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Make 3D Animation, Games, VFX - Making Sense of Maya

From kids to industry pros, learn Maya skills to make your own 3D Animations and 3D Game assets from start to finish.
4.7 (13 ratings)
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219 students enrolled
Created by Renee Vlashi
Last updated 6/2013
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  • 9.5 hours on-demand video
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This unique Maya course includes over 9 hours of video and 60 pages of written step-by-step printable instruction PDFs, one for each of the 35 videos, a bonus my students have always valued.

"Making Sense of Maya" is designed to do just that. This uniquely organized Maya course is designed to be done in the order listed, building skills in an intuitive and comfortable progression through the Autodesk Maya program.

More than an introduction, "Making Sense of Maya" not only teaches skills to the beginner, it also demonstrates workflows with several projects throughout the course, culminating in a final project that combines assets from previous projects into a fully animated, custom scene.

This course will give you a solid foundation in Maya and the understanding needed to approach and create your own projects leading you down the path to either a fulfilling hobby or on your way to a new career!

Who is the target audience?
  • Both young and old, age 9 - 90 will clearly understand and excel in this course.
  • From the beginner to an industry professional, "Making Sense of Maya" will make sense to you. If you use another 3D program, or are just getting your feet wet, you will find yourself learning to think in CGI.
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What Will I Learn?
By the end of this course you will have a good understanding of how 3D Animation works and a good foundation in Autodesk Maya.
View Curriculum
  • Free Autodesk Maya software is available to Student, School Teachers and Professors direct from Autodesk at the Autodesk Education Community
  • Maya 2012, 2013, or 2014, all of these versions work well with this course. Check with Autodesk for which version will work best with your computer at:
  • A PC or a Mac
  • A three button mouse, even if you are using a laptop.
  • Free trial version Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 can be downloaded from Adobe at
  • Or, instead of Adobe Premiere, you can use the editing software of your choice that is able to sequence single frame images.
  • Premiere can also be purchased through the Adobe Cloud, currently $19.99 per month for students and teachers, regularly $29.99 per month at
Curriculum For This Course
Expand All 35 Lectures Collapse All 35 Lectures 09:17:56
Getting around in Maya
3 Lectures 37:13

Introduction to Maya Interface 1

This lecture covers the following interface items:

  • Selecting a menu set, i.e. Animation, Polygons, Render, etc.
  • The Status line, where the selected menu set tools are accessed.
  • The Tool Box, where the transform tools are located, i.e. Move, Scale, Rotate, etc.
  • Accessing and changing the different viewport layouts.
  • Time Slider controls including setting the total and active regions.
  • Accessing the Channel Box containing transform information and settings.
  • How to Tumble, Pan, and Zoom within a viewport.
Preview 10:55

Introduction to Maya Interface 2

This lecture covers the following additional interface items:

  • Using the Polygon menu set and creating a polygon primitive with the Polygon Cube Tool.
  • Understanding the grid and the origin point.
  • How the Channel Box and translate tools relate to the origin point and grids.
  • Undocking and docking a window in Maya.
  • Using the direction icon and it's corresponding colors to understand manipulator handles in 3D space.
  • The advantages of the Select tool, selecting without tool handles.
  • Accessing the Marking Menu and the different selection modes it provides, i.e. object mode, vertex, edge, face, etc.
  • Undo
  • The Screen Plane Rotate tool (light blue circle).
  • Uniform Scale (light blue cube).
  • Selecting in depth vs. selecting on one side.
  • Center pivot points used by the rotate and scale tools.

Lecture 2, Introduction to Maya Interface 2

Introduction to Maya Interface 3

This lecture covers the following additional interface items:

  • Render current frame.
  • Redo
  • One click access to Channel Box, Tool Settings, and Attribute Editor.
  • Materials are accessed through the Attribute Editor.
  • Smooth Preview an object (3) and other common object viewing keyboard shortcuts.

Options within a viewport:

  • Shaded view, Wireframe, show texture, and x-ray.
  • Viewport render quality options, i.e. Viewport 2.0, etc.
  • Moving the Tumble center pivot point within the viewport.
  • Accessing and changing viewport Panels from within the viewport, i.e. Persp, Front, Side, Top, etc.
  • Working in Orthographic views.
  • Turn the grid on and off within the viewport.
Lecture 3, Introduction to Maya Interface 3
Basic Modeling and Materials
5 Lectures 01:13:41

This lecture covers various ways to use the Extrude tool.

  • Interactive creation of Polygon Primitives.
  • Accessing and adjusting polygon object transforms in the Attribute Editor and polyCube 1 tab.
  • Selecting a face and applying Extrude.
  • Using the Extrude tool Move arrows.
  • Using the Thickness Extrude slider.
  • Using the Extrude Scale handles.
  • Using the Extrude Uniform Scale control cube.
  • Scaling an extrude using the Offset Extrude slider.
  • Using the Extrude Rotate tool.

Cardboard Box Project, Part A

This lecture starts a project to model a cardboard box. It demonstrates a workflow using the Extrude tool and various other tools and settings in Maya with a real world project.

Cardboard Box Project, Part A

Edge Loops

This lecture covers various aspects of edge loops and demonstrates different ways they can be used including:

  • What are edge loops and what are not.
  • How edge loops function within a polygon.
  • Various ways to select edge loops.
  • How to add and delete edge loops from a polygon without leaving extra vertices behind.
Edge Loops

Basic Render and Shaders 1

This lecture covers the following aspects of rendering and materials, or shaders.

  • Introduction to the Rendering menu set.
  • Introduction to Render Settings.
  • How to assign materials to an object.
  • How to choose and apply a color to an object.
  • Adjusting the transparency of the Lambert material on an object.
  • Applying an Incandescent color to a Lambert material and adjusting it's appearance.
  • Duplicating an object.
  • Naming objects.
  • Using the Outliner as part of a workflow to select objects.
  • Accessing materials previously assigned to an object using the Marking Menu.
  • Accessing the settings of a material previously assigned to an object in the Attribute Editor.
Basic Render and Shaders 1

Cardboard Box Project, Part B

This lecture continues modeling the cardboard box. It demonstrates a continuation of the workflow adding edge loops to create smooth corners, how to use edge loops to add detail and refine the model to give it a realistic look.

Cardboard Box Project, Part B
More Modeling Tools and Key Frame Animation
6 Lectures 01:41:07

Snap and Merge

This lecture covers the following snap, and merge, functions. It shows various ways to use them with different selections, i.e. object mode, edge, vertex, in a workflow.

  • Snap to grid.
  • Snap to point.
  • Merging vertices.
  • How to adjust the Threshold of the Merge Tolerance.
  • The Collapse tool and it's use with faces and edges.
Snap and Merge

Hi Project, Part A

This lecture is the first part of a new project making the word "Hi" creating the scene for an animation of the bouncing dot. It's workflow incorporates snap, and merge, functions and use of orthographic viewports for precision modeling.

Hi Project, Part A

Basic Render and Shaders 2

This lecture introduces the 5 main materials used in Maya, Phong, Phong E, Blinn, and Anisotropic, and adjusting their parameters.


  • Transparency
  • Specular highlights including Cosine Power.
  • Ambient color
  • Incandescence

Changing between one assigned material and another in the Attribute Editor while relatively keeping the settings of the original material.

Phong E

  • Highlight size
  • Roughness
  • Transparency
  • Specular color


  • Reflectivity


  • Diffuse


  • Directional specular
  • Transparency
  • Maya Software Rendering
  • Ambient
  • Incandescence
  • Ambient color
  • Diffuse
  • Specular shading angle X,Y
  • Specular color
Basic Render and Shaders 2

Hi Project, Part B

This lecture demonstrates a continuation of the workflow inserting edge loops, smooth preview, assigning and adjusting materials, using single frame renders to fine tune materials, all in preparation for animating.

Hi Project, Part B

Key Frame Animation and Introduction to Graph Editor

"Bouncing Ball"

This lecture covers the following aspects of Key Frame Animation and making a Maya Playblast, an animation video of a selected Maya viewport.

  • Time slider settings
  • Frame rate
  • Range slider
  • The 3 steps to making a key frame for a selected object.
  • Copy and paste a key frame.
  • Deleting a key frame.
  • Adjusting animation curves in the graph editor with tangent handles.
  • Breaking tangents.
  • The process to add real world squash to a bouncing ball.
  • Keyboard shortcuts for move, select, scale, and rotate.
  • Setting a key for either move, scale, or rotate individually for an object.
  • How to make a Playblast.
  • How to play a Playblast in Quicktime or a video player of your choice.
Key Frame Animation and Introduction to Graph Editor

Hi Project, Part C

This lecture continues to demonstrate the workflow to animate the bouncing dot of the "i", into frame, onto the "H", and landing on the "i" using key frames and making adjustments to animation curves in the Graph Editor.

Also included in this lecture is Setting up a Resolution Gate, used as a reference while animating to see what the final framing will be.

Hi Project, Part C, Animate and Make a Playblast
Batch Rendering and Export to Video
2 Lectures 31:15

Hi Project, Part D, Batch Render

This lecture demonstrates how to make a batch render, rendering each frame of the animation in sequence, using the mental ray renderer to later be turned into a video using an editing program.

Hi Project, Part D, Batch Render

Hi Project, Part E, Renders to video with Premiere Pro

This lecture imports the animation images rendered in Maya into Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 (CC) demonstrating the process to stream the images together and output them as a video in the format of your choice.

You may use any editing program you wish that will take sequenced images and output them as a video file.

Renders to Video with Premiere Pro
Curves to Objects, Lighting and Rendering with mental ray
2 Lectures 26:28

Glass Project, Part A, CV Curves

This lecture shows how to make a custom CV curve with the CV Curve Tool. It then demonstrates how to use the spline/CV curve, to revolve a NURBS surface and how to make adjustments to the surface using the spline.

A polygon plane is then added to the scene as the table top for the glass to sit on.

Glass Project, Part A, CV Curves

Glass Project, Part B, mental ray

This lecture demonstrates assigning a mental ray glass material to the NURBS surface, creating a spot light with shadows and adjusting settings, to produce a realistic image of a glass sitting on a table.

Glass Project, Part B, Mental Ray
Introduction to Character Rigging and Animation, Soft Selection and Boolean
5 Lectures 01:17:20
Sphere Person Project, Part A, Soft Selection and Boolean

This lecture starts a new project by modeling a person out of sphere. Two new tools are used to make various parts of the model, soft selection to make the chest piece and Boolean operation to make the feet.

Sphere Person Project, Part A, Soft Selection and Boolean

Sphere Person Project, Part B

In this lecture the workflow modeling the sphere person is continued. Elements such as feet and legs are duplicated and positioned in preparation for rigging.

Sphere Person Project, Part B

Sphere Person Project, Part C

In this lecture the modeling workflow of the sphere person is completed including positioning the arms for rigging with IK handles.

Sphere Person Project, Part C

Sphere Person Project, Part D, Bones and IK Handle Tool

In this lecture bones are created rigging the sphere person. IK handles are made for the arms and legs for animating. Forward kinematics vs. inverse kinematics is discussed and demonstrated using the bones of the rig and the IK handles.

Sphere Person Project, Part D, Bones and IK Handle Tool

Sphere Person Project, Part E, Naming bones and IK Handles

In this lecture an organized naming system is applied to name the bones and IK handles. The workflow uses the Outliner to demonstrate the organizational structure.

Sphere Person Project, Part E, Naming Bones and IK Handles
Polygon to Asset, Parenting and NURBS Modeling
5 Lectures 01:18:11

Interactive Split Polygon Tool and Fill Hole

In this lecture various aspects of the Split Polygon Tool are demonstrated along with different ways to use Fill Hole. Split Polygon is one of the most important tools used in modeling.

Interactive Split Tool and Fill Hole

Car Project, Part A

In this lecture the car project is started. This workflow uses many different modeling tools including extrude, bevel, Boolean, and interactive split tool. The use and importance of quads (four sided polygons) when modeling is discussed and demonstrated.

Car Project, Part A

Car Project, Part B, Cut Faces Tool and Mirror Geometry

This lecture discusses and demonstrates uses for the Cut Faces tool in conjunction with mirroring geometry and how to choose the correct Mirror Geometry settings to get the desired results.

Car Project, Part B, Cut Faces Tool and Mirror Geometry

Car Project, Part C, Parenting

This lecture demonstrates uses and organization for parenting objects in the workflow to finish modeling the car.

Car Project, Part C

Flying Saucer, NURBS Primitives

This lecture demonstrates how to model with NURBS primitives to make a flying saucer. A mental ray metal material is applied and customized. Lights are added to the scene, positioned and adjusted, to produce an effective mental ray rendered image of the flying saucer.

Flying Saucer, NURBS Primitives
Creating UV Mapping and Custom Materials with Paint Effects
4 Lectures 01:15:47

Building Project, Part A, UV Mapping

This lecture explains and demonstrates how to create custom UVs for an object in the UV Editor. A template is made from the new UVs to be used to make a custom color material in the a 2D drawing program then applied to the object.

This project uses Paint Effects within Maya as the 2D drawing program. You may use Photoshop or another paint program of your choice to make custom materials using templates made in Maya to be applied to objects within Maya.

Building Project, Part A, UV Mapping

2D Paint Effects 1

This lecture demonstrates using Paint Effects, a 2D paint program within Maya. Paint Effects has a large selection of brushes and other effects that can be used to create different 3D recognizable items in addition to traditional paint capabilities. Some of the brushes demonstrated in this lecture are:

  • airbrush
  • fibers
  • feathers
  • fire
  • clouds
  • flowerMesh
  • foodMesh
  • liquid
  • objectMesh
  • pastels
  • trees
  • hair
  • watercolor
  • underwater

Paint Effects can also make 3D objects within a Maya viewport . These tools will be covered in the next Maya course in the CGa-z Maya Program.

2D Paint Effects 1

2D Paint Effects 2

This lecture continues demonstrating Paint Effects going deeper into it's capabilities by showing how various brushes can interact with each other on a canvas.

2D Paint Effects 2

Building Project, Part B

In this lecture the UV template made in Building Project, Part A is brought into Paint Effects and used as a reference when creating a custom painted Color Material to apply to the building.

The following Paint Effects brushes were used and altered:

  • paper>riceFiber
  • pastels
  • The smear settings
  • grasses
  • plantMesh
  • flowers
  • electrical>lightening
  • clouds
  • airbrush
  • galactic>galaxy
  • paper>confetti
  • flesh (Not used here, but check it out, blood and body parts.)
Building Project, Part B
Importing Assets, Procedural Bump Maps and Path Animation
3 Lectures 56:54
Final Project "Invasion", Part A,
Bump Mapping and Import Assets

This lecture opens a new scene and shows the workflow to import assets from previous projects and combine them to create an animated scene.

Bump Mapping is introduced and it's settings explored to use in the ground material of the scene.

A new camera is created for rendering of the final animation.

Final Project, Part A, Procedural Bump Maps and Import Assets

Final Project "Invasion", Part B, Path Animation 1

This lecture continues the workflow to animate the flying saucer and adjust lighting. An animation path is made for the flying saucer and adjustments are made to the flight.

Final Project, Part B, Path Animation 1

Final Project "Invasion", Part C, Path Animation 2

This lecture continues the workflow refining the path for the flight of the flying saucer. A motion path is made and attached to the car and settings are adjusted to make it spin out in amazement as a flying saucer takes off in front of it.

The project is completed by making a Playblast to view the animation for a final check before making a batch render.

Final Project, Part C, Path Animation 2
About the Instructor
4.7 Average rating
13 Reviews
219 Students
1 Course
3D Artist, Traditional and CGI, Professional Puppeteer

I started my career in VFX as a Professional Puppeteer and 3D Artist working for John Dykstra, Carlo Rambaldi, Jim Henson Productions, and various other VFX and CGI companies.

Through my many years as a Professional Puppeteer, with a strong traditional sculpting and 3D Art background, I've gained invaluable knowledge, expertise, and perspective that I've applied to my 15 years in CGI.

The last 4-5 years I have been running my own very successful educational programs teaching Autodesk Maya, other CGI programs and their integration, to students of all ages, from ages 9 through adults in the Los Angeles area.

My own education includes a BA in Puppetry in Television and Graduate studies in a wide range in CGI and Anthropology.

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