Regardless of your experience with Maya and computer graphics, Maya 5 Savvy won’t just deepen your skills with the program. It draws on the extensive experience of four renowned 3D experts to give you mastery over the entire 3D production pipeline.
The authors and editors of Maya 5 Savvy have worked hard to organize their coverage around a single start-to-finish “über-project”: a three-minute animated short that touches on virtually every significant Maya feature and every stage of Maya production. All the support files are on CD-ROM, including files at multiple stages of completion, so you can start working partway through the project, if you’d like.
This edition adds extensive new coverage, including an exceptionally detailed two-chapter discussion of rigging a complex character; new chapters on cloth and fur simulations; thoughtful introductions to compositing and editing, and much more.
The authors start by explaining how to imagine and refine a story for your animation. (You’ve heard of brainstorming, but have you thought about the ways repetitive action can free your brain to come up with a great idea?) Once you’ve got your idea, what questions do you need to ask to transform it into a real project? (What are you trying to say? Why bother animating, instead of shooting live? What needs to be done in preproduction?)
Then, it’s on to modeling: creating visible surfaces with primitives, curves, NURBS, polygons, and subdivision surfaces. You’ll learn how to use beveling (essential for photorealistic modeling); extrude, poke, wedge, soften, harden, and a host of other tools. Now you’re ready to move from shapes to characters. You’ll especially appreciate the clear discussion of the pros and cons of using NURBS and/or polygons for character modeling. (The right choices keep shifting: here’s the latest take.)
After you’ve built your character model, you can begin animating it. Maya 5 Savvy covers all your options, from keyframing to nonlinear techniques using the Trax Editor. You’ll learn how to use rigid body animation to realistically simulate physical forces; use expression-driven animation to enliven your characters in context-sensitive ways; and use particle animation to animate tough stuff like smoke. This section also contains two full chapters on MEL scripting, starting with really simple stuff and graduating to large scripts for rigging your character.
Then you’re ready to render. Sounds simple, but it isn’t. The authors offer real-world insight into these make-or-break tasks: setting up cameras, shading, texturing, lighting, shadowing, and more. There’s a full chapter on advanced rendering techniques, including Maya’s new Vector Renderer -- complete with guidance on efficient rendering for compositing.
The final section focuses on some really advanced techniques -- for example, simulating fur, garments, morphing trees, and so forth. (Be warned: some of this stuff can take forever to render. But it sure looks great!)
Throughout, you’ll find loads of tips, tweaks, and secrets for streamlining real-world workflows. This is the stuff that’ll make you more productive than the other guy -- and give you a real leg up in a ridiculously competitive industry. Bill Camarda
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks for Dummies, Second Edition.