A simple guide to walk you through the basics of playblasting your work.

Checklist: (go over this when you're about to playblast.)

  1. 960 540 in render settings?
  2. HUD: Display Frame Counter on? 
  3. Playblast Display: Override Viewport?
  4. Check Staging (Resolution Gate) then turn it off.
  5. Quicktime movie?
  6. H.264 compression?
  7. Check naming: <Last>_<First>

Step 1: Aspect Ratio (or why you're playblasting at 960 x 540) 

Aspect Ratio refers to the the proportional relationship between an images width and its height. The format that you pick is going to have a huge impact on the composition of your scene.

Currently, the most common standard is 16:9 - the international standard format of HDTV. Some common 16:9 resolutions are 640x360, 960x540 (HD540),1280×720 (HD720) and 1920x1080 (HD 1080). The main reasons to choose this aspect ratio are to appeal to the widest possible audience and to ensure that your work displays well in the most likely format it will be seen in.

For playblasting animation, I prefer a resolution of: 960 x 540,
as it's a good compromise between high fidelity and efficient file size.

Start by setting your resolution in your render settings. Click on the "Display Render Settings Icon" in the upper right corner of Maya. Set your "image size" as pictured below:

Step 2: Set your Display Options

In Maya, in the upper left menus click on "Display>Heads Up Display" and make sure that "current frame" is checked on. This will show a frame counter at the bottom of your render: very important for animation feedback.
Next, in your camera view, click on the "Show" menu. Scroll to the bottom to "Playblast Display" and click on it. In the menu that pops up, check "Override Viewport" and check on the items that you want to show whenever you playblast.

Step 3: Check your Staging and Playblast

Click on the resolution gate icon (small grey rectangle with a blue circle ) in the upper right side of your camera view to see what you'll be playblasting. Once you are happy with the framing and composition of your scene lock the camera down and remember to...

  turn off the resolution gate before you playblast!

The last step is to right mouse click on your timeline to show "Playblast..." and click on the little box on the right side to bring up the options menu. Set your playblast options to look exactly like this:

Make sure the scale attribute (!) is set to 1.00 or it will shrink down movie file resolution! (everyone seems to get caught by this one.)

The name of your playblast should be:
       <Your last name>_<Your first name>_<assignment_code>.mov

When you're done, hit playblast and you should get a movie file showing your animation. Joy!
And now, as a reward for reading a bunch of technical stuff: a cute picture of a kitten.

this kitten is very cute.

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