Introducing - my FXPHD Course - 10 weeks of mental ray training

Welcome to the new year, I hope the holidays were nice to you all....

...so. I have some news:

It has been in discussion for some time (I think I may have mentioned it before), but now, it has finally come to pass:

In the January term of FXPHD, I will be teaching a mental ray course named "Production oriented rendering techniques with mental ray". Yay!

FXPHD is an online training site run by Mike Seymour, John Montgomery, Jeff Heusser and friends (who also are the people behind FXGUIDE, a VFX oriented news site I suggest you also check out if you havn't already)

Note that these courses are not free, but they are not extremely expensive either - and considering the classes run for ten weeks with full participation of the professor (that's me, in this case) in the forums for questions about the class, it's really a pretty good bargain, IMHO.

The standard FXPHD deal is that you pay for a package where you get to sign up for three of their courses. But the cool thing is that you get to see the first two classes of each course anyway, so you can spend your first two weeks of the term browsing around before you make up your mind to pick a (set of) class(es). Also, a freebie "Background Fundamentals" class is always included, with all sorts of topics.

(If you sign up as a new user, and there is a refferal field, fill in "MasterZap".

Here's my teaser clip for the class:

(If you want the FULL FXPHD orientation video (from which the above is my "segment"), it can be downloaded here.)

This course will teach techniques and concepts for rendering realistic, physically based CG elements in a visual effects context (i.e. for integration into live action shots). As it is a hands-on course in using Mental Ray to do these things, it will start with a fundamental treatment of everything from light and pixels through to cameras, response curves and compositing, as well as "learning to see". The course will be performed using the 3ds Max application, but most things apply to Maya and Softimage as well.

The ten classes will be rougly divided like this (subject to change based on feedback):

Class 1:
Pixels vs. Light - What is a pixel? The units of light, and how they map to the RGB values we encounter every day. Shows how the math we apply to pixels can break, and how, if we are not careful, two plus two can end up ten.

Class 2:
Lighting - Understanding the quality and quantity of light. Understanding how real-world lights map to computer graphics lights. Understanding how light gathers and reflects off a surface.

Class 3:
Cameras - Understanding how a real world cameras function map to their computer graphics counterparts. Understanding what film and digital cameras do to the image before you even see it.

Class 4:
Materials I - Using the physically based Arch&Design material to simulate real world surfaces. Learning to see the world, so that one can translate it to CG.

Class 5:
Materials II - More about materials. Using the mental ray skin shader for realistic characters.

Class 6:
Interaction between CG and the Real World - Using the production library shaders to seamlessly integrate CG objects in real-world background plates with reflections, bounce light, shadows, etc.

Class 7:
What Not To Do - Computer Graphics is full of old "traditional" techniques that has stuck around for many years, but that are in conflict with proper physical rendering, and should be avoided. Just because the button is still there doesn't mean you should push it.

Class 8:
Compositing - How stuff that comes out of the renderer goes together, and what can (and should) and can't (and shouldn't) be delegated to compositing.

Class 9:
Technical topics such as sampling, flicker elimination, memory management. These classes may also adress issues that has come up in the forum as needed.

Class 10:
Continuation of class 09

Check it out! I am very excited to do this class, and I welcome you all to join FXPHD!



ytsejam said...

Big start Year Zap.

behram said...

yeeeehh haaawwww.
Bring it on Dude !!!


Rivai Chen said...

i will join fxphd again this term. One question, are you going to talk about new mental ray feature "iray" in this class ?

Anonymous said...

Hi, when does it start and how much does it cost? I can find it?

Master Zap said...

iray will not be covered in this course.

fxphd is $330 for three courses of your choice, plus the one mandatory "background fundmanetals". The three courses can be any of the 41 one availables, tho you can't buy less than three (you can buy more).

Each course is 10 classes released over 11 weeks (there is a break week in the middle), with the teachers (that's me) available for any questions on the internal FXPHD forums.


juergen said...

Hi Master Zap,
what is the software you use in the mentalray training(except mr)..I assume (like in your blog) 3dmax..
so makes it sense as a softimage user to log in?
thanks ciao juergen

Thorn said...


How applicable is the material to Renderman and other production renderers like Mantra? This class looks like one of the best collections of theoretical insight on the topic ever, but I don't want to find myself in a mental ray only club so to speak :)

Master Zap said...

Lots and lots of the theory is completely general. Yet some of the *particular solutions* I propose to various problems are completely "mental ray". And yet again, others aren't.

In the two classes I've recorded so far, it's about 70% theory to 30% running the software, and I think the ratio won't go below 50/50....


pit said...


im interested in joining that course...but as i saw ure working with 3dsmax...im a maya user..would make it sense to join this course also??

thx and greets!

Master Zap said...

In class 3 (just finished recording) I explicitly mention Maya and XSI in some contexts. I still do the actual demos in Max, but I think you can extract value from it as a Maya or Softimage user as well


ronald said...

OMG!!, I found this too late =(, would you teach it again?, because I read that there will be another term in April ... I hope so, or maybe I can sign up and catch up the missed lessons. what would you recommend me..?

Master Zap said...

It is not too late at all!

It's actualy not "too late" to sign up until the 8:th week of classes.

Of course, that means that for you, the first 8 weeks will be available for download immediately, and you will be overwhelmed by 8 weeks of information sprayed into your brain at once, and it may hurt your sanity.


Warriormax said...

Hello Master Zap i want join your fxphd course for april term. so is ur course there and what other courses u can suggest for a lighting artist? from fxphd

- Aniket

Warriormax said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karol said...

This looks very interesting, I'd be very interested in giving it a go however I'd prefer to join at the beginning. When would the next course start?

Thank you,

The Creative Control said...

I'm very interested in seeing the first part of the theoretical explanation only. Just because it's so interesting . The download link doesn't work. Is there another way to get this? Would be really awesome. Greetings from Germany ;)