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'Learning Maya 7': Set up and Animation — Part 1

In the latest excerpt from Learning Maya 7 | Foundation,by Marc-AndrGuindon and Cathy McGinnis, we begin a two-part series on set-up and animation.

All images from Learning Maya 7 | Foundation by Marc-André Guindon and Cathy McGinnis. Reprinted with permission.

In this lesson, you will learn how to freeze transformations, sculpt surfaces by painting with Artisan, use different brush operations, create blend shapes, add custom attributes, create locators and use Set Driven Keys.

Start Sculpting the Surface

You will now test the Artisan Sculpt Tool. You will use the tool on a sphere to get a feel for it. Once you are more familiar with the tool, you will apply brush strokes to the orb geometry.

1. Make a test sphere

  • Create a polygonal primitive sphere.

  • Set its construction history for both Subdivisions Axis and Subdivisions Height to 60.

  • To better see the effect of your painting in the viewport, assign a new Phong material to the sphere by selecting Lighting/Shading > Assign New Material > Phong.

2. Open the Sculpt Polygons Tool

  • With the pSphere selected, select Edit Polygons > Sculpt Polygons Tool > box.gif

This opens the Tool Settings window which includes every Artisan sculpting option.

  • Click on the Reset Tool button to make sure that you are starting with Artisan's default settings.

  • Set the following attributes:

    Under Brush:

    Radius (U) to 0.2.

    Under Sculpt Parameters:

    Max Displacement to 0.1.

  • Place the Tool Settings window to the right of the sphere.

First brush stroke.

3. Paint on the surface

  • Move your cursor over the pSphere geometry.

The cursor icon changes to show an arrow surrounded by a red circular outline. The arrow indicates how much the surface will be pushed or pulled while the outline indicates the brush radius. The Artisan brush icon is context sensitive. It changes as you choose different tool settings.

  • Click+drag on the sphere.

You are now painting on the surface, pushing it toward the inside.

Tip: Artisan works more intuitively with a tablet and stylus, since the input device mimics the use of an actual paintbrush.

Second brush stroke.

4. Change the Artisan display

  • Click the Display tab in the Tool Settings window.

  • Click on Show Wireframe to turn this option Off.

Now you can focus on the surface without displaying the wireframe lines.

5. Paint another stroke

  • Paint a second stroke across the mask surface.

Now it is easier to see the results of your sculpting.

The Sculpting Tools

You will now explore some of the Artisan sculpting operations to see how they work. So far, you have been pushing on the surface. Now you will learn how to pull, smooth and erase.

Pulling the surface with several brush strokes.

1. Pull on the surface

  • In the Tool Settings window, scroll to the Sculpt Parameters section.

  • Under Operation, click on Pull.

  • Tumble around to the other side of the sphere.

  • Paint on the surface to create a few strokes that pull out.

2. Smooth out the sesults

  • Under Operation, click on Smooth.

  • Under Brush, change the Radius (U) to 0.6.

This increases the size of your brush. You can see that the red outline has increased in size. This is the brush feedback icon.

Smoothing the brush strokes.

Tip: You can hold the b hotkey and click+drag in the viewport to interactively change the brush size.

    • Paint all of the strokes to smooth the details. If you stroke over an area more than once, the smoothing becomes more evident.

3. Erase some of the brush strokes

  • Under Operation, click on the Erase option.

  • Paint along the surface to begin erasing the last sculpt edits.

Erasing the brush strokes.

4. Flood erase the surface

  • Under Operation, click on the Pull option.

  • In the Sculpt Parameters section, click on the Flood section.

This uses the current operation and applies it to the entire surface using the current opacity setting.

  • Under

Operation, click on the Erase option.

In the Sculpt Parameters section, click on the Flood section.

The sphere comes back to its original shape.

Fully erased surface.

Updating the Reference Surface

When you paint in Artisan, you paint in relation to a reference surface. By default, the reference surface updates after every stroke so that you can build your strokes on top of one another. You can also keep the reference surface untouched until you decide to update it manually.

1. Change the brush attributes

  • Under Operation, click on Pull.

  • Set the following attributes:

    Under

    Brush:

    Radius (U) to 0.2.

    Under

    Sculpt Parameters:

    Max Displacement to 0.2.

Painting with reference update.

2. Pull the surface with two strokes

  • Paint on the surface to create two crossing strokes that pull out.

The second stroke built on top of the first stroke. Therefore, the height of the pull is higher where the two strokes intersect.

3. Change the reference update

  • In the Tool Settings window, scroll down in the Sculpt Parameters section, and turn Off the Reference Surface: Update On Each Stroke.

Painting with no reference update.

4. Paint more overlapping strokes

  • Paint on the surface to create a few strokes that pull out. This time, the strokes do not overlap. The reference surface does not update, therefore the strokes can only displace to the Maximum Displacement value. You cannot displace beyond that value until you update the reference surface.

5. Update the reference layer

  • Still in the Sculpt Parameters section, click on the Update button next to Reference Surface.

Painting on updated reference layer.

6. Paint on the surface

  • Paint another stroke over the last set of strokes.

The overlapping strokes are again building on top of each other.

7. Flood erase the surface

  • Under Operation, click on the Erase option.

  • Click on the Flood button.

Find out more about building an orb and other topics in Learning Maya 7 | Foundation by Marc-André Guindon and Cathy McGinnis: Alias|Learning Tools, 2005. 642 pages with illustrations and DVD. ISBN: 1-894893-74-3 ($69.95). Check back to VFXWorld frequently to read new excerpts.

Primary author Marc-André Guindon is the founder of Realities Studio, a Montreal-based production facility. An advanced user of both Maya and Alias MotionBuilder, Marc-André and Realities have partnered with Alias on several projects, including The Art of Maya, Learning Maya 6 | MEL Fundamentals and the series Learning Maya 7. He had developed plug-ins and tools for films and games, including the Outlaw Game series. He served as td on XXX2, State of the Union, Scooby-Doo 2 and Dawn of the Dead.

Contributing author Cathy McGinnis is an Alias certified instructor teaching at the Media Design School in Auckland, New Zealand. Cathy was previously a technical product specialist for Alias, specializing in rendering in both Maya and mental ray for Maya. She has been a contributor to several Alias publications, including Learning Maya | Rendering and Learning Maya | Foundation.

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