In this tutorial Mike explains what a normal map is and how it can be used in Maya to display high resolution on low polygon models. You’ll learn two different techniques, one where we create a light array with different colored lights based on the RGB scale and negative intensities to simulate the baking procedure which works well for flat, less detailed surfaces. You’ll see how normal maps interact with light and how to create materials that interact with light correctly. To our normal map additional bump information can be added to get specific surface properties like brick or bark within the map before it’s rendered out at texture resolution.
The second technique shown is the more complicated one for a higher level of detail which is what you want on organic characters, here we create a high and low res mesh and bake down our normal map.
Mike McKinley is an environment artist who works for Zombie Studios. He’s been part of a number of large game productions such as the SAW franchise and written several books about Maya.