Playblasting Animation in Maya

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Last modification: 21 Mar, 2018
  • Film & VFX
  • Animation
  • Basics
  • Maya
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  • Maya
Skill Level
  • Beginner
30 min

Playblasting Animation in Maya

A playblast of an animated bouncing ball

Follow the quick steps to set up proper playblasting, these instructions only need to be performed once for the same scene file. For a detailed look at each of the quick steps, follow the detailed steps.

Quick Steps

Make sure the project is set first.

  1. Set render settings
    1. Select Image size preset, or manual settings for the final movie size.
    2. Set Maintain Ratio to Pixel aspect.
  2. Enable resolution gate in main view.
  3. Set the Playblast Options.
    1. Enable the View option
    2. Enable the Show Ornaments option.
    3. Enable the Render Offscreen option.
    4. Disable the Multi-Camera Output option.
    5. Set Format and Encoding options. If you have QuickTime installed, you will find the avfoundation or QT format, with the encoder set to the MPEG-4 Video or H.264 codec.
    6. Set the Quality to 70 (the default).
    7. Set the Display Size to From Render Settings.
    8. Set the Scale to 1.00.
    9. Leave the Frame Padding at the default.
    10. Enable the Remove Temporary Files option.
    11. Enable the Save to File option.
    12. Enter a name for the Movie File entry.
    13. Click the Playblast button.

This will playblast the animation in the main view. The next time a playblast is needed, these options will not have to be set again. Maya will remember the options and create the new playblast using the same settings.

Detailed Steps

Complete step-by-step directions for all the steps mentioned above.

Set the render settings

Render Settings Window

The General Tab of the Render Settings window allows setting of basic rendering options for the scene.

  1. Open the rendering settings, by choosing Window > Rendering Editors > Render Settings, or clicking the icon along the top-most toolbar, toward the right.
  2. The render settings window has one Common tab, and other tabs to the right depending on the selected renderer, in the Render Using drop-down box..
  3. Select the Common tab (if it isn't already selected).
  4. Locate the Image Size section, and change the following:
    1. Select the required setting in the Presets drop-down box.
      1. If the project requires HD 720, choose HD 720 from the drop-down menu; this sets the height and width (displayed below the menu) to 1280 wide and 720 high.
      2. If the project requires HD 1080, choose HD 1080 from the drop-down menu.
      3. If the project requires Standard Definition video, or 640 by 480, then choose the 640x480 preset.
    2. Check the Pixel aspect option next to the Maintain ratio.

Enable resolution gate in the playblast, and set the overscan options for the camera

Turn on the Resolution Gate to show a mask of the render settings to display the exact view of the final render (and the playblast). The playblast will display the resolution gate. However, if the Overscan attribute of the camera is set, the playblast will be the same size as the render. This is optional depending on the workflow, see the overscan note at the bottom of these instructions.

  1. View > Camera Settings > Resolution Gate, or click the icon in the viewport tool bar (at the top of the viewport window).

Playblast Options

The contextual menu that appears when right clicking on the timeline.

  1. Open the playblast options window by selecting window > playblast  (choose the Option box beside menu item). Or even easier, right click on the timeline, and choose Playblast , (again choosing the Option box). The playblast menu item will be displayed at the bottom of the contextual menu that appears over the timeline.
Time Range Options
Time range options only appear if the options are opened by selecting window > playblast . When opening the options by right-clicking the timeline, the Time range is automatically set to the Time Slider option, but the time range option doesn't appear in the window at all.

The Time Range either sets the playblast range for the entire time range represented in the Time Slider, or to the start and end frames for the playblast.

  • When Time Slider is enabled the playblast is based on the current time range in the Time Slider.
  • When Start/End is enabled the playblast is based on the start and end time you set using the Start Time and End Time fields.
  • When Use Sequence Time is enabled the playblast is based on Sequence Time in the Sequence Editor.
Playblast Options Timeslider Maya 2018

Playblast Options

Playblast options window shown is from a Mac, which is very similar to the one on the PC. Notice the Format option is avfoundation.

  • Enable the View option.
    When enabled the Playblast displays images using the default viewer, or movie files in the systems default player. When off, the images or movie files are saved to a file according to the file settings in the Playblast Options window.
  • Enable the Show Ornaments option.
    When enabled items such as the viewcube, camera name, and the axes at the origin and bottom left of the view will be hidden for the playblast.
  • Enable the Render Offscreen option.
    When enabled a playblast is created using an offscreen rendering buffer instead of what is shown on the screen. This will disregard the size of the view window, and create a larger playblast. If disabled the playblast will be constrained to the size of the window if it is smaller then the playblast height and width settings.
  • Disable the Multi-Camera Output option.
    When enabled the playblast will be created with the stereo camera to capture the output of both the left and right cameras.
  • Format is the file format for either images or movie file output. Choose QT for the Quicktime format (AVI will not give you a good compression, and files will be quite large).
Format Playblast Options
Since Maya 2015 on the Mac, the QT option is not present in the Format drop-down options. It is displayed as avfoundation. While this still outputs as a QuickTime movie, there are fewer options for the encoding. Luckily, the most optimal is the H.264 anyway, which is one of only a few options available.
  • Encoding is the type of codec used for the movie output. This list updates based on the selected Format. This list will change depending on the machine, and installed options. From the Encoding drop-down menu, choose H.264, or MPEG-4 Video.
  • Set the Quality to 70 (the default). This controls the level of compression for the movie output. Results can vary depending on the codec you select in the Encoding drop-down list. Quality values can range from 0 to 100.
  • Set the Display Size to From Render Settings.
    The display size allows three different options for setting the height and width of the playblast. The final size of the playblast can be further reduced by the value in the Scale option.
    • From Window creates a playblast the same height and width as the active view port. This will change depending on the size of the Maya window at the time, and the size of the monitor used.
    • From Render Settings creates a playblast at the same size from the current render settings for the scene. Set the size in the Image Size section of the Common tab of the Window > Rendering Editors > Render Settings window.
    • Custom activates the two fields below the Display Size option allowing manual entry of the Width and Height of the Playblast images. (width is the first text box, while height is the second).
  • Set the Scale to 1.00.
    Scale changes the overall size of the Playblast, where .5 would be half the height and width of the display size, and 1 would be the original size. The default is 0.5, which is half the size of the Display Size (0.5 of the width and 0.5 of the height).
  • Leave the Frame Padding at the default.
    The Frame Padding option is slightly misleading, while called Frame padding, what this does is add leading zeros to the file name. This only applies when playblasting to image files. This specifies the number of zeros with which to pad the file names of the images playblasted. This allows customization of image file names. Each frame is created, and named sequentially, and the sequence number is padded with zeros. If the padding is set to 4, then frame one will be named "playblast0001.iff". By default, Frame Padding is set to 4 to support Fcheck.
  • Enable the Remove Temporary Files option.
    When is enabled the temporary files created by playblasting when you end your Maya session will be deleted. Temporary files are written to the C:\temp directory on Windows, and/var/tmp/ or /tmp/ on Linux, and under Documents/temp in your Home folder on Mac OS X.
  • Enable the Save to File option.
    Turn this option on to save the movie or image file to the project directory.
  • Enter a name for the Movie File.
    This displays the filename and path of the image or movie files. When no path is specified for the movie file, the location of the playblast file is set by the current project settings. If the Images location is specified in the current project window, the Playblast file is created in the Images location. Otherwise, the playblast is saved in the default location of the project.
  • Click the Browse button to change the output directory.
    This specifies a different location for the playblast. If the project was set directly, then there is no need to browse for a new location. The default location for movie files (playblasts) are the Movies directory.

Finally click the Playblast button.

Resolution Gate

When playblasting with the resolution gate turned on, the gate will show in the playblast. This indicates that the resolution inside the gate mask is what will eventually be rendered in a final, but the actual movie size playblasted is the exact resolution set. What this means is there will be a difference between what is in the gate mask (reported to be the dimensions of the render) and the playblasted movie. Generally this is not a problem unless the movie needs to display the exact dimensions of the final render. This is the case when playblasting to incorporate in the rough cut of a film.

In order to have the playblast with the resolution gate match the dimensions of the final render, the overscan options of the shot camera need to be set. Do this by:

  1. Select the camera by either choosing the View > Select Camera from the viewport menu, or click the icon in the viewport tool bar (at the top of the viewport window).
  2. Open the Attribute Editor by pressing ctrl+a (if it's not already open, ctrl+a will toggle the Attribute Editor).
  3. There are two tabs in the Attribute Editor, persp (or a custom camera name), and the perspShape (or a custom camera nameShape). Choose the perspShape tab.
  4. Find the Film Back section.
    1. Set the Fit Resolution Gate drop-down box to Overscan
  5. Find the Display Options section.
    1. Set the Overscan attribute to 1.
A screenshot of the playblast window, with the resolution gate on, and no change to the overscan. This shows that the final output will be 1280 x 720, from within the inside of the masked area.
The final render, which is the area inside the resolution gate show in the playblast, at the resolution set in the render settings.
Playblast Overscan Set
A screenshot of the playblast, with the resolution gate turned on, but after setting the overscan attributes for the shot camera.
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