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Book Review: Introducing Autodesk Maya 2012 by Dariush Derakhshani

Maya is an integrated node-based software application for 3D digital animation and visual effects. Using Maya, you can create and edit 3D models in a variety of modeling formats and animate your models using a whole host of animation tools. It is a top choice for film and video creators, game artists, and 3D design professionals.

Now with Introducing Autodesk Maya 2012 you will learn how to build and animate your own digital models and scenes as well as develop professional skills in using Maya. Introducing Autodesk Maya 2012 is 648 pages and is divided into 12 chapters.

Chapter One, “Introduction to Computer Graphics and 3D,” starts off by introducing you to common computer graphics terms and concepts as well as an overview of how computer graphics (CG) happens and how it relates to Maya. It also helps to establish a commonly used workflow.

Chapter Two, “Jumping Headfirst with Both Feet,” gets your hands dirty by creating a simple animation that will help you find your way around the Maya interface and workflow as well as giving you a feel for how Maya works.

Chapter Three, “The Maya 2012 Interface,” takes you on a tour of the entire Maya interface and shows you how it is used in production. You start off with the layout of the screen; thes chapter also describes how the program defines and organizes the objects in a scene.

Chapter Four, “Beginning Polygonal Modeling,” looks at an overview of modeling by briefly describing the three methods of modeling – through the use of polygons, NURBS, and subdivision – and how these methods differ. The second part of this chapter focus’ on modeling with polygons.

Chapter Five, “Modeling with NURBS, Subdivisions, and Deformers,” examines how to use deformations to adjust a model as opposed to editing the geometry directly as you did with the prior chapter. This chapter also introduces subdivision surface modeling.

Chapter Six, “Practical Experience,” begins to put in to practice what you have learned so far. In this chapter you will put together a toy wagon. It uses poly and NURBS modeling techniques to provide you with practical experience in modeling with a larger project.

Chapter Seven, “Maya Shading and Texturing,” describes how you apply colors and provide texturing to your models. Here you will look at shaders and how they define an object’s look – its color, tactile texture, transparency, luminescence, glow, as well as other characteristics.

Chapter Eight, “Introduction to Animation,” shows that the best way to learn animation is to animate. That is just what you do in this chapter. You start with bouncing a ball and then move on to more complex systems of animation when you bring a locomotive to life.

Chapter Nine, “More Animation,” gets you into more involved animation practices and toolsets. Here you will delve deeper into the principles that have been covered in this book. Because animation is a very deep technique, this can be thought of as a stepping off point to bigger and better things.

Chapter 10, “Maya Lighting,” looks at how light shapes the Maya world and gives it depth. It also initiates the perception of color and allows us to distinguish shape and form. For a scene in CG to be successful, the realities of light needs to be replicated as accurately as possible.

Chapter 11, “Maya Rendering,” is where the final step comes in within the CG workflow. It is where the computer calculates the surface properties, lighting, shadows, movement, and shape of objects and saves them as a sequence of images. This chapter shows you how to render out your scene and create reflections and refractions.

Chapter 12, “Maya Dynamics and Effects,” looks at creating special effects through the use of ridged body dynamics to make pool balls move. You then use particle effects to create a steam effect for a locomotive; finally, you work with Maya’s paint effects tools to create grass and flowers.

While overall, Introducing Autodesk Maya 2012 is a very well laid out book and a very easy read, I would have to guess that it is mostly a quick rework of the 2011 version as there is no talk about the new Viewport 2.0 enhancements – full-screen effects, motion blur, depth-of-field etc, the four new camera rigs, the new dynamic smart textures, Interactive Polygon tool, or editable motion trails. Since this is a book about fundamentals, this should not be a problem with the possible exception being the Split Polygon tool that is replaced with the Interactive Polygon tool.

That said, I found that Introducing Autodesk Maya 2012 moves you in a logical progression through the use of Maya and the explanation of the steps to get each projects accomplished. I like the method in which the material is presented and that it gives a good fundamental workflow from which to develop. The book is well illustrated and easy to use, and so I can easily recommend it.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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