used for lighting exterior scenes. 

This light is designed for outdoor scenes and is represented by a spherical dome in the background. Importance sampling will trace rays to specific directions of this dome. However, in an interior scene, most of these rays will hit an object, getting no contribution from the light at all and thus creating noise. In this situation, adding light_portals to the windows will help to reduce noise in an interior scene when using the skydome_light.

When using Color Management in Maya (2017), HDR maps should be set to RAW. More information can be found here.

A tutorial that uses the skydome_light can be found here.

The lights page has more detail about the controls. The only additional attributes are:


The color of the light. The skydome_light has a texturable color slot so that you can map a texture to be used for IBL.


Intensity controls the brightness of light emitted by the light source by multiplying the color.


The resolution controls the detail of reflections of the skydome. For most accurate results the Skydome light resolution must be set to match the HDRI image resolution, however, in many cases it can be set lower without a noticeable loss of detail in reflections. By default, the parameter is set to 1000. The higher the resolution parameter, the longer the skydome_light will take to precompute the importance tables for the light, which increases scene startup time.

The resolution attribute should be used with care. The higher the resolution value, the longer the skydome_light will take to pre-compute the importance tables for that light. For high-resolution maps, this can be very slow.


The type of map being connected. It can be set to Lat-long (most common), Mirrored Ball or Angular.

Portal Mode

AOV Indirect



By default, skydome lights are directly visible as a background. Lowering the influence of the light of camera rays makes them invisible to the camera, and makes the background transparent.


Per-light scaling for transmission. Should be left at 1 to produce physically accurate results.

Diffuse / Specular / SSS / Volume

Per-light scaling for Camera, Transmission, Diffuse, Specular, SSS, Indirect and Volume. Weights scaling the light contribution to each of those components independently. Should be left at 1 to produce physically accurate results.

Only Area lights and Point lights (non-0 radius) are visible to the camera. Camera and Transmission values default to 0 with Area lights.


Open the Hypershade window


Create an Arnold > Texture > Environment > aiSky. Zoom (Alt RMB) or move (Alt MMB) the node view to see the newly created node.


Within the Hypershade window Create > Maya > 2D Textures > File. Drag a connection from the Out Color of the file node to the Color input of the aiSky node.


Select the file node and connect the previously downloaded panorama file (…Bg.jpg or …Ref.hdr) with the folder icon at Image Name.


Click the Render Settings Icon on the toolshelf


Go to the Arnold Renderer tab in the Render Settings and select the newly created aiSky from the Background pop up menu.


In the Windows > Outliner a new Object named “transform1” appears, the transform node belonging to our aiSky. We rename it “aiBackground” to know what it’s good for. To stay organized in the Outliner elements can be reorganized by dragging them with the MMB.


The aiSky should only contribute to the background while the SkydomeLight we added in the previous tutorial is responsible for lighting and glossieness of the scene. By default our background aiSky would contribute to lighting and glossieness too and generate overexposure. So let’s switch unnecessary channels off. With “aiBackground” selected we go to the Attribute Editor and deactivate everything in the Render Stats of the aiSky except “Primary Visibility” and “Visible in Refractions”. That means the aiSky is solely responsible for showing the background image – also through refractive (transparent) materials. The other components Shadows, Glossy, etc. already come from the SkydomeLight.


Activate the IPR.


Now the HDR background shows up the exposure should look well balanced.


The noise on the ground can be reduced by increasing the number of samples of the aiSkyDomeLight. Be careful, raising the samples too high increases also render time.


Now more light samples per pixel are emitted resulting in less noise at areas directly lit by the SkyDomeLight.


The black part inside the torus means: here are no glossieness calculated from the opposite side. That can be fixed by increasing the Glossy Ray Depth in the Render Settings. A value of 4 is fine for our purpose, keep in mind that raising the Ray Depth values also slows down the render speed. You only need to increase that value if you want to see glossy objects reflected in other objects (a glass facade reflected in water and vice versa for instance).


Rendering with higher Glossy depth.


Learn in Part 5 how to work with basic Arnold materials and texture maps.

  1. Bit cef
  2. Mars wall art
  3. Ninja salmon ladder
  4. Float plate pint

Setting Up The Skydome & The Table

  • First, we will create the SkyDomeLight. Open up the Hypershade window. In the Create Bar on the left of the Hypershade window, you should see a list of Arnold nodes. The one we want is the SkyDome Light. Click on it to create it. You will notice a new node for it in the Lights tab of the Hypershade window and also in the Outliner. It will appear in the viewport as a yellow wireframe sphere.


Create an Ai SkyDomeLight

  • Select the Ai SkyDomeLight and show its attribute editor. Connect a 2d file texture to the Color attribute of the Ai SkyDomeLight. If you are using an HDR map, remember to switch the file type to 'All Types' to see the hdr file in the file open browser window. Remember to change the Format to the same format that the HDR map was captured. In this case, it was captured with a mirrored ball.

HDR map connected to Ai SkyDomeLight. Format set to 'mirrored ball'

  • In the attribute editor for the Ai SkyDomeLight, scroll down to Resolution.Type in a value that matches the resolution of your HDR map. The SkyDomeLight uses importance sampling to send more rays towards important directions, and the resolution of the importance table needs to be high enough to capture small details in the HDR map, but never higher than the resolution of the HDR map itself.
  • To test the effect of the Ai SkyDomeLight we need to create a simple scene. Create a polygon plane and scale it out to around the size of the grid. Create two polygon spheres and position them on top of the plane. 
  • In the Hypershade window create two Standard Surface shaders. Assign one Standard Surface to one sphere and the other to the other sphere.
  • We are now going to the change the second Standard Surface shader to something that resembles a chrome material. Select it and open up the attribute editor. Start off by renaming it to Chrome. Increase the Base Weight to 1. Increase the Metalness to 1 and reduce the Roughness to 0, for a perfectly clear mirror like reflection.

Make one sphere chrome and the other a matte material

  • Test render the spheres on the plane now. The HDR map that is connected to the Skydome light should now be visible to the camera. Don’t worry if you are getting noisy shadows at this stage. We will refine these later on.

Skydome light visible in background of camera

Table Wood

  • Create another Standard Surface shader and assign it to the plane. Rename it ‘Wood Table’Connect a wood color file textureto the Base Color slot in the attribute editor.
  • Add a specular map to the Specular Color slot in the attribute editor. Now is a good time to start an IPR render in order to fine tune the specular settings of our wood material. Change the Specular Weight value to something like 0.3. You should notice bright specular highlights underneath the spheres in the wood material. Try adjusting the roughness value. Raising the Roughness value will soften the specular highlights and lowering it will make them sharper.

Wood floor texture connected to Standard Surface on poly plane

  • Open up the Bump Mapping and add a 2d bump file texturenode to it. Adjust the bump value to around 0.01.Again use the IPR to interactively adjust the settings. 

Add a bump map texture to the Wood shader

Maya Skydome Light HDRI Tutorial

Ah, thankfully this is an easy problem!


You are trying to render out of an orthographic camera. This means that what you are seeing in your viewport is perfectly flat. When you do this, and you try to render a skydome, the render engine can only render a very small section of your skydome (this is the correct behavior). What you are seeing is the color from a small section of your skydome, and if you were to change the camera or rotate the skydome, the color would be different, but still flat.


If on the perspective camera you were to set it to orthographic or set the focal length really high (makes the camera act more like an ortho camera) you would get the same result you are getting now.


My answer for you is this. If you absolutely have to use an ortho camera, then on your skydome, set that camera setting I told you about to 0. This would make your background black, and give you an alpha to work with. Once you have your final render with the alpha, composite it over the image you want to see in the background.


There are other ways to do this all in Maya, but the way I have suggested is the most straightforward and pretty close to the correct workflow for something like this.


Hope this helps!


Maya skydome

Download a free HDR panorama for instance here, preferably one without foreground objects. Unzip and copy the files from the sibl folder to your sourceimages folder. More panoramas you can find in our CG Link Document.


Add Arnold > Lights > Skydome Light


In the Color attribute of the aiSkyDomeLight choose a Maya > 2D Texture > File node.


Connect the previously downloaded HDR panorama. Make sure to pick the proper .hdr file (not a blurred version).


To make the effect of lighting visible, let’s create a simple polygon object, for instance a Torus with increased subdivisions.


Select it and Assign New Material with the RMB.


Select Arnold > Shader > Surface > aiStandard


Change the Diffuse Weight of the new aiStandard material to zero, the Specular Weight to 1,00 and zero out the Specular Roughness to make it really shiny.


To see some shadows we add a cube below, stretch it and assign a new aiStandard material. Call the IPR (Interactive Preview Renderer) to see the result.


Now you should see the shaded objects without background. By rotating the viewport with Alt LMB the IPR changes accordingly.


In the next chapter we add the background image.

Skydome Light in Maya

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