Maya Plugin Power

July 19, 2008 5:54 pm

Tags: 3D, 3D Models, Autodesk, book review, Maya, Maya Plugin Power, Maya plugins, MEL Scripts

Maya is a complex software, and getting the right information can be vital. There are plenty of books that cover the different aspects, such as modeling, rendering and scripting. However, Maya Plugin Power focuses on something completely different: Maya plugins.

The idea behind Maya Plugin Power is to give you a one-stop plugins resource. There’s this idea about Maya not using, nor needing plugins, unlike other software packages such as 3D Studio Max. However, there are some Maya plugins, including those that can be considered “must haves” for any production environment. Of course, there isn’t an extensive list of plugins to choose from, and the book focuses only on commercial plugins.

Nevertheless, some stand-alone third party applications are discussed as well, since they can work in conjunction with Maya.

The book starts with cloth simulation, focusing on Syflex. Then it moves to hair and fur simulation using Shave and Haircut, render engines such as Renderman for Maya and Maxwell renderer, fluid simulations using Realflow, automatic character setup with The Setup Machine, vehicle animation with Craft Director Tools, computer demolitions with Blast Code, miscellaneous tools (such as SmartDuplicate, Seamour, and Wire), and finishes with the stand-alone applications: Modo, Silo, ZBrush, Polytrans and Vue xStream.

In each chapter, the author provides a description on how the plugin works, as well as some easy to follow tutorials. You will also find interviews with the men behind the plugins, which will provide an interesting reading.

One thing you should keep in mind, though, is that the book isn’t meant to turn you into a Maya Plugin Master. You will learn how the different tools dedicated to that specific plugin work, and also the overall workflow, but you won’t learn everything down to the last trick.

As a Maya user, you know that half of the Maya learning comes from experimentation. In most cases the same applies to plugins. This means that even if the book doesn’t go deep into every single parameter and tool of your plugin, it should give you a fairly good understanding on how it works, so that you can then experiment by yourself. On the other hand, if you don’t have the time to experiment and learn the plugin “the hard way”, the book will give you enough information to help you decide whether or not that specific plugin will fit your needs.

At the end of the book there are some links to some plugins not covered in the book (for example: TSplines, Glu3D, DNT, and MuscleTK, among others) as well as third party applications (such as Mudbox). There’s also a reference table that shows what platforms the plugins run on. While some plugins, such as Syflex or Shave and Haircut, are multiplatform, some others aren’t, like Craft Director Tools.

Although it is fine that they are at least mentioned, I believe that some tools should have been covered in the book, like TSplines which even won a technical achievement in 2006 at SIGGRAPH, not to mention that it’s one of the most versatile modeling systems out there.

The book also includes an accompanying DVD with supporting files meant to be used when following the tutorials. However, the DVD doesn’t include demo versions of the plugins, because, according to the author, they would have taken too much space.

Maya Plugin Power offers a nice source of information about what plugins are currently available. The downside is the fact that some very good plugins were left out, as well as some nice stand-alone applications. I don’t consider that it would have been too vital to save a few pages if we could have a little more information about other tools, since some books like Mel Scripting for Maya Animators are almost twice as thick.

If you want to have a quick reference guide with information about the different Maya plugins, this book is for you. However, if you expect it to be an all-in-one in-depth learning experience, you can skip this one altogether.

Available from:
Barnes & Noble

Animation Alley is a regular featured column with Renderosity Staff Columnist Sergio Rosa [nemirc]. Sergio discusses on computer graphics software, animation techniques, and technology. He also hosts interviews with professionals in the animation and cinematography fields.

June 30, 2008

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