Computational Research Center

News and updates from the CRC

Native Dancer: Learning Maya

Author: Ariann Rousu – Native Dancer Digital Artist

I have been learning to use a lot of different software since I began working for UND’s CRC, and learning Maya has been something I have been wanting to do for a while now. I was very excited to begin using maya, as I have gotten familiar with and been able to use other 3D software along with others made by Autodesk. I was eager to learn more about Maya as Maya is more advanced, can do more with 3d sculpting and has animation options. This will be useful when creating gaming assets and adding more accessories to the Native Dancer dancers.  

Native Dancer Project- Learning to Sculpt in Maya

I had several tasks in mind when beginning to model in Maya, I began by reading the textbook “Autodesk Maya 2023 Basic Guide” Written by Kelly L. Murdock. I familiarize with how the workspace was arranged. and gave attention to the proper workflow I would need to follow to accomplish my goals.

Reading the first few chapters helped me to feel comfortable working in Maya. The text leads you into the software without overwhelming you with information, clearly explaining aspects that are essential to understanding the program. A lot of what I learned were new tools and concepts for me such as understanding nodes and how they work in Maya. This way of learning was refreshing as I usually use online tutorials to begin learning new software.

Native Dancer Project- Maya Workspace: Male Accessory


Next, I began creating some basic shapes that I would add more details to later to create more accessories for the dancers. I first made cone shape with cut out areas on the top and bottom to create a basic shape that would hold feathers making a fan the female dancer will hold. Next, I made a stick with a handle and a round portion at the top where feathers or other hanging elements could be attached. I added color using a basic surface shader for now.  

After I knew I could successfully create basic shapes in Maya, I moved on to a more difficult sculpting task. I needed to create feathers and other furs that could be used on accessories now and on regalia in the future. I began by experimenting with xgen in Maya, using a tool that generates splines on surfaces. The splines can be generated on a surface using guides or be randomly scattered. There are also ways to paint a mask on the surface so that splines cannot generate in certain areas, but I did not use this technique. Instead, I created a stem for the feathers, then generated splines using guides placed on the surface where I wanted them to attach.  

Native Dancer Project- Feather Created in Maya

After splines were placed, I was able to use other tool settings to generate the look I wanted for each feather created. For some of the feathers I angled the spline guides using sliders in the tool settings, for others I manually altered the splines to generate the look I wanted. I was able to apply them to the previously sculpted shapes in maya and add coloring and shading.  

Native Dancer Project- Feather Fan Colored and Created in Maya

Maya Assets in Other Programs

I used the same method I used to create the feathers to create a deer haired roach to attach to the male headpiece for the grass dancer. The only difference is, I exported the surface that I attached the splines to from Marvelous designer to ensure it would fit the male characters head. After I was satisfied with how this looked, I re-uploaded and attached the fur to the headpiece in Marvelous Designer.  

Native Dancer Project- Roach Head Piece in Marvelous Designer

To preview the pieces I have created so far, I uploaded them into CC4 with the Native Dancer Characters. I am now working on refining and adding details for each character and piece of clothing and accessory. My next step is to transfer all assets over to Unreal engine and use Udraper to simulate the clothing and have a more realistic look to the overall clothing that falls around the characters. I will be posting a separate blog post about Udraper and the characters clothed in Unreal soon.

Native Dancer Project- Characters and accessories Preview in Character Creator 4