Easy Light-Linker for Maya

EDIT: The script is now available from Creative Crash. Download it here.

If you've ever worked with lighting complex scenes in Maya and needed to fine-tune the effect of your lights, you know how much of a pain it can be to use Maya's built in relationship editor to define light-linking between objects. As your scene becomes filled with more and more objects, the task of scrolling through and making sense of a long list of nodes which you probably forgot to rename begins to take its toll on your desire to light a scene. Was it pSphere39 or pSphere21 that you wanted to un-link from that spotlight? There is the group of objects for your coffee table, but which of the cubes corresponds to the glass surface that you need an extra specular highlight for?

To me, having to do the extra cross-checking of object names and locations in the node hierarchy can quickly take the joy out of tweaking my lighting to get the perfect look. What if there was a way to interactively link and unlink lights within the Maya 3D viewer, without going to an extra menu and tediously scrolling through all those names?

Well...that was my goal when designing the "Easy Light-Linker" Python script for Maya. Check out the video below for a quick demo:

As mentioned earlier, I feel that Maya's light-linking interface as it stands is a bit tedious for lighting artists who don't want to be constantly pulled out of the artistic flow of lighting to manage complex node hierarchies. In my experience, maybe 15% of time and work in lighting is placing the actual lights, while 85% goes to tweaking all the settings to get the perfect look. Given the best naming conventions and strictest adherence to them, it still takes time to use the current relationship editor, even with the choice of light-centric or object-centric linking. My goal in this script isn't to encourage bad habits as far as project management or naming of scene objects, but rather to provide a simplified way for artists to be just that: artists, without some of the extra stress of mindless and unnecessarily clicking.

I hope to get the script up on Creative Crash soon, after some more testing and fixes. Hopefully it will be some help to those of us who love lighting in Maya!