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Autodesk Maya, or simply Maya (a Sanskrit word for “illusion”), is a high-end 3D computer graphics and 3D modeling software package originally developed by Alias Systems Corporation, but now owned by Autodesk as part of the Media and Entertainment division. Autodesk acquired the software in October 2005 upon purchasing Alias. Maya is used in the film and TV industry, as well as for computer and video games, architectural visualisation and design.

In 2003, Maya (then owned by Alias|Wavefront) won an Academy Award “for scientific and technical achievement”, citing use “on nearly every feature using 3-D computer-generated images.”

Maya is an industry standard 3D modeling, rendering and animation software. It also handles dynamics which include particle rendering and physics simulation. 

General Associations
2D (7), 3D (10), 3D Dynamics (1), 3D animation (4), Graphics (12), Modeling (3), Particle (1), Physics (2), Polygon Modeller (1), Surface Modeller (1), animation (6), rendering (4), virtual (4)

Notes on License

Multi-seat Licencing at the architecture school, DML special project requests available.


A 30 day trial is available for free.

A Personal Learning Edition is also available for free (Note: doesn’t include “cloth” or “fur” add-ons).

For version-package dependent cost:link



Maya User Interface

Maximize your productivity.

Get unmatched productivity through a combination of performance and workflow features, including marking menus, 3D manipulators, selective display, stereo display, selection management tools, and unlimited levels of undo.

Data and Scene Management Tools

Dependency graph architecture and scene segmentation tools boost productivity and workflow flexibility.

  • Fully editable and animatable construction history allows for extensive modification of modeled data—no need to rebuild models.
  • File referencing, scene segmentation, and shader organization features enable efficient management of complex scenes with interchangeable levels of detail.
  • Scene workflow tools include the ability to position objects along a curve, replace objects within a scene, and convert instances to objects.
  • Maya Assets provides highly intelligent grouping of nodes into containers, with support for custom and user-specific views, a flexible referencing system, and support for Asset libraries.

Polygon Modeling

Maya provides a full complement of sophisticated polygon modeling tools and UV editing tools.

General Polygon Architecture

  • Nonmanifold architecture, focused on the details of creating, editing, and texturing polygonal models, includes multiple sets of animatable color-per-vertex (CPV), prelighting, user-defined normals, and normal map generation suitable for games/interactive users.
  • A complete set of editing tools, including bridge, poke, cut, wedge, bevel, extrude, chamfer vertex, extrude along a curve, mirror cut, edge loop, edge ring, slide edge, and pick-walk tools.
  • Intuitive polygon workflow through a host of intelligent selection features, such as true soft selection, preselection highlighting, and camera-based selection culling.

Polygon Texture Assignment/Editing

  • Streamlined workflow for creative texturing—including UV creation and editing, auto-projection and relaxation, interactive lattice and smudge tools, along with quick access to commonly used tools via the UV Texture Editor toolbar.
  • Multiple UV sets allow separate texture coordinates for separate texture channels.
  • Per-instance UV sets allow a single mesh to be used to represent multiple objects, reducing scene overhead.
  • An interactive mode is available for UV unfolding and layout.

Transfer Polygon Attributes

  • Enables modelers to transfer UV, color-per-vertex, and vertex position information between polygon meshes of differing topologies, even if they are separated in space or of different proportion/scale.
  • Artists can use the paint tool to blend between source and target deformations.

Optimization Tools
Polygon reduction, data cleanup, blind data tagging, and level-of-detail tools enable artists to optimize scenes for interactive display.

NURBS Modeling

Maya delivers unparalleled, precision surface-modeling tools.

Precise Spline-Based Curve and Surface Construction Tools
Includes lofting, birail, beveling, extrusion, trim, boundary, offset, Booleans, rounding, square, and many other tools.

Surface Editing and Stitching

  • Surfaces can be attached, detached, aligned, stitched together, extended, filleted, or rebuilt with a high degree of control over parameterization and continuity.
  • Multiple NURBS patches can be merged into a single polygon mesh.

Subdivision Surface and Polygon Proxy Modeling

Get access to a wide range of versatile subdivision surface tools.

Subdiv Proxy

  • Rapid construction of high-resolution polygon meshes allows artists to preview smoothed mesh while editing the mesh cage.
  • Choice of smoothing techniques provides fine control over the polygon count of the final mesh for rendering or level-of-detail.
  • Variable creasing is supported on vertices as well as edges for both the Subdiv Proxy and Smooth Mesh preview.

Hierarchical Subdivision Surfaces

  • A distinctive hierarchical approach for local refinement allows artists to begin modeling with a simple object and selectively generate increasing levels of detail only where needed.
  • Partial and full creasing tools make it easier to construct both rounded, organic forms and hard-edged objects.
  • Streamlined workflow for creative texturing, including UV auto-projection tools and UV Snapshot.
  • Easy conversion to polygons or NURBS.

General Animation

Maya delivers a broad range of specialized tools for keyframe and procedural animation. Playback speed can be clamped to implement accurate frame rate.

General Keyframing
Fast and intuitive controls for keyframing—including cut, copy, and paste—allow animations to be created with ease.

Path Animation

  • Animation of an object along a curve or surface with automatic bank, roll, and yaw.
  • Editing of motion path or other animation parameters during playback.

Animation Curve Representation

  • A choice of Euler and quaternion math options provide accurate results in all situations.
  • Animation curves can be templated to prevent accidental modification.

Graph and Dope Sheet Editors

  • Powerful, precise function curves to control how animated attributes change over time.
  • Rapid and intuitive global editing of keyframe timing.
  • Lattice and falloff tools aid the manipulation of dense keyframe data, such as data from motion capture devices.

Generalized Constraints
A comprehensive assortment of constraints, including parent, point, aim, orient (with animatable offsets), as well as scale, geometry, normal, tangent, and pole vector.

Blend Channels
Multiple animation channels can be mixed with each other, or with constraints, into a single result.

Procedural Animation
Maya Embedded Language (MEL) procedures and expressions can be used to create complex animation as an alternative to traditional keyframing.

Animation Layering
Nondestructive, highly controllable animation layering feature set works with any attribute. Animation layers can be blended, merged, grouped, and reordered, and can override or add to preceding layers.

Set Driven Key
Complex relationships between animated parameters can be keyframed with this powerful and intuitive tool. Multiple attributes can be controlled with a single slider.

Trax Nonlinear Animation

  • Nondestructive mixing and editing of poses and animation clips (including constraints and expressions) with total control over all aspects of motion blending.
  • Libraries of performances can be stored and edited.
  • Muting and soloing capabilities provide control over each animation sequence in isolation or in the context of other animations.
  • Multiple sound tracks can be matched up visually with animation and played back to facilitate character lip-synching, as well as other audio-matching requirements.

Animation and Dynamics Muting
Animation on selected channels or keyframes may be temporarily disabled to focus on a specific motion.

Animation can be viewed prior to, and after, the current frame, so you can evaluate motion.

Geometry Caching

  • Deformations on polygon, NURBS (including curves), and subdivision surface geometry can be cached for faster playback and rendering of scenes, as well as for transfer to other 3D packages such as Autodesk® 3ds Max® software.
  • Caches can be edited and blended together in Trax.

Character Animation

Maya gives you the tools you need to animate sophisticated digital characters.

Skeletons and Inverse Kinematics (IK)

  • Seven built-in IK solvers reduce the time it takes to create high-quality character animation; attributes include joint limits, preferred angles, and joint mirroring.
  • Spline IK solver allows for the easy animation of skeletal chains, like a character’s spine or tail, and includes easy-to-use twist and roll controls.
  • Single chain and lightweight 2-bone solvers are optimized for real-time interactivity.
  • Spring IK solver allows for precise control over multijointed appendages such as insect legs.

Full Body IK System

  • Fast and easy rigging and posing of characters.
  • Delivers natural articulation of biped and quadruped models.

Blendable IK/FK System
Smooth blending between IK and FK animation.


  • Precise control of skin behavior, even in the most challenging areas such as shoulders.
  • Smooth Bind Skinning allows geometry to be connected to skeletons so that the character deforms smoothly as joints are moved.
  • Substitute Geometry tool allows for easy editing and transferring of skinning information between models.
  • Rigid Bind Skinning provides direct manipulation of geometry by individual joints.
  • Nondestructive workflow for skin editing capabilities, including the ability to insert, move, delete, connect, and disconnect joints on a bound skeleton (no need to rebind after changes have been made).
  • Support for multiple bind poses.

Motion Capture with Dense Data Editing and Resampling
Motion capture data can be easily incorporated into and manipulated inside Maya.

Motion Retargeting
Motion capture, or other animation data, applied to one character can be reapplied to an entirely different character, even one with a different skeletal hierarchy.

Motion Redirection
Original direction of existing motion capture, or other animation data, can be changed at any point in time.

Muscle and Skin System

Maya Muscle
Maya delivers advanced muscle and skin deformation tools that allow you to quickly and easily create realistic or highly stylized muscle and skin motion.

Choice of Muscle Types

  • Simple and parametric NURBS muscles available.
  • NURBS muscles offer advanced sculpting and posing possibilities, and can be mirrored after initial setup.


  • Highly controllable, built-in Jiggle deformation.
  • Separate values available along the muscle, directional damping settings, and the ability to specify thresholds control how sudden movements affect jiggling.

The behavior of the skin when relaxed can be precisely defined, enabling the creation of life-like wrinkling in specific areas.

Sliding and Stickiness

  • Precise control over the behavior of the skin on top of the muscle can be achieved by painting weight maps for both Sliding and Stickiness.
  • Up to three different Sticky maps can be created and blended between, allowing multiple weights to be stored in a single rig for maximum flexibility.
  • A Displacement function allows texture maps to be used to simulate sliding, optionally at render time only, for optimum performance.


  • A choice of different collision methods makes it possible to create the effect of skin colliding with skin and of one mesh colliding with another.
  • Collisions are deformer based, rather than simulation based, and therefore require no runup or preprocessing.

Muscle calculations can be cached for faster playback.


Manipulate geometry or particles into any desired shape.

Deformation Tools

  • Can be used statically for modeling and sculpting.
  • Animated deformers can add life to creatures and other objects.
  • Includes Lattices, Sculpt Objects, Skin Clusters, Point on Curve Constraints, Blend Shapes, Wires, Wrinkle Tool, Bind/Detach Skin, Flow, Jiggle, and Wrap deformers.
  • Soft Modification tool allows for controllable falloff around vertices or points.
  • Most deformations work on all supported geometry types, including particles.
  • Paintable weights on Clusters, Sculpt Objects, Blend Shapes, Jiggle, and Wires allow you to control the region and extent of the deformation.

Rigid and Soft Body Dynamics

Create effects through the dynamic interaction of geometry, including collisions between rigid and soft bodies.

Rigid-Body Dynamics

  • Realistic, high-speed simulation of multiple rigid objects.
  • Includes dynamic constraints such as nails, hinges, barriers, pins, and springs.

Soft-Body Dynamics

  • Accurate, fast simulation of flexible objects allows for the rapid creation of secondary motion effects, such as muscle jiggle and floppy hats.
  • Powerful spring architecture offers precise control of any flexible surface down to the individual spring.

Particles and Fields

Fully integrated particle effects can be controlled by forces based on real-world physics or by deformers.

Extensible Integrated Particle System

  • Fully integrated, with expression-based control over particle attributes, motion, and dynamics.
  • Wizard enables easy particle sprite setup.
  • Direct manipulators provide interactive control of particles, fields, and emitters.
  • Particles can be controlled by texture values.
  • Geometry instancing allows for the placement of individual objects, a sequence of objects, or an array of different objects onto any particle system.
  • Collision events can trigger multiple procedural animation effects.

Volume Controls and Emitters

  • Intuitive control of particles via geometric shapes makes it easier to place particles where and when you want them.
  • Standard Maya deformers can be applied and layered—including lattices, clusters, soft modifications, and nonlinears—for nonphysically realistic effects.

Field Controls

  • Field forces—such as gravity, vortex, air, and turbulence—can be applied to rigid bodies, soft bodies, or particle objects.
  • Custom fields may be added via the extensive dynamics API (application programming interface).

Clip Effects
Library of ready-made effects, such as fire, curve and surface flow, shatter, fireworks, and lightning.

Maya Paint Effects

Maya provides groundbreaking paint technology for creating amazing natural detail on 2D images (including textures) or 3D objects attached to polygonal and NURBS surfaces.

Powerful Painting Techniques

  • Can be used to create animatable effects, such as plants growing, unfurling, or swaying in the wind.
  • Artists can define a logotype in oil paint and watch it draw on the screen.
  • Game-content artists can paint repeating textures for levels that update right on the model.

Maya Paint Effects Brushes

  • More than 500 editable, pressure-sensitive, preset brushes completely integrated within the Maya application.
  • Extensive range of traditional painterly brushes, including airbrushes, oil paint, chalk, pastels, pencils, watercolors, wet brushes, and markers.
  • Options for a vast range of realistic effects, including trees, grass and flowers, realistic hair, eyebrows, and beards.
  • Special effects, such as lightning, clouds, rain, star fields, fireworks, fire, and sparks.
  • Mesh brush type creates organic or hard-edged geometry that is convincing even close up. Used with environment reflections, it can create looks such as chrome, glass, and shiny paint or displacement/bump mapping.
  • Thin Line brush can be used to quickly paint on high-quality hair that can be efficiently rendered.

Brush Attributes

  • All brushes can be used in true 3D space (to paint on or between 3D objects in a scene), on a 2D canvas (to create images and textures), or within the 3D Paint tool (to create textures by painting directly on the model).
  • Brushes can be blended together to make an infinite range of new, user-customized presets.
  • Brushes are fully animatable and have built-in preset dynamics such as turbulence and gravity.
  • Brush growth attributes include bend, curl, and twirl.

Convert Maya Paint Effects to Polygons and NURBS
Data can be edited using traditional modeling tools for output to any renderer.

Paint Effects Rendering

  • Strokes can be drawn fully rendered during interactive painting, providing immediate feedback.
  • Features fast, resolution-independent final rendering that can include 3D cast shadows, depth-of-field, fog effects, and motion blur.

Toon Shader

  • Supports a wide range of nonphotorealistic rendering styles for traditional 2D cartoons, comic book-style imagery, Japanese manga/anime, and others.
  • Maya Paint Effects brushes can be used on an outline with access to an extensive range of painterly effects, as well as line style, placement, and width.
  • Near real-time interactive previews.
  • Can be rendered in mental ray® for Maya, or the Maya software or hardware renderers.

Maya Artisan

Maya gives you a suite of integrated, pressure-sensitive brush tools with built-in mirroring.

Natural brush interface can be used to interactively sculpt polygon, NURBS, and subdivision surfaces.

Paint Selection
Complex selections of components, such as vertices, faces, and edges, can be made without selecting through to the back of the model.

Attribute and Script Painting
Editing smooth skin or soft-body goal weights, painting per vertex color or blind data, adding geometry to the scene, and other complex tasks can be quickly performed.

3D Paint

Paint color, bump, displacement, transparency, and other textures directly on surfaces.

  • Integrated texture painting of color, bump, transparency, displacement, and other effects directly onto polygon, NURBS, and subdivision surfaces.

Version and Plans

As of 2009, the current version is 10.

Interface Languages
English (416)


. (last updated July 2, 2009)

PC World, 4 stars, 3 Stars.

another review site, 2 Thumbs up.

Technologies of Interest
apple script (1), mel scripting (1), python (1)

UVa Support

Email Will Rourk @ DML.

Mailing List

updates, etc. 


Discussion Forums / User Groups

Autodesk Discussion Forum




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