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Saturday, March 12, 2005


I'm learning Maya. I say this with the same enthusiasm I would say "I am repeatedly dropping something heavy on my foot or other appendage even though I made sure I had hold of it this time."

Maya is the Coming Thing, you see. Animation on paper is out of style. The computer is king. Best to know your enemy, and all that. Now I love computer graphics. Don't get me wrong. I find a good art and graphics program like Painter to be one of the most spectacular inventions of recent time (spectacular if you are an artist, that is.) But there is one difference between that program and Maya (besides the obvious one of dimensionality); Painter was designed by artists. Maya was built by technicians.

Technicians find talking about vertices and percentages and controls and tables and graphs fascinating. I find these subjects so brain numbing that I lapse into a semi coma whenever they are brought up. Technicians probably don't get out to too many parties. Some of them don't even speak English very well. I am trying to model a human head and follow the directions of someone who writes English with a Germanic accent...and he can't draw very well either. The lines and shapes that he insists will eventually conspire to form a human head don't seem to be consistent between his front and side views, and my poor Xerox copy blends the important lines with his obsessive cross hatching on the test drawing.

Maya likes to play little jokes. I have redone some of these vertices six or seven times since even though they are snapping to the other vertices, and the points slide around to prove that they have snapped as the instructions tell me to...but when I go off to model another vertice, the finished ones get bored and go wandering off in search of friends. They must then be deleted and done over. And over. And over.

Some people take to this program like a duck to water. I take to it like a duck to a command performance of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto Number Two. Maya and I seem to have been designed for two different things.

The model was largely completed in the college's computer lab...and then Maya pulled another of its little jokes. I have a slightly older version of this program on my personal machine. I can't download anything done with the slightly newer version of the program that the college installed in the lab over the spring break. When I try to open the project on my home machine, which was specifically bult to RUN Maya, I get a prim little grey message informing me that 'there is an error that may result in a loss of data."

The data in question is my entire project that I worked on for several hours. The little Maya stage set appears, grey and forbidding, minus the half-finished wireframe head. So I do the whole thing over. The vertices go wandering off again in search of friends. Maybe they get tired of working with the technicians and need to party. Now they have developed the cute habit of attaching to the wrong side of the wire frame even though I am working in all four windows and making sure that I am clicking to the correct vertice.

Am I boring you yet? This is how the textbooks have it:

"Notice that you don't have to detach the longer outlines for every single patch along the profile, as long as you will be using them as rails Maya will only generate the patches for the portion in between the profiles."

When did he ever say anything about patches and rails? There's no explanation of how one gets from a wireframe head to a shaded, patchy looking head.

"The patches for the portion are in between the profiles" sounds like a Danny Kaye routine. Except that I'm not laughing.

I save the new scene, taking care to dub it onto my helpful little thumb drive. The new scene MAY open in the newer version of Maya at the college. but just in case, I have the original version of the head saved as well.

Remember when all it took to make animation was talent, and a pencil and paper?


Jean Pilotte said...

I believe India is the way of the future, as far as 3D animation and everything technical is concerned.
Even if you take to Maya like a duck to water, the hunters tend to shoot the adult ducks and leave the ducklings to grow.

I say it's time for a migration for all the adult ducks who want to keep going. I plan to check the migrations to Mumbai, New Delhi and Calcutta, where the ducklings are not as top heavy as our local ones.

Foie gras anyone?


Nancy said...

Well, my friend Jerry Verschoor is having the time of his life in China. I also have some excellent Chinese students here. Who knows.
Actually, smaller studios do seem to be hiring in the USA, and one never knows what will happen 'outside.' The only prediction is that things are completely unpredictable.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, my eyes glazed over at "I am learning Maya."

flipthefrog said...
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flipthefrog said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
flipthefrog said...

Damnit, that should have read
As long as you approach Mayaas an enemy, youre never gonna learn anything.

Nancy said...

Hello flip,

The problem, as you have correctly guessed, is that I am not being taught Maya correctly. I'm able to animate in Maya and have done so for years. It's the insistence that I learn Nurbs patches--the invention of the Devil--that's making me enraged. I'm completely aware that this is obsolete.

I'm learning Maya so as to get a Masters degree in graphics, and I've got to do what the course requires, no matter how outdated or useless it may be.

I don't consider computers an 'enemy'--I'm interested in anything that eliminates the tedium of most of animation production.

But this assignment has been a real waste of time and I'd much rather be using the current modeling techniques. Since it's not my class I have no say in the matter.

Regarding which types of animation I'd rather watch: I've yet to see a computer animated film that has a tenth of the charm of a drawn cartoon. But since I do this for a living and not a hobby, I don't have a choice in the matter.