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Watch as author George Maestri employs the basic principles of animation to bring to life simple 3D characters in Maya. Starting with an overview of the character rig, this course provides guidelines for arranging stock characters into strong poses and explains how to generate locomotion between poses in a modular fashion. The course includes step-by-step instructions on animating realistic gestures, walks, runs, facial expressions, and dialogue, and culminates with an animated scene built entirely from scratch.
Prerequisite courses: Maya 2011 Essential Training.
Along with the exercise files, we've given you two basic rigs. Let me show you the first of those. We're going to go File > Open, and we should be in our Chapter 0/scenes directory because we've set our project. And we have two characters. One is called Full Character; one is called Simple Character. So let's go ahead and open up the Simple Character and we'll show you that one first. As you can see, it's a very, very basic character. And what I really wanted to do with this is just to give you a nice, light, easy-to-animate character that can be used just to get the hang of animation.
If we go through this, we can see that we have basically a number of controls for the character. If you grab on any one of these curves, you can see that we can actually manipulate the character. So for example, if I grab this one here, this star shaped one, you can see here that this is called the HIPS, and it controls the hips. So if I hit W for Move, I can move the hips. Now we also have a number of other ones here. The one I want to show you first off are these knee controls and these can get a little bit tricky, but what they do is they can just control the direction of the knee.
So the knee basically points at these objects. Now the feet are basically done with what's called Inverse Kinematics, which means that you can move the feet and the hips will stay in place. Going up the character, we have three spine controls. And typically, I select those by going into my Select tool or by hitting Q and then Shift+Selecting, I can Shift+ Select one, two, three of these, or I can select them individually.
And you'll notice they're named SPINE_0, SPINE_1, and SPINE_2, for a total of three. And typically what I do is when I manipulate the character I will select all of them, so I will Shift+Select all of these and then these will typically only rotate, so you can rotate these to rotate the character's spine. And I'm going to go ahead and undo that. Moving further up, we can take a look at the arms. The arms are by default set to what's called Forward Kinematics, which means you're rotating the arms.
So I can basically just rotate any one of these joints however I want. Now I didn't put any limits on these, so you have to be careful particularly with the elbow that you don't move it this way or this way. I typically tend to move it along the Y axis, but I left the other two axes open just in case you needed that room to animate. And then the hands are very simple. They're actually more like mittens and they also have controls for each of the joints.
Now moving up a little bit further, we also have this switch. It has an F on it right now and that stands for Forward Kinematics. In other words, that will switch the character from the arm being Forward Kinematics, which is Rotations, to Inverse Kinematics, which is Position. So in order to switch between Forward and Inverse Kinematics, go ahead and select this arrow, hit the Move tool, and then move it from left to right to switch between F and I.
F is Forward Kinematics. I is Inverse. So in Forward Kinematics, I'm rotating the arm. In Inverse Kinematics, I'm positioning the arm. Now notice how this changes a little bit. We go from having these basically these little spheres on each joint, to having a hand control and then a direction control and this is very much like the feet. So I have hand controls here and then this, very much like the knees, controls the angle of that elbow.
So I can switch between those just by animating this. And finally we have head and neck controls. And again, those are rotational, so you can just rotate the character's head. Now one more control I want to show you is basically, the main node, which is called Character Root. And what this is is just the root of the character. It allows you to position the character anywhere in the scene. So all motions of the character are going to be relative to this node.
If we take a look at this in the Outliner, you can see that under the CHARACTER ROOT we have all of the controls for the character. Now there are some additional directories. One is for the Skeleton of the character and the other one is for the Geometry. Now we're not going to touch those. All the controls we need to manipulate the character are under the CHARACTER ROOT node. Now if we go over to the Channel box, you'll see below it we also have the Layer Editor and this character is divided up into a number of layers.
Now we may be turning these on and off during the course. The top ones are basically for Geometry. So I can turn off the Eyes, the Head, the Upper part of the body, and the Lower part of the body. So I can turn on and off any one of these pieces of geometry. These are set to R, which means that they'll render but you can't select them. So I can't select that Head. If I want to be able select it, I can turn that off and select it directly. But again, this is Geometry.
We really want to control the head using these spline controls, so I'm going to go ahead and set that back to R. We also have controls for the Upper and Lower part of the character as well, so I can turn on and off different types of controls. And also the skeleton of the character is actually hidden. So that's a brief overview of this character rig. As we start animating, you'll start to get the hang of how to manipulate this rig and how to work the character.
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