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In Maya 2011 Essential Training, George Maestri demonstrates the tools and feature set in Maya, as well as the skills necessary to model, texture, animate, and render projects with this deep and robust piece of 3D animation software from Autodesk. This course takes an in-depth tour of Maya's interface, including navigating and manipulating objects in 3D and customizing the workspace. The course also covers object creation and modeling basics, shading and texturing, surface mapping techniques, character rigging, and lastly, rendering and final output. Exercise files accompany the course.
Now, there are other ways to smooth out the edges of a polygonal surface, and one way is to use Smooth. So let's go ahead and take a simple cube, and shade that, and then under Mesh, I'm actually going to select this option called Smooth. Now watch what it does. It actually collapses the Mesh into a smoother object. Now I'm going to undo this. What we're going to see here is you're going to see how this one phase to the Mesh collapses down into four faces.
So each single phase of the Mesh is subdivided into four separate faces. In fact, you can probably see this a little bit better if you added some detail to that cube, so I'm actually going to go into my inputs here and actually dial this up a little bit so that it's about three, and then let's just go ahead and do Smooth again. Now you can see that this is a little bit better. So what it's done is it quadrupled the detail of that cube, and it's exactly given me a brand-new cube with smooth edges, but also a lot of extra detail.
Now this is actually one way of smoothing things out in Maya. Another way is just to have Maya automatically do it on Render, so I'm going to go ahead and undo this again. I'm going to start with our three by three cube, and this time instead of doing anything, all I'm going to do is hit a keyboard shortcut. I'm going to hit the number 3 on the keyboard and watch what happens. This smoothes out. Now what this is doing is Maya is actually doing pretty much that same operation that we just did of smoothing the object without actually affecting the underlying geometry.
Let me share how this works. If I hit the number 2, what you'll see is a little cage will show up around the object, so this is my original box. If I hit 1, this is the geometry that I have. If I hit 2, it's the geometry and the smoothed result, and if I hit 3 ,it only shows the smooth result. This is a great way to do what are called Subdivision Surfaces. Let me show you how this works a little bit more deeply. I'm going to hit number 2 here so we can see our original Mesh.
And then I'm going to go ahead and do some editing. So, for example, if I could take a Vertex here, you'll notice how it shows up here in yellow, but also in white on the corresponding smoothed surface. And if I move that around you can see I get a very nice, kind of gloopy deformation, or basically I can sculpt this, so basically what I'm doing is I'm actually sculpting the original bounding box, or the original cube, and the underlying smoothed, or subdivided, surface is following along, and this works really for any sort of operation.
So, for example, if I selected a face, and I extruded it, the subdivision goes with me. And if I change any of the number of divisions on that, you can see how that affects the way that the smoothing works. So if you notice the more subdivisions, or the closer that subdivision is to the edge, the tighter the corner. So, for example, if I would select all these vertices and move them in, you could see how I could tightened up that radius there.
So what it's really doing is it's kind of whittling down and rounding off these corners. So, for example, at the very edge of this you could see how I get that either really square or really round depending upon how close these two edge loops are together. So this is a really great way to start blocking out things such as characters or really anything that's going to deform and needs to be smooth. This is the way to actually create characters. In fact, I'm going to go ahead and delete this. I'm going to open a very simple scene. Now we're in Project 2. Make sure you set your project to Project number 2, and we have one here called Dog_ model, which is basically that model that we've been working with, and this is actually modeled completely using subdivision surfaces.
So let's go ahead and just select the whole character, and if I hit 1, you'll notice that this is actually what is modeled. Especially his nose, you can see how his nose is really very, very simple geometry, but when I subdivide it, you can see how it rounds off into almost a perfect little ball there. Now this is actually controlled through the Attribute Editor, so let me show you a little bit more as to how to actually control this. So let's keep this head selected and go over to the Attribute Editor.
And under here, we should have a rollout called Smooth Mesh, and this is under Surface Shape. So under Surface Shape we should have Smooth Mesh, and now what we can do is we can see how this works, so when I hit 1, notice how it actually is setting these values. So it's saying, Do I want to have Smooth Mesh preview or not? So if I hit 1, 2, which is the Cage+Smooth Mesh, and if I hit 3 ,it's just the Smooth Mesh.
So I can actually change this manually if I want, if I want to be able to edit the Cage or the Smooth Mesh or both, or if I just want to work on the Mesh itself. Now the other one, and this is actually a little bit more important is Do you want to display the subdivisions that are actually happening? So this is actually the Mesh that it's calculating, and this is the Mesh that it's using so you can actually see what Maya is doing here, and you can also dial in the number of subdivisions.
Now you really don't want to go much above 2 because every division quadruples the number of polygons you have in the scene. It certainly makes it smoother, but it also adds a lot more geometry, so you have to be very careful about this, and also, you can also use this preview level for rendering. So when I go to Render, which is actually this little button here, I just want to render this frame, you'll notice that the character itself renders pretty smoothly, and if I dial down that Subdivision Levels and I Render, he renders a lot more blocky.
So what you can do is you could actually use this tool to actually model with very simple characters and then just smooth them at rendering. This is a really great workflow, and this really is the core of most character animation, or any sort of polygonal model that you need to have look organic. So get used to these tools. They'll serve you very well with whatever type of organic modeling that you do.
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