MAYA Information

(c) Copyright 2008-2015, Howard J. Hamilton, University of Regina

The ViewPort Window

The ViewPort Window is where we see the scene that we are creating. It is the "canvas" on which we "paint" our picture. By default it is set to the Perspective viewport (see picture on previous page), which gives you a 3-dimensional view of your scene. When you open the program, the viewport may be divided into four smaller windows rather than the large one pictured above. This is the Orthographic view (see next picture).

Perspective Viewport

Since the Perspective viewport is a 3d representation of the scene, there are special procedures for altering what direction we view the scene from. There are three ways to alter the viewing angle:

Alt+Left Mouse Button -- Pivot around center -- The center of the viewport is taken as the pivot point and the camera rotates around that point.
Alt+Middle Mouse Button -- Move along image plane -- The camera moves in directions parallel to the current view of the scene.
Alt+Right Mouse Button -- Zoom -- Zooms in and out of the scene

Logic: changing items in the scene is done with simple mouse operations; Alt must be added to change the view of the scene.

Orthographic Viewport

The Orthographic view shows each dimension separately along with a 3-dimensional view of your scene. It is obtained by hitting the Spacebar.

To switch back to the Perspective Viewport, move the mouse to the top right window and hit the Spacebar. The other three windows represent the Orthographic projections of the scene and are 2-dimensional.

Note: If pivoting around the center doesn't work, it means that you are in one of the Orthographic views.




Object/Animation shelf

The Object/Animation shelf is where you will you will find most of the objects you need to create your scenes. The tabs across the top represent the various shelves we have to choose from. Beneath the shelf tab are the items of the shelf. These items are what you select to perform the various tasks.

If you don't see the tabs, this means they are turned off. On the far left of the above image there is a down arrow. Click on this arrow and select the "Shelf Tabs" option from the list. This will turn the tabs on.

Note: After creating numerous objects you can select a group of them. The first way to do this is by dragging a box around them using the mouse. The second method is to select them individually. To do this, click on one object, press and hold the Shift button, and select the other objects you want. This method can also be used to unselect an object.

Command Feedback bar

The Command Feedback bar lies at the bottom right corner of the window. The results of your actions are displayed here, including error messages if something went wrong. At the right side of the above image is a button called the Feedback Window button. Clicking this button will bring up a window that displays all the feedback information.

Example: Click on the Polygons tab on the Object/Animation shelf. Click on one of the first 6 items on the shelf (these are the various primitive shapes). That object should appear in the center of the scene.

As well, a message should appear in the Command Feedback bar. The message should be on a blue background and be similar to "Result: pCone1 polyCone1" or "Result: labert1". This means that everything went well. Now click the 8th item on the shelf (). An error message, such as "Error: pCube1 has only one piece. Ignored.", will be displayed on a pink background. This means that an error occurred.


Select, Move, Rotate, and Scale

The Select, Move, Rotate, and Scale buttons are the first, third, fourth, and fifth ones in the image above. Use these buttons for basic manipulations of the objects in the scene.

Select just selects an object.

Move is used to alter the position of the object in the scene along the X, Y, and Z axes.

Rotate is used to spin the object around the X,Y,Z axes.

Scale is used to make the object bigger or smaller along the X, Y, and Z axes.

Note: There is also a yellow circle/box which shows up inside the object once it has been selected. This circle/box advanced users to alter the selected object on all three axes at the same time.

Note: The hotkeys for these options are as follows:

Select - Q
Move - W
Rotate - E
Scale - R

The TimeLine

The timeline is where key frames and the length of the animation are set. It also has controls for playing the animation.

An animation is a series of images called frames. A key frame is a frame that is set by the user when he/she wants an object to look as it currently does at a specific time in the animation. Suppose you want an object in the animation to move from the left side of the screen to the right side over a period of time. You will choose some frame (say frame 1) to be the first key frame and some later frame (say frame 24) to be the final key frame. As explained in the example below, you must choose a frame, set the object in the correct position for that frame, and then use the "Set Keyframe" operation to record the position of the object at the key frame. Once you have established two key frames, the Maya software can interpolate the position for each in-between frame to give a nice smooth motion. The further the end frame is from the start frame, the slower the object will move. Almost any other property of an object can be set differently in two key frames and Maya is able to animate the corresponding change by interpolating values for every inbetween frame.

At the bottom of the above timeline image, there is a slider that has the numbers 1 and 24 on either side. The timeline itself also lists the numbers from 1 to 24. The slider indicates how much of the current timeline is being shown. The text boxes on either side of the slider also indicate the total number of frames in the animation. The text boxes represent the Animation start frame, Viewport start frame, Viewport end frame, and Animation end frame, respectively (0,0,24,48). Here the Viewport start and end frames indicate the frames that are currently shown on the timeline.

Example: Make sure you are at frame 1 on the timeline and the object is positioned to the left in the scene. Click on the Animations shelf tab. The first item on the shelf is the Set Keyframe item (). Click this item. The first key frame is now set. On the timeline click the number 24 (or the number of any other frame that is chronologically later than the first frame). Move the object to the right side of the scene (or any position you like) and click the Set Keyframe item again. Click the play button on the timeline to play the animation.

Note: There is no limit to the number of key frames in the animation or their distance from each other. Each object in the scene can have its own key frames.

Undo and Redo

To undo an action simply press Ctrl+Z. To redo some action, press Shift+Z. Maya keeps track of every action performed, so it is actually possible to undo everything since the beginning.


The first icon in the above image is for performing a quick render. It will render the current frame and display it in a separate window. By default, Maya is set to render a single frame.

The third icon is the render settings. Clicking on this icon brings up a pop-up windown that allows you to specify the type of output file and other options.


Example: First change the "Image Format" to reflect what is pictured below. (You must change the Image Format before changing the other options mentioned below.) Next change the "End Frame" to reflect what's pictured below. For anyone using a Mac, the "Image Format" must be "Quicktime Movie (qt)". Also, set the value for COMPRESSION to Full Frames or some type of compression that you have software to handle.

Click close. Now to render the actual animation, click on the Rendering shelf tab. Among the items should be

Notice that the Quick render and Render settings items are also here. To render the whole animation click on the Batch Render item (). This will start the rendering process. Once the message "Result: Rendering Completed. See mayaRenderLog.txt for information" displays on the Command Feedback bar, the animation is complete. If the directory to save the animation in is not specified, it is put in the directory "C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR USERNAME\My Documents\maya\projects\default\images" and is titled "untitled.avi".

Attribute Editor and Channel Box

The Channel Box is located on the right side of the screen. It serves as a quick reference to the properties of the selected object. This box allows you to make tiny changes or set exact values without having to use the mouse. If the color of the textbox is beige, then the attribute cannot be changed.

The three icons at the top of the image above represent the Attribute Box, Tool Settings, and Channel Box. Click the first icon and you will get the Attribute Box, as shown in the image below.

The Attribute box is used for more detailed alterations of the object selected. What the tabs do, and even how many there are, depends on the object selected. At this point there will be one particular tab avilable for all the objects, the "lambert1" tab. The lambert1 tab is the attribute responsible for the colour of the object (in Maya, this is the object's material attribute).


The box above contains the coloring attributes of the currently selected object. To change the current colour of the object, simply click the coloured rectangle beside one of the attributes. A window will pop up looking like the following:


Using this window, you can change the colour of the object.

Example: Try setting Color to white, Transparency to green and Ambient Color to blue. Quick render the scene.

Note: To the right of the attribute sliders there is a box that looks similar to a 2x2 checkerboard. This box is used for more advanced texturing effects. For more information, go into the Maya Help files.


The Mode is specified in a drop-down box located at the top left corner of the program window. This box will say one of four things: Animation, Modeling, Dynamics, or Rendering. The different modes will cause the menu items at the top of the screen to change. For instance, if you're in Animation mode,

the menu has items like Animate, Deform, Skeleton, Skin, Constrain, and Character. If you change to Rendering mode, these menu items are replaced with Lighting/Shading, Texturing, Render, Paint Effects. Here's the list of what changes.

Animation: Animate, Deform, Skeleton, Skin, Constrain, Character
Modeling: Edit Curves, Surfaces, Edit NURBS, Polygons, Edit Polygons, Subdiv Surfaces
Dynamics: Particles, Fields, Soft/Rigid Bodies, Effects, Solvers
Rendering: Lighting/Shading, Texturing, Render, Paint Effects

Note: Changing the mode doesn't change the Object/Animation shelf. It only changes the menus at the top of the screen.

Switch to Rendering Mode. Under the "Render" Menu select the little box to the left of "Batch Render". Here we will get a window like:

Click the checkbox beside "Use all Available Processors". Hit Close. Changing this setting ensures that the render process will use all available processors on the machine to do the work. All the machines in the UDML are multiprocessors, so rendering will take less time.

Right Mouse Button

Another way to manipulate objects is by clicking and holding the Right mouse button. A circular menu appears. The options available in this menu change from object to object, but essentially there is an Object mode, Vertex mode, and Face mode. The Object mode is used to work with the entire object. The Vertex mode allows you to work with the individual vertices of the object. This mode could be used, for example, to have one corner of a cube skewed outwards and the rest stay a perfect cube. The Face mode allows you to pick individual faces.

To change the material of an object, right click on the object (holding the button), move the mouse down to "Materials". A sub menu appears. Drag over to "Assign New Material". A sub menu about possible materials will appear. Drag over to one and release the mouse button. A new material is created, giving the object a different appearance than the lambert1 material. Using materials allows different objects to be different colours.

Dynamic Animation


1. Create or select an object in the scene.
2. Click the Dynamics shelf tab.
3. Click the item that looks like
4. Press the play button. The animation will look like a bunch of circles floating up. Quick Render it and you'll see the object on fire. Batch render it and you'll see it burning.



In Maya, the fire capability just described is implemented by having a particle emitter produce a series of particles. You can define other types of particle emitters as well.

1. Create or select an object in the scene.
2. On the Object/Animation shelf, click the Dynamics tab. Now click the particle-emitter icon, which looks like
3. If you hit the play button, you'll see particles being emitted from the original object. However, if you render the image nothing appears. This is because Maya doesn't know what to display in the place of the particles.
4. Create a new object and scale it to be very small. Move it off to the side for easy selection. We are now going to create an Instancer for the particle system. Switch to Dynamics Mode (top left corner of window). Play the animation until some of the particles are visible. Select the new object, press Shift and select the emitted particles (just click one of them and they all will be selected). Under the "Particles" Menu click "Instancer (Replacement)". The particles should look the same as the small object you created. Render the scene.

Before Instancer

After Instancer

Note: If you play the animation for a while, it will gradually get slower. That is because by default, the emitter spits out 100 particles per second. After 5 seconds that's 500 objects, which is a lot of objects to draw. You can alter the rate of emission through the Attributes box to reduce this number.


To apply gravity to particles, perform the following steps:

1. Select the particles. (You may need to first play the animation to the point where you can see some particles.)
2. On the Object/Animation shelf, click the Dynamics tab and then click the icon that looks like
3. Press play.

Rigid/Active bodies

The "Rigid/Active bodies" capability in Maya allow objects to collide with and bounce off other objects. The following steps outline how to make particles bounce off the ground.

1. Create a plane object (our ground). Scale it to be fairly large. If you were to play the animation at this stage, the particles would fall right through the plane. This is because you haven't specified that the particles need to collide with the ground.
2. Select the plane (ground). On the Object/Animation shelf, click the Dynamics tab and then click the icon that looks like . This action makes the plane a Rigid body, meaning that it will not move when hit.
3. To make the particles collide with the ground, select the object that was serving as the Instancer and apply gravity to it.
4. On the Dynamics tab, click the Colliding icon, which looks like . This icon looks similar to the one for Rigid Body, so make sure that you are clicking the correct one. The Colliding icon is intended to indicate a ball knocking down bowling pins and the Rigid Body one is intended to indicate a ball bouncing off bowling pins.
5. Play the animation. The Instancer object should bounce off the ground.
6. To make the particles collide with the ground, first switch to Dynamics mode using the drop-down menu at the upper-left corner of the program. Now select the Particles. Press Shift and select the ground. In the "Particles" menu click on "Make Collide".
7. Play the animation.

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