Start your free trial now, and begin learning software, business and creative skills—anytime, anywhere—with video instruction from recognized industry experts.

Start Your Free Trial Now

Smooth and subdivision surfaces


Maya 2011 Essential Training

with George Maestri

Video: Smooth and subdivision surfaces

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.
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 3m 50s
    1. Welcome
      1m 34s
    2. Using the exercise files
    3. A note on screen resolution
      1m 50s
  2. 1h 0m
    1. Overview of the Maya interface
      7m 42s
    2. Working with files and Maya projects
      2m 27s
    3. Navigating viewports
      5m 56s
    4. Reviewing the Viewport menus
      6m 28s
    5. Configuring safe frames and grids
      3m 21s
    6. Selecting objects
      4m 33s
    7. Using the Move tool
      3m 48s
    8. Rotating and scaling
      4m 31s
    9. Manipulating pivots
      3m 59s
    10. Understanding the Channel Box
      5m 36s
    11. Working with the Attribute Editor
      2m 28s
    12. Using the Hotbox
      2m 59s
    13. Working with marking menus
      3m 6s
    14. Customizing the interface
      3m 36s
  3. 59m 25s
    1. Creating polygonal objects
      6m 28s
    2. Working with polygonal components
      4m 42s
    3. Selecting polygonal components
      5m 44s
    4. Working with Soft Select
      7m 3s
    5. Using the Extrude tool
      6m 47s
    6. Keeping faces together
      2m 42s
    7. Extruding along curves
      3m 27s
    8. Using the Polygon Bevel tool
      4m 14s
    9. Smooth and subdivision surfaces
      7m 6s
    10. Blocking out a character body
      11m 12s
  4. 36m 6s
    1. Working with edge loops
      3m 27s
    2. Inserting and offsetting edge loops
      3m 38s
    3. Symmetrical modeling techniques
      5m 53s
    4. Combining objects
      3m 50s
    5. Using the Polygon Bridge tool
      2m 7s
    6. Connecting components and splitting polygons
      2m 48s
    7. Poking and wedging faces
      2m 49s
    8. Working with polygon booleans
      3m 17s
    9. Modeling with nonlinear deformers
      4m 54s
    10. Modeling with lattices
      3m 23s
  5. 1h 18m
    1. Introducing NURBS modeling
      5m 3s
    2. NURBS primitives
      5m 54s
    3. Using the NURBS curve tools
      5m 7s
    4. Creating Bézier curves
      1m 59s
    5. Creating text
      3m 51s
    6. Manipulating NURBS curves
      4m 13s
    7. Refining NURBS curves
      4m 16s
    8. Offsetting NURBS curves
      2m 31s
    9. Editing NURBS surfaces
      7m 3s
    10. Refining NURBS surfaces
      7m 22s
    11. Using NURBS Revolve
      7m 31s
    12. Using NURBS Loft
      4m 11s
    13. Using NURBS Extrude
      6m 0s
    14. Using NURBS Planar
      4m 47s
    15. Stitching NURBS surfaces
      8m 52s
  6. 35m 53s
    1. Extracting NURBS curves from surfaces
      5m 57s
    2. Creating curves on a surface
      3m 53s
    3. Projecting curves on surfaces
      7m 2s
    4. Trimming NURBS surfaces
      3m 42s
    5. Using the NURBS Fillet tool
      5m 31s
    6. Sculpting NURBS and polygonal surfaces
      5m 52s
    7. Converting NURBS to polygons
      3m 56s
  7. 33m 22s
    1. Working with the Outliner
      4m 58s
    2. Grouping objects
      4m 2s
    3. Creating hierarchies
      4m 17s
    4. Duplicating objects
      4m 51s
    5. Understanding the Hypergraph
      3m 32s
    6. Working with Hypergraph connections
      2m 31s
    7. Hiding and showing objects
      2m 12s
    8. Creating layers
      4m 2s
    9. Working with selection masks
      2m 57s
  8. 40m 18s
    1. Overview of renderers
      3m 24s
    2. Understand the basics of materials
      6m 15s
    3. Creating and applying maps
      5m 13s
    4. Using bitmaps as texture
      2m 59s
    5. Working with the Hypershade window
      5m 12s
    6. Working with mental ray materials
      6m 57s
    7. Using displacement and bump mapping
      3m 14s
    8. Using the Ramp Shader
      2m 36s
    9. Using the 3D Paint tool
      4m 28s
  9. 30m 14s
    1. Texture-mapping NURBS surfaces
      5m 46s
    2. Projecting textures onto surfaces
      4m 0s
    3. Texture-mapping polygonal surfaces
      7m 0s
    4. Applying UV mapping
      8m 11s
    5. Using the UVW Editor
      5m 17s
  10. 41m 16s
    1. Creating joints
      10m 2s
    2. Deforming a mesh using the Skin tool
      5m 2s
    3. Creating IK handles
      6m 48s
    4. Creating blend shapes
      5m 39s
    5. Rigging nonlinear deformers
      2m 36s
    6. Finalizing the character
      4m 45s
    7. Rigging the character to the scooter
      6m 24s
  11. 1h 5m
    1. Working with the Timeline
      4m 16s
    2. Creating and adjusting keys (keyframes)
      5m 4s
    3. Editing keys
      3m 13s
    4. Modifying keys in the Graph Editor
      5m 47s
    5. Modifying keys in the Dope Sheet
      2m 51s
    6. Creating breakdown keys
      2m 28s
    7. Animating objects along paths
      5m 54s
    8. Animation playback using Playblast
      3m 10s
    9. Animating with constraints
      6m 16s
    10. Creating animation cycles
      8m 25s
    11. Using set-driven keys
      6m 13s
    12. Adding sound to animations
      2m 24s
    13. Finishing the animation
      9m 45s
  12. 1h 2m
    1. Lights and lighting types in Maya
      7m 29s
    2. Adding depth-map shadows
      4m 13s
    3. Using Raytrace shadows
      3m 28s
    4. Understanding the basics of cameras
      7m 14s
    5. Adding depth of field
      6m 31s
    6. Adding Bokeh using mental ray
      4m 33s
    7. Using motion blur in Maya Software Renderer
      4m 10s
    8. Using motion blur in mental ray
      3m 5s
    9. Raytracing reflections and refractions
      4m 41s
    10. Interactive rendering with IPR
      3m 33s
    11. Lighting a scene
      8m 29s
    12. Batch rendering
      4m 53s
  13. 25s
    1. Goodbye

please wait ...
Watch the Online Video Course Maya 2011 Essential Training
9h 8m Beginner Jun 01, 2010

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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.

Topics include:
  • Getting familiar with the Maya interface
  • Organizing scenes
  • Creating hierarchies
  • NURBs modeling for solid objects
  • Adding color to models
  • Applying bitmap textures
  • Working with mental ray materials
  • Polygonal modeling for characters and organic objects
  • Deforming with the Skin tool
  • Setting up lights and cameras
  • Creating realistic effects such as depth of field
  • Working with the Timeline
  • Creating animation cycles
  • Batch rendering
  • Rendering with the mental ray engine
3D + Animation
George Maestri

Smooth and subdivision surfaces

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.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Maya 2011 Essential Training .

Expand all | Collapse all
please wait ...
Q: The Chapter 2 exercise file dog_reference.mb appears blank when opened in Maya. I can't see the dog image. What do I do?
A: Make sure you are working with the most current version of the exercise files for this course from the site. Try downloading the files again. If the image still doesn't appear, make sure the project folder is set to the matching (Chap02) folder in the exercise files.
Also check to make sure you have "hardware texturing" enabled under the viewport's Shading menu.
Share a link to this course

What are exercise files?

Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course. Save time by downloading the author's files instead of setting up your own files, and learn by following along with the instructor.

Can I take this course without the exercise files?

Yes! If you decide you would like the exercise files later, you can upgrade to a premium account any time.

Become a member Download sample files See plans and pricing

Please wait... please wait ...
Upgrade to get access to exercise files.

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Learn by watching, listening, and doing, Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along Premium memberships include access to all exercise files in the library.

Exercise files

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

For additional information on downloading and using exercise files, watch our instructional video or read the instructions in the FAQ .

This course includes free exercise files, so you can practice while you watch the course. To access all the exercise files in our library, become a Premium Member.

Join now Already a member? Log in

* Estimated file size

Are you sure you want to mark all the videos in this course as unwatched?

This will not affect your course history, your reports, or your certificates of completion for this course.

Mark all as unwatched Cancel


You have completed Maya 2011 Essential Training.

Return to your organization's learning portal to continue training, or close this page.


Upgrade to View Courses Offline


With our new Desktop App, Annual Premium Members can download courses for Internet-free viewing.

Upgrade Now

After upgrading, download Desktop App Here.

Become a member to add this course to a playlist

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses—and create as many playlists as you like.

Get started

Already a member ?

Exercise files

Learn by watching, listening, and doing! Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along. Exercise files are available with all Premium memberships. Learn more

Get started

Already a Premium member?

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Ask a question

Thanks for contacting us.
You’ll hear from our Customer Service team within 24 hours.

Please enter the text shown below:

Exercise files

Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.

Mark videos as unwatched

Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.

Control your viewing experience

Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.

Interactive transcripts

Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.

Learn more, save more. Upgrade today!

Get our Annual Premium Membership at our best savings yet.

Upgrade to our Annual Premium Membership today and get even more value from your subscription:

“In a way, I feel like you are rooting for me. Like you are really invested in my experience, and want me to get as much out of these courses as possible this is the best place to start on your journey to learning new material.”— Nadine H.

Start your FREE 10-day trial

Begin learning software, business, and creative skills—anytime,
anywhere—with video instruction from recognized industry experts. provides
Unlimited access to over 4,000 courses—more than 100,000 video tutorials
Expert-led instruction
On-the-go learning. Watch from your computer, tablet, or mobile device. Switch back and forth as you choose.
Start Your FREE Trial Now

A trusted source for knowledge.


We provide training to more than 4 million people, and our members tell us that helps them stay ahead of software updates, pick up brand-new skills, switch careers, land promotions, and explore new hobbies. What can we help you do?

Thanks for signing up.

We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

Keep up with news, tips, and latest courses with emails from

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

submit Lightbox submit clicked
Terms and conditions of use

We've updated our terms and conditions (now called terms of service).Go
Review and accept our updated terms of service.