Software Focus: Make 3D Characters and Dazzling SFX with Maya

By Phill Powell

The name comes from Sanskrit and refers to the Hindu concept that means illusion.

Maya® is a perfect name for powerful software that literally creates digital magic. In fact, if you’re trying to create cool 3D characters or awesome special effects, Maya should be your first choice, as it is for the video game industry and the film/TV industry.

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When filmmakers of Spider-Man 2 needed a way to accurately project the texture of Spidey’s webbed suit, Maya came to the rescue. (Image: Sony Pictures Imageworks)

And because Maya is exceptionally versatile, it’s also the go-to character- and level-design program taught at Digital Media Academy tech camps each summer.

Powerful Performer

Maya has been used not only in hit video games (Halo 4), but also plays an active and key role in the creation of many hit movies and shows.

On TV, you’ve seen Maya’s work in Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.

In theaters, you’ve seen Maya in blockbusters such as Frozen, Avatar and Monsters, Inc..

Maya is so essential to modern film production that it’s even won Oscar gold, receiving no less than three special Technical Achievement Academy Awards.

Makes Complex Textures Possible

Maya (published by Autodesk®) is used to render photorealistic features (such as clothing, textures and 3D characters) for hit video games. It’s also used for creating stunning special effects and it even breathes life into animated blockbusters.

For anyone who wants to design video games, make computer-animated features or create special effects, learning how to use Maya is a must. That’s why our Maya tech camps are among DMA’s most popular courses.

Maya proved essential, for example, when Sony Pictures Imageworks faced a serious technical challenge during the making of Spider-Man 2. The filmmakers needed a computer graphics technology that could realistically simulate a cloth texture over an animated character, in order to capture the webbed texture of Spider-Man’s famous costume.

So Alias Software, the developer that created Maya, engineered a simulator option in Maya that could handle the nuanced textures of Spidey’s distinctive outfit. The rest is film history.

Always Improving the Program

Alias designed Maya in 1998 and since then the program has received numerous upgrades. For example, a fluid effects simulator (that supports cloud and fire effects) was added to Maya 4.5. Over the years, Maya’s makers have added more effects and additional options to the program, including ways to generate complex textures like fur and hair.

Some other features that have been added:

  • nParticle Simulator: Enhances effects that involve smoke or dust (or any fine-particulate material).
  • Camera Sequencer: Enables smoother layout of animated footage containing multiple camera angles.
  • MatchMover: Helps marry CGI elements to regular film or video footage.
  • Bifrost: Provides better representation of liquids, such as sea foam and ocean waves.

These enhancements have made Maya even more flexible.

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You’ll get more out of Maya if you learn it through a qualified program, like at a DMA Maya tech camp.

The Only Software You Need…and Where to Learn It

When it comes to 3D video games, computer-animated feature films or any kind of digital production, Maya meets every need: modeling, lighting, animation and rendering. It’s no wonder that Maya is the world’s leading 3D creation tool.

Learn Maya texturing and lighting next summer from a Maya expert on the campuses of some of America’s most prestigious universities. Let DMA show you how.