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In Modeling a Character in Maya, join author Ryan Kittleson for a thorough demonstration on how to create a professional, realistic 3D character from scratch in Maya 2011. The course illustrates how key concepts and tools such as Soft Select and polygon extrusions apply to character modeling, and provides a simple step-by-step approach to building character anatomy, including the torso, limbs, hands, face, and hair. Also included are tutorials on modeling clothing and shoes, and refining character features to reach the final product. Exercise files accompany the course.
Recommended prerequisites: Maya 2011 Essential Training
Character modeling can quickly create a messy scene with bits and pieces of models all over the place and with unused nodes and meaningless names. You can help others to understand your scene and avoid headaches with these tips. A good way to keep organized is by setting your projects. Maya likes to remember everything that's going on by organizing a project folder, so there is a folder and within that is your scene files, your reference images, your renders. Anything that has to do with the project gets stored in a folder structure.
The way you create that is go to File > Project and if you're making a new project for the first time just click New and you can name it whatever you want, so let's call it hank. And this location is on the Desktop. That's good. You don't have to worry about these other settings. So this project is set. Now Maya knows that if I save this scene file it's going in that folder. If you've already got a project started and you want to open it up and start a new fresh day, a project you have already worked on, you can go to Set and we'll just pick the hank project.
So now Maya knows that when I save this it's going in that folder. Another good way to keep everything organized is by using Display Layers. You can find the Display Layers underneath the Channel Box. So let's make a new layer, so we can put the body in it. Let's go to Layers > Create Empty Layer, double-click on it, and you can rename it to let's call it hank_body. So we can put the body into it. We'll just select the body and then hold down the right mouse button on the name and Add Selected Objects.
So everything that's selected now goes into that layer. You can change the visibility of the layer by clicking the V for Visibility there is this box here, if you click on it and get a T. T stands for Template. So a template is geometry that is not selectable, but it shows up in Wireframe mode. So if you want to see where this object is, but you don't really want to deal with it, you just want to arrange object around it, then you can put it in T mode. We'll click it one more time. It goes into R mode for Reference.
Reference is almost the same thing. It's unselectable, but you can see it's fully visible. So these different modes can come in handy if you need to get certain things out of the way, you don't want to deal with them at the moment. You can just hide them or make them unselectable. Let's put the clothes in a layer too. Let's Shift+Select all of these different clothing objects and go into Layers and Create Layer from Selected. Double-click that and call it clothes.
So now we've got clothes in the layer too. Something is really good to do on a regular basis is to delete history. Deleting history gets rid of all the information that went into making an object and tells Maya to just remember what the object looks like now. So for example, this shirt, when I created it I started with an extrusion and I've cut it into different pieces and I've smoothed it. And there is all these different things I did to it and Maya remembers all that history.
And so we can bog down Maya's memory, we can bog down the processor, we can make Maya more likely to crash. So if you got your point on an object where you know you don't need to remember how you got there, you just want to remember what it looks like now, you can delete the history. So I'm just going to go up to Edit > Delete by Type > History. So that just told Maya to forget everything that went into making this shirt and just told it remember what it looks like now. You've probably wanted to do that on a regular basis while you're modeling.
Another thing that's good to do is Freeze Transforms. Let me illustrate down on this boot. I'm just going to zoom into it now and you can see that the boot has its pivot point out here. If I just rotate the boot around a little bit and let's make it axis all wonky like this, we can go up to Modify and Freeze Transformations. What that does is it tells Maya to forget all of those transformations that we did here. Forget the rotating, forget how it rotated and how off-kilter it was and just remember the current position as the new default.
So if I undo the Freeze Transforms, you can see the Rotate here has all these different numbers. If I Freeze Transforms again , it's all goes down to zero. It's the new default in this position right here. Let's say I actually really did want the bootto be over here like this. So if I go to Freeze Transforms again now Maya is going to remember this new position as the new default. Another function that can come in handy is centering the pivot. You can see that pivot point for this boot right now is out here in the origin of the world, but what if we want this pivot point to be in a more useful location? We can just go up to Modify and Center Pivot. The pivot point is now in the middle of the object.
So if you rotate around you can see it's actually more close to the middle of the object and if you want to rotate it now it's going to rotate into more predictable way. So like keeping a tidy desk, these tips help avoid clutter and make the process of creating characters run much more smoothly.
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