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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.
Before we actually get into posing and keyframing our characters I'd like to actually set up some custom functions that will help me along with this particular character. Now we're working with the simple character, but this will work really with any type of character you want. Maya is really great in that it allows you to create custom functions. You're probably already using them and these are just the standard shelves, and these are just actually custom buttons that Maya provides, and we can actually create our own by using a little bit of MEL scripting.
First of all, let's go into General Editors and go into what's called the Script Editor. And I'm going to go ahead and push this guy over so we can get everything here on the screen. This is a very tight screen here. What you can see is every time you do something in the character it shows up in this window. So for example if I select the root node of the character, it will say select HIPS. So what I can do is I can take all of these and make them into a button. So the first button that I want to create is one that selects all the parts of the character.
So all I'm going to do is just go into Select mode, and that's hitting the Q button, and then I'm just going to go through and select all of the various parts of the character. You can see how as I select them they show up here in the window. So I just want to go through and select each of the spines and the arms on both sides, the neck, the head, and then I also want to get the thumbs and the hands.
So I can just Shift+Select, rubber band select, all of these hands and all of these thumbs. Let's see if I can get this on the other side here. Now I'm not going to select the forward inverse kinematics at this point, so I don't really need to keyframe that. So now that I have all of these selected you can see I've got basically a list of what I've selected. This is where I'd deselected right before I started selecting everything and all of these are the selections of everything in the character.
So all I have to do is click and drag and highlight all of those commands. Then all I have to do is hit this button here. It says Save Script to Shelf, so I click on that and then I can just give it a name. Well, let's just call it Select All, and when I do that it gives me this. Do you want save it as a Python or MEL script? I'm going to choose MEL script and there we go. Now we have a button that will select everything in the character.
So if I deselect this, now I can select everything. Another nice little command that we can do is something that keyframes everything in the character. So all I have to do at this point is just hit the S key or if you go in Animation you just go Animation > Set Key. So I'm just going to ahead and set a key and watch what happens. It says it gives me a few little error messages, but this is the command that I want, setKeyframe, and it has keyframes for all of these things, and if you notice all of this is the names of everything that I had selected.
So I'm going to do the same thing. I'm going to Save Script to Shelf, and then I'm just going to call this one Key All. So this creates a keyframe for all of the major components of the character and we're going to save that as a MEL Script. So now I have two scripts here and these can be very, very handy. One selects everything in the character, the other keyframes everything in the character. So for example if I go out here and say frame 12 and I hit Key All and select something, you'll see that now I have-- In fact let's go ahead and Select All a keyframe here where I started and at frame 12.
Now this is very handy when you start creating stock poses or you want to lock in a character's pose. So we can refine this a little further. You can obviously create buttons for parts of the character. You can have one for the arms or one for the spine or the feet or whatever. We can also extend this in more complex characters to keyframe everything in the face for example. So create some custom shelves for your character and that will help you in the future when you're keyframing that character.
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