Understanding 3D Animation Using Maya
Mark Mayerson · June 2, 2005 | Books that teach software use two basic approaches. One is the command approach, where a book catalogues every command in a package and explains it thoroughly. While this approach provides a lot of detail, it doesn't explain how the commands fit together.

Understanding 3D Animation Using Maya uses the other approach, which is to use tutorials. The benefit of this is that the reader is focused on using commands to achieve a particular result. Tutorials lead the reader through the various parts of a package and show how work progresses from a concept to a final image. In six chapters, Understanding 3D Animation Using Maya provides exercises that explain concepts of 3D and use Maya files on the accompanying CD as the basis for exercises. A copy of Maya Personal Learning Edition (PLE) is included on the CD.

Each chapter of the book provides a more complex exercise in a particular aspect of the software, building on what the reader has already learned. The reader is familiarized with the Maya interface, moving primitives in space, creating models, materials, lights and rendering final images. Keyframing, path animation, parenting, constraints, subdivision surfaces, skeletal systems, binding geometry to a skeleton and inverse kinematics are also covered. MEL scripting is touched on lightly.

Understanding 3D Animation Using Maya
Written by John Edgar Park
Springer, 2005
313 pages, includes CD-ROM

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The book is clearly written and the tutorials are generally easy to follow. Occasionally, there will be something missing from the text (such as specifying which menu bar should be exposed) or an approach that isn't supported by Maya PLE (such as the 'system' command). The files are well thought out and are constructed to get users directly to the meat of each lesson. The CD includes files that are completed versions of each exercise, so you can compare what you've done with the author's results.

I found the most frustrating part of this book to be the exercise using the UV Texture Editor. Perhaps the author should have started with a simpler example that uses fewer vertices.

While the files on the CD work well, there are some discrepancies between the CD and the text. For example, an exercise about using multiple cameras is built around a plane taking off from inside a hangar. The file specified in the book doesn't contain any plane animation, though another file in the same directory does. There are several small annoyances like this and if the book goes into a second edition, more care should be taken to make sure that the text and the CD are consistent.

This book is aimed at the Maya beginner and will not make the reader an expert in the software. There are many menu commands that are not covered and many concepts that are explained in a cursory manner. Other areas, like particles and dynamics, are completely ignored. However, the book will allow a user to experiment with unfamiliar menu commands with some confidence and to move on to more advanced learning resources. Understanding 3D Animation Using Maya provides a solid start for anyone looking to learn the software or the basic principles of 3D.
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