Maya Particles Course: 3D Motion Graphic and Visual Effects

Easily implement effects with this 3d animation tutorial in nParticles, nCloth, paint effects, soft bodies and more.
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Instructed by Scott Turner Design / 3D & Animation
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  • Lectures 24
  • Length 4.5 hours
  • Skill Level Intermediate Level
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
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    Available on iOS and Android
    Certificate of Completion
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About This Course

Published 7/2015 English

Course Description

Experience the dynamics systems in Maya. Create, command and control particle systems, and make them interact with other areas of Maya such as with nCloth, with paint effects and with soft bodies.

Some basics are covered before delving into unique but re-useable solutions for motion graphics and visual effects problems. And while you will become aware of some expressions which will help realize some of the effects they are explained in an easy natural way.

The projects run like this:

  1. Introduction to Nparticles and turbulence
  2. Making a flock of birds with advanced rotation control and short trigonometry lecture
  3. Smoke simulations using sprites and the Relationship Editor for multiple emitters
  4. A simple rain system using the collisions event editor
  5. Destruction using N cloth & 5 or 6 systems of particles interacting and the implementation of the inherited velocity control of emission
  6. Introduction to Particle goals and set driven keys
  7. Using softbodies and paint effects to write a singnture
  8. Expression controlled goals to create a man made of unravelling string
  9. Soft body emission and toon effects / faux Delauney triangulation effects

What are the requirements?

  • A general knowledge of the interface might be helpful but not essential

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Navigate the complex structure of Maya Dynamics
  • Connect seemingly unconnected areas of Maya such as paint effects, soft bodies and particles
  • Be able to create a variety of effects using simple techniques
  • Comprehend how to use commonly used but little understood expressions
  • Know lots of tips and tricks to make extremely useful effects and motion graphics

Who is the target audience?

  • This is a great course for new Maya users who want to get a grasp of how it all fits together in effects and motion graphics
  • This is a good course for Maya users who are not familiar with the dynamics system or moderate level users

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: Base camp!
Hello and Introduction to the course

Particles can be quite complex and there are SO many properties. Looking back I remember when I first opened Maya and saw those thousands of attributes and how truly frightened i felt at that moment. 'I can never learn all this ', I thought. But I did. Just starting slowly and step by step helped me get it together.

This video is an introduction to some of the concepts. It is not completely comprehensive but I don't think that matters. It is almost better to be simpler and more important that we are all on the same page.

Section 2: The beginning: Turblulence

An introduction to turblulence and why it is the most important force in all of visual effects. I mean seriously...try to find me one effect in Hollywood which does not use turbluence. That will be quite difficult.


Turbulence is the most used force in visual effects, but many people opt to use volume axis. Why? because it is like a turbo turbulence - it includes several expanded features which work just like additional forces. We explore the differences and why it can often be a more flexible solution to 'vanilla turbulence'

Section 3: Applied Turbulence. A flock of birds

This may seem like a simple effect but its the basis of some of the coolest effects of the last 20 years. We model an extremely simple bird which will look good from the distance and animate quickly in a simulation. We animate it with deformers and simple trigonometry expressions.


When I was in my 20s I saw someone using these trigonometry expressions and was totally confused and slightly jealous of their skill. It took me along time to figure out how it worked. Even though I had been a good math student in school I had never thought about how to apply that knowledge in the real world. So this is an explanation of the simple trigonometry expressions which can be used everywhere! No need to be jealous like I was.


In some ways instancing in Maya is slightly old fashioned and this snapshoit technique is a sign of that old-fashionedness....but it is still pretty flexible, capable and viable way of creating interesting effects once you learn the ins and outs of it.


Final tweaks to the particles and some thoughts on rendering instances using free Renderman and why this might be an important choice

Section 4: Real time smoke in the viewport

Why generate smoke using sprites when we have amazing fluid simulations?

It's a good point. Fluids can look much better.

However, I have used these effects as have many other artists in serious productions where there was no time or budget to wait and iterate through fluid caches. Of course the real reason to learn this technique is because not only will it get you home early but it will give you the freedom to really explore other creative ideas instead of tweaking parameters and re-caching a fluid sim.


One way to eliminate the constant use of expressions in Maya is to use simple gradients to control properties or ramps as they are called in Maya. Here we look how to hook up simple ramps to control properties. Be advised, ramps can go way deeper than we explain here, but this is a great introduction to the concept!


A brief introduction into some simple expression writing to give the particles a little more consistency. Of course particle expressions can get very very deep and are the basis many Hollywood films for many years, but here we deal with this in a simple friendly way to squeeze the maximum result for the smallest effort.


Maya's ability to instantaneously emit one particle from any number of sources has to be one of the coolest features. I could play with this all day!

Renderman Rendering of Sprites
Section 5: Collision events

This is really just an introduction to simple collisions events in Maya. but its kind of a neat effect in it's own right. Collision events aren't just collisions, they are collisions which result in the birth of a new particle system of the splitting of an existing one. It is really quite powerful, flexible and fun!

Section 6: nParticle/nCloth - Destruction

nCloth may no longer be the most efficient way to do destruction in Maya, but it is still the most integrated and most flexible and still has its place for smaller scale destruction effects, particularly with its free interaction with the other dynamics elements in Maya such as nParticles

Plus we have a clever, simple, little known expression which eliminates a big problem in destruction debris emission!


Particle trails are one of the coolest looking effects in particle dynamics and what we learn here can became the basis of many many amazing effects. Combined with collisions events we create the basis of a rather interesting sequence.


Here we look at the expression suggested by Duncan Brinsmead, one of Autodesk's lead scientists and developers of nParticles. The problem is particles seem to emit ALL the time, even before the wall is destroyed. Other courses will teach you a more complex method using goals and a separate particle system to measure velocity and control the emission, but wow that seems like a lot of work for something so simple.

The technique shown here is simply a winner!

Destruction 4

Remember that smoke we starting creating 9 lectures ago? It's back only this time we will not recreate it we will simply import it into our scene. Way easier than thinking about all those expressions and ramps again. Reusing assets may become one of your favorite tricks in Maya.

Section 7: The amazing possibilities of Goals

For me, goals are where the real power of Maya particles starts to emerge. So much is possible with these techniques and while we do 3 or 4 projects, we are still only scratching the surface of what is possible. Seriously invest some time watching these videos to learn how to manipulate goals and you will not regret the investment.


Can you write your name in 3D? Sure you can and with style. This is really just an easy exercise to introduce concepts for the next couple of projects but there are some cool, useful ideas in here if you give it a chance.


Natively Maya does not have a path tracer like Cinema 4D and Houdini or even After Effects with its Plexus plugin, which is unfortunate because it is a much requested effect. However, a little ingenuity goes along way to filling that gap. Here we use particles and combine them with Paint Effects and soft bodies and we achieve a rather startlingly cool effect which in some ways is more flexible than the other more well known effects.


I have to admit I have a soft spot in my heart for this effect. It was inspired from an old AT&T commercial where they had a pencil sketching out a man who comes to life as a 3D line drawing who runs and dances around,

It took me a while to figure out how to accomplish the same effect but i am kind of confident that this is how it was accomplished in the original commercial.

All these years later it still is an amazing technique.


Using per particle goal weights to create a highly flexible system to tie up and release the strong in an organized and incredibly cool way

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Instructor Biography

Scott Turner, Game Designer, 3D Generalist, University Professor

I have worked in game design, and 3D since 1995. I started my career designing multi-user games using Flash and Director for a big national website then spent 12 years focused on producing animation and VFX for commercials for television. I now teach these topics at university. While I have an M.A. degree from Bournemouth University focused on teaching animation and game skills - really, its all about loving and being fascinated by the process.

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