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Working with Bezier curves

From: Maya 2011 New Features

Video: Working with Bezier curves

One of the most important new modeling features in Maya 2011 is the Bezier Curve tool. Now you maybe familiar with Bezier curves by using Adobe Illustrator or 3DS Max or any number of other packages that use them. Now Maya 2011 finally has this method of drawing curves. And it will serve you very, very well. I think this is a very important feature. Now we can get to Bezier curves in one of two places. Under the Create menu, we have Bezier Curve tool or we can also go over to our Curves shelf and select the Bezier Curve tool here.

Working with Bezier curves

One of the most important new modeling features in Maya 2011 is the Bezier Curve tool. Now you maybe familiar with Bezier curves by using Adobe Illustrator or 3DS Max or any number of other packages that use them. Now Maya 2011 finally has this method of drawing curves. And it will serve you very, very well. I think this is a very important feature. Now we can get to Bezier curves in one of two places. Under the Create menu, we have Bezier Curve tool or we can also go over to our Curves shelf and select the Bezier Curve tool here.

Now before I draw the curve, I actually want to go into an orthographic viewport so I get a nice flat curve. So I'm going to go ahead and just jump out here and highlight my top menu and hit my Spacebar and come back in. So I'm going to go ahead and select the Bezier Curve tool. And as you notice the cursor changes to an Input mode, this little cross, very similar to how we draw a NURBS curve. With the NURBS curve, you would just start clicking and the curve would draw. With the Bezier, you have to make a decision. You have to either left-click and drag or just left-click.

And let me show you what the difference is. If I left-click and drag, you'll see that what it does is it pulls out the very familiar Bezier handle. And what this does is it really determines the shape of the curve. Now we really won't see this until we draw a second point. So I'm going to go ahead again and left-click and drag. And you can see how this handle defines the shape of the curve. Now what's happening is, is that the curve is actually becoming tangent to the handle at that point.

And so the length of the point determines the angle of the tangent. And the angle of the handle determines where that tangent comes into that point. So again let me draw one more curve. And you can see how you can make that tangent go to this way or this way. And the longer the tangent, the less steep the angle and so on. So because these handles are tangent, it really helps you to draw a straight line. So let's say I wanted to draw a straight line here. All I have to do is make sure that this tangent is parallel to the line.

And I can be pretty much assured that that line is going to be straight between these two points. Now another way to draw the point with the Bezier Curve tool is to just click. Now what this does is it creates a corner. So if I click here, you can see that well, it doesn't really create a corner. Well, it does create a corner but this side of the curve is actually still curved. If I click again and don't drag, you can see how this corner was created. Let me do that one more time. And you can see how I can create a very nice series of straight lines.

Now when you want to create straight lines and corners, the Bezier Curve tool is going to be a lot easier then the NURBS curve tools in Maya. And I think this is one reason why people are going to start using these types of curves a lot more. And again if I want to go back to my other input method, I can just go ahead and just click and drag. Now once you're done with the input, you can just go ahead and either hit the Select mode or hit Escape. And that'll go ahead and bring it into the regular curve mode.

Now Bezier curves are pretty much like any other curve in Maya. You can do other types of operations with Beziers. So for example if we wanted to open or close a curve, I can do that. All I have to do is go over to Surfaces, EditCurves > Open/Close Curves. So you can see how I've actually closed this curve out. Now if you want to go ahead and edit the curve, it's very similar to how you would edit a NURBS curve. All you have to do is just right-click over the curve and select Control Vertex.

And this will bring up all of the vertices. So I can select this. And I can move it around. So if I wanted to, I can select the center which is vertex. And that just repositions it. If I select one of these ones on the end, which is the handle, again I can reshape the curve however I want. Now for these particular points, which have no handle, which are these corner points again, all I can do is just adjust the position of the curve. And again there's no tangent because these are corners.

I'm going to hit Escape. Now I'm going to go ahead, back out to Object mode. And let's go back into our Perspective View here. And one of the other things I want to show you is that Bezier curves can also be used to build NURBS surfaces. So if I take this particular curve and let me just make a couple of copies of this. I'm going to hit Ctrl+D, make one copy and then I'm going to do that again. Ctrl+D and so now we have three Bezier curves.

And let's just go ahead and do a simple loft. hold down the Shift key. Select them 1, 2, 3 and then go into Surfaces > Loft. You can see I've created a surface. I'm going to go ahead and shade that by hitting 5. And you can see now I have a NURBS surface. Again, if want to edit the surface, however, you can see that this is a NURBS surface. It has control vertices and hulls. And the important thing here is that it's not a Bezier patch surface.

It is a NURBS surface. Now if you were to do is in a package like Maya, you could actually have a surface that has Beziers on it, but this actually creates a NURBS surface. And this is how it works in Maya. But if you wanted to, you can go into the originating curves, select Control Vertex, and reshape those. And that kind of gives you a pseudo Bezier patch here. So you can actually change this surface by just changing these curves. So as you can see this gives you a lot of power and a couple of new ways to create curves, very easy way to create corners and a much better way to create tangents.

So go ahead and just play with Bezier curves. You get used to them very, very quickly. And I'm sure it will become a very important part of how you model NURBS surfaces within Maya.

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Maya 2011 New Features

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George Maestri
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