Below are our Twelve Top Tips for animating in Maya, to help you be both good, fast and reliable.
1 – Establish your screen layout and save it
The standard animator’s layout is a three panel view split at the top. The Graph Editor goes at the bottom. Top right is your camera view (which should be locked off), and on the left is your perspective view, where you can dolly and zoom. To find this in Maya, go to Panels/3 Panel view, split at top. Customise the view, then save the layout so you can retrieve it each time you open Maya. Go to window/save current layout. Name it “Animation View”. Retrieving this setup will be the first thing you do when you open Maya.
2 – Create a camera and lock it off.
|Camera in Maya|
To create a camera, go to Create/cameras/camera. Name it “shotCamera”. Go to Panels/look through selected, and move your camera into the right position. Once you are happy with it, select your camera, right click on it, and lock it off in the Channel Box.
Almost all animation rigs are designed in the “T pose”, which is stiff and formal. So, you need to relax it. At frame 0 in your timeline, relax your character, and make it less stiff. Bend the knees, bend the arms, give the face an expression. Offset the feet a little. Save this pose on frame 0 - outside your timeline, so you can come back to it later when you need to create new poses.
|Expressions will sell your shot|
You should add eyebrows, eyes, fingers and facial expressions on all your poses from the start - make a positive statement. Offset the symmetry, make each key pose expressive. Facial expressions will help to sell your shot to the director. Don’t think “Oh, I’ll do the facial expressions later”. Do them now. Facial expressions help to tell the story, to make the shot clear.
5 - Don't animate on the world mover
The world mover is for moving your rig into position at the start of the shot, and for nothing else. Except in rare circumstances, don’t animate on the world control. Set a key on the World mover once, when you move the character into position, Then, never touch the world mover again.
6 – Decide which controls you want to use and stick to them
If a character has multiple body controls, decide which ones you want to use. Be consistent – else you will forget where you set keys. For example, don’t use multiple rotations on the spine controls. You will forget which ones you used, and this will make it very hard to make adjustments to your animation later on.
|Are the characters looking at one another?|
Don’t over-complicate things. You don’t need multiple expressions. Pick one main expression for your shot and stick with it. A common mistake made by junior animators is to have too many expressions in a shot.
8 – Make sure your character's eye direction is consistent
Bad eye direction will let down your work. Is the character looking where they are supposed to? Eye direction movers are often inaccurate. You will likely have to fine tune the eye direction, sometimes frame by frame.
9 – Show your work in high resolution
|Hi Rez - get approvals faster|
Low resolution shots look grainy and unimpressive, even if they are well animated. Make your work look nice – and get faster approvals.
10 – Imagine you are the director – does your shot make sense?
Does your shot make sense to anyone other than you? It you showed to your seven year old niece would she like it? Your work must be clear to others as well as you. If you have to explain what is going on, it probably needs work.
11 – Download the TweenMachine
The Tween Machine is a free Maya plugin which makes the work of adding breakdowns to your shot super easy. Download it, install it, and never look back. http://www.creativecrash.com/maya/script/tweenmachine
12 - Do thumbnail sketches.
Making thumbnail sketches in advance of starting your shot helps you think and plan your work. Time spent thinking and planning, and solving problems, is never wasted.
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