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

Completed computer animations for film, television, computer games, or the Web are usually complex, and the Maya scenes behind them are rich with geometry, textures, and lights. In this book each chapter starts at zero.
When in Chapter 21 you throw a (Maya Cloth) poncho over a torso, you don't need to model an elaborate human body or load a heavy scene file from CD in order to start. A sphere with a slightly scaled down north pole to indicate the nape of the neck is enough to go into the poncho¹s single hole and make the fabric rest comfortably on the skin.
In Chapter 8 you won't find a wonderfully textured cyclist‹you'll just use a few clicks to model the top part of a human skeleton, with arms and shoulders. You don't need more than that to learn about constraints and study steering with one or two hands.

Certainly, you can load the results of all 30 chapters from the CD. The CD also contains rendered movies you might want to study to see things in action, in motion‹something books these days can't show you. The majority of the tutorials can be completed with the basic version of Maya and with the demo version of Maya 3 coming with this book. Where more advanced tools from the Unlimited version are required, you¹ll find hints for getting the same or similar results with the tools you have at hand. The CD also contains a couple of my favourite Plug-Ins like Bert van Brande's SkeletonWorks (never again build skeletons from scratch), FootSteps by Dirk Bialluch (let your characters walk along predefined paths, even up spiral stairs) and Audiowave (automatically animate any parameter using the amplitute of a sound file), as well as a cartoon renderer a tool to organise/automate komplex batch render jobs.

The book refers to version 4 of Maya, which came out in summer 2001, and makes heavy use of new technologies like Nonlinear Animation with Clips, Poses, the Trax Editor, Subdivision Surfaces for modeling, and digital painting with the Paint Effects‹not because these technologies are hip, but because they make workflows much more economic and, even better, more satisfying.
Modeling the leg of a crooked chair or a pair of nostrils with Subdivision Surfaces is, compared to previous techniques, nothing less than an interactive delight.
Despite its playfulness, the book doesn't balk at mathematics because the regular use of random expressions, If conditions, and sine functions can dramatically ease the daily animation routine. Many chapters include these expressions. MEL, on the other hand, has no place here. MEL is a programming language with a massive syntax and command set, and it requires too much specialized knowledge far beyond the scope of this rather popular and "light² book.
Game developers, who in the last couple of months seem to have embraced Maya, won't learn here how to build and animate Lara Croft X, but the broad concept of the book will provide inspiration about all the fundamental parts of Maya for their daily work.