BASIC ANIMATION WITH MAYA 2015
Welcome back! Here’s the final part of our basic Maya tutorial, animating your creations. Hopefully, you’d already have your models all ready for this part. Animation is tricky but once you get the hang of it, is extremely easy and fun.
1) First, we’re going to be breaking down the basics. See the row of numbers at the bottom of the screen? That’s your Time Slider. It shows where you are in your animation, as well as how long your animation is. Typically 24 frames is one second, although you can change this setting by going to Window > Settings/ Preferences > Preferences > Settings > Working Units. For now, we stick with 24 FPS, with a total frame count of 120 frames, for 5 seconds of running time.
Make sure the Outliner window (Window > Outliner) is open. Enter Four View (hit Spacebar) and you’ll get to four separate views of your scene. Find the one that looks Front or Side (either’s fine). Now make sure the Menu Set’s (upper left) set to Animation. This will make the Skeleton menu (upper middle) appear. Click it and select the small box near Joint Tool. The cursor will change into a crosshair and the Joint Settings menu will pop up. Using the Front or Side view, click the top of your model, the attaching joint and then the other models. In our case, we’ll click the top of the first cylinder, the sphere and then the bottom of the other cylinder, for three joints. Depending on your model, you might want to have more.
2) Now go back to Perspective view (hover the mouse over the view in Four View and hit Spacebar) and make sure that the joints are INSIDE your models.
Here’s the tricky part. In the Outliner, click on the first joint (Joint1 in our case) and then CTRL click with your first model (Top for us). Those two selected (and ONLY them), click on Skin (top menu) and then Smooth Bind. That’ll bind the joint to the models. Now repeat with Joint2 to your second model and so on.
Once done, go back to the Outliner and select a joint. Since we have three, we’re using Joint2 since it offers the most dramatic effect. With joints bound to the models, moving one will move them all.
3) Now that you can move the models using the joints, it’s time for the animation. Set the time slider ranges to 120 (the two boxes at the ‘No Anim Layer’ box) and then click on 0 in the time slider itself. That’ll take you to Frame 0, the beginning. Select the joint you want to animate and hit ‘S’. S is the shortcut to keyframe a frame, meaning the frame saves the position of every object in that frame. Move to Frame 24, move your joint to a desired direction and then hit S again. Congratulations, you’ve just made your first animation. With 24 frames done, you can move the Time Slider back and forth to view the animation. Just remember to hit S every time you want to keyframe an animation and you’ll be set.
Animating with joints is the same, albeit much easier. Simply select the object you want, hit S at the frame you want and then move the object to anywhere you want, to any frame you want. Hit S and you’re done. If you have knowledge in Flash animation, keyframing should be very familiar and intuitive to you.
Finally, once you have all the animating done, it’s time to render. Hit Render Settings then Common. Under Image format, choose JPEG. Take note of the render directory then change the Menu Set (upper left) to Rendering. Pick Render from the top menu and then Batch Render. That’s it! Alternatively, if you don’t want jpegs, you can render as avi format, though that only works if you’re using Maya Software to render instead of mental ray. Using that is easier but the trade-off is that all your texturing work and other fancy effects won’t be rendered, just the basic polygons.
Assuming you rendered as jpegs, you now need to link those jpegs files into an avi using a program called VirtuaDub (or similar). Just load your images and then export as a video. Enjoy your animation video and use it to impress your friends and family.