Maya: Foundations AFTRS

Maya: University

In This Class You’ll Access…
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Running Time: 3:38 hrs
Software: Maya 2016
Instructor: Andrew Silke

Class Time: 3:38 hrs

1. 3d Class 01: Maya Introduction (52 mins)

1.1 – Maya Intro (52 mins)

2. 3d Class 03: Modelling (2:46 hrs)

2.1 – Modelling (1:20 hrs)
2.2 – Blocking Robo (1:25 hrs)
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Videos and files for the AFTRS course Maya Foundations.


Andrew Silke


Maya 2016

Last Updated

March 2017

1. 3d Class 01: Maya Introduction (52 mins)

Maya UI, navigation, selection and simple animation


Beginner Project Maya Files (87 MB)
This video tutorial covers the basics of Maya, getting started in the Maya UI.

All assets used in the spaceship scene can be freely downloaded. Animation scene setup by Andrew Silke. Copyright to respective authors…

Fighter Link

Background Link

Explosion Link

Rock Link

2. 3d Class 03: Modelling (2:46 hrs)

Modelling and component modes, advanced selection and fbx download/import.


FBX Files (34 MB)
Component Modes (0:50 sec)
Objects are what you see in the outliner. Meshes are the name of polygon objects.
Components are various sub level elements of objects. For polygons the common components are “faces”, “vertices” and “edges”. Keep in mind that there are many more components that a polygon object has, but these are the components useful for modelling.

Object Mode and Component Modes (Icons)
Show function keys f8 toggle object f9 vert f10 edge f11 face (must be disabled on OSX)
System Preferences>Keyboard>Keyboard and check ‘Use all F1, F2 keys etc. as standard function keys’.
Show differences between the right click modes and icons/f keys
Right clicks are pretty obvious, right click on an object

Selection Modes (8:35 sec)
add (ctrl shift) and take away (ctrl) and toggle (shift)
edge loop, ring to and from selection (double click and shift double clicks)
drag select mode (hold tab)
select marking menu (q hold and click for menu)
reset select modes (double click on the tool and hit reset)
camera based selection (backface culling)
soft selection (b key and hold) (middle click drag for small brush)
grab brush
smooth modes on the grab brush (hold shift and ctrl shift) ctrl shift is broken in 2016 OSX.

Pivot Manipulator (18:06 sec)
use of the (d key) tap to toggle
right click and reset pivot is center pivot
why rotating the pivot is dangerous
snap pivot (by clicking on components)

Freeze Transforms (21:44 sec)
Resets the mesh 0 on Rotation and Translation 1 on Scale

Modelling Tools Setup (24:15 sec)
Show How to Make extra shelf buttons, middle click drag these to shelf as .mel, right click > edit to name.

Center Pivot

xform -cpc

Freeze Transforms


Delete History

delete -ch

Merge To Center


Quad Draw


Extract (proper)

performPolyChipOff 0 0;

Demonstrate Modelling Tools (29:40 min)
Combine (30:30 min)
Combines two or more objects to become one object. Best to Delete History

Extract and Separate (31:19 min)
Takes one object and divides into two or more objects. Extract works on face selection and shells best to use Extract. Separate works on shells (connected vertices) and isn’t need much. Best to Delete History after use

Delete (faces edges verts) (34:30 min)
Use the delete key to delete faces.
To delete edges always use ctrl backspace, that will take the verts as well.
Verts can only be deleted if they only have two connecting edges such as corners

Mirror and group mirror and abs transform (40:46 min)
Mirror will try to mirror from a far edge of the mesh x y or z, -x is usually best
Use `Absolute Transform` in the top shelf right to center edges on x
Group Mirror is done by grouping and object, duplicating and -1 on x scale, then Freeze Transforms
Symmetry mode is found in the tool options of select move rotate scale icons, or their marking menus

Polysmooth and divide (41:38 min)
These functions add more divisions to an object, each time multiplying by 4 faces. Polysmooth smooths the interpolation. Divide simply divides the faces. Polysmooth is very similar to the 3 key only it bakes it into the object.

Multicut (44:33 min)
The main tool for cutting in maya. There’s many functions in this tool, see the Tool Kit UI for full list of functions.

Extrude (and issues) (46:45 min)
Extrudes out an edge or face, can keep faces together or not.
Be careful with this tool as it’s easy to create zero length polygons

Last Tool Used (50:40 min)
This will bring back options if you click in the channel box

Bevel (51:12 min)
Bevels edges, usually best with an edge selection

Bridge (52:51 min)
Bevels edges, usually best with an edge selection
Bridges polygons together. Needs two edge selections that match in number, use the bridge offset to adjust. Double click the icon and change the default divisions to 1. 5 is too many for the defaults.

Three Merge Types (56:59 min)
Merge will take multiple vertices and turn them into one.
Merge has three types, the main type should be merge to center.
Other types are merge to target, and merge standard which has a distance threshold

Collapse (59:25 min)
Will collapse an edge ring selection, kind of like merge but with edge rings

Center Pivot
Will center the pivot of an object to the center of mass

Quad Draw (1:00:00 hr)
The tool for tracing polygons of a new object onto another. This is great for retopology where you clean up a very dense mesh, often from sculpting

Delete History (1:02:30 hr)
This will delete the history stack in Maya. While modeling it’s best to do this regularly. Never have the scroll bar showing in the channel box. The hotkey is `shift alt d`

Subd Tools (1:04:20 hr)
Hotkeys 1 2 and 3 change the SubD modes in Maya, 1 is the base mesh (lores) 3 is the subD object (hires), 2 is a combination of the two, (hull mode).

These keys are actually dividing the objects in terms of polygons, and this can be seen in the attribute editor under the Shape tab > Smooth Mesh > Subdivision Levels > Display Subdivision Levels.

Subdivision objects is a big topic in Maya, but generally it requires quaded meshes. While downloading .fbx objects triangulated meshes are usually not meant to be SubD smoothed.

Downloading FBX Objects (1:12:14 hr)
.fbx files are an Autodesk standard 3d format created by Autodesk to move objects between Maya, 3ds Max, Softimage, Mudbox and all of their other 3d programs, they have a lot of smaller programs.

.fbx has now also been adopted by most 3d programs now also including game engines such as Unity and Unreal. It’s the most popular generic 3d format. It supports meshes uvs basic shaders and a few other fancy things like basic skinning and edge smoothing.

.ma and .mb is the Maya only file format. .ma is text (ascii) and .mb is binary. Always save Maya files in one of these two formats, preferably .ma since humans can open it up in a txt editor and read it. Maya files support all Maya operations, no other file format will ever be able to match all Maya operations.
.obj is an older file format and was used previously to .fbx, obj is still used a lot too. Obj only supports meshes and UVs only.

It’s pretty easy to find downloadable free objects off the internet, and .fbx and or .obj are the main file formats you’ll want to look for, obviously ,mb and .ma is good too, though they are less common.

Be sure to have the .fbx and .obj plugins loaded while importing. You can find this under
Windows > Settings/Preferences > Plug-In Manager

Sites to download these files from are sites like…

CG Trader
Turbo Squid (biggest paid site)

Even games sites like Unity’s site has a model section too. These models will mostly be lores and made for games. But are still fine for other use depending on how close you get to the models.

Unity Store

You can also try to search for models on google using search terms like
“Free 3d models”, “Free 3d Objects”, “Download 3d Objects”, “Download 3d Models”

Download some free models off the internet. Play with them and see if you can change them in various ways using the polygon tools in today’s class.

Bonus Homework
Could try to model Robo Block (see video 1hr). Full Robo is from (12+ hrs)

More Timelapse Models
Robot Block Timelapse
Gator Block Timelapse
Sherman Block Timelapse


No. Video Points
1. Why Simple Characters? (0:00)
2. Image Planes Photoshop (4:00)
3. Maya Project Directory (9:00)
4. Maya Image Planes (11:45)
5. Blocking Torso (15:36)
6. Blocking Head (20:40)
7. Blocking Neck (38:20)
8. Blocking Arms (47:20)
9. Blocking Legs (54:30)
10. Blocking Feet (57:40)
11. Blocking Hands (1:14:07)
12. Summary (1:24:30)
Andrew demonstrates the blocking of the model in unedited real-time talking you through the entire process. Starting with in Photoshop he sets up the image planes and completes the poly blocking of each part. Modelling in straight polys gives a large amount of control over the forms and keeps the shapes clean.

Since the sketches are simple designs there’s a fair amount of interpretation for the artist to make choices on the model without the designer being present. Often designers will cheat certain elements so various trade offs can be considered in the 3d design.

The aim of this section is to block the whole model quickly. In this rough state changes are easier to make and iterate over. Later while added the details the model changes are more difficult.