3D Rendering of Displacement Mapping in Maya

3D rendering will use displacement maps when effects that occur on specific points will be displaced. This type of effect creates more detail, self shadowing, self occlusion, sense of depth and more silhouettes. However, when compared with other effects, this is much more costly to use as more geometry is needed. This type of technology uses micropolygons, which can produce high frequency maps. Displacement mapping works very well in Maya because it needs NURBS to function properly. NURBS is used extensively throughout Maya.

Surface Detail

This mapping can create greater detail on the surface. This is achieved because when the item is rendered, the surface is actually completely modified. This surface adjustment also changes the shadows and shades within the model. Therefore, before the object can be rendered, it must first be displaced. The amount of displacement can be changed for greater modification or a smaller amount of modification. The displaced surface can also be shrunk or expanded.

Height Field

The height field is needed to determine how large the valleys of the displacement and the height of the peaks are. One excellent example is creating mountains. A low height field is used to create lovely rolling hills, while a large height field can be used to create the Alps. This height scale is considered to be part of the noise in the displacement. 


Depending on what type of displacement is used, rendering can take a long time. There is no status bar for this type of rendering, so if the system seems to have stopped for awhile, then the system is simply working. It is possible to render the model without converting the displacement to polygons. This conversion can take a very long time. The main difference with direct rendering is that the view will not be available in the viewport. It is possible to repeat this rendering if changes are needed.


This type of rendering will take up a lot of memory and takes a long time to view. If you plan on using displacement mapping a lot, then get out your external drives and put as much memory as possible into your system. Also, only use the program for displacement mapping at the time. Do not have several different programs running at once, as this will only increase the displacement and rendering time.


There are many advantages to adding a displacement map to a subdivided surface. Surfaces that are subdivided create a lovely smooth surface to which the displacement can be applied. This type of mapping is also very compact as additional models, control mesh or tangent data are not needed. Subdivided surfaces are also very easy to change in order to support the chosen displacement.

When to Use

Displacement maps can be used for a wide variety of effects. Traditionally, they are used for water animations, material textures, topography and landscapes, nature surfaces and much more. If you feel that the bump map does not provide enough detail, then add displacement for the desired amount of detail. Also, apply a displacement map if you feel the chosen surface is not realistic enough. This is a fast and easy way to achieve great texture.