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Instructional Standards for Maya, 3dsMax and Softimage

This post describes and link to a new set of Autodesk’s Media and Entertainment Instructional Standards (MEIS) for three software products; Maya, 3dsMax and Softimage. These standards cover thirteen topic areas and toolsets and provide a ruich resource of theory, applications and exercises for teachers and trainers in animation and vfx.

I’ve argued in these posts for the development and implementation of explicit standards for animation education and training. I firmly believe that core competency standards will make life much easier for institutions and instructors. They provide clarity and accountability whether they are used in traditional forms of training or supporting a wide range of non-tradition, non-linear and informal learning processes.

While there is no universal system of content standards (yet), there are examples of standards for software skills (CISCO paved the way many years ago).  Software companies are concerned about how their products are taught and in particular the learning principles and instructional abilities that teachers and trainers should possess to be effective in the “classroom”.

Standardized core competencies provide an explicit benchmark defining the content and level of expertise that should be evident throughout an educational or training regimen. They not only provide a framework for developing curriculum and courseware but also guide the instructor when he or she is planning, organizing and presenting the content of individual lessons and tasks.

Software companies (and everyone else come to think of it!) expect instructors to be effective and competent teachers rather than simply masters of the functionality of their products.  Not every excellent animator (or vfx specialist) makes a good teacher - that takes a separate and well-developed set of additional abilities and talents.  We have all been the recipients of substandard instructional practice and poor teacher performance at some time during our lives and it’s an incredibly frustrating, unproductive experience and a terrible waste of time, money and effort.

Autodesk Inc. has made considerable progress in improve this situation and their accomplishments are an important milestone in standards development and implementation for the animation and vfx industries. Last year, under the supervision and direction of Michael Sehgal, Senior Manager, Education and Training Programs at Autodesk, a group of experts developed a new set of Autodesk’s Media and Entertainment Instructional Standards (MEIS) for three software products; Maya, 3dsMax and Softimage.

These standards were designed to provide a comprehensive reference for those applying for Autodesk Certified Instructor qualification, but they are also an excellent source of high quality instructional content for all those designing curricula or teaching these applications at any level.  The MEIS documents specify the content that certification candidates should know before applying to the ACI program and attending the ACI Workshop.  I think every instructor will find them extremely useful.

The MEI Standards consist of 13 modules:

1. Animation

2. Cameras

3. Compositing

4. Dynamics / Simulation

5. Effects

6. Lighting

7. Materials / Shading

8. Modeling

9. Rendering

10. Rigging / Setup

11. Scene Assembly / Pipeline Integration

12. Scripting

13. UI / Scene Management1. Animation

Each module consists of four parts:

THEORY: provides conceptual or theoretical background information and reference suggestions for the topic.

APPLIED: provides practical information about how the software is used in terms of technique and workflow.

ACTIVITY: provides recommended activities and exercises that can be used by the instructor

TOOLS: covers the software toolset for each topic area.

I was hired to research, write and contribute to the Theory, Applied and Activity sections of the standards documents and I found the process a rewarding challenge and an opportunity to revisit standards development and rethink new ways to explore the theories, principles and activities that form the foundations of software functionality.

If you are an instructor or a trainer in Maya, 3dsMax or Softimage, I highly recommend the MEIS standards to you.  Reviewing and rebuilding your resource base is a great way to continually improve your instruction and widen the range of information and skills you bring to your students.

You can access the Autodesk Professional Excellence Program documents and download a .pdf of the MEIS Standards for Maya, 3dsMax and Softimage at