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Tutorial: MAYA - Playblasts

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

(Noted from Wade Neistadt’s video:

In Maya, you can do full renders of your scenes. These are high quality and take a lot of time, designed for finished art.

You can also create playblasts, which are lower quality, and much faster, essentially just animating whatever is on screen (including gridlines, spline controls and other stuff usually not wanted)

Playblasts are designed for seeing quick previews of work in progress.


With Maya set to Animation mode, in the toolbar, choose Playback > Playblast.

Alternatively, R-Click on the timeline, when it is set to show the frames you want, and choose Playblast.


Whichever method you use, you can click on the options box to change the settings of the rendered playblast:

  • Change Format to qt

  • Change Encoding to .h264

  • Change Quality to 100

  • Change Display size to Render Settings. (We will adjust these after.

  • Change Scale to 1.0

  • Make sure Save to File is checked, if you want to be able to save the playblast as a video file.

  • Hit browse to choose where you want to save it. (it wont default to where the maya file is saved!)

Now, Click on the Render settings icon in the top toolbar (clapperboard and gear)

  • Make sure Renderable Camera is set to Persp

  • Image Size Presets should be HD_1080 (or whatever you need)

  • Copy the Device Aspect Ratio value (should be 1.777)


Click the Camera Icon at the top left of the Viewport. Now go to the Attribute Editor.

Here you can change aperture width, focal length etc to mimic a real camera.

Still in the Attribute editor, go to Film Back > Film aspect ratio, paste the number we copied earlier from render settings.

Also in this section, set Fit Resolution Gate to Overscan.

Now in Display Options, set Overscan to 1, to get rid of the grey border.


  • If we get strange clipping/glitching on the mesh, Increase the Near Clipping plane (e.g. 0.1)

  • Don’t have any objects selected or they will be highlighted in the video.

  • Alt + V to quickly play/pause your animation in maya.

At the top of the viewport, uncheck Show > Nurbs Curves (Or press Alt + 1) to turn off Splines from view. This will hide any animation controllers used in rigs.

Note the 'Show Playblast' section at the bottom, so we can keep them on in the viewport but have stuff disanbled only for playblasts.

Lots of things can be turned off in this menu, which can be handy to speed up modelling etc.

Also turn off the Grid button (grid icon) along the top of the viewport window. (Or Show > Grid)

NB - If you want to be able to see the Frame number displayed along with the playblast, go to the top toolbar and choose Display > Heads up Display > Current Frame. This can be good to pinpoint areas to tweak.


Playblasts aren’t meant to be final render quality, but we can adjust a few settings to improve them

Resolution Gate

Along the top of the viewport, look for the Resolution Gate icon. This will show the resolution you are set to render at, and will grey out the area outside of the frame.


Go to Renderer at top of viewport and click on Viewport 2.0 options square.

Scroll down to Anti-Aliasing, check the Multisampling box, and increase it.

NB – This is processor hungry so only activate it to make the playblast, then deactivate once done.

Ambient Occlusion

Also in the Renderer > Viewport 2.0 options menu, is Screen-Space Ambient occlusion. Enable this and adjust it (lower mid of slider looks most natural) to add occlusion shadows to the viewport.

Motion Blur.

Also in the Renderer > Viewport 2.0 options menu. Optional, and will slow down the playblast recording. This is best done in actual renders however.

Hardware Fog

To add a little more depth, or pull focus to parts of the model, we can turn on hardware fog.

First check Shading > Hardware Fog in the viewport menu bar, then in Renderer > Viewport 2.0 we can scroll down to the Hardware fog dropdown.

Adjust the start and end sliders to determine where the opacity of the fog starts and ends (i.e how far we can see through it)

We can also adjust the colour.

Again, turn it on and off just for playblasts.


Viewport toolbar check the Lighting > Shadows box

Note that Maya’s default settings give very black shadows, which aren’t designed to be pleasing to look at. The next section will address fixing those.


As an animator, you likely wont have to worry about lighting. Especially in games, that will be someone elses job. But for portfolio purposes, it can be worth making a few basic tweaks to really sell your work in your playblasts.

Important keybinds:

5 – Geometry

6 – Textures

7 – Tun on Lights

NB - This assumes we are making a playblast of a character animation with a small focused light setup, not a huge environmental scene.

In top menu bar, go to Create > Lights > Ambient Light.

Press 7 on Keyboard and we should see this already brightens a lot of our shadows already.

This boosts the diffuse, but flattens any shadows or highlights.

In the Attribute Editor, we can adjust the intensity, and the colour of the light as suitable.

Go to Create > Lights > Directional.

Creates a large light that illuminates similar to a sun. Position doesn’t matter on a D light, only rotation. Rotate to pull up some nice highlights on the model you want to playblast.

Again, colour and intensity can be adjusted to taste in the Attribute Editor.

We can Add another Directional light, coming from an opposite angle behind the model, to create a quasi-Rim light.

Keep adding lights until it looks right, but since this is just a playblast, no more than 3 or 4 should be required.

When ready, before we render our Playblast, uncheck Show > Lights in the viewport menu. It wont turn off the lights, It just hides the gizmos.

Tip – If the model is starting to look too shiny when you add a new light, go to the Attribute Editor and deselect Emit Specular.

TIP – As you add lights and need to make adjustments, it can get clunky going through selecting them and going to the Attribute editor.

Instead, open the Light Editor from Windows > Rendering Editors > Light Editor. This will open a window where you can see all lights listed and make adjustments on the fly, or toggle them on and off.

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