3D World - - ARTIST Q&A -

Tony Wong, Sh­effield

Antony Ward replies

I was think­ing back to some of the first rigs I cre­ated in Maya, way back in 2004, and com­par­ing them to the ones I build to­day. Back then Set Driven Keys (SDKS) were king and used al­most ex­clu­sively when you needed to make one con­trol drive an­other. An­i­mat­ing a fin­ger curl or a foot roll was eas­ily achieved by sim­ply set­ting poses and defin­ing the keys.

Since then there has been a long de­bate as to whether SDKS are the most ef­fi­cient way to con­trol a char­ac­ter be­cause to work, Maya must work with and eval­u­ate an­i­ma­tion curves. The con­sen­sus seems to be that they are as ef­fi­cient as any­thing else when used on a small scale, and cer­tainly prefer­able to ex­pres­sions.

An­other op­tion to con­sider, which is my per­sonal favourite, is to use util­ity nodes. Th­ese nodes pro­vide a more di­rect con­nec­tion be­tween the con­troller and the con­trolled while en­abling you to per­form some sim­ple math­e­mat­i­cal op­er­a­tions on the val­ues be­ing passed across. I also find them a much more sta­ble and flex­i­ble way to an­i­mate and with ev­ery­thing be­ing at­tribute based, you can also of­fer more op­tions to the an­i­ma­tor to al­low them to per­son­alise the way the rig works. As an ex­am­ple, you can en­hance a ba­sic foot roll where the foot moves from the heel to the ball of the foot and then up to the toe, by of­fer­ing the op­tion to spec­ify the an­gles where each pose rests.

There are a whole host of nodes hid­den away in­side Maya and on first in­spec­tion they look like they are only used for shaders. This could be be­cause they are mostly seen in­side the Util­ity tab of the Hyper­shade. In fact, the quick­est way to ac­cess, cre­ate and con­nect nodes is

through the Node Ed­i­tor. Right-click­ing in this ed­i­tor will bring up a mark­ing menu where you can quickly cre­ate a new node of your choice.

Com­pared to Set Driven Keys, nodes can also seem quite in­tim­i­dat­ing, as there are quite a lot of them and they have names like ‘Mult Dou­ble Lin­ear’, ‘Transpose Ma­trix’ and ‘Vec­tor Prod­uct’. I mean… what?

The good news is you may find that you will never use most of them, but there are a hand­ful that I utilise ev­ery day. Let me in­tro­duce you to them.

maya nodes are a great sub­sti­tute for set driven keys and can al­low for more cus­tomis­able rigs

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