Thursday, 31 July 2014

Hair Simulation in Maya 2014 - the XGen Tool

Rapunzel - great hair!
One of the best features of Autodesk Maya 2014 was a big step forward in its hair simulation capabilities. The new tool is called XGen, and is embedded free with Maya 2014. It was developed by Disney/Pixar and was used on their film Rapunzel, to generate the heroine's gorgeous, bouncing tresses.

At the BlueGFX Expo in London last year, Autodesk demonstrated their new hair simulation tool, giving us a step-by-step tutorial in how to go about creating great hair effects in Maya with this new instancing system. So how exactly does it work?

XGen is found under the Dynamics tab in Autodesk Maya. You go to Create/XGen/description, and give it a project name. Pick groomable splines/create to create your new hair map.  You can use the Density slider to add to or reduce the density of the hair follicles.

Using the brush tool you can paint the hairs to make them bigger or smaller. You can pose them too, grooming the hair to make it follow the contours of the body, growing out in different directions, just like real hair.

On a facial rig, you can add stubble, a moustache, a beard. You will generally do this on a separate mesh. Underneath the hair mesh will be the original mesh, which will have its own skin shader.

You can also use XGen to create other effects, such as long grass waving the wind. You can use the same system to propagate trees in a landscape, or grass over a field, or roof tiles on a roof.

So, next time you're working on a character rig, have a go at XGen and see what you can create.


For more information on building a career in the animation and visual effects business, read our post on how to find a job in the animation industry, and check out our post about what not to do at a job interview. Also see our post on starting your own small animation business, learn how to create an invoice, and see how we are helping our students find work through our film co-operative Nano Films.  Download the free Escape Studios Careers in VFX Handbook. Take a look at how can help you find a job, and read our piece about how to survive as a freelance animator. Also, find out what Cinesite look for in a student's demo reel, and read our post on setting up your own animation business.

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