Exploring Maya 4 - 30 Studies in 3D - Peachpit Press - November 2001

Maya is a software package for the creation of 3D animations, developed by Alias, a company based in Toronto, Canada. It is being used by artists all over the world to create computer games, web animations, industrial design, special effects and feature films. The program is expensive but worth the money. You can start with a student version and upgrade later. The CD of this book contains a Maya 3 demo version.

Some of the pictures on this and the following two pages are hyperlink-sensitive. By clicking on the illustrations - like on the photo below - you get an enlarged or slightly different view of the picture.


A year before this book came out I wrote a German book about the aesthetics of 3D animation using Maya 3 - a much more basic book than this one and three times as heavy. That book contained 12 brief tutorials which I called "sketches". In German, the term has mainly its comic meaning of a short, funny dialog. The sketches were randomly sprinkled in among the 600 pages of more fundamental and comprehensive information. They were mini-chapters not at all related to the rest and extremly satisfying to write. After having completed massive chapters about the basics of character animation or logic nodes, I looked forward to inserting a sketch where i could play: set a cube on fire, make the crescent moon rise, or create a will-o'-the wisp. Islands of pleasure.

This book contains no basics whatsoever, just islands of pleasure. If you're familiar with the Maya interface you'll enjoy the tutorials as much as I have. Each chapter is based on an everyday question, as it might cross our minds: How do I roll a ball over a mountain? How do I get the shadow of a birch tree (with all the trembling leaves and branches) inside my spartan little 3D room? How does a vulcano erupt? How do I make a character steer a bicycle while waving hello to me? How do I animate Chinese calligraphy for an educational CD-ROM? How do I simulate a crash test for cars?
The book would have gotten much less light weight and playful if I had had to explain common commands such as for the creation of a loft between three curves or how to set a keyframe for a specific parameter. Without these instructions I could get much faster to the point and the layouter could keep the book slightly below the 200 pages range. Exploring Maya 4 is printed in full color from the first to the last page on a wide length format.

Provided you're familiar with the basics of the software, none of the 30 tutorials of this book should take up more than an hour of your time - that's all you need to make the crater spew fire or see the cyclist wave.

But my experience with students suggests that each chapter will invoke parallel ideas, create spin-offs so that at the end of the day, quite different and much more elaborate things evolve.
And since the tutorials aren't linked to specific software tools or techniques, but rather to questions derived from real life, you'll find you return to the book again and again. When working on a totally different project, you'll suddenly remember that doorbell button or the knobbly guy...