IS THERE AN ALTERNATIVE TO SET DRIVEN KEYS?
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