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Tutorial: Maya – Organising Scenes

Updated: Jul 16, 2023

Noted from Lynda Video Tutorial


Either select Window > Outliner or in a multiple viewport view, click Panels > Panel > Outliner to set it as the contents of the viewport.

The outliner is a list of every object in the scene. You can click on any object, or hold the Shift key to select multiple objects.

The outliner also shows hierarchies – any object with a little plus sign beside it can be expanded to show any child objects it contains.

The icon next to the object name indicates what kind of object it is – polygons, nurbs, cameras, lights etc.

You can filter objects in the outliner from the Show tab. Note this wont hide them in the scene itself, just in the outliner list.

Display > Shapes will allow the outliner to reveal the actual Shape node of an object which contains its geometry. This is indicated by all objects in the list having little plus signs beside them.


A hierarchy is when some objects are connected to others in a Parent  – Child relationship. When the parent object is moved, the child follows. This is useful when a single model is made up of numerous objects and you want to move them all together.

To change the hierarchy of an object, open the outliner and Middle-click and drag it. Dragging it over another object (a double dotted line will show) will make it a child of that object.

Note that dragging an object between two others in the list (showing a single dotted line) will simply re-arrange the order of the list.


Selecting multiple objects and going to Edit > Group will allow them to be selected with a single click.

In the outliner, a new empty Node object will be created, and the selected objects will be added as children to it. Double clicking will allow you to rename the group.

The Anchor point of the group is set to the origin. To move this to a more appropriate place, press the D key and move it. Alternatively, go to Modify > Edit pivot

Edit > Ungroup will  will disperse a groups objects and delete the empty group node afterwards. Alternatively you can just drag objects out of the group in the outliner, which will leave the empty object behind.



Windows > General Editors > Hypergraph Hierarchy.

This is very similar to the outliner, in that it displays all objects and their hierarchies, but in a more visual manner. it organises them in the same order as the outliner, but by clicking the ‘toggle freeform/automatic layout’ button in the toolbar you can rearrange them however you see fit. (This cursor is over this button in the pic above)

This is very useful in character animation,

Note that this is a toggle switch – you can go back and forth between organised and rearranged at will.


You may need to hide certain objects to get working on certain parts of your scene.

Ctrl + H will hide any currently selected objects. Hidden objects will be greyed out in the outliner.

There are menus in Display > Hide where you can pick certain categories to hide, and Display > Show to do the opposite.

Note that Hide/Show is merely toggling the Visibility property of an object. This can also be manipulated directly in the attribute etitor window.


Layers allow you to quickly hide and show groups of related objects. For example, all the furniture in a room, the roof of a building, the panels on a car, etc.

Layers are visible on the bottom portion of the Channel box (available from the right side of the screen). In this tab, the Layer button will allow you to create empty layers to add objects to later, or create layers from selected objects.

Double clicking on a created layer will allow you to rename it and colour its tab etc.

Layers have 3 little toggle buttons beside their name. V will toggle visibility of the layer objects; the third button toggle between T which shows a greyed wireframe version, and R which shows a rendered, but unselectable version of the object.

To add selected objects to a layer, merely right click on the layer and choose ‘Add selected objects’. Likewise, you can also ‘Remove selected objects’


Selection masks allow us to toggle the selectivity of different categories of objects – polygons, lights, cameras etc. The line of icons highlighted blue across the top of the toolbar can be toggled on and off.

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