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Maya 2011 has a number of new Rigging features that we want to take a look at. The first feature is a new option to Smooth Bind. Now if you recall Smooth Bind binds the character's mesh to the skeleton so the skeleton can deform the mesh. Now I have a file here with actually three arms and you'll understand why I have three in just a second, but they're really just the same rig. It's just an arm and a hand and then I have the hands actually animating and I actually have the elbows bending, so that we can see the deformation.
So in order for this to work I need to make sure that I'm on Frame 1 of the timeline. So I'm going to go ahead and zoom in to this first arm and I'm just going to do a standard Smooth Bind. Now if you've ever done character rigging, this should be familiar to you. So I'm going to go ahead and select the root of the skeleton, left shoulder, then Shift+select the actual mesh, and then I'm going to make sure I have my Animation menus up, and then just go to Skin > Bind Skin > Smooth Bind and I want to take a look at these options.
By default these are pretty much what the options will be. The one I want to look at is called Skinning method. Now this actually gives us three options. This is actually what's new in Smooth Bind. So let's go ahead just do the default, which actually is the old method called Classic Linear, and let's just go ahead and bind that skin. Now once we've done that you can see the skin actually follows the skeleton, but we actually have a little bit of a problem here. If you look, this elbow, we've got a big divot here, and this is actually symptomatic of Smooth Bind. You tend to get this sort of dent in joints like an elbow.
So they have a new skinning method called Dual Quaternion that actually should address a lot of this. So I'm going to go ahead to my second arm, again same procedure, select the root of the skeleton, Shift+select the mesh and let's go back into Bind Skin > Smooth Bind. In this case, instead of Classic Linear, I'm going to do Dual Quaternion, select that and do Bind Skin. I want to make sure I get both of these on the screen so you can see the difference. And when we go to the full bend here, notice how this one has a very extreme divot and this one is more natural, and the new one is using a Dual Quaternion Skinning method.
Now we have one more skinning method in that list, so let's just go ahead and use this third arm and just to see how it works. Now the third one is called Weight Blended, and let's just go ahead and bind that. Now this actually gives you an effect almost exactly like the original. Again, it gives you a little bit more of a divot, but between the three you can see that there really are subtle differences in the way that these joints work. Now for something like a character, Dual Quaternion may become the new standard default way of binding character's skin to a skeleton.
So go ahead and play with it on your characters and see how it works for you.
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