Building Robots With Maya

Building Robots With Maya

Together with Max Emski we’ve discussed his production process and some of his thoughts on the modeling of complex mechanisms in Maya.

Together with Max Emski we’ve discussed his production process and some of his thoughts on the modeling of complex mechanisms in Maya. (Updated with a comment from Tor Frick on optimizing your MODO viewport).


Hi, my name is Max Emski. I’m very pleased that 80 Level is interested in my work and I hope that my answers will be useful to the readers. I was born in the north of Russia, studied in Saint-Petersburg. Now I live in Moscow but work in Krasnodar city. When I was an art student nobody knew about 3D graphics at all, I acquired the knowledge from the internet. At the moment I work at Plarium as a CG artist.

Choosing MODO

For the last 2 years I have tested many 3d applications. MODO has great tools to simplify my work process at an early stage and is very friendly, with an open community. Besides that this package includes all the necessary tools to create a project from beginning to end and get a high-quality final render. MIDI has user-friendly interface, a lot of tools and a huge quantity of free plug-ins, which solve all the possible problems with 3D modeling I might have. MODO’s standard shader is amazing. This shader allows me to create very realistic procedure materials and textures without any additional application, and MODO works with Substance, which can be imported into MODO using the Substance Plugin and the Unreal Material Importer. But MODO has one very serious problem with my PC – the viewport is incredibly slow.

Switching to Maya

To be honest I didn’t want to jump from MODO to Maya. But Modo’s viewport gets super slow when I use heavy scenes with millions of polygons. I have some scenes that are around 20 – 30 million polygons with thousands of objects. The viewport speed in Maya is good while the same scenes bring MODO to a crawl.

Navigation in Maya’s viewport with more than 30 million polygons is easy as well, as in a scene with several cubes. Besides that Maya is used in nearly all major game development companies and filmmaking companies. I think that most major games and movies use Maya somewhere in their pipeline. Therefore I made the decision to move completely to Maya and I don’t regret it.

Maya’s interface requires further improvement, especially regarding a Hypershade in my opinion. I would like to have a preset browser for Arnold‘s materials, for example, such as in the latest version of Renderman. That would be great. In everything else, Maya is an ideal package for 3D, and for me is the best software on the market for modeling. The fact that Arnold is delivered with Maya is only add to it.

First step is to be aware of how MODO works with items. It’s best to have many items,because there is a limit on how many polys yuo can have per item before it slows down, while editing geo (which is my main gripe with MODO). Having cubic mapped textures slows everything down massively, if you are in texture mode, or in shaded mode and didn’t turn on the independent drawing in the viewport options. – commented Tor Frick (

Modeling Mechanisms

I love highly detailed hard surface models, and am excited to see projects from my colleagues who pay special attention to detail. After I watched a video from the exhibition where they presented the latest trends of robotics I was inspired to create something similar.

I also love techniques of subdivision modeling, the good quality of the grid. I like finding solutions for the modeling of non-standard surfaces using this method. The main part of the scene is subdivided surfaces. First I did the main parts of the robots, before moving on to the smaller details and then lastly, the props. I studied hundreds of references online and just used these to create the detail.


I used a standard Arnold shader, as it allows the creation of a wide variety of materials. To create some textures I used Inkscape, and bitmap images. I should point out it was my first experience with Arnold’s shaders and rendering, but I’m already a fan.

Before starting the project I thought of what sort of modeling would be best to get clean geometry. I really like Peter Stammbach’s method “from 2D to 3D”, it helped to avoid triangles and “spiders” on the edges.

1 of 2
1 of 2


Before I click the Arnold’s render button, I did a lot of tests. At first, I wanted to render AOVs and then recombine them when compositing in Nuke. But because of the huge number of polygons in my scene this was not easy to do. Therefore, at this stage of my acquaintance with Arnold, I just set the camera with DOF, added volume scattering to the scene, set up a light and HDRI map, and then did the render of the entire scene without AOVs. This is not the best or most flexible method, and next time I will render AOVs and then do post production in Nuke.

Also I slightly corrected this scene in Nuke, making a minor color correction and using the RAW Filter in Photoshop, but most of the work was done by Arnold. I do wish Arnold and Maya had a normal preset browser for materials, and a more user-friendly interface in Hypershade as in some other programs, but I’m quite satisfied with the rest of these packages.

Max Emski, CG artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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Comments 2

  • Anonymous user

    Thank you! It took about two weeks from scratch. Research + modeling.


    Anonymous user

    ·4 years ago·
  • Origin3D

    NIce work. How long did the modelling take?



    ·4 years ago·

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