What are maya options for learning the software?
July 10, 2007 9:02 AM   Subscribe

How can I learn Maya in two months?

Based on my traditional drafting and 2-d animation portfolio, I managed to get a job at an animation studio starting in September, but they would like me to learn Maya before I start.

I'm in New York City, I have not-so-much money, and I'm wondering what the best option is for learning Maya in the next two months. I've done the "clicking around until things start to make sense" with lots of other programs, and I think I'd like a more organized approach for this one.

I seem to have missed the boat on the summer college courses in the area, unfortunately. Are there good online courses I could take? Does anyone have any positive experience with something like digital tutors ? Are there are other NYC resources I should be considering? I'd rather not pursue the New York Film Academy route.

Oh, and I don't actually have the software - and I'm working on a Powerbook (1.67 GHz, 2 GB ram) which chugs along with Final Cut Pro (albeit a bit begrudgingly).

Side question: If I don't have any direction as to what I'll actually be doing, do you have any advice on where to focus my energies - modeling, rigging, texturing, etc? Or should I do the buffet thing?
posted by prophetsearcher to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: First, the software - looks like Autodesk has released an updated Learning Edition of Maya 8.5, which is free for personal use. And since you're under the gun just to learn the software I'll pass along the following statement: "Maya is a popular package on the torrent circuit."

Two months is not a lot of time to pick up Maya, but maybe you learn quickly? Several of my colleagues have taught classes here, if you want to try the DVD route.

The job you got at the animation studio should drive what you choose to study for the two months. If they hired you for animation I would ASSUME they don't care about your modeling skills. You can find pre-rigged Maya characters and crank out some motion passes, for example.
posted by shino-boy at 9:34 AM on July 10, 2007

Maya Personal Learning Edition
posted by Rubbstone at 9:34 AM on July 10, 2007

I've also seen, but not taken any classes from this site which might be helpful to learn about 3D animation.
posted by shino-boy at 9:59 AM on July 10, 2007

Best answer: Torrent Maya and the Gnomon DVD sets, watch them play on one monitor as you perform corresponding tasks at your own workstation. I learned it well enough to produce print ready renders after a week of this sort of thing, two months should be cake.
posted by prostyle at 10:20 AM on July 10, 2007

I have the Maya Personal Learning Edition, and I'm ashamed to say I have done nothing with it yet, but when I looked it over it didn't seem too intimidating.
posted by misha at 11:08 AM on July 10, 2007

A lot of Maya is under the surface... there's being able to do poly modeling, assigning some basic materials and doing some quick renders, and then there's being able to script it (MEL isn't hard but does take learning), do full animation (IK/FK solvers work slightly differently in maya than other packages), and really understand all the tree and network views it gives you. There's a lot there.

I don't think we'll be able to tell you what to work on.... that's something your company should tell you. You'll get the most bang for your buck learning poly modeling and whatever renderer + materials your company uses. Animation should really be taught to you - its hugely tricky to learn on your own, since a lot of it is so subjective. Texturing is kind of its own black magic too. If the company is large enough to have a TD, he'll probably handle all the scripting, and possibly the lighting/final rendering stuff.
posted by devilsbrigade at 11:41 AM on July 10, 2007

I am currently taking a graduate level class in Maya. I can't imagine anyone being able to effectively "self teach" themselves that program by "clicking around until stuff makes sense" in 2 years, let alone 2 months. IMHO it is not a very clear cut program nor are the functions of the tools easy to understand.

Sorry, but I don't have any suggestions about how you can pick up the program in 2 months. My advice is not to waste time by trying to figure out Maya by yourself. Spend some coin on something that you find will be beneficial to you understanding the program and not just knowing what all of the tools do.
posted by comatose at 11:51 AM on July 10, 2007

I taught myself beginner(to intermediate) level Maya in about a month. I agree with what the others have said in that it is not a very easy program to pick up, but it can be done. I "acquired" Maya on my own until I was able to buy it.

Also, I understand that your employment circumstances may force you to use Maya, but if possible I highly recommend trying Blender. I have used Bryce, Maya, 3D Studio Max and Blender and can say with 100% certainty that Blender is the best IMO. It is free/open source, powerful, intuitive(after the learning curve), and just as capable as the others. Check out this short film.
posted by coolin86 at 12:28 PM on July 10, 2007

Forgot to mention, I learned Maya by walking into Barnes and Noble and buying what looked to be the best book. The choice was relatively arbitrary, but it served me well. Unfortunatly, I no longer have the book nor remember the title. Good luck.
posted by coolin86 at 12:31 PM on July 10, 2007

I was going to suggest taking an extended vacation to rural Guatemala until I realized you weren't talking about this Maya...
posted by mahamandarava at 2:54 PM on July 10, 2007

Best answer: I think the Digital Tutors DVDs are quite good, and you can watch tons of samples from them on their site.

My BIG advice, given as a professional developer and also as a teacher/writer/speaker on related topics, is to choose THREE good learning sources, each of which is very different from the others, and use all of them.

There's something about hearing things three times that lodges it in the mind. It's partly just the repetition, of course, but it's also the three different sources. My guess is that there's a "social module" in your brain that thinks, "I'm hearing this from three different people, so it must be important!"

By three sources, I mean read a book, watch a DVD set and take a class. Since you can't take a class, maybe two DVD sets from two totally different companies. (Naturally, you should be practicing on your own, two.) If two of the sources are too similar -- e.g. two very similar books -- I don't think the brain pays as much attention. It's like hearing two Republicans both praising George Bush.

Also, buy a notebook and write MAYA on the front. Make notes in it from all the sources. This will become your Bible. It sucks to remember that you read something two weeks ago but to have forgotten the details and the source. In my notes, I jot down page/book or DVD/time references followed by the keyboard shortcut or whatever. That way, if I don't understand my own note, I can get a fuller explanation from the book.

I also make sure that computer books become one-read experiences. I don't want to have to re-read the same Maya book twice. So I mark up the book really heavily as I'm reading it. Usually, computer books contain a lot of filler (history of the program, etc.) and a lot of conceptual stuff that's really important but that you won't need to re-read. I want to make sure that I don't have to wade through all that when I later use the book as a resource.

So I underline important tech notes, write in margins and put asterisks at the tops of key pages. My goal is to prep the book for a future me -- the one who gets the job and then is not actually asked to use Maya for six months. I don't want that me to have to start from scratch. So I create a helpful trail for him with my notebook and my annotations.
posted by grumblebee at 3:16 PM on July 10, 2007 [2 favorites]

In addition to the notebook, keeping a Wiki with notes about certain things and SCREENSHOTS in Maya will become increasingly helpful, especially if you ever get into MEL. A notebooks is nice for the more artistic or off-screen parts of learning, but for direct 'how-do-I-do-what-I-did-last-weekend' stuff, a Wiki is invaluable, and will turn into a very useful resource.
posted by devilsbrigade at 4:56 PM on July 10, 2007

I second the book route. Go to a large bookstore with a selection of Maya books. Important: Don't buy the cheapest. Don't grab one and check out. Take your time looking through them and find one that looks right for you. You want enough pictures to see what is going on, but not a book that is all pictures and not much text. I like the text to be comprehensive without being complex, and that usually means a lot of chapters and examples.
If the book that feels best for you is a version behind the latest, it may well still be better route to learning the latest version than a book rushed to print for the latest version and less well laid out for your style of learning, so don't dismiss a book just because it's not the latest version. You need to get the fundamentals in place, and they don't change as much version-to-version as the bells and whistles do.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:57 PM on July 10, 2007

Also, don't forget the help features built into Maya. I've heard people complain about them, but I find the help is usually useful. (Normally, I have a vague idea of what I want to do, and knowledge from other packages that the feature to do that will exist, I just need to find out the method)
posted by -harlequin- at 5:00 PM on July 10, 2007

Best answer: Since an animation portfolio got you your job, I'd start with that facet of Maya. Learn the basics of how keyframes and spline curves work, using some simple primitives. Youtube "animation mentor" for lots of exercises that students have posted. They start with simple ball animations. Get those basics down, then download a free character rig ('bloke' is a good one) and go from there.
posted by GeekAnimator at 8:52 PM on July 10, 2007

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