Learning Maya 5: Dynamics is part of the Learning Maya 5 series which is published as a joint effort between Sybex and Alias|Wavefront, the developers of Maya. Dynamics covers all the special functions and tools in Maya that allows you to create stunning special effects such as smoke, dust, fire and water. Learn to work with both Rigid and Soft Body dynamics and create effects with particle animation and rendering.
The book is written using a tutorial based format. This means that each topic or subject is covered by guiding the user through a series of easy-to-follow step-by-step tutorials. Helpful tips and explanatory notes are added to the tutorials to help the user better understand the tutorial. Screenshots accompany the tutorials for further clarification. However they are not in color unlike some of the other Sybex offerings. At the end of each tutorial, some suggested exercises are given to help the user to further expand his or her skills on that particular subject.
Although the tutorials are easy to follow, the user should have some basic understanding of the Maya interface. However, I would also say the Dynamics is not a book for someone who is a complete beginner at Maya. Only an intermediate or better skilled Maya user who has a better grasp of the workings of Maya will be able to employ the skills acquired through this book and apply them properly in projects.
Dynamics starts with an introduction to Maya Dynamics and gives a brief description of the key topics and what can be achieved using Maya Dynamics. The first few chapters covers Rigid Bodies. Rigid Body is used to simulate realistic collisions of solid bodies. The first tutorial uses a simulation of a bowling ball colliding with bowling pins as an example. Other tutorials make use of a wind chime, a catapult and pod engines (ala the pod race in Phantom Menace) to simulate collisions with constraints. I always wanted to do a realistic pod engine animation so now I know how.
The next few chapters cover the use of Particles. The tutorial is on the creation of a water fountain and whitecaps on water surface. A breaking window tutorial is used as an example for a combination of both Rigid Bodies and Particles. Particle collision is demonstrated using raindrops falling on a surface and a dusty surface being trampled over. A magic wand with pixie dust is used in the particle motion exercise.
Using Flow, users can create a tornado of their own and finally with Maya’s particle goal function, users can create effects like ray guns, drips on a surface and the hair on a caterpillar.
The next chapter is on Soft Bodies and Springs. Soft bodies have surfaces that can deform by controlling the tension that exists between the vertices on the surface and particles of the soft body. Soft bodies are used to create flow-like motion such as a flag waving in the wind or a dancing candle flame. The example used to demonstrate soft bodies is a dripping faucet.
Springs is used for controlling particles and is often used with soft bodies. An animation of a basketball shooting through a hoop demonstrates the use of springs and soft bodies. Lastly, soft bodies are used together with Maya’s smooth skinning to create under skin movement like muscles and fat making them react to gravity and other forces.
The Emit Function and particle instancing is covered in the next 2 chapters. Fireworks and creating a swarm of dragonflies are used for the tutorials. Next is a chapter on Rendering Particles which includes tutorials on creating cigarette smoke and a spewing volcano. This chapter covers both hardware and software rendering.
Next you pull them altogether and use compositing to sandwich all the different image elements and layers to produce a final seamless project. The tutorial consist of blowing up a robot making use of the various techniques that were covered in the earlier chapters.
Learning Maya 5: Dynamics is worth getting if you want to go beyond the basic modelling and animation. Don’t get me wrong as there is a lot to learn just on those two topics alone but if you want to add a little bit more oomph into your animation, you might want to consider this book.