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Character

Animation
Contents
Character Animation

10 Understanding Character Animation 167


Modeling the character 168
Building, posing, and animating the skeleton 170
Skinning the skeleton 178
Using flexors 181
Animating the character 183
Workflow summary 184

11 Building Skeletons 187


Understanding skeletons 188
Joints 188
Joint chains 189
Limbs 190
IK handles and IK solvers 191

Using Maya: Animation 3


Contents

Creating a joint chain or limb 192


Viewing a skeleton’s hierarchy 195
Resizing joint display 195
Positioning joints 196
Inserting joints 197
Removing joints 198
Mirroring limbs or skeletons 199
Connecting skeletons 202
Disconnecting a joint to make two skeletons 204
Rerooting the skeleton 205
Setting joint creation options 206
Viewing joint creation options 207
Setting degrees of freedom 208
Setting automatic joint orientation 208
Setting scale compensation 210
Setting automatic joint limits 210
Setting automatic creation of IK handles 211
Setting IK handle options automatically 211
Editing joint attributes 211
Viewing editable joint attributes 212
Renaming a joint 214
Editing degrees of freedom 216
Editing a joint’s preferred angle 217
Editing stiffness 217
Editing joint orientation 219
Editing scale compensation 220
Editing joint limits 220
Dampening rotation near joint limits 223

4 Using Maya: Animation


Contents

12 Posing and Animating Skeletons 225


Understanding posing and animating skeletons 226
Forward kinematics 226
Posing and animating with forward kinematics 228
Inverse kinematics (IK) 229
Posing and animating with inverse kinematics (IK) 230
IK handles and IK chains 230
IK solvers 231
Single chain (SC) solver 231
Rotate plane (RP) solver 233
Spline solver 237
Multi-chain (MC) solver 237
Creating IK handles 238
Adding an IK handle 238
Creating an IK chain 239
Displaying IK handle’s end effector 240
Displaying IK handle’s goal and goal’s axis 240
Displaying IK handle’s twist disc and pole vector’s axis 240
Setting IK handle creation options 241
Viewing IK handle creation options 241
Setting the current solver 242
Activating the multi-chain (MC) solver 243
Setting autopriority 243
Setting solver enable 244
Setting snap enable 244
Setting sticky 244
Setting priority 245
Setting weight 245
Setting position vs. orientation (PO) weight 246
Editing IK handle attributes 246
Viewing editable IK handle attributes 247

Using Maya: Animation 5


Contents

Renaming an IK handle 249


Editing transform attributes 249
Editing skeleton info 250
Editing IK handle attributes 250
Editing IK solver attributes and choosing an IK solver 251
Editing pivots 251
Editing limit information 252
Editing display 252
Editing node behavior 253
Editing IK solvers 253
Editing IK solver attributes 253
Editing node behavior 254
Using IK systems 254
Creating an IK system 254
Accessing an IK system 255
Renaming an IK system 255
Viewing an IK system’s IK solvers 255
Editing global snap and global solve 255
Editing node behavior 256
Posing IK chains 256
Posing with single chain (SC) solver IK handles 256
Positioning with rotate plane (RP) solver IK handles 257
Twisting with rotate plane (RP) solver IK handles 257
Eliminating flip in rotate plane (RP) solver IK handles 257
Sticky posing 258
Using IK spline handles 259
Creating IK spline handles 259
Animating the joint chain 261
Setting options before creating the IK spline handle 265
Setting attributes after creating the IK spline handle 271
Preventing unwanted start joint flipping 272

6 Using Maya: Animation


Contents

Working with soft body curves 274


Tips for working with IK spline handles 274
Working with human skeletons 276
Working with animal skeletons 277
Working with sinuous motion on skeletons 278
Animating IK chains 280
Keyframing 280
Motion capture 281

13 Skinning Skeletons 283


Understanding skinning 284
Closest point skinning 284
Partition set skinning 285
Skin point set colors 285
Bind pose 285
Skin detachment and reattachment 285
Binding by closest point 285
Binding by partition set 287
Binding multiple objects as skin 288
Returning to bind pose 289
Displaying skin point set colors 290
Editing skin point sets 290
Detaching and reattaching skin 290
Detaching skin without preserving skin groups and percentages 291
Detaching skin while preserving skin groups and percentages 292
Reattaching skin while preserving skin groups and percentages 292

Using Maya: Animation 7


Contents

Animating with skin and skeleton groups 292

14 Using Flexors 295


Understanding flexors 296
Lattice flexors 296
Sculpt flexors 298
Cluster flexors 299
Creating lattice flexors 301
Positioning lattice flexors after creation 302
Editing joint lattice flexor attributes 302
Viewing joint lattice flexor attributes 303
Renaming joint lattice flexors 303
Editing creasing 303
Editing rounding 305
Editing length in 306
Editing length out 308
Editing width left 310
Editing width right 311
Editing bone lattice flexor attributes 313
Viewing bone lattice flexor attributes 313
Renaming bone lattice flexors 314
Editing length in 314
Editing length out 316
Editing width left 318
Editing width right 319
Editing bicep 321
Editing tricep 322

8 Using Maya: Animation


Contents

Creating sculpt flexors 324


Editing sculpt flexor attributes 325
Joint-driven sculpting 325
Creating cluster flexors 326
Editing cluster flexor attributes 328
Editing with cluster flexor manipulators 328

Using Maya: Animation 9


Contents

10 Using Maya: Animation


10 Understanding Character
Animation

As a character animator using Maya, you can create the illusion of life. You
can animate virtually any character imaginable, no matter how realistic,
abstract, or surreal. The essence of character animation is timing and motion.
Maya offers the most sophisticated tools available for defining the timing
and motion of characters. Using Maya: Animation, Character Animation,

Animation
Character
describes how to use Maya’s skeleton-based shape deformation tools to
animate articulated, hierarchical 3D characters with forward or inverse
kinematics techniques.
This chapter presents an overview of animating an articulated, hierarchical
3D character in Maya. Animating a character includes the following:
• “Modeling the character” on page 168
• “Building, posing, and animating the skeleton” on page 170
• “Skinning the skeleton” on page 178
• “Using flexors” on page 181
• “Animating the character” on page 183
This chapter concludes with a summary of Maya’s workflow for skeletal
character animation: “Workflow summary” on page 184.

Using Maya: Animation 167


Understanding Character Animation
Modeling the character

Modeling the character


Modeling is the process of creating a geometry for the character. Modeling is
the first step in animating a character.

For best results, create the geometry with limbs outstretched. This will make
building a skeleton much easier.
A geometry can be a non-uniform rational B-spline (NURBS) geometry or a
polygonal geometry. A geometry defines the shape of the character’s surface.

168 Using Maya: Animation


Understanding Character Animation
Modeling the character

Animation
Character
To create a geometry for a character, use the modeling tools in Maya’s
Model menu. When you create the geometry, you should also define how
the character will look when rendered. For rendering, use the tools in
Maya’s Render menu. Note that you can also use Maya’s particle system to
define the character’s features. To use the particle system, use the tools in
Maya’s Dynamics menu.

Note
To use the animation tools this document describes, be sure you have
Maya’s Animation menu selected.

The next step in animating a character is to create a skeleton so you can


control a character’s actions. First you build a skeleton for the character’s
geometry, and then you bind the geometry to the skeleton. This lets you
control the geometry’s shape and actions.

Using Maya: Animation 169


Understanding Character Animation
Building, posing, and animating the skeleton

Building, posing, and animating the skeleton


A skeleton is a structure for animating a character’s articulated, hierarchical
actions.

The skeleton you build for a character need not exactly resemble what the
character’s skeleton would be like in real life. You might create a skeleton for
a character that would lack one in real life. Depending on the effect you
want to create, you might even have the skeleton influence the geometry
from a location outside of the geometry.
A skeleton consists of joints connected by the bones of the joints.
Additionally, a skeleton can consist of special tools called inverse kinematics
(IK) handles. IK handles enable you to pose the character easily, and they
facilitate animation.
You could begin building a skeleton for a human character by creating some
legs.

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Understanding Character Animation
Building, posing, and animating the skeleton

Animation
Character
In this example, each leg consists of a simple series of joints connected by
bones. For clarity, these legs are shown without a geometry in the scene.
When you create a skeleton, you should have the geometry in your current
scene so you can be sure the skeleton fits the model properly.
When we think of a real skeleton, we tend to think first of the bones and
then of the joints that enable movement. When it comes to animating
movement, however, we must first focus on the joints and their hierarchical
relationships.
In Maya, the joints of a skeleton always exist in a hierarchy that defines how
they can move in relation to each other. Any two connected joints have a
hierarchical relationship for defining articulated actions. This relationship is
indicated by the bone that connects the two joints.

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Understanding Character Animation
Building, posing, and animating the skeleton

Joint

Bone
Joint

Note that the bone has a wedge shape. The joint at the thicker end of the
wedge is higher in the hierarchy than the joint at the thinner end. Whenever
the joint at the thicker end rotates, the bone and the joint at the thinner end
will have to move in an arc. But when the joint at the thinner end rotates, the
joint at the thicker end will not have to move. This is just like how a real
skeleton moves.
The joint at the thicker end is called the parent joint in relation to the joint at
the thinner end, which is called the child joint. We can think of the parent
joint as being “above” the child joint and the child “below” the parent.

Parent joint

Child joint

Parent joint’s
bone

As far as hierarchical movement is concerned, the bone that connects the two
joints is really part of the parent joint. A bone belongs to a parent joint,
which completely controls the bone’s movements.
Note that a joint can have more than one bone, each bone connecting the
parent joint to a different child joint.

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Understanding Character Animation
Building, posing, and animating the skeleton

Animation
Character
Any simple series of joints connected together by bones is called a joint chain.
The highest joint in the joint chain’s action hierarchy is called the parent joint
of the joint chain. The action of a joint chain’s parent joint affects everything
below it in the chain.

Parent joint of
joint chain

You can create very elaborate skeletons consisting of multiple joint chains
organized into a complex hierarchy.
A limb consists of one or more joint chains that branch off from one another
in a tree-like structure.

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Understanding Character Animation
Building, posing, and animating the skeleton

The highest joint in a skeleton’s hierarchy is called the root joint; when the
root joint moves or rotates, everything must move or rotate with it.
The order in which you create joints and their bones defines their action
hierarchy for rotation and movement. In the leg, the hip joint is the highest
joint in the action hierarchy. The hip joint was created first, then the knee
joint, and so on.

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Understanding Character Animation
Building, posing, and animating the skeleton

Animation
Character
You can limit how joints rotate so that you can easily put the character in
realistic poses. For example, you can limit how a knee joint can rotate so it
can’t bend from side to side but only forward and back.

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Understanding Character Animation
Building, posing, and animating the skeleton

Setting and editing the characteristics of the knee joints will make the
animation of a walk cycle much easier. You can set each joint’s
characteristics as you create a skeleton and later tweak them as you pose and
animate the character.
Chapter 11, “Building Skeletons”describes creating and editing joints and
bones. After you’ve created all the joints and bones that make up a skeleton
for your character, you’ll want to move the skeleton around and put it in
various poses.
In Maya, there are two basic ways to pose a joint chain: forward kinematics
and inverse kinematics.
With forward kinematics, when you pose a joint chain you have to specify
the rotations of each joint individually, starting from the parent joint on
down to all the joints below. This approach is excellent for creating detailed
arc motions.
With inverse kinematics, when you pose a joint chain all you have to do is
tell the lowest joint in the joint chain’s hierarchy where you want it to be,
and all the joints above it will rotate automatically. Inverse kinematics offers
a very intuitive way to pose a joint chain because it enables goal-directed
posing. When you reach for an object, you don’t think about how you are
going to rotate your shoulder, your elbow, and so on. You just think about
where the object is that you want to reach, and your body automatically
does the rest. That’s how inverse kinematics works, too.
To pose a joint chain with inverse kinematics, you need to add some special
tools to a skeleton. These tools are called inverse kinematics (IK) handles. An IK
handle enables you to pose a joint chain intuitively.
An IK handle begins at a joint chain’s parent joint and can end at any joint
below the parent joint. For example, for each leg you could create an IK
handle that controls the joint chain beginning at the hip joint and ending at
the ankle joint.

176 Using Maya: Animation


Understanding Character Animation
Building, posing, and animating the skeleton

Animation
Character
You can select the IK handle where it ends at the ankle joint and move the
chain with it in the same way that you would think about moving your own
ankle.
In addition to posing a skeleton, IK handles also play an important role in
the animation of the skeleton. The movement of a chain between the
keyframes of an animation is also automatically solved by the chain’s IK
handles.
IK handles figure out how to rotate and move all the joints in the chain for
you by using an inverse kinematics (IK) solver. An IK solver is the motor
intelligence behind an IK handle. Maya offers several different types of IK
solvers for different types of movement effects. For further control, you can
also specify the characteristics of the IK solvers themselves.
You’ll want to create IK handles for all of a skeleton’s joint chains that you
want to pose. Chapter 12, “Posing and Animating Skeletons” describes how
to use IK handles and IK solvers.
You can pose and animate a skeleton, but such an animation would show
only the timing and motion of a character lacking form and shape. The next
step is to bind the character’s model to the character’s skeleton so that the
skeleton can control the model’s actions.

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Understanding Character Animation
Skinning the skeleton

Skinning the skeleton


After you’ve created the character’s geometry and the character’s skeleton,
the next step is to bind the two together. When a geometry is bound to a
skeleton, the geometry can be referred to as the skeleton’s skin. When you
pose the skeleton, the skin moves with the skeleton automatically.

The process of binding a geometry to a skeleton is called skinning.


NURBS geometries are shaped by points called control vertices (CVs), and
polygonal geometries are shaped by points called vertices. In both cases,
Maya can control shape by means of points. After a geometry has been
bound to a skeleton, these points are called skin points.
To bind a geometry to a skeleton, Maya first divides the geometry’s points
into sets according to each point’s proximity to a joint. The newly formed
skin point sets are identified by various colors. (Note that some expert users
call skin point sets partitions because any given point can be in only one set.)
Next, Maya binds each skin point set to the nearest joint so the skin points in
each skin point set will move with the nearest joint.

178 Using Maya: Animation


Understanding Character Animation
Skinning the skeleton

Animation
Character
Note that because skin points are bound to joints by means of deformation
tools called joint clusters, expert users sometimes call skin points joint cluster
points.
Once the skin is bound to the skeleton, exercise the character by putting it
into various poses. It’s important to do this because you need to observe
how the skin acts in response to the skeleton’s actions.
Depending on the pose of the geometry and skeleton during binding, a few
of the skin points could join an inappropriate skin point set.

Using Maya: Animation 179


Understanding Character Animation
Skinning the skeleton

If so, you can easily move those skin points from one skin point set to
another.

Chapter 13, “Skinning Skeletons”describes skinning in more detail.

180 Using Maya: Animation


Understanding Character Animation
Using flexors

Using flexors
You can animate skin deformation effects by using special deformation tools
called flexors. Flexors are high-level deformeration tools for use with skins
and skeletons. The effects of flexors can be driven by how you pose and
animate a skeleton.
Maya offers three types of flexors: lattice flexors, sculpt flexors, and cluster
flexors.
A lattice flexor influences skin around joints or the bones of joints. It can
smooth or wrinkle skin around joints, and provide muscle definition around
bones.
A sculpt flexor provides anatomically based deformations such as muscle

Animation
Character
bulges, knee caps, and elbow caps. A sculpt flexor can influence skin around
joints or the bones of joints.
A cluster flexor controls the points in a skin point set around a joint with
varying percentages of influence. It can provide very realistic smoothing
effects.
Let’s look at a lattice flexor attached to a joint. With a lattice flexor, a joint
can directly influence skin points, changing the shape of the character’s skin.
You can create a lattice flexor that will deform skin when the joint it is
attached to rotates. For example, you can create a flexor that wrinkles the
skin around an elbow as you bend a character’s arm.

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Understanding Character Animation
Using flexors

Similarly, a lattice flexor attached to a bone can influence the skin around a
bone. You can use lattice flexors attached to bones for animating muscle
definition.

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Understanding Character Animation
Animating the character

Chapter 14, “Using Flexors” describes using flexors for skin deformation in
more detail.
Using Maya: Animation, Basic Deformers provides further information on
Maya’s free form deformation tools. Unlike flexors, these deformation tools
need not work in conjunction with a skeleton. These tools include sculpt
deformers, wire deformers, lattice deformers, cluster deformers, and blend
shape deformers. Blend shape deformers, for example, are excellent tools for
facial animation.
The time you put into building a skeleton, binding the geometry, and
creating flexors is time well spent. The effort you put into these steps will
pay off when you animate the character.

Animation
Character
Animating the character
The more carefully you design and construct the character, the easier
animating the character will be. You can animate the character by
keyframing or by using motion capture data. For general information on
keyframing animations in Maya, refer to Using Maya: Animation,Keyframe.
For information on motion capture, see Using Maya, Animation,Motion
Capture.
In keyframing, you pose a character in key postures and set these postures
as keys. Maya then interpolates the actions between the keys for you,
playing the animation. For example, here is a frame from a walk cycle.

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Understanding Character Animation
Workflow summary

When Maya interpolates the actions between keyframes, it uses the IK


handles, the IK solvers, the lattice flexors, sculpt flexors, cluster flexors, and
all the other attributes of the character that you have defined to produce the
animation. Chapter 12, “Posing and Animating Skeletons” describes how to
pose and animate skeletons; note that the information there also applies to
skeletons with skins. Chapter 13, “Skinning Skeletons” explains how to bind
geometries to skeletons for posing and animating characters. Finally,
Chapter 14, “Using Flexors” describes posing and animating skin
deformations with flexors.

Workflow summary
Animating an articulated, hierarchical 3D character in Maya involves using
Maya’s skeletal deformation tools: skeletons and flexors. After you create a
geometry for the character with Maya’s modeling tools, you can build a
skeleton for the geometry and then bind the geometry to the skeleton. This
binding process is called skinning. Skinning the geometry to the skeleton
binds the model’s shape to the skeleton’s movement. The geometry has
become the skeleton’s skin, and the skin’s shape will deform as appropriate
when you pose and animate the skeleton. Skeletons can be posed and
animated with Maya’s forward or inverse kinematics tools. Special inverse
kinematics tools include IK handles and IK solvers.

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Understanding Character Animation
Workflow summary

In addition to using a skeleton to create skin deformation effects, you can


also use special deformation tools called flexors. Flexors provide a way for
you to pose and animate skin deformation effects that complement the
deformations being provided by the skeleton alone. Flexors are skin shape
deformation tools whose effects can be driven by the actions of a skeleton.
For example, the rotation of a joint can drive the bulging of some skin,
indicating muscle.
The next chapters cover the following topics:
• Chapter 11, “Building Skeletons”
• Chapter 12, “Posing and Animating Skeletons”
• Chapter 13, “Skinning Skeletons”

Animation
Character
• Chapter 14, “Using Flexors”

Using Maya: Animation 185


Understanding Character Animation
Workflow summary

186 Using Maya: Animation


11 Building Skeletons

After you’ve created a geometry for your character, the next step is to build
a skeleton for the geometry. In general, you’ll want to have the geometry in
the scene as you create the skeleton so can be sure the skeleton fits the
geometry. You could create a character’s skeleton before you create the
geometry, but you may have to scale the geometry and adjust the skeleton
before you bind them together.

Animation
Character
This chapter describes how to build skeletons. Building skeletons includes
the following:
• “Understanding skeletons” on page 188
• “Creating a joint chain or limb” on page 192
• “Resizing joint display” on page 195
• “Positioning joints” on page 196
• “Inserting joints” on page 197
• “Removing joints” on page 198

Using Maya: Animation 187


Building Skeletons
Understanding skeletons

• “Mirroring limbs or skeletons” on page 199


• “Connecting skeletons” on page 202
• “Disconnecting a joint to make two skeletons” on page 204
• “Rerooting the skeleton” on page 205
• “Setting joint creation options” on page 206
• “Editing joint attributes” on page 211
Note that adding inverse kinematics (IK) handles and using IK solvers are
important when animating a skeleton. For information about IK handle and
IK solvers, see Chapter 12, “Posing and Animating Skeletons.”

Note
To use the tools for building skeletons, be sure you have Maya’s
Animation menu selected.

Understanding skeletons
Skeletons are hierarchical, articulated structures for animating geometries.
Skeletons provide a basis for animating hierarchical actions in much the
same way that a human skeleton determines how the human body can
move.
When you build a skeleton, the grid can be quite useful for judging the size
and shape of the skeleton. You can position and rescale the grid to suit your
work. Also, use multiple camera views when building a skeleton to make
sure that your skeleton fits the model appropriately in all three dimensions.

Joints
Joints are the building blocks of skeletons. Each joint can have one or more
bones attached to it. The action of a bone attached to a joint is controlled by
the joint’s rotation and movement. Various joint attributes specify how the
joint can act. For example, you can specify limitations on how far a joint can
rotate.
A root joint is the highest joint in a skeleton’s hierarchy. A skeleton can have
only one root joint.

188 Using Maya: Animation


Building Skeletons
Understanding skeletons

A parent joint is any joint higher in a skeleton’s action hierarchy than any of
the other joints that are influenced by that joint’s action. Joints below a given
parent joint in the action hierarchy are called child joints.

Root joint
(selected)

Animation
Character
Parent joint
of joint “A”

Joint “A”

Bone of
joint “A”

Child joint of
joint “A”
Sample skeleton

Joint chains
A joint chain is any group of joints and their bones connected in a series. The
joints are connected linearly; you could draw a line through a joint chain’s
series of joints and their bones without having to retrace your path. A given
joint chain begins at the highest joint in the joint chain’s action hierarchy.
This joint is the joint chain’s parent joint.

Using Maya: Animation 189


Building Skeletons
Understanding skeletons

Joint chain

Joint chain

Joint chain
Joint chain

Joint chains

Limbs
A limb is any group of one or more connected joint chains. The chains may
branch off from one another, forming a tree-like structure. Unlike a joint
chain, a limb’s joints may not be connected linearly; you may not be able to
draw a line through all of a limb’s joints and their bones without doubling
back. A given limb begins at the highest joint in the limb’s action hierarchy.
This joint is the limb’s parent joint.
When you begin building a skeleton that will have many symmetrical limbs,
start in the center of the workspace near the scene’s world origin. Starting
near the center will make it easier for you to create skeletons with many
symmetrical parts.

190 Using Maya: Animation


Building Skeletons
Understanding skeletons

Limb

Limb

Animation
Character
Limbs

IK handles and IK solvers


IK handles are special tools for posing and animating joint chains. On any
given chain, the joint where the IK handle begins is called the start joint and
the joint the where IK handle ends is called the end joint. Note that
experienced users sometimes refer to joint chains that have IK handles as IK
chains.
IK solvers provide the motor intelligence of IK handles.
IK handles and IK solvers are described in Chapter 12, “Posing and
Animating Skeletons.”
When you create joint chains and limbs for your character, think about how
you are going to use IK handles to pose the joint chains. Joint chains that
consist of four or fewer joints are much easier to pose with IK handles than
those that have many more joints.

Using Maya: Animation 191


Building Skeletons
Creating a joint chain or limb

Expert users have found that if a skeleton lies entirely in one plane before
you bind the geometry to the skeleton, posing the character with IK handles
can be somewhat awkward in extreme cases. Having some of the joints
rotated slightly at various appropriate angles will make the character easier
to pose later on.

Creating a joint chain or limb


You begin building a skeleton by creating a joint chain, which is a series of
joints and their bones. You can then add to the joint chain by continuing that
joint chain or by creating new joint chains starting from any of the joint
chain’s joints. In this way you can create a complex structure of various joint
chains and limbs. These joint chains and limbs define a skeleton’s action
hierarchy. Finally, you can view an outline of a skeleton’s hierarchy. This
outline view is useful for getting a clear picture of how your skeleton is
structured, and for selecting various parts of the skeleton.

To create a joint chain:


1 Select Skeletons→Joint Tool.
2 Click in the workspace at the position of the first joint.
The joint is created.
You can set a joint’s attributes while you create the joint or anytime after you
have created it. To set a joint’s attributes while you create it, see “Setting
joint creation options” on page 206. To modify a joint’s attributes after you
have created it, see “Editing joint attributes” on page 211.
3 Move the pointer to where you want the second joint, and then click.
The two joints are connected with a bone that indicates the direction of the
joint chain’s hierarchy: the thinner end of the bone’s triangle points to the
child joint.
4 Move the pointer to where you want the next joint, and then click. Continue
moving the pointer and clicking until you’re done creating the joint chain
you want.
5 To indicate you’ve finished creating the joint chain, press the Enter key or
select another tool.
If you want to change the positions of the joints, see “Positioning joints” on
page 196.

192 Using Maya: Animation


Building Skeletons
Creating a joint chain or limb

Animation
Character
Creating a joint chain

To add to a joint chain:


1 Select Skeletons→Joint Tool.
2 Click on a joint in the joint chain.
To continue a joint chain, click on the last joint in the joint chain. (The last
joint is the lowest joint in the joint chain’s hierarchy.)
To create a new joint chain that branches out from an existing chain, click on
any joint other than the last joint in an existing chain. A group of one or
more connected joint chains is called a limb.
3 Click where you want to create a new joint.
4 When you finish creating all the joints in the joint chain, press the Enter key
or select another tool.

Using Maya: Animation 193


Building Skeletons
Creating a joint chain or limb

Continuing a joint chain

1. Click here to
continue the
joint chain

2. Click to
create more
joints

or

Creating a new joint chain from an existing joint chain

1. Click here
to continue
the joint chain 2. Click to
create more
joints

Adding to a joint chain

194 Using Maya: Animation


Building Skeletons
Viewing a skeleton’s hierarchy

You can rapidly build a skeleton for animating a character by continuing


joint chains and creating new joint chains that branch out from existing joint
chains.

Viewing a skeleton’s hierarchy


To view an outline of a skeleton’s hierarchy
Select Window→Outliner to view an outline of a skeleton’s hierarchy.
Use the Outliner to see the structure of the skeleton, to select parts of the
skeleton, and to see the names of the parts of the skeleton.

Animation
Character
Resizing joint display
You can resize the display of a skeleton’s joints. Increasing the display size
can make the joints and their bones easier to pick. Decreasing the display
size can make other objects such as flexors easier to pick.
Here is a skeleton displayed at normal size:

Skeleton at normal size


Here is the same skeleton displayed at 25% of normal size:

Using Maya: Animation 195


Building Skeletons
Positioning joints

Skeleton at 25% normal size

To resize joint display:


1 Select Display→Joint Size.
2 Move the pointer to the arrow at the end of the Joint Size line.
3 Choose from the percentages listed to resize the joints, or choose Custom to
set your own percentage.
Percentages are relative to the default setting, which is always 100% or 1.00.

Positioning joints
While you are creating a joint chain, you can edit the positioning of any joint
without affecting the joints below it in the joint chain’s action hierarchy.

Note
To edit the position of a joint after the skeleton is created and accepted,
toggle on (the Select by Component Type icon) and (the Pivot
icon), then use the right mouse button on the Pivot button to turn on Joint
Pivots in the Pivot pick mask.

196 Using Maya: Animation


Building Skeletons
Inserting joints

To position a joint as you create it:


1 Hold down the left mouse button to create a joint and drag it to a new
position.
2 Release the mouse button when you’ve positioned the joint at the desired
location.

To position the most recently created joint while creating the joint
chain:
While in create mode, you can use the middle mouse button to modify the
most recent joint (the one currently selected).
The transform manipulator appears and you can move the joint in any

Animation
Character
direction.

To position any joint in the hierarchy while creating a joint chain:


1 Press Insert on the keyboard.
The transform manipulator appears at the end joint.
2 Move any joint in the skeleton by selecting and dragging it with the left
mouse button.
3 Press Insert to toggle back to creating more joints for the skeleton. This will
return you to the last created joint in the chain.

Inserting joints
You can insert a joint anywhere in a skeleton’s action hierarchy below the
root joint.

To insert a joint in a created skeleton:


1 Select Skeletons→Insert Joint Tool.
2 To position the new joint, use the left mouse button to drag from the joint
you want as the new joint’s parent.Until you press Enter or select another
tool, you can insert more joints.
3 When you have finished inserting joints, press Enter or select another tool.

Using Maya: Animation 197


Building Skeletons
Removing joints

1. Click to
add a joint
below this one
2. Drag to
position the
new joint

Inserting a joint

Removing joints
You can remove any joint from a skeleton except the root joint. The root joint
is the highest joint in a skeleton’s action hierarchy, and deleting the root joint
would delete the entire skeleton.

To remove a joint:
1 Select the joint you want to remove.
Note that you can only remove one joint at a time.
2 Select Skeletons→Remove Joint.
The joint is removed. The bone of the joint above the removed joint is
extended to the joint below the removed joint.

198 Using Maya: Animation


Building Skeletons
Mirroring limbs or skeletons

Bone is
Click to resized
delete the joint

Animation
Character
Removing a joint

Mirroring limbs or skeletons


A group of one or more connected joint chains is called a limb. You can
duplicate or make mirror copies of limbs. A mirror copy is a copy that is
symmetrical about a selected plane; in effect, the reflection of the original in
the plane is turned into a real copy of the original, but with all the aspects of
the limb mirrored accordingly. The origin of the plane is at the parent joint
of the limb. Joint attributes and IK handles are mirrored as well as the joints
and their bones.
Mirroring is extremely useful when you are creating the limbs for a
character. For example, you can build a right arm and hand, and then create
a mirrored copy of it for the left arm and hand. Mirroring affects all aspects
of the creation of the left arm, including the joint limits. You don’t have to
reset the joint limits so that the left arm’s joint limits will be symmetrical to
the right arm’s joint limits; Maya will do it for you.
You can also make a mirror copy of an entire skeleton. The procedure is the
same as for creating mirror copies of limbs, except that the skeleton will be
mirrored about the scene’s world origin.

Using Maya: Animation 199


Building Skeletons
Mirroring limbs or skeletons

1. Click here to
mirror this limb

2. A mirror copy
of the limb is
created

Mirroring a limb

200 Using Maya: Animation


Building Skeletons
Mirroring limbs or skeletons

Click the root Skeleton is


to mirror the mirrored about the
whole skeleton world origin

Animation
Character
Mirroring a skeleton

To mirror a limb or skeleton:


1 Select the parent joint of the limb you want to duplicate, or select the root
joint if you want to mirror an entire skeleton.
2 To choose the plane for mirroring, first select Skeletons→Mirror Joint-❐ to
open the Mirror Joint Options window. Next, click the desired Mirror
Across option to choose the plane in which you want the joint chain
mirrored.
The default is XY. If you are mirroring a limb, this indicates the XY plane
whose origin is at the limb’s parent joint. If you are mirroring a skeleton, this
indicates the XY plane whose origin is the scene’s world origin.
3 Click Mirror in the Mirror Joint Options window, or select
Skeletons→Mirror Joint.
If you are mirroring a limb, the limb is mirrored across the selected plane
whose origin is at the limb’s parent joint.
If you are mirroring a skeleton, the skeleton is mirrored across the selected
plane whose origin is the scene’s world origin.

Using Maya: Animation 201


Building Skeletons
Connecting skeletons

Connecting skeletons
You can connect two skeletons in two ways: by combining joints and by
connecting joints with a bone.
First, you can connect two skeletons by combining the root joint of one
skeleton with any joint of another skeleton except that skeleton’s root joint.
The skeleton that becomes a limb of the other skeleton will change its
position in the scene so that it is directly connected to the other skeleton’s
joint.
Second, you can connect the root joint of one skeleton to any joint of another
skeleton by extending a bone to the root joint from the joint of the other
skeleton. The skeleton that becomes a limb of the other skeleton will not
have to move.

To connect skeletons by combining joints:


1 Select the root joint of the skeleton you want to be a limb of another
skeleton.
2 On the other skeleton, select any joint other than the skeleton’s root joint.
3 Select Skeletons→Connect Joint-❐.
The Connect Joint Options window is displayed.
4 In the Connect Joint Options window, turn on the Connect Joint mode.
The skeleton that will become the limb moves so that its root is in the same
place as the selected joint of the other skeleton.
5 In the Connect Joint Options window, click Connect. (Alternatively, select
Skeletons→Connect Joint.)
The two skeletons are connected.

202 Using Maya: Animation


Building Skeletons
Connecting skeletons

Two joints are


combined

Animation
Character
Connecting skeletons by combining joints

To connect skeletons by connecting joints with a bone:


1 Click the root of the skeleton you want to be a limb of another skeleton.
2 On the other skeleton, select any joint other than the skeleton’s root joint.
You can connect only to a non-root joint of the parent skeleton.
3 Select Skeletons→Connect Joint-❐.
The Connect Joint Options window is displayed.
4 In the Connect Joint Options window, turn on the Parent Joint mode.
Parent Joint mode connects the skeletons by creating a new bone between
the selected root joint and the joint you’re connecting it to. The two skeletons
do not move.
5 In the Connect Joint Options window, click Connect. (Alternatively, select
Skeletons→Connect Joint.)
Maya connects the skeletons with a bone.
Note that connecting skeletons using Parent Joint mode is identical to the
result you get by selecting Edit→Parent.

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Building Skeletons
Disconnecting a joint to make two skeletons

Bone created
to connect the
two skeletons

Connecting two skeletons by connecting joints with a bone

Disconnecting a joint to make two skeletons


You can break up a skeleton into two skeletons by disconnecting any joint
other than the root joint. The disconnected joint will become the root joint of
the new skeleton.
Note that if you disconnect a joint in a joint chain that has an IK handle, that
IK handle will be deleted. For information about IK handles, see Chapter 12,
“Posing and Animating Skeletons.”

204 Using Maya: Animation


Building Skeletons
Rerooting the skeleton

Select joint you


want to
disconnect

Animation
Character
Disconnecting a joint

To disconnect a joint to make two skeletons:


1 Select the joint you want to disconnect. This joint will become the root joint
of the new skeleton.
2 Select Skeletons→Disconnect Joint.
The joint is disconnected. The disconnected joint is now the root joint of the
new skeleton.

Rerooting the skeleton


You can change the hierarchical organization of a skeleton by changing
which joint is the root joint. This process is called rerooting.
Note that any IK handles that pass through the joint selected to be the new
root joint will be deleted. Also, any animation of the skeleton’s root joint will
be affected when you reroot.

Using Maya: Animation 205


Building Skeletons
Setting joint creation options

Current root
joint

Click to
create new
root joint

Rerooting a skeleton

To reroot a skeleton:
1 Click the joint where you want the new root.
If you select the child of the entire joint chain, the hierarchy will reverse.
If you select a joint in the middle of the skeleton to become the new root, you
will have two child joints with separate hierarchies below the root joint.
2 Select Skeletons→Reroot Skeleton.

Setting joint creation options


A joint’s various options and attributes define how a joint can be posed and
animated. Specifying these is an important part of building a skeleton. You
can set joint creation options before you create individual joints, or you can
edit a joint’s attributes at any time after you have created it.
This section describes how to set joint attributes automatically by setting the
Joint Tool’s Tool Settings. To find out how to edit joint attributes, see
“Editing joint attributes” on page 211.
Setting joint attributes during joint creation includes:

206 Using Maya: Animation


Building Skeletons
Setting joint creation options

• Viewing joint creation options


• Setting degrees of freedom
• Setting automatic joint orientation
• Setting scale compensation
• Setting automatic joint limits
• Setting automatic creation of IK handles
• Setting IK handle options automatically

Viewing joint creation options


When you create a joint, you use the Joint Tool. You can set the Joint Tool’s

Animation
Character
options so that certain joint options and attributes will be set automatically.
The Joint Tool’s options are displayed in the Joint Tool’s Tool Settings
window.

Tool Settings window

To view joint creation options:


Select Skeletons→Joint Tool-❐.
The Joint Tool’s Tool Settings window is displayed.

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Building Skeletons
Setting joint creation options

Setting degrees of freedom


Each joint has a local axis whose origin is at the center of the joint. The X-axis
of the local axis is red, the Y-axis is green, and the Z-axis is blue. How a joint
can rotate is defined in terms of this local axis.
A joint’s degrees of freedom specifies which of its local axes it can rotate
about during IK posing and animation.During IK, a joint is rotated by an IK
handle, and how the IK handle performs depends on the type of IK solver
the IK handle is using.
A joint can have at most three degrees of freedom: the freedom to rotate
about its X-axis, Y-axis, and Z-axis during IK. Expert users often call a joint
with three degrees of freedom a ball joint because it can rotate about all three
of its axes like a ball.
Note that two types of IK solvers, the single chain solver and the plane
solver, require that their start joints be ball joints that have no limitations on
the extent they can rotate about each axis.
You can limit a joint so that it has only two degrees of freedom or only one
degree of freedom. A joint with two degrees of freedom can only rotate
about any two of its local axes during IK. A human wrist would be a good
example of a joint with two degrees of freedom, though the joint has
limitations on the extent it can rotate about its axes. A joint with only one
degree of freedom can rotate only about its local X-axis, or Y-axis, or Z-axis
during IK. Expert users often call a joint with only one degree of freedom a
hinge joint. A human knee would be a good example of a hinge joint.

To set degrees of freedom:


1 Select Skeletons→Joint Tool-❐.
The Tool Settings window is displayed.
2 In the Tool Settings window, click the X, Y, and Z, Degrees of Freedom
check boxes to select the joint’s degrees of freedom.

Setting automatic joint orientation


Maya can set the orientation of a joint’s local axis automatically. You can
have the joint’s local axis oriented relative to the joint’s first child joint, or
you can have the joint’s local axis oriented relative to the scene’s world axis.
The orientation of a joint’s local axis is largely a matter of personal

208 Using Maya: Animation


Building Skeletons
Setting joint creation options

preference. Some expert users like to have the local axis of joints
automatically orient towards first child joints, and other expert users prefer
to have the local axis initially oriented the same as the scene’s world axis.
By default, the orientation of a joint’s local axis is xyz. In this orientation, the
positive X-axis points in the same direction as the joint’s wedge-shaped
bone. That is, the X-axis points towards the center of the joint’s child joint. If
the joint has more than one child joint, the X-axis points at the child joint that
was created first. The Z-axis points sideways from the joint and its bone
connecting the child joint, and the Y-axis points at right angles to the X-axis
and Z-axis. All three axes are aligned according to the right hand rule.
For example, in a human skeleton the elbow joint’s X-axis would be pointing
towards the wrist joint. With the arm lying flat, the elbow joint could twist

Animation
Character
about most of the X-axis, turning the rest of the arm. The elbow joint could
partially swing up and down about the Z-axis, but it would not be able to
pivot about the Y-axis.
You can select various combinations of the X-, Y-, and Z-axes to specify the
orientation of a joint’s local axis. The first axis in the combination is the axis
that points at the joint’s first child joint. The third axis points sideways from
the joint and its bone connecting the child joint, and the second axis points at
right angles to the first axis and third axis. All three axes are aligned
according to the right hand rule. In terms of yaw, pitch, and roll, rotation
about the first axis produces roll, rotation about the second axis produces
yaw, and rotation about the third axis produces pitch.
Instead of orienting the joint’s local axis relative to the first child joint, you
can set the local axis to have the same orientation as the scene’s world axis.
In this case, the orientation would be set to “none.”

To set automatic joint orientation:


1 Select Skeletons→Joint Tool-❐.
The Tool Settings window is displayed.
2 In the Tool Settings window, select one of the Auto Joint Orient options.
Note that None orients the joint to the scene’s world axis.

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Building Skeletons
Setting joint creation options

Setting scale compensation


When you scale the size of a joint, you can either scale the child joints also or
prevent the scaling of the child joints. For example, if you increase the length
of a lower arm bone by scaling the elbow joint, the wrist joint and its bones
can either increase in size also or stay the same size. Either you can scale the
hand as well as the lower arm or you can just scale the lower arm.
Normally, when you scale a joint Maya will scale everything below it in the
skeleton’s action hierarchy. However, by setting a joint’s Scale Compensate
option on, you can prevent that joint and everything below it in the action
hierarchy from being scaled when the joint’s parent joint is scaled.
Additionally, expert users like to have Scale Compensate on to prevent
inappropriate shearing deformation effects on a character’s skin. Shearing
can occur when a given joint is scaled only along one or two of its axes.

To set scale compensation:


1 Select Skeletons→Joint Tool-❐.
The Tool Settings window is displayed.
2 In the Tool Settings window, click the Scale Compensate check box on or
off.

Setting automatic joint limits


You can have Maya automatically limit the extent a joint can rotate about its
axes according to the angles at which you build the skeleton’s joints. With
Auto Joint Limits on, the smaller inner angle of a joint rounded off to 180
degrees is set as the allowable range of rotation. For example, when you are
creating a knee joint, if you create the joint slightly bent back, the joint will
automatically not be able to swing the lower leg bone forward of the upper
leg bone, nor will it be able to wobble from side to side. The joint will not be
able to rotate in any other way except through the inner angle rounded off to
180 degrees. However, note that this limitation does not change the joint’s
Degrees of Freedom setting.

To set automatic joint limits:


1 Select Skeletons→Joint Tool-❐.
The Tool Settings window is displayed.
2 In the Tool Settings window, click the Auto Joint Limits check box on or off.

210 Using Maya: Animation


Building Skeletons
Editing joint attributes

Setting automatic creation of IK handles


Maya can automatically create an IK handle for you when you finish
creating a joint chain. The joint chain’s parent joint will become the IK
handle’s start joint, and the last joint in the joint chain will become the IK
handle’s end joint.

To set automatic creation of IK handles:


1 Select Skeletons→Joint Tool-❐.
The Tool Settings window is displayed.
2 In the Tool Settings window, click the Create IK Handle check box on or off.

Animation
Character
Setting IK handle options automatically
See Chapter 12, “Posing and Animating Skeletons,” for descriptions of the IK
handle options you can set when you create IK handles.

To set joint attributes:


1 Select Skeletons→Joint Tool-❐.
The Tool Settings window is displayed.
2 In the Tool Settings window, select IK Handle Options.

Editing joint attributes


A joint’s attributes can be set automatically when you create the joint, or you
can edit a joint’s attributes at any time. This section describes how to edit
joint attributes with the Attribute Editor. For more information on using the
Attribute Editor, please see Using Maya: Maya Basics, Building Objects and
Scenes, Chapter 5, “Working with General Editors.”
To find out how to set joint attributes automatically, see “Setting joint
creation options” on page 206.
Editing a joint includes:
• Viewing editable joint attributes
• Renaming a joint
• Editing degrees of freedom

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Building Skeletons
Editing joint attributes

• Editing stiffness
• Editing a joint’s preferred angle
• Editing joint orientation
• Editing scale compensation
• Editing joint limits
• Dampening rotation near joint limits
You can access settings for a joint’s attributes, and also the Attribute Editor,
by pressing the right mouse button while the cursor is on the joint you want
to edit.

Viewing editable joint attributes


To view or edit a joint’s attributes, use the Attribute Editor.

212 Using Maya: Animation


Building Skeletons
Editing joint attributes

Animation
Character

Attribute Editor for joints

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Building Skeletons
Editing joint attributes

To view editable joint attributes:


Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.
The Attribute Editor is displayed.

Renaming a joint
Maya names joints for you when you create them. By default, joints are
numbered consecutively as you create them. However, you can rename the
joints to better reflect their purpose in your character’s skeleton. It’s a good
idea to give joints meaningful names so they are easier to select when you
are working with Maya’s editors, using the Hypergraph, or using the
Outliner.

To rename a joint:
1 Select the joint.
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.
3 Enter the new name in the joint: field.
The new name takes effect immediately.

214 Using Maya: Animation


Building Skeletons
Editing joint attributes

Animation
Character

Examples of meaningful joint names in the Outliner

Using Maya: Animation 215


Building Skeletons
Editing joint attributes

Editing degrees of freedom


Each joint has a local axis whose origin is at the center of the joint. The X-axis
of the local axis is red, the Y-axis is green, and the Z-axis is blue. How a joint
can rotate is defined in terms of this local axis.
A joint’s degrees of freedom specifies which of its local axes it can rotate
about during inverse kinematics (IK) posing and animation. During IK, a
joint is rotated by an IK handle, and how the IK handle performs depends
on the type of IK solver the IK handle is using.
A joint can have at most three degrees of freedom: the freedom to rotate
about its X-axis, Y-axis, and Z-axis during IK. Expert users often call a joint
with three degrees of freedom a ball joint because it can rotate about all three
of its axes like a ball.
Note that two types of IK solvers, the single chain solver and the plane
solver, require that their start joints be ball joints that have no limitations on
the extent they can rotate about each axis.
You can limit a joint so that it has only two degrees of freedom, or only one
degree of freedom. A joint with two degrees of freedom can only rotate
about any two of its local axes during IK. A human wrist would be a good
example of a joint with two degrees of freedom, though the joint has
limitations on the extent it can rotate about its axes. A joint with only one
degree of freedom can rotate only about its local X-axis, or Y-axis, or Z-axis
during IK. Expert users often call a joint with only one degree of freedom a
hinge joint. A human knee would be a good example of a hinge joint.
Note that you can have a joint’s degrees of freedom set automatically when
you create the joint. To find out how to set a joint’s degrees of freedom
automatically, see “Setting degrees of freedom” on page 208.

To edit a joint’s degrees of freedom:


1 Select the joint.
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.
3 In the Attribute Editor, click the X, Y, and Z Degrees of Freedom check
boxes to select the joint’s degrees of freedom.

216 Using Maya: Animation


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Editing joint attributes

Editing a joint’s preferred angle


This attribute influences how an IK handle will prefer to rotate a joint during
inverse kinematics. If you are not familiar with inverse kinematics (IK), IK
handles, and IK solvers, see Chapter 12, “Posing and Animating Skeletons.”
The IK solver often can rotate a joint in a number of different ways in order
to reach the goal. Similarly, when more than one IK handle passes through a
joint, the first priority of all the IK solvers is to make all the IK handles reach
their goals. Often a variety of joint rotations can allow the IK handles to
reach their goals.
Depending on how you want your character to move, some rotations are
more appropriate than others. You can identify preferred angles for your

Animation
Character
character’s actions. Two types of IK solvers, the single chain IK solver and
the rotate plane IK solver, will then give those angles priority over other
possible angles during joint rotation. The angles you give priority to are
called preferred angles.
Preferred angles can enable smoother motion during animation.

To edit a joint’s preferred angle:


1 Select the joint.
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.
3 Use the Preferred Angle fields to set the angle you prefer the joint to be in.
The three values refer to the X, Y, and Z axes respectively. The angles are
relative to the local coordinate system of the joint.

Editing stiffness
This attribute influences how stiffly an IK handle can rotate a joint during
inverse kinematics. If you are not familiar with inverse kinematics (IK), IK
handles, and IK solvers, see Chapter 12, “Posing and Animating Skeletons.”
When you use inverse kinematics to move a joint chain for animation, you
can set some joints to move less freely than others. You can set joints in the
mid-back of a human to move and bend less freely than those in the lower
back, for example. The resistance to movement of a particular joint is called
its stiffness.

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Editing joint attributes

Stiffness operates relatively between joints in a joint chain controlled by IK


handles. IK solver calculations for stiffness can require a little more time
than usually required, so use stiffness only when its effect is particularly
important.
You set the stiffness for each axis separately. You can use this for joints that
move in several directions. For example, a wrist joint moves more freely
bending toward the forearm than it does from side to side.

Set stiffness
high in Z-axis Set stiffness
low in X-axis

Set stiffness to create realistic animation


Expert users have found that when stiffness is specified, the solver adjusts
the internal energy strictly under the constraint that the end effectors stay
fixed. Therefore, if there are no redundant degrees of freedom, the stiffness
won’t modify the single chain IK solver’s solution.

To edit a joint’s stiffness


1 Select the joint.
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.
3 In the Stiffness fields, enter values from 0 to 100.0 for the X-, Y-, and Z-axes.
The X-, Y-, and Z-axes are in the local coordinate system. 0 means the joint
moves freely, 50 is moderately stiff, and 100 fuses the joint so that it’s
immovable.
With stiffness set to 0, no stiffness is specified. This is the recommended
setting unless creating the effect of stiffness is particularly important.

218 Using Maya: Animation


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Editing joint attributes

Editing joint orientation


You can edit the orientation of a joint’s local axis. You can have the joint’s
local axis oriented relative to the joint’s first child joint, or you can have the
joint’s local axis oriented relative to the scene’s world axis. The orientation of
a joint’s local axis is largely a matter of personal preference. Some expert
users like to have the local axis of joints automatically orient towards first
child joints, and other expert users prefer to have the local axis initially
oriented the same as the scene’s world axis.
By default, the orientation of a joint’s local axis is xyz. In this orientation, the
positive X-axis points in the same direction as the joint’s wedge-shaped
bone. That is, the X-axis points towards the center of the joint’s child joint. If
the joint has more than one child joint, the X-axis points at the child joint that

Animation
Character
was created first. The Z-axis points sideways from the joint and its bone
connecting the child joint, and the Y-axis points at right angles to the X-axis
and Z-axis. All three axes are aligned according to the right hand rule.
For example, in a human skeleton the elbow joint’s X-axis would be pointing
towards the wrist joint. With the arm lying flat, the elbow joint could twist
about most of the X-axis, turning the rest of the arm. The elbow joint could
partially swing up and down about the Z-axis, but it would not be able to
pivot about the Y-axis.
You can select various combinations of the X-, Y-, and Z-axes to specify the
orientation of a joint’s local axis. The first axis in the combination is the axis
that points at the joint’s first child joint. The third axis points sideways from
the joint and its bone connecting the child joint, and the second axis points at
right angles to the first axis and third axis. All three axes are aligned
according to the right hand rule. In terms of yaw, pitch, and roll, rotation
about the first axis produces roll, rotation about the second axis produces
yaw, and rotation about the third axis produces pitch.
Instead of orienting the joint’s local axis relative to the first child joint, you
can set the local axis to have the same orientation as the scene’s world axis.
In this case, the orientation would be set to “none.”

To edit a joint’s orientation:


1 Select the joint.
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.
3 Enter new values in the Joint Orient fields.
The three values refer to the X-, Y-, and Z-axes respectively.

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Editing joint attributes

Editing scale compensation


When you scale the size of a joint, you can either scale the child joints also or
prevent the scaling of the child joints. For example, if you increase the length
of a lower arm bone by scaling the elbow joint, the wrist joint and its bones
can either increase in size also or stay the same size. Either you can scale the
hand as well as the lower arm or you can just scale the lower arm.
Normally, when you scale a joint Maya will scale everything below it in the
skeleton’s action hierarchy. However, by setting a joint’s Scale Compensate
option on, you can prevent that joint and everything below it in the action
hierarchy from being scaled when the joint’s parent joint is scaled.
Additionally, expert users like to have Scale Compensate on to prevent
inappropriate shearing deformation effects on a character’s skin. Shearing
can occur when a given joint is scaled only along one or two of its axes.

To edit a joint’s scale compensation:


1 Select the joint.
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.
3 Toggle Segment Scale Compensate.
Turn on Segment Scale Compensate so that this joint will compensate for
scale factors applied to its parent. If the parent is scaled, this joint’s
translation values will be scaled but the scale will not apply to any of this
joint’s children.

Editing joint limits


You can restrict a joint to a certain range of motion so that it cannot rotate
beyond the angles you set as limits. You set these limits in the Limit
Information panel of the Attribute Editor for joints.
Expert users have found that it is best to not set joint minimum and
maximum limits extremely close (±5 degrees or less). These restrictive limits
can sometimes cause joints to get stuck during rotation.

To edit joint limits:


1 Select the joint.
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.

220 Using Maya: Animation


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Editing joint attributes

3 Toggle on the boxes by the Min and Max limits of any value you want to
change.
For example, to set minimum and maximum limits for rotation in X, click the
boxes to the left and right of Rot Limit X.
4 In the Limit X, Y, and Z fields under Translate, Rotate, and Scale, enter the
angles between which you want to limit the joint’s motion.

Animation
Character

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Editing joint attributes

Range of
motion if
the Z-axis
rotation
limits are
set to -15,
45

Range of
motion if
the X-axis
rotation
limits are
set to -45,
90

Restricting joint rotation with the Limits attributes

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Editing joint attributes

Dampening rotation near joint limits


For most living creatures, when a joint rotates as far as it can, it tends to slow
down or “dampen” before reaching its limit. For example, an elbow does not
snap straight, but gradually slows down as the lower arm aligns with the
upper arm. In animation terminology, the effect is that of an “ease-in.”
Joint dampening applies resistance to a joint as it approaches its joint limits.
Instead of the joint abruptly stopping when it reaches its limits, you can use
damping to slow it down smoothly. Depending on the strength and range
you set, a joint with dampening will not reach its limit boundary, unless
forced.
The dampening factor for joints affects only the solution computed by an IK

Animation
Character
solver; it does not affect joints that are animated by other means.
Two settings in the Attribute Editor control a joint’s dampening: Damp
Range and Damp Strength.
• Minimum and Maximum Rotate Damp Range set the number of degrees
inside the joint limits at which resistance begins to occur.
• Minimum and Maximum Rotate Damp Strength set the amount of
resistance in the damp range.

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Building Skeletons
Editing joint attributes

Minimum
damp range
Maximum
damp range
Maximum damp
strength affects
Maximum damp
this area
strength affects
this area
Minimum Z-
axis joint
Maximum Z- limit (-15)
axis joint
limit (45)

Damping the limits of a right wrist joint in the Z-axis

To dampen rotation near joint limits:


1 Select the joint.
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.
3 Use the Min and Max Rotate Damp Range and Rotate Damp Strength
fields to set the joint dampening attributes.
The Rotate Damp Range values let you set the angles inside the minimum
and maximum joint limits.
The Rotate Damp Strength of the resistance can range from 0, which takes
the joint all the way to its limit with no resistance, to 100, which stops the
joint at the outer edge of the damp range.
The values are relative within the IK handle’s joint chain.

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12 Posing and Animating
Skeletons

After you’ve created a skeleton for your character, you skin the skeleton by
binding the geometry to the skeleton. You can then create flexors for further
skin deformation effects. Animating the character includes animating the
skeleton and animating the effects provided by the flexors.

Animation
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This chapter describes posing and animating skeletons. Posing and
animating skeletons includes the following:
• “Understanding posing and animating skeletons” on page 226
• “Creating IK handles” on page 238
• “Setting IK handle creation options” on page 241
• “Editing IK handle attributes” on page 246
• “Editing IK solvers” on page 253
• “Using IK systems” on page 254
• “Posing IK chains” on page 256

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• “Using IK spline handles” on page 259


• “Animating IK chains” on page 280

Understanding posing and animating


skeletons
When you pose and animate a skeleton, you are specifying the skeleton’s
motion. The term for the specification of motion is kinematics. Posing and
animating skeletons involves two types of kinematics: forward kinematics
and inverse kinematics. Although the terms sound complicated, what they
refer to is easy to understand. Forward kinematics is ideal for creating
detailed arc motions because it requires the direct specification of each joint
rotation. Inverse kinematics is ideal for creating goal-directed motion
because it only requires the specification of a position and orientation that
the joints in a joint chain will rotate to reach.

Forward kinematics
In forward kinematics, when you pose a joint chain you rotate each joint
individually. For example, if you want a joint chain to reach for a particular
location in space, you have to rotate each joint individually so that the joint
chain can reach the location. To do this, you would rotate the joint chain’s
parent joint, then the next joint, and so on down the joint chain. When you
animate a skeleton posed with forward kinematics, Maya interpolates the
joint rotations starting with the root joint, then the root’s child joints, and so
on down through the skeleton’s action hierarchy. Maya proceeds “forward”
through the action hierarchy, starting at the root joint.
Posing and animating skeletons with forward kinematics is an excellent
approach for specifying detailed arc motions, but it can take a fair amount of
time if you are animating a large, complicated skeleton. Also, forward
kinematics is often not very intuitive for specifying goal-directed motion.
When you think about moving your hand to some location in space, you
don’t normally think about how you are going to rotate all the joints in your
arm.
The following sequence of five images illustrates the steps required to
extend a W-shaped joint chain with forward kinematics posing.

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Forward kinematics posing: joint chain’s root joint selected

Animation
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Forward kinematics posing: root joint rotation

Forward kinematics posing: subsequent joint rotation

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Forward kinematics posing: subsequent joint rotation

Forward kinematics posing: joint chain extended

Posing and animating with forward kinematics


To pose a skeleton with forward kinematics, you move, rotate, or scale joints
directly. You can do this in the same way that you move, rotate, or scale
other objects in Maya. For example, you can use the move, rotate, and scale
transform tools in the minibar. Alternatively, you could move, rotate, and
scale joints by using the Channel Box.
To animate a skeleton with forward kinematics, you can save keys in
selected frames as described in Using Maya: Animation, Keyframe. If you
would like to use motion capture data to drive the character animation, see
Using Maya: Animation, Motion Capture.
This chapter focuses on posing and animating with Maya’s inverse
kinematics tools.

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Inverse kinematics (IK)


In inverse kinematics (IK), you can pose a joint chain based on a location in
space you want the joint chain to reach. Inverse kinematics is more intuitive
for goal-directed motion than forward kinematics because you can focus on
the goal you want a joint chain to reach without worrying about how each
joint will have to rotate. However, unlike forward kinematics, inverse
kinematics requires that you use special tools for posing and animating.
These tools are called IK handles and IK solvers.
An IK handle is like a wire that can run through a joint chain, providing a
way for you to pose the entire joint chain in one action. As you pose and
animate the joint chain with the IK handle, the IK handle automatically
figures out how to rotate all the joints in the joint chain by using its IK

Animation
Character
solver.
The IK solver is the motor intelligence behind the IK handle. For example, if
you want a joint chain to reach a particular location in space, you can move
the entire chain by using the IK handle that runs through the chain. Given
where you want the joint chain to reach, the IK solver figures out how to
rotate all the joints in the joint chain for you by means of Maya’s inverse
kinematics methods.
The following sequence of two images illustrates the steps required to
extend a W-shaped joint chain with inverse kinematics posing.

Inverse kinematics posing: IK handle selected

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Inverse kinematics posing: joint chain extended

Posing and animating with inverse kinematics (IK)


To pose and animate joint chains with inverse kinematics, you use IK
handles. The motor intelligence of an IK handle is provided by an IK solver.

IK handles and IK chains


An IK handle runs through a selected joint chain like a wire, providing you
with a way to move the entire joint chain. The joint the IK handle starts at is
called the start joint. The last joint in the joint chain controlled by the IK
handle is called the end joint. The start joint could be the skeleton’s root joint,
or any joint in the skeleton’s action hierarchy above the end joint. The IK
handle can pose all the joints in the chain, from the start joint to the end
joint. A joint chain that has an IK handle is called an IK chain. IK chains are
easy to use. However, some background on how they work can help you get
the most out of posing and animating with inverse kinematics.
The end of the IK handle, which is located at the end joint by default, is
called the end effector. The reason the end of the IK handle is called the “end
effector” is because it helps to bring about how the IK handle rotates the
joints in the joint chain so that the end of the chain can reach some location
in space. By telling the IK handle’s IK solver where the end of the IK handle
is, the end effector provides information the IK solver needs to figure out
how to rotate all the joints for you.

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When you are posing and animating an IK chain, you also need to tell the IK
solver the position and orientation in space where you would like the end
effector to move to next. That information is provided by the IK handle’s
goal. When you interactively pose an IK chain, what you are really doing is
moving the IK handle’s goal. The IK solver looks at where the goal is, looks
at where the end effector is, and figures out how to rotate all the joints in the
IK chain to get the end effector to be where the goal is.
A skeleton can have as many IK handles as you think you need for posing
and animating its joint chains. However, be sure you are happy with which
joint is the skeleton’s root joint before you begin creating IK handles. The
skeleton’s root must not be between an IK chain’s start joint and end joint.
You cannot create an IK chain that includes the root joint unless that joint is
the start joint. Also, if you change which joint is the root joint, you will

Animation
Character
invalidate IK chains that include the new root joint unless the joint is the
start joint of an IK chain.

IK solvers
IK solvers provide the motor intelligence of IK handles. IK solvers figure out
how to rotate all the joints in a joint chain controlled by an IK handle. Maya
offers four types of solvers:
• Single chain (SC) solver
• Rotate plane (RP) solver
• Spline solver
• Multi-chain (MC) solver

Single chain (SC) solver


The single chain (SC) solver is ideal for posing and animating the IK chains
for a character’s limbs, such as arms and legs. The single chain solver
provides a straightforward mechanism for posing and animating a chain
anywhere the joint chain can reach in the scene’s world space. The joint
chain will tend to stay within the plane that best includes all the joint chain’s
joints.
An IK handle using a single chain is displayed as follows:

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Handle
vector

Start joint End joint Goal

Handle wire

End effector

IK handle using single chain solver

Start joint
The start joint is where the IK handle begins. The start joint is the first joint
in the joint chain that is influenced by the IK handle. The start joint could be
the skeleton’s root joint or any other joint in the skeleton’s action hierarchy
above the end joint.

End joint
The end joint is the last joint in the joint chain controlled by the IK handle.
The end joint must be below the start joint in the skeleton’s action hierarchy.

Handle wire
The handle wire is the line that runs through all the joints and bones in a
joint chain controlled by the IK handle.The handle wire begins at the start
joint’s local axis and by default ends at the end joint’s local axis.

End effector
The end effector is the end of the IK handle. By default, the end effector is
located at the end joint’s local axis. However, the end effector can be offset
from the end joint. The end effector does not move from its location at the
end joint (or at some offset from the end joint) during posing and animating.
Also, note that the end effector is parented to the parent joint of the end
joint, not to the end joint.

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Goal
The goal indicates where you want an IK handle’s end effector to be. The
goal, which is indicated by an axis, rests at the IK handle’s end effector.
During posing, you can move the goal to any location in the scene’s world
space. The IK handle’s end effector tries to keep up with the goal at all times.
The IK handle’s single chain (SC) solver figures out how the end effector can
have the same position and orientation as the goal’s position and orientation.
The single chain (SC) solver figures out how to rotate the joint chain’s joints
so that the end effector can reach the goal. However, depending on the
rotational limits and fully extended length of the joint chain, the end effector
might not be able to reach the goal’s current position and orientation.

Handle vector

Animation
Character
The handle vector is the line drawn from the start joint to the IK handle’s
end effector. The end effector is normally located at the IK chain’s end joint.
The purpose of the handle vector is to indicate at which joints the IK handle
starts and ends. Because of the handle vector’s similarity to what some
systems call a limb axis, some expert users refer to the handle vector as the
limb axis.

Single chain solver behavior


The single chain solver first looks at the position (the translate X, Y, and Z
attributes) and orientation (the rotate X, Y, and Z attributes) of the goal.
Next, the solver figures out how to move the position and orientation of the
end effector as close to the goal’s position and orientation as possible. To do
that, the solver figures out how to best rotate the joints in the IK handle’s
joint chain.
Expert users have found that single chain solver IK chains that consist of
between two and four joints are the easiest to pose. Extremely long IK chains
can become awkward to pose and animate.
Note that the joint chain controlled by an IK handle using a single chain
solver cannot have any other IK handles running through any of its joints.

Rotate plane (RP) solver


Like the single chain (SC) solver, the rotate plane (RP) solver is ideal for
posing IK chains for a character’s limbs such as arms and legs. However, the
rotate plane solver offers more manipulator tools for posing the chain than
does the single chain solver. Also, the rotate plane solver is ideal for IK

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chains that you would like to stay in more or less the same plane, even
though that plane can rotate. For example, the shoulder, elbow, and wrist
joints of an arm all stay within the same plane, but that plane rotates as the
shoulder joint rotates.
An IK handle using a rotate plane solver is displayed as follows:

Pole vector Twist disc


axis

Plane
indicator Goal
Handle vector

Pole vector
Handle wire
End joint
Rotate disc
Start joint

IK handle using rotate plane solver

Start joint
The start joint is where the IK handle begins. The start joint is the first joint
in the joint chain that is influenced by the IK handle.The start joint could be
the skeleton’s root joint, or any other joint in the skeleton’s action hierarchy
above the end joint.

End joint
The end joint is the last joint in the joint chain controlled by the IK
handle.The end joint must be below the start joint in the skeleton’s action
hierarchy.

Handle wire
The handle wire is the line that runs through all the joints and bones in a
joint chain controlled by the IK handle. The handle wire begins at the start
joint’s local axis and by default ends at the end joint’s local axis.

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End effector
The end effector is the end of the IK handle. By default, the end effector is
located at the end joint’s local axis. However, the end effector can be offset
from the end joint. The end effector does not move from its location at the
end joint (or at some offset from the end joint) during posing and animating.
Also, note that the end effector is parented to the parent joint of the end
joint, not to the end joint. You can use the Hypergraph to view the
relationships between the end effector and the joints in the joint chain.

Goal
The goal indicates where you want an IK handle’s end effector to be. The
goal, which is indicated by an axis, rests at the IK handle’s end effector.

Animation
Character
During posing, you can move the goal to any location in the scene’s world
space. The IK handle’s end effector tries to keep up with the goal at all times.
The IK handle’s rotate plane (RP) solver figures out how the end effector can
have the same position as the goal’s position. The rotate plane (RP) solver
figures out how to rotate the joint chain’s joints so that the end effector can
reach the goal. However, depending on the rotational limits and fully
extended length of the joint chain, the end effector might not be able to reach
the goal’s current location.

Handle vector
The handle vector is the line drawn from the start joint to the IK handle’s
end effector. The end effector is normally located at the IK chain’s end joint.
Because of the handle vector’s similarity to what some systems call a limb
axis, some expert users refer to the handle vector as the limb axis.

Joint chain plane


The joint chain plane is the plane that would best contain all the joints in the
joint chain. By always containing the joints in the joint chain, the joint chain
plane controls how the joint chain can twist. The joint chain plane is not
displayed because you can infer it from where the joint chain’s joints are
located. However, the joint chain plane’s orientation is indicated by the
plane indicator displayed in the rotation disc. The joint chain plane can
rotate about the handle vector. Rotating the joint chain plane about the
handle vector has the effect of twisting the joint chain. (The degree of twist is
measured relative to the reference plane, which is the plane defined by the
handle vector and the pole vector.)

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Rotation disc
The rotation disc is located at the start joint. The rotation disc indicates how
the joint chain plane can rotate, which twists the joint chain. An indicator in
the rotation disc, called the plane indicator, shows the orientation of the joint
chain plane.

Twist disc
The twist disc is located at the end joint. You can use the twist disc as a tool
to twist the joint chain by rotating the joint chain plane.

Plane indicator
The plane indicator indicates the orientation of the joint chain plane, which
is the degree of twist in the joint chain relative to the reference plane. The
plane indicator can be thought of as the reflection of the joint chain plane in
the rotation disc.

Reference plane
For the joint chain plane to rotate and twist the joint chain, the plane must
rotate relative to some other plane so that the degree of twist can be
measured. The plane that the joint chain plane rotates relative to is the
reference plane. The difference between the two planes indicates the amount
the joint chain twists. The reference plane is defined by the handle vector
and the pole vector.

Pole vector
Like the handle vector, the pole vector starts at the start joint. Unlike the
handle vector, which always ends at its IK handle’s end effector, the pole
vector can end anywhere you want it to end. The purpose of the pole vector
is to help define the reference plane. During posing, you can sometimes
move the end effector through the reference plane, which moves the handle
vector through the reference plane. When that happens, the handle vector
and pole vector can appear to cross as the joint chain suddenly flips because
the degree of twist suddenly changes by 180 degrees. Because the reference
plane is defined by the handle vector and the pole vector, you can prevent
the flipping effect by simply moving the end of the pole vector to redefine
the reference plane.

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Rotate plane solver behavior


The rotate plane solver first looks at the position (the translate x, y, and z
attributes) of the goal. Next, the solver figures out how to move the position
of the end effector as close to the goal’s position as possible. To do that, the
solver figures out how to best rotate the joints in the IK handle’s joint chain.
Unlike the single chain solver, the rotate plane solver does not look at the
orientation (the rotate x, y, and z attributes) of the goal. That is, the rotate
plane solver figures out how to rotate the joints based on the goal’s position,
but not on the goal’s orientation. The orientation of the entire joint chain can
be controlled by twisting the joint chain with the twist disc. However, unlike
the single chain solver, you cannot rotate the joint chain by rotating the IK
handle’s goal.

Animation
Character
Expert users have found that rotate plane solver IK chains that consist of
between two and four joints are the easiest to pose. Extremely long IK chains
can become awkward to pose and animate.
Note that the joint chain controlled by an IK handle using a rotate plane
solver cannot have any other IK handles running through any of its joints.

Spline solver
The IK spline solver lets you manipulate a long, flexible joint chain that
conforms to the shape of a curve. This solver is useful for animating the
motion of tails, spines, tentacles, snakes, long necks, and similar objects.
Expert users have found that spline solver IK chains that include ten or more
joints with relatively short bones are ideal.
For information on using IK handles with the spline solver, please see
“Using IK spline handles” on page 259.

Multi-chain (MC) solver


The multi-chain (MC) solver is ideal for IK chains that can be posed and
animated by more than one IK handle. In such a case, each IK handle should
use the multi-chain solver.
For information on using the multi-chain (MC) solver, please see “Activating
the multi-chain (MC) solver” on page 243.

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Creating IK handles

Creating IK handles
IK handles are tools that help you pose and animate joint chains with inverse
kinematics. You can create an IK handle for almost any joint chain. A joint
chain that has an IK handle is called an IK chain.
In any IK chain, the joint where the IK handle starts should be closer to the
skeleton’s root joint than the joint where the IK handle ends. Also, an IK
chain should not include the root joint unless the root joint is the start joint.
You use the IK Handle Tool to create IK handles. You can set certain IK
Handle attributes during IK handle creation from the IK Handle Tool’s Tool
Settings window. After you create the IK handles, you can edit IK handle
attributes by using the Attributes Editor. Note that you can also use Maya
Embedded Language (MEL) commands to create and edit IK handles. Some
expert users like to define hotkeys based on MEL commands for quickly
creating customized joint chains and IK handles.
During inverse kinematics posing and animating, the rotations of all the
joints in the IK chain are calculated, or “solved,” by an IK solver. Note that
IK handles using the single chain (SC), rotate plane (RP), and spline solvers
require that the joint chains they control be solved only by them. For
example, two IK handles using one of the single chain (SC), rotate plane
(RP), or spline solvers cannot overlap, allowing both to solve some of the
same joints.
Expert users have found that IK chains that consist of between two and four
joints are the easiest to pose and animate. Extremely long IK chains can
become awkward.
In creating IK handles, you can add IK handles to existing joint chains, or
you can create IK chains (joint chains with IK handles).

Adding an IK handle
You can create an IK handle for any joint chain.

To create an IK handle:
1 Select Skeletons→IK Handle Tool.
2 To change the tool options, select Skeletons→IK Handle Tool-❐ to open the
IK Handle Tool Options window.
See “Editing IK handle attributes” on page 246 for a description of the IK
Handle Tool options.

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Creating IK handles

3 With the left mouse button, click the start joint and end joint for the IK
handle.
You can click the joints in either order: the IK handle is created with the end
effector on the child joint.

Creating an IK chain
An IK chain is a joint chain that has an IK handle. You can create IK chains
in the same way that you create joint chains, but you must set the Joint
Tool’s Create IK Handle option.

To create an IK chain:

Animation
Character
1 Select Skeletons→Joint Tool-❐ to open the Joint Tool’s Tool Settings
window.
2 Toggle on the Create IK Handle option.
You can set IK handle options within the IK Handle Options heading. Click
the triangle on the heading line to view the options. For information on IK
Handle options, see “Editing IK handle attributes” on page 246.
3 Create the joint chain as you would any skeleton. First, Click in the
workspace at the position of the first joint.
The joint is created.
4 Move the pointer to the position you want the second joint to be and click
again.
The two joints are connected with a bone that indicates the direction of the
joint chain’s hierarchy: the thinner end of the bone’s triangle points to the
child joint.
See “Positioning joints” on page 196 for tips on editing the positions of
joints.
5 Continue moving the pointer and clicking until you have created the chain
of joints for the skeleton.
6 When you finish creating all joints in the chain, press the Enter key.
Ending the joint chain creates the IK handle.
You can edit the IK handle in the Attribute Editor to change its attributes.

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Displaying IK handle’s end effector


A marker that identifies an IK handle’s end effector is not displayed by
default when you create an IK handle. However, if you would like to see the
end effector, you can tell Maya to display it.

To display end effector:


1 Choose Window→Hypergraph to open the Hypergraph.
2 In the Hypergraph, select the IK handle’s end effector.
3 With the end effector selected, continue to press the right mouse button, and
from the pull-down menu, select Show.
An axis-shaped icon indicates the end effector.

Displaying IK handle’s goal and goal’s axis


Markers that identify an IK handle’s goal and the local axis of the goal are
not displayed by default when you create an IK handle. However, you can
tell Maya to display them after you create the IK handle.

To display goal and goal’s axis:


1 Select the IK handle.
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.
3 Open Display if not opened.
4 In Display, click Display Handle on to display the IK handle’s goal.
5 In Display, click Display Local Axis to display the axis of the IK handle’s
goal.

Displaying IK handle’s twist disc and pole vector’s axis


An IK handle using the default rotate plane (RP) solver has two
manipulators that are not displayed by default when you create an IK
handle. These manipulators are the twist disc and the pole vector’s axis.

To display twist disc and pole vector’s axis:


1 Select the IK handle.
2 Click the Show Manipulator Tool icon.

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Setting IK handle creation options

If the IK handle uses the default rotate plane (RP) solver, the twist disc is
displayed at the IK chain’s end joint. Also, the pole vector’s axis is displayed.
If the IK handle uses the single chain (SC) solver, no additional manipulators
are displayed.

Setting IK handle creation options


You can have the various options and attributes of IK handles set
automatically when you create the IK handle, or you can edit the IK handle’s
attributes at any time. This section describes how to set IK handle creation
options. To edit attributes after you create an IK handle chain, see “Editing
IK handle attributes” on page 246.

Animation
Character
Setting automatic IK handle attributes includes:
• “Viewing IK handle creation options” on page 241
• “Setting the current solver” on page 242
• “Setting autopriority” on page 243
• “Setting solver enable” on page 244
• “Setting snap enable” on page 244
• “Setting sticky” on page 244
• “Setting priority” on page 245
• “Setting weight” on page 245
• “Setting position vs. orientation (PO) weight” on page 246

Viewing IK handle creation options


The IK handle creation options can be set from the IK Handle Tool’s Tool
Settings window. When you create an IK handle, you use the IK Handle
Tool. You can set the IK Handle Tool’s settings so that certain IK handle
attributes will be set automatically.

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The IK Handle Tool’s Tool Settings window

To view automatically set IK handle attributes:


Select Skeletons→IK Handle Tool-❐.
The IK Handle Tool’s Tool Settings window is displayed.

Setting the current solver


You can have either the single chain solver or the rotate plane solver set as
the current solver automatically provided when you create an IK handle.

To set the current solver:


1 Select Skeletons→IK Handle Tool-❐.

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2 From the Current Solver pop-up menu, select either ikRPsolver or


ikSCsolver.
The rotate plane (RP) solver (called the ikRPsolver) is the default solver. The
other solver you can select here is the single chain solver (called the
ikSCsolver). Depending on the plug-ins you are using, other solvers may be
available.
To use the spline solver, you must work directly with the IK Spline Handle
Tool (Skeletons→IK Spline Handle Tool).
You can select the multi-chain (MC) solver if it has already been activated.

Activating the multi-chain (MC) solver

Animation
Character
The multi-chain (MC) solver is only available through the use of a Maya
Embedded Language (MEL) command. Once you enter the command, you
can choose the multi-chain solver from the IK Handle Tool’s Tool Settings
window.

To activate the multi-chain solver:


1 Choose Window→General Editors→Command Shell...
2 In the Command Shell, enter the following command at the mel: prompt:
createNode ikMCsolver.

Now you can choose the multi-chain (MC) solver in the IK Handle Tool’s
Tool Settings window.

Setting autopriority
You can control the order in which IK chains are solved by having Maya
automatically set their priority based on where the start joints are in the
skeleton’s action hierarchy. When Maya automatically sets priority, IK
chains whose start joint is the skeleton’s root joint have a priority of 1. IK
chains whose start joints are child joints of the root joint have a priority of 2,
and so on down the skeleton’s action hierarchy. The further an IK chain’s
start joint is from the root joint, the lower its priority.

To set autopriority:
1 Select Skeletons→IK Handle Tool-❐.
2 Click Autopriority on or off. If off, all IK handles are given a priority of 1.

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Setting solver enable


After you create an IK handle for a joint chain, you can immediately begin
posing the new IK chain with inverse kinematics. However, if you would
like to pose with forward kinematics, you can temporarily turn off the IK
handle’s IK solver.

To set solver enable:


1 Select Skeletons→IK Handle Tool-❐.
2 Click Solver Enable off or on (the default is on).

Setting snap enable


During posing, an IK handle’s goal can exceed the reach of the IK chain.
Maya will show you this by continuing to draw a line between the end
effector, which is located at the IK chain’s end joint by default, and the goal.
When you release the mouse button, the goal will snap back to the IK
handle’s end effector by default. If you prefer, you can have the goal remain
wherever you have moved it last, rather than have it snap back to the end
effector. Whether the goal snaps back or remains in its last location is largely
a matter of personal preference. At times some expert users like to see where
the goal is after it has exceeded the reach of the IK chain so they can make
adjustments more easily to the overall position of the entire skeleton.

To set snap enable:


1 Select Skeletons→IK Handle Tool-❐.
2 Click Snap Enable off or on (the default is on).

Setting sticky
You can have an IK handle’s goal stick to any location in the scene. When
you move the start joint of the IK chain, or even the entire skeleton, the end
joint of the IK chain with a sticky IK handle will stick to its location while the
IK solver provides the appropriate joint rotations. For example, if you are
animating a human character that is reaching up or out while standing in
place, you can animate the natural articulation of the legs much more easily
by making the IK handles that end at the character’s feet sticky.

To set sticky:
1 Select Skeletons→IK Handle Tool-❐.

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2 Click Sticky on or off.

Setting priority
You can control the order in which a skeleton’s various IK handles calculate
joint chain action during animation. Each IK handle can be assigned a
priority. IK handles with a priority of 1 will be solved first, IK handles with a
priority of 2 will be solved second, and so on.
Maya can set these priorities for you based on where an IK handle’s start
joint is in a skeleton’s action hierarchy, or you can give all IK handles a
priority of 1. Having varied priorities for IK handles can improve overall
inverse kinematics performance.

Animation
Character
To set priority:
1 Select Skeletons→IK Handle Tool-❐.
2 Slide Priority value to desired setting. Highest priority is 1.

Setting weight
During animation, a skeleton with many IK chains can perform a wide
variety of motions. Because of the specific ways the motions of IK chains can
affect the overall position and orientation of the character’s skeleton, not all
the end effectors may be able to reach their goals simulaneously.
Consequently, some of the interpolated IK chain motions might not provide
the effects you wish. For example, on a given limb with two IK chains that
have the same priority, neither of the two IK chains might be able to reach
their goals because they are pulling the limb in different directions. You can
alleviate this situation by assigning the IK handles of those IK chains a
weight.
The assigned weight, combined with the current distance between an IK
handle’s end effector and its goal, serve to prioritize the solutions of IK
chains whose IK handles have the same priority settings.
When the end effectors of two or more IK handles with the same priority
cannot reach their goals simultaneously, the IK handles whose end effectors
are furthest from their goals and whose weights are greatest will be solved
first.

To set weight:
1 Select Skeletons→IK Handle Tool-❐.

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2 Slide Weight value to desired setting (must be 0 or greater).

Setting position vs. orientation (PO) weight


During animation, an IK handle’s end effector might be able to reach the
goal’s position or the goal’s orientation, but not both. You can control the
extent to which the end effector can reach the goal’s position versus the
goal’s orientation by setting the position vs. orientation (PO) weight. The
value of the PO weight ranges between 0 and 1. With a PO weight of 1, the
end effector will seek to reach only the goal’s position. With a PO weight of
0, the end effector will seek to reach only the goal’s orientation. With a PO
weight of 0.7, the end effector will seek to reach the goal’s position more
than the orientation. Finally, with a PO weight of 0.5, the end effector will
try to reach the goal’s position and orientation as equally as possible.
Note that IK handles using the rotate plane (RP) solver do not consider the
orientation of the goals, only the position. With IK chains being solved by
the RP solver, you control IK chain orientation by means of the twist disc.

To set position vs. orientation (PO) weight:


1 Select Skeletons→IK Handle Tool-❐.
2 Slide POWeight value to desired setting.

Editing IK handle attributes


You can edit the attributes of an IK handle at any time by using the Attribute
Editor. This section describes how to use the Attribute Editor to edit an IK
handle’s attributes.
Editing IK handle attributes includes:
• “Viewing editable IK handle attributes” on page 247
• “Renaming an IK handle” on page 249
• “Editing transform attributes” on page 249
• “Editing skeleton info” on page 250
• “Editing IK handle attributes” on page 250
• “Editing IK solver attributes and choosing an IK solver” on page 251
• “Editing pivots” on page 251
• “Editing limit information” on page 252

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• “Editing display” on page 252


• “Editing node behavior” on page 253
Note that you can access settings for an IK handle’s attributes, and also the
Attribute Editor, by pressing the right mouse button while the cursor is on
the IK handle you want to edit.

Viewing editable IK handle attributes


To view or edit an IK handle’s attributes, use the Attribute Editor.

Animation
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Attribute Editor for IK handles

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To view editable joint attributes:


Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.
The Attribute Editor is displayed.

Renaming an IK handle
Maya names IK handles for you when you create them. By default, IK
handles are numbered consecutively as you create them. For example, the
first handle would be called “ikHandle1,” the second “ikHandle2,” and so
on. You can rename the IK handles to better reflect their purpose in posing
and animating your character. It’s a good idea to give IK handles meaningful
names so that they are easier to select when you are working with Maya’s

Animation
Character
editors, using the Hypergraph, or using the Outliner. For example, you
could name an IK handle that goes from a right shoulder joint to a right
wrist joint “RShtoWrist.”

To rename an IK handle:
1 Select the IK handle.
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.
3 Enter the new name in the ikHandle: field.
The new name takes effect immediately.

Editing transform attributes


An IK handle’s transform attributes include the following:
• Translate, rotate, scale, and shear transformations
• Rotate order
• Rotate axis
• Inherits transform option

To edit transform attributes:


1 Select the IK handle.
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.
3 Open Transform Attributes if not opened.

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4 In Transform Attributes, you can make changes to the translate, rotate, scale,
and shear transformations. You can set the rotate order, which is by default
set to xyz. You can change the location of the rotate axis, which is by default
set to 0.0, 0.0, 0.0. Finally, you can toggle whether or not the IK handle
inherits transformations.

Editing skeleton info


An IK handle’s skeleton info include the following:
• Start joint
• End effector

To edit skeleton info:


1 Select the IK handle.
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.
3 Open Skeleton Info if not opened.
4 In Skeleton Info, note that the names of the IK handle’s start joint and end
effector are displayed. You can edit either of these by clicking on the right
arrow buttons next to their names.

Editing IK handle attributes


An IK handle’s handle attributes include the following:
• Snap enable
• Stickiness
• Priority
• Weight
• Position vs. orientation (PO) weight

To edit IK handle attributes:


1 Select the IK handle.
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.
3 Open IK Handle Attributes if not opened.
4 In IK Handle Attributes, you can edit snap enable, stickiness, priority,
weight, and position vs. orientation (PO) weight.

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Editing IK solver attributes and choosing an IK solver


An IK handle’s solver attributes include the following:
• Solver enable
• IK solver selection (single chain solver, rotate plane solver, or the multi-
chain solver if activated)
• Pole vector’s end location
• Twist

To edit solver attributes and choose IK solver:


1 Select the IK handle.

Animation
Character
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.
3 Open IK Solver Attributes if not opened.
In IK Solver Attributes, you can choose the IK solver, snap enable, stickiness,
priority, weight, and position vs. orientation (PO) weight.
4 In IK solver, choose the IK solver you want to assign to the IK handle.
By default, only two IK solvers are offered here: the single chain solver
(ikSCsolver) and the rotate plane solver (ikRPsolver), which is the default IK
solver.
To use the spline solver, you must work directly with the IK Spline Handle
Tool (Skeletons→IK Spline Handle Tool).

Editing pivots
An IK handle’s pivots attributes include the following:
• Display rotate pivot toggle
• Display scale pivot toggle
• Local space rotate pivot and scale pivot
• World space rotate pivot and scale pivot

To edit pivots attributes:


1 Select the IK handle.
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.
3 Open Pivots if not opened.

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4 In Pivots, you can edit the display rotate pivot toggle and the display scale
pivot toggle. Also, you can edit the coordinates for the local space pivot’s
rotate and scale transformations and the world space pivot’s rotate and scale
transformations.

Editing limit information


An IK handle’s limit information attributes include the following:
• Translation transformation limits
• Rotation transformation limits
• Scale transformation limits

To edit limit information attributes:


1 Select the IK handle.
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.
3 Open Limit Information if not opened. Below it you can open Translate,
Rotate, and Scale.
4 In Translate, Rotate, or Scale, edit the minimum, current, and maximum
transformation limits.

Editing display
An IK handle’s display attributes include the following:
• Display handle
• Display local axis
• Select handle
• Show manipulator default
• Visibility
• Template

To edit display attributes:


1 Select the IK handle.
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.
3 Open Display if not opened.

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4 In Display, toggle the Display Handle and Display Local Axis settings. Edit
the coordinates of the Select Handle location. Select Show Manip Default as
None, Translate, Rotate, or Scale. Check Visibility on or off, and check
Template on or off.

Editing node behavior


Maya’s system thinks of all its entities, including IK handles, as nodes. An IK
handle’s node behavior attributes include the following:
• Caching
• Node state

Animation
Character
To edit node behavior attributes:
1 Select the IK handle.
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.
3 Open Node Behavior if not opened.
4 In Node Behavior, check Caching on or off. Select Node State as Normal,
HasNoEffect, or Blocking.

Editing IK solvers
You can edit the settings of the IK solvers from the Attribute Editor. By
default, Maya names the single chain solver the “ikSCsolver” and the rotate
plane solver the “ikRPsolver.” Editing IK solver settings includes:
• Editing IK solver attributes: maximum iterations and tolerance
• Editing node behavior

Editing IK solver attributes


An IK solver’s attributes include the following:
• Maximum iterations
• Tolerance

To edit solver attributes:


1 Select the IK solver.
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.

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3 Open IK Solver Attributes if not opened.


4 In IK Solver Attributes, edit the Max Iterations setting and the Tolerance
setting.

Editing node behavior


Maya’s system thinks of all its entities, including IK solvers, as nodes. An IK
solver’s node behavior attributes include the following:
• Caching
• Node state

To edit node behavior attributes:


1 Select the IK solver.
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.
3 Open Node Behavior if not opened.
4 In Node Behavior, check Caching on or off. Select Node State as Normal,
HasNoEffect, or Blocking.

Using IK systems
An IK system can organize and manage a collection of IK solvers.

Creating an IK system
To create an IK system:
1 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.
2 Choose List→Auto Update, clicking auto update off (not checked).
3 Choose List→Kinematics→IK Systems.
4 Choose Object→ikSystem.
The Attribute Editor will now show information about an IK system whose
default name is “ikSystem.” You can change the name by typing in a new
name in the ikSystem: field.

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Accessing an IK system
To access an IK system:
1 Select an IK handle.
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.
3 In the Attribute Editor, click on Set Focus.
The Attribute Editor will now display information about the IK system.

Renaming an IK system
You can rename an IK system.

Animation
Character
To rename an IK system:
1 Access the IK system with the Attribute Editor.
2 In the ikSystem: field, replace the current name with the name you would
like to use.

Viewing an IK system’s IK solvers


You can view and select the IK solvers Maya provides from the IK system.

To view available IK solvers:


1 Access the IK system with the Attribute Editor.
2 Open ikSystem if not opened.
The available IK are listed. By default, three IK solvers are listed: the single
chain (SC) solver (default name: ikSCsolver), the rotate plane solver (default
name ikRPsolver), and the spline solver (default name: ikSplineSolver).
You can select and edit the solvers by double-clicking on the names in the
list. When you double-click, Maya creates folders for the selected solvers in
the Attribute Editor.

Editing global snap and global solve


You can edit the global snap and global solve settings.

To edit global snap and solve settings:


1 Access the IK system with the Attribute Editor.

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2 Open ikSystem if not opened.


Note the Global Snap and Global Solve check boxes below the listing of
available IK solvers.
3 Click the Global Snap and Global Solve settings on or off.

Editing node behavior


Maya’s system thinks of all its entities, including IK systems, as nodes.The
IK system’s node behavior attributes include the following:
• Caching
• Node State

To edit node behavior attributes:


1 Select the IK solver.
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.
3 Open Node Behavior if not opened.
4 In Node Behavior, check Caching on or off. Select Node State as Normal,
HasNoEffect, or Blocking.

Posing IK chains
Posing IK chains includes the following:
• Posing with single chain (SC) solver IK handles
• Positioning with rotate plane (RP) solver IK handles
• Twisting with rotate plane (RP) solver IK handles
• Eliminating flip in rotate plane (RP) solver IK handles
• Sticky posing

Posing with single chain (SC) solver IK handles


To pose single chain (SC) solver IK handles:
1 Select the IK handle.

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You can select the IK handle directly or from the Hypergraph. In the
Hypergraph, note that next to each end effector there is an icon you can click
on to select the IK handle that the end effector belongs to.
2 Select the Move Tool or the Rotate Tool.
3 Press the right mouse button and pose the IK handle.
4 The joint chain will move or rotate as you move the mouse.

Positioning with rotate plane (RP) solver IK handles


To position rotate plane (RP) solver IK handles:
1 Select the IK handle.

Animation
Character
You can select the IK handle directly or from the Hypergraph. In the
Hypergraph, next to each end effector is an icon you can click on to select
the IK handle that the end effector belongs to.
2 Select the Move Tool.
3 Press the right mouse button and position the IK handle.
The joint chain will move as you move the mouse.

Twisting with rotate plane (RP) solver IK handles


To twist a joint chain with a rotate plane (RP) solver IK handle:
1 Select the IK handle.
You can select the IK handle directly or from the Hypergraph. In the
Hypergraph, next to each end effector is an icon you can click on to select
the IK handle that the end effector belongs to.
2 Select the Show Manipulator Tool.
3 Click on the twist disc (located at the end joint of the joint chain). With the
right mouse button pressed, move the mouse to twist the joint chain.

Eliminating flip in rotate plane (RP) solver IK handles


To eliminate flip:
1 Select the IK handle if not already selected.

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You can select the IK handle directly or from the Hypergraph. In the
Hypergraph, next to each end effector is an icon you can click on to select
the IK handle that the end effector belongs to.
2 Select the Show Manipulator Tool.
3 Select the pole vector.
Note that the triangular object in the rotation disc is not the pole vector. That
object is the plane indicator. The plane indicator indicates the orientation of
the joint chain plane.
4 Drag the pole vector so that it will not cross the handle vector. Preventing
the handle vector from crossing the pole vector will eliminate flipping.
The joint chain might twist while you drag the pole vector. This is because
when you change the pole vector, you change the orientation of the
reference plane. The joint chain’s twist is defined in terms of the difference in
degrees between the reference plane and the joint chain plane.

Sticky posing
When you position a joint chain with IK handles, you might want to stick
one or more IK handles to a location in space while you move other IK
handles. This “sticking” feature of IK handles is useful for positioning
characters engaging in movement where some part of the skeleton is
stationary during part of the motion. For example, your character might be
interacting with a solid object such as a floor or a step on a stairway.
When you make an IK handle sticky, the IK handle sticks as if stuck by a
piece of gum. The IK handle tends to stay stuck, but can be pulled away
depending on how you are moving the skeleton. The IK handle’s goal and
end effector tend to stay together, but can sometimes separate. A sticky IK
handle is indicated by a dark red sphere on the IK handle’s goal.
Note that sticky IK handles are only for interactive placement of a skeleton
in a keyframe. They are not active when you play an animation.

To do sticky posing:
1 Select the IK handle if not already selected.
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to open the Attribute Editor.
3 Open IK Handle Attributes if not opened.
4 In IK Handle Attributes, set stickiness to sticky.

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The dark red sphere at the IK handle’s goal indicates that the IK handle is
now sticky. The IK handle’s goal is now set to the goal’s current position and
orientation for as long as the IK handle is sticky.
5 Pose the skeleton as desired. The sticky IK handle tries to keep its joint chain
always reaching for where you’ve stuck the IK handle’s goal.

Using IK spline handles


You can add an IK spline handle to a joint chain to animate the motion of
tails, necks, spines, tentacles, bullwhips, snakes, and similar objects. After
you add the handle, Maya’s IK spline solver rotates the joints when you
manipulate a curve that’s part of the handle.

Animation
Character
The seven IK spline handles
on this creature control its
neck, back, tail, and flippers.

Plesiosaur by Matt Dougan

Creating IK spline handles


You add an IK spline handle to a joint chain. To animate the joint chain, you
manipulate a curve that’s part of the handle. You don’t manipulate the
translation of the handle. You can also roll or twist the joint chain with
convenient manipulators.

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The joint chain can be an independent hierarchy or part of a larger hierarchy.


By default, a curve is created for you when you create an IK spline handle.
Instead, you can create your own curve before you create the handle. In
either case, the joint chain mimics the shape of the curve.

To create an IK spline handle with a default curve and options:


1 Create a joint chain.
To ensure the joint chain moves smoothly when you animate the curve,
create many joints close to each other (with short bones).
2 Select Skeletons→IK Spline Handle Tool.
3 Select the start joint for the IK handle.
4 Select the end joint for the IK handle.
The IK spline handle appears on the joint chain with an automatically
created curve. The joints in the chain rotate to adapt to the shape of the
curve.

To create an IK spline handle with your own curve and options:


1 Use modeling tools to create the curve.
Create a simple curve with no sharp bends to ensure the joint chain moves
smoothly when you animate the curve.
If you create a curve with fewer CVs, your control of the curve’s shape and
skeleton’s movement will be less precise, but you’ll be able to manipulate
the curve and its joint chain easier. With fewer CVs, you spend less time
selecting and dragging CVs, and you’re more likely to have a smooth curve.
Start with a curve having as few CVs as necessary. Add CVs only as needed
to improve control.
2 Create a joint chain.
To ensure the joint chain moves smoothly when you animate the curve,
create many joints close to each other (with short bones).
3 Select Skeletons→IK Spline Handle Tool-❐.
The Tool Settings window appears. Set options as described in “Setting
options before creating the IK spline handle” on page 265. Turn off Auto
Create Curve. The option settings are saved for future use.
4 Select the start joint for the IK handle.

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5 Select the end joint for the IK handle.


6 Select the curve.
The IK spline handle appears on the joint chain. The joints in the chain rotate
to adapt to the shape of the curve. If the curve is shorter than the joint chain,
the extra length of the joint chain points out from the end of the curve in a
straight line.

Animating the joint chain


To animate the joint chain, you set keys for the appropriate attributes after
you do any of these actions:
• manipulate the CVs of the curve

Animation
Character
• twist and roll the joint chain
• slide the joint chain along the curve
• translate, rotate, and scale the curve
To see the effects of animating the joint chain more clearly, bind skin to the
joint chain.

To manipulate the CVs of the curve:


1 Select the curve.
To select a curve without selecting joints or other objects in the workspace,
turn on (Select by object type) and limit the selection specifiers to
NURBS Curves. See Using Maya: Basics for details. You can also select the
curve conveniently in the Outliner or Hypergraph.
It’s helpful to display CVs and hulls as you work with CVs. With the curve
selected in Select by object type mode, turn on Display→NURBS
Components→CVs and Hulls.
2 Move the CVs.
Turn on (Select by component type) and use the Move tool on the CVs.
or
From the Modeling menu, select Curves→Curve Editing Tool.
3 Select Keys→Set Key to set keys at the desired frames.

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Tip
To improve speed as you play and scrub your animation, set keys only for
the CVs you animate. For instance, select the CVs, then choose Keys→Set
Key.
If you use the Curve Editing Tool, select Keys→Set Key-❒, turn on All
Manipulator Handles, and click the Save button. Thereafter when you
choose Set Key, Maya sets keys only for the necessary CVs.

To twist and roll the joint chain:


1 Select the IK spline handle.
To select the handle in the workspace, drag a selection box around the end
joint. The default selection priority ensures you’ll select the handle rather
than the end joint.
2 Select Modify→Transformation Tools→Show Manipulator Tool.
Circular manipulators appear at the start joint and end joint.

Twist manipulator

Start joint

End joint

Roll manipulator

3 To roll the entire joint chain, click and rotate the circular manipulator at the
start joint.
4 To twist the joint chain, click and rotate the circular manipulator at the end
joint.

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You can also adjust twist and roll by selecting the IK handle and entering
values for Roll and Twist in the Channel Box or Attribute Editor. In the
Attribute Editor, expand the IK Solver Attributes section to see these
attributes.
5 Set keys for the handle’s Roll and Twist attributes.
If the IK handle’s Solver Enable is on, the solver doesn’t use the IK handle’s
Translate, Rotate, and Scale values as it rotates joints.

To slide the joint chain along the curve:


1 Select the IK handle.
To select the IK handle, turn on (Select by object type) then drag a

Animation
Character
selection box around the end joint of the handle. The default selection
priority ensures you’ll select the handle rather than the end joint.
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to display the Attribute Editor.
3 Expand the IK Solver Attributes section.
4 Turn on Root on Curve.
This constrains the start joint of the IK spline handle to a position on the
curve. It also provides an offset manipulator to slide the start joint along the
curve.
5 Choose Modify→Transformation Tools→Show Manipulator Tool.
The offset manipulator appears at the start joint.

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Offset manipulator
at the start joint

6 Drag the manipulator to slide the joint chain along the curve.
If you drag the start joint to the end of the curve, the child joints move off
the end of the curve in a straight line.

Offset manipulator at
the end of the curve

You cannot drag the manipulator past either end of the curve.
You can also enter values for Offset in the Attribute Editor to move the start
joint’s offset manipulator along the curve. Try various values over 0 to get
the desired position.

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The Offset attribute is ignored if you turn Root on Curve off.


7 Set keys for the Offset at the desired frames.

Note
If you use Offset (or the offset manipulator) to animate a joint chain sliding
on a curve, the start joint might flip unexpectedly. Use Offset only for
small movements or when the start joint doesn’t rotate much.
You can also use a motion path to prevent joint flipping. See “Preventing
unwanted start joint flipping” on page 272.

To translate, rotate, and scale the curve:

Animation
Character
1 Select the curve.
2 Use the Move, Rotate, and Scale tools to translate, rotate, or scale the curve.
If you created the handle with Root on Curve off, translating, rotating, and
scaling the curve doesn’t translate the start joint.
3 Set keys for the appropriate Translate, Rotate, and Scale attributes.

Setting options before creating the IK spline handle


This topic describes how to set IK spline handle tool options available before
you create the handle. See “Tips for working with IK spline handles” on
page 274 for additional information on how to use several of these options.
For details on options you can set after creation, see “Setting attributes after
creating the IK spline handle” on page 271.

To set IK Spline Handle Tool options:


Select Skeletons→IK Spline Handle Tool-❐
Set the following options in the Tool Settings window.

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Root on Curve
If you turn this option on, the start joint of the IK spline handle is
constrained to a position on the curve. You can drag an offset manipulator to
slide the start joint (and its children) along the curve.
If you turn this option off, you can move the start joint away from the curve.
The start joint is no longer constrained to the curve. Maya ignores the Offset
attribute, and no offset manipulator exists at the start joint.

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You can move the start


joint and its children off
the curve by turning off

Animation
Character
Root on Curve.

Note
If Root on Curve is off, the solver ignores any motion you previously
keyed with Offset. Set keys with Root on Curve off or on, not a mixture of
both.

If Root on Curve is off and you move the start joint far enough away from
the curve so that none of the joints can reach the curve, the bones point
straight at the closest point on the curve. If the curve is wavy, the joints jump
from closest point to closest point as you move the straightened joint chain
towards parts of the curve. This is correct operation.
The following figure shows a joint chain in four positions as it points
towards the closest part of the curve.

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You can also turn Root on Curve on or off after you create the IK spline
handle by selecting the IK spline handle and displaying the Attribute Editor.
To display the Attribute Editor, select Window→Attribute Editor.

Auto Create Root Axis


This option creates a parent transform node above the start joint in the scene
hierarchy. You can avoid unexpected start joint flipping by moving and
rotating this transform node rather than the start joint. See “Preventing
unwanted start joint flipping” on page 272 for details.
You can turn this option on only when Root on Curve is off.
If you turn on Auto Create Root Axis, you must turn off Auto Parent Curve
if you want to use the curve as a motion path. Otherwise, a dependency
graph loop occurs, which results in the display of a warning message and
incorrect handle operation.
You can set Auto Create Root Axis in the Tool Options window only as you
create the IK spline handle.

Auto Parent Curve


If the start joint has a parent, this option makes the curve a child of that
parent. The curve and joints therefore move with the transformations of the
parent.
If you create a handle that starts at a joint in the chain lower than the root
joint of your skeleton, turn this option on so the joint chain moves with the
transformations of its parent joint.
You can set this option in the Tool Options window only as you create the
IK spline handle.

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Posing and Animating Skeletons
Using IK spline handles

Snap Curve To Root


This option affects the handle only if you create your own curve for the
handle. If this option is on when you create the handle, the start of the curve
snaps to the position of the start joint. The joints in the chain rotate to adapt
to the shape of the curve.
If you want to move the joint chain to the curve to use the curve as a fixed
path, turn this option off. Otherwise, turn this option on.
You can set this option in the Tool Options window only as you create the
IK spline handle.

Auto Create Curve

Animation
Character
This option creates a curve used by the IK spline handle.
If you turn on Auto Create Curve and turn off Auto Simplify Curve, the
curve passes through all the joints. This often creates so many CVs that the
curve is unwieldy to manipulate. For this reason, consider turning on Auto
Simplify Curve.
If you turn on Auto Create Curve and Auto Simplify Curve, creating the
handle automatically creates a simplified curve that has a shape similar to
the joint chain. The higher the Number of Spans, the closer the curve
matches the joint chain. The curve has a curve degree of 3 (cubic).
If you turn off Auto Create Curve, you must supply a curve for the joint
chain.
If the joint chain is part of an existing skeleton, you’ll typically turn this
option on. If you’re using a curve as a path for sliding the joint chain, you’ll
typically turn this option off.
You can set Auto Create Curve in the Tool Options window only as you
create the IK spline handle.

Auto Simplify Curve


This option sets the automatically created curve to the specified Number of
Spans. The number of spans corresponds to the number of CVs in the curve.
The curve has a curve degree of 3 (cubic).
If you create a curve with fewer CVs, your control of the curve’s shape and
skeleton’s movement will be less precise, but you’ll be able to manipulate
the curve and its joint chain easier. With fewer CVs, you spend less time
selecting and dragging CVs, and you’re more likely to have a smooth curve.

Using Maya: Animation 269


Posing and Animating Skeletons
Using IK spline handles

This option works only if Auto Create Curve is on.


You can set Auto Simplify Curve in the Tool Options window only as you
create the IK spline handle.

Number of Spans
This option specifies the number of CVs in the curve as follows:

Number CVs
of Spans

1 4

2 5

3 6

4 7

This option is available only if Auto Create Curve is on.


You can set the Number of Spans in the Tool Options window only as you
create the IK spline handle.

Root Twist Mode


This option turns on Power Animator IK spline twisting. As you turn the
twist manipulator at the end joint, the start joint twists slightly with the
other joints.
With this option off, the start joint doesn’t twist. Use the roll manipulator at
the start joint to turn the start joint.
You can also set this option after you create the IK spline handle by selecting
the IK spline handle and displaying the Attribute Editor. To display the
Attribute Editor, select Window→Attribute Editor.

Twist Type
This option specifies how the twist occurs in the joint chain:
• Linear twists all parts evenly.
• Ease In twists more at the end than the start.
• Ease Out twists more at the start than the end.

270 Using Maya: Animation


Posing and Animating Skeletons
Using IK spline handles

• Ease In Out twists more at the middle than at either end.


You can also set Twist Type after you create the IK spline handle by
selecting the IK spline handle and displaying the Attribute Editor. To
display the Attribute Editor, select Window→Attribute Editor.

Setting attributes after creating the IK spline handle


After you create an IK spline handle, you can specify settings for several
attributes.

To set attributes after creating the IK spline handle:


1 Select the IK handle.

Animation
Character
2 Choose Window→Attribute Editor to display the Attribute Editor.
3 Expand the IK Solver Attributes section.
The following attributes are displayed:
Solver Enable Turning this off disables the IK spline solver. If you’ve
bound skin to the joint chain, turn this option off before
returning the joint chain to the bind pose.
While this option is on, avoid moving individual joints or
you might encounter unexpected joint rotations. You also
cannot move or rotate the IK handle.
Be aware that the IK spline solver doesn’t operate if there
are joint limits on any of the joints controlled by an IK spline
handle.

Offset See the following note.


Roll See “Animating the joint chain” on page 261.
Twist See “Animating the joint chain” on page 261.
Twist Type See the following note.
Root on Curve See the following note.
Root Twist
Mode See the following note.

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Posing and Animating Skeletons
Using IK spline handles

Note
Twist Type, Root on Curve, and Root Twist Mode are available when you
select Skeletons→IK Spline Handle Tool-❐.
In the Attribute Editor, Offset affects the joint chain only if you turn on
Root on Curve. For details on these attributes, see “Setting options before
creating the IK spline handle” on page 265.

Preventing unwanted start joint flipping


The start joint might flip undesirably when you move or rotate a curve or its
CVs in some directions or slide the joint chain along its curve. If flipping
occurs, it’s likely to do so only in a small range of rotation. The flipping is a
normal outcome of IK spline solver calculations.
If the orientation of a joint is more than 90 spatial degrees from its zero-
rotation value, it might flip unexpectedly as you rotate the curve or CVs. The
zero-rotation value is where the joint’s RotateX, RotateY, and RotateZ
attributes are 0 (relative to its parent joint’s coordinate system). Flipping is
most pronounced near 180 degrees.

Joint is at its zero-


rotation value.

Unwanted start joint rotation might


occur in the half-spherical region.
Flipping is pronounced in the
conical region.

You can prevent start joint flipping in most cases by positioning joints
appropriately when you create the joint chain. When you create each joint
after the start joint, position it roughly in its rest position—the average
position of its entire range of motion.

272 Using Maya: Animation


Posing and Animating Skeletons
Using IK spline handles

If you’ve positioned joints appropriately and joint flipping is still a problem,


try parenting the start joint to another joint or to a transform node. See
“Auto Create Root Axis” on page 268 and “Auto Parent Curve” on page 268.
Unexpected start joint flipping might also occur when you animate a joint
chain along its curve, for instance, when you slide a snake along a motion
path. To prevent flipping in such cases, do these steps.

To prevent flipping when a joint chain slides down its curve:


1 Select Skeletons→IK Spline Handle Tool-❐ to display the Tool Settings
window.
2 Turn off Root on Curve, Auto Parent Curve, Auto Create Curve, and Snap
Curve to Root.

Animation
Character
3 Turn on Auto Create Root Axis.
4 Select the start joint, then the end joint, and then the curve you’ve created.
This creates the IK spline handle with a parent transform node above the
start joint. In a subsequent step you’ll put the node on a motion path that
prevents the start joint flipping.
5 Select the parent transform node, then Shift-click the curve.
To select the parent transform node, drag a selection box around the start
joint.
6 Select Paths→Attach to Path-❐.
The Attach to Path Options window appears.
7 Turn on Start/End.
8 For the Start Time and End Time, enter the frame range for the joint chain’s
motion.
The parent transform node and its child joint chain will move from the start
of the curve to the end of the curve in the specified frame range.
9 Turn on Follow.
If the curve has a 3D looping shape, you might also need to turn on Normal
for the Up Direction to avoid unwanted flipping.
10 Leave other options at the default settings.
11 Click the Attach button.

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Posing and Animating Skeletons
Tips for working with IK spline handles

When you play the animation, the parent transform node and joint chain
move along the curve path. The movement will likely be free of unexpected
flipping. However, flipping is unavoidable in some complex paths.
Note that you can still roll and twist the joint chain with the IK handle’s roll
and twist manipulators for additional control.

Working with soft body curves


If you change an IK spline curve to a soft body, you can add dynamic forces
to change the curve’s motion. For example, you can connect turbulence to
the curve to create random, erratic motion. See Using Maya: Dynamics for
details.

Tips for working with IK spline handles


This section provides tips for working with IK spline handles on most
characters. Subsequent topics offer suggestions specific to the type of
character and motion you’re creating.
• To ensure the joint chain moves smoothly when you animate the curve,
create many joints close to each other (with short bones).
• Create a simple curve with no sharp bends to help make the joint chain
move smoothly when you animate the curve. Use a small number of CVs.
• When you add an IK spline handle to the skeleton of most creatures—
including fish and snakes moving along a motion path—parent each IK
spline start joint to a transform node or parent joint that’s not controlled by
an IK spline handle. This makes the joint chain move with the
transformations of the parent while avoiding unexpected joint flipping. See
“Preventing unwanted start joint flipping” on page 272 for details.
If you’re working on a character with a root joint that rotates little, for
instance, a swaying tree, you don’t need to parent the start joint to a
transform node or joint. The start joint can serve as the character’s root joint.
• For a character such as a fish or snake moving along a motion path, if you
create a handle that starts at a skeleton’s root, turn on Auto Create Root
Axis when you create the IK spline handle. This prevents unexpected joint
flipping as you animate the automatically created parent transform node
along a motion path. Also turn off Auto Parent Curve.

274 Using Maya: Animation


Posing and Animating Skeletons
Tips for working with IK spline handles

If you create a handle that starts at a joint other than the skeleton’s root, turn
on Auto Parent Curve and turn off Auto Create Root Axis so the handle’s
curve and start joint move with the transformations of the parent joint.
• When you manipulate a tail or neck parented to a spine, avoid moving the
first CV of the curve for the tail or neck. Move the second CV minimally,
preferably only along an imaginary line extending straight out from the end
of the spine. Manipulate the other CVs freely. This technique ensures that
the skin flows naturally where the spine meets the tail or neck.
• To prevent unexpected results, Maya doesn’t let you overlap the same joint
with two IK spline handles.
• Do not parent the curve to the start joint. This creates a dependency graph
loop that causes the start joint to chase the curve as the curve moves. To

Animation
Character
detect such loops, use the MEL cycleCheck -all command described in the
online MEL documentation.
• Do not parent the curve to a transform node that would use that same curve
as a motion path. In other words, don’t turn on Auto Create Root Axis and
Auto Parent Curve if you plan to put the transform node on that curve. This
creates a dependency graph loop.

Using Maya: Animation 275


Posing and Animating Skeletons
Tips for working with IK spline handles

Working with human skeletons


Because a human spine often twists, turns, and bends, an IK spline handle is
ideal for controlling it. For example, you can position the handle’s start joint
one joint hierarchically below (and positionally above) the skeleton’s root
joint. This causes the IK spline joint chain to move with the root’s movement
without unexpected joint flipping.

IK spline
handle

IK spline
handle
Start joint

Root joint

Zoomed view of image on left

276 Using Maya: Animation


Posing and Animating Skeletons
Tips for working with IK spline handles

Working with animal skeletons


Because an animal’s tail, back, and neck twist and turn independently,
multiple IK spline handles are ideal for controlling them.

This skeleton has three IK spline


handles: on the tail, back, and
neck. The handles give precise
control of the spine.
Handle

Handle

Animation
Character
Handle

Pelvic
region

Here’s a close-up of the pelvic region of the preceding skeleton:

Handle
Handle

Close-up of previous
image’s pelvic region

Note that you can use two rather than three handles for skeletons: one for
the tail and one for the neck and back combined.

Using Maya: Animation 277


Posing and Animating Skeletons
Tips for working with IK spline handles

The start joint of the tail’s handle and the start joint of the back’s handle are
near the position of the skeleton’s root, but one joint below the root in the
skeleton’s hierarchy. This causes the IK spline joint chains to move with the
root’s movement without unexpected joint flipping.
If you use this approach, turn on Auto Parent Curve when you create the
handles. This ensures the curve and joints move with the transformation of
the root.
For most creatures, using only one handle for the tail, back, and neck won’t
give you adequate control.

Working with sinuous motion on skeletons


IK spline handles are useful for animating land or sea creatures that move in
sinuous or undulating patterns, for example, snakes, fish, and seals. The
skeleton’s root location is crucial for achieving the desired motion.
To animate a creature that glides smoothly along a path without abrupt
direction changes at the head or tail, put the root of the skeleton at the
character’s tail end.
Turn on Auto Create Root Axis to prevent unexpected joint flipping as you
transform the automatically created parent transform node. Also turn off
Auto Parent Curve. An example skeleton follows:

Handle

Handle
Handle

Handle

Handle

The skeleton’s
root is at its tail.

278 Using Maya: Animation


Posing and Animating Skeletons
Tips for working with IK spline handles

Though not visible in the preceding figure, a parent transform node appears
hierarchically above the start joint of the handle on the spine.
If the creature’s head or tail moves abruptly, put the skeleton’s root between
the spine’s midpoint and tail, for instance, near the pelvic region:

Handle

Handle

Handle

Animation
Handle

Character
Handle

Handle

Handle The root is in the


pelvic region.

Handle

Handle

Handle

Handle
Close-up of previous
image’s pelvic region

Using Maya: Animation 279


Posing and Animating Skeletons
Animating IK chains

Each handle’s start joint in the figure is separated from the root by one joint.
None of the IK spline handles pass through the root. This causes the IK
spline joint chains to move with the root’s movement without unexpected
joint flipping.

Animating IK chains
You can animate IK chains by keyframing or by using motion capture data.

Keyframing
For information on keyframing, please see Using Maya: Animation, Part 1:
Keyframe, which describes the tasks and tools for keyframing, including how
to set keys, edit key options, use the Graph Editor, use the Dope Sheet, and
use the Playblast window.
Please note the following keyframing tips for character animation:
• Set a minimum number of keys
• Use the Channel Box

Set a minimum number of keys


You can set a key for every transformation attribute in a scene. However, in
character animation, most expert users find that setting a minimum number
of keys assures the best use of system resources. They only key
transformation attributes that they want to be sure will be interpolated
between frames. For example, if only the transformation attribute for
translation along the X-axis of an IK handle’s goal has changed, expert users
will save a key for only that transformation attribute, not the entire IK
handle.

Use the Channel Box


In addition to the selections from the Keys pull-down menu, many expert
users often use the Channel Box to set keys for particular transformation
attributes. For example, if you select the Translate X channel and then press
the right mouse button, you can choose Key Selected to save a key for that
channel only. (Note that in the Channel Box, transformation attributes are
identified as channels.)

280 Using Maya: Animation


Posing and Animating Skeletons
Animating IK chains

Motion capture
For information on motion capture, please see Using Maya, Animation, Part 4:
Constraints and Motion Capture. You can have motion capture data drive the
IK handle’s goals, thereby posing the IK chains.

Animation
Character

Using Maya: Animation 281


Posing and Animating Skeletons
Animating IK chains

282 Using Maya: Animation


13 Skinning Skeletons

Skinning skeletons is the process of binding a geometry to a skeleton so that


the skeleton’s actions can deform the geometry. A geometry can be either a
non-uniform rational B-spline (NURBS) geometry whose points are control
vertices (CVs), or a polygonal geometry whose points are vertices. Once
bound, the geometry becomes the skeleton’s skin. In effect, the skeleton’s
skin provides the shape of the character’s surface. The skin moves as the
skeleton’s joints move, because during skinning the geometry’s points (CVs

Animation
or vertices) are identified as skin points and organized into skin point sets

Character
that are bound to the skeleton’s joints.

This chapter explains skinning. Skinning skeletons includes the following:


• “Understanding skinning” on page 284
• “Binding by closest point” on page 285
• “Binding by partition set” on page 287
• “Binding multiple objects as skin” on page 288
• “Returning to bind pose” on page 289

Using Maya: Animation 283


Skinning Skeletons
Understanding skinning

• “Displaying skin point set colors” on page 290


• “Editing skin point sets” on page 290
• “Detaching and reattaching skin” on page 290
• “Animating with skin and skeleton groups” on page 292
Note that skinning skeletons often requires use of the Set Editor. If you are
not familiar with the Set Editor, please refer to Using Maya: Hypergraph, Sets,
and Expressions.

Understanding skinning
Skin is a geometry that has been bound to a skeleton, and skinning is the
process of binding a geometry to a skeleton. After you’ve built a skeleton
and exercised how that skeleton can be posed and animated, you are ready
to give the skeleton some skin. First, pose the skeleton so that it fits the
geometry properly. Next, bind the geometry to the skeleton, making the
model the skeleton’s skin. This skin provides the surface of your character.
In Maya, there are two ways to skin a skeleton:
• Closest point skinning
• Partition set skinning

Closest point skinning


In binding by closest point, the geometry’s points (CVs or vertices) are
automatically organized into skin point sets based on the proximity of each
point to a joint. For each joint with a bone, a skin point set is created that
includes the points that are closest to the given joint. The points are then
identified as skin points, with each skin point being a member of only one
skin point set. In Maya, a collection of sets that can have no members in
common is called a partition. In organizing the geometry’s points for
binding, Maya partitions them into skin point sets. Because skin point sets
can have no members in common, a skin point cannot be bound to more
than one joint. In binding by closest point, Maya creates the skin point sets
for you. You can edit the sets after they are created to fine-tune the binding
of individual skin points.

284 Using Maya: Animation


Skinning Skeletons
Binding by closest point

Partition set skinning


If the geometry has its points (CVs or vertices) organized into a partition
whose sets you want to bind to joints, you can bind by closest partition.
During modeling, you can partition a geometry’s points (CVs or vertices)
into sets. A geometry that has the same number of sets as the skeleton has
joints can be bound to the skeleton by partition set. In binding by partition
set, a geometry’s already existing partition sets are bound to the skeleton’s
joints as skin point sets. Each partition set is bound to the nearest joint as a
skin point set.

Skin point set colors

Animation
Character
Whether you bind by closest point or by partition set, Maya assigns each
skin point set a color. The points in a given skin point are displayed in the
set’s color. You can also have the skin point set’s joint be displayed in the
skin point set’s color.

Bind pose
After you’ve given the skeleton some skin, whe posed and animated the skin
will deform based on the skeleton’s action. The only pose in which the skin
is not deformed relative to the original geometry is the bind pose, which is the
pose the skeleton was in when you bound the geometry to it.

Skin detachment and reattachment


You can detach and reattach the skeleton’s skin at any time. Expert users
detach and reattach when they want to add or remove a skeleton’s joints,
change the skeleton’s bind pose, do some more modeling on the skin, or
detach and then bind a different geometry for the skin.

Binding by closest point


In binding by closest point, Maya automatically creates jointClusters for each
joint, and distributes the points closest to each joint into that joint’s
jointCluster set. Binding by closest point is the most common way to skin a
skeleton.

Using Maya: Animation 285


Skinning Skeletons
Binding by closest point

If you plan to bind additional skins to the skeleton at a later time, you will
want to be able to return easily to the pose at which the first skins were
bound (the bind pose). Maya saves bind pose information for joints at which
you bind the skin, but not joints without skin.
Binding to the skeleton from the bottom of the skeleton’s action hierarchy
can make it difficult to return the skeleton to its bind pose. The easiest way
to ensure that you can return to the bind pose is to always bind from the top
of the hierarchy downwards. In cases where you wish to concentrate on the
lower part of the skinning first, it is best to bind simplistic substitute skins to
the upper part of the skeletal hierarchy to ensure that Maya saves bind pose
information for the entire skeleton. Late, you can delete the substitute skins
when you are ready to bind the actual skin.

To bind by closest point:


1 Select the geometry and skeleton.
If you are binding to the complete skeleton, select any joint. Maya will
understand that you want to bind the geometry to the entire skeleton
hierarchy that corresponds to the joint you have whose joint you have
selected.
If you are binding to selected joints only, explicitly select each joint that you
want to bind to.
Note that you can attach more than one geometry at a time. Select all the
geometries that you want to bind to the skeleton by clicking on one and then
Shift-clicking the others to select them.
2 Select Skinning→Bind Skin-❐.
The Bind Skin Options window is displayed.
3 In Bind to, choose Complete Skeleton or Selected Joints.
4 Click Coloring on to color the joints according to the colors assigned to the
skin point sets.
5 In Bind Method, click Closest Point.
6 At the bottom of the Bind Skin Options window, click Bind.
The geometry binds to the skeleton. Maya puts the geometry’s points (CVs
or vertices) into skin point sets, and each set is controlled by the jointCluster
of the closest joint. The jointCluster name will correspond to the name of its
joint. For example, if a joint is named elbow, the corresponding jointCluster
will be named elbowCluster1.

286 Using Maya: Animation


Skinning Skeletons
Binding by partition set

When you first bind the skin, all cluster percentages will be set to 1.0, giving
the skin a rigid look around the joints. You can apply lattice or jointCluster
flexors to smooth the transition about the joints, or modify the cluster
percentages directly using the Set Editor.
Note that because the skin is bound to the skeleton, the skin’s transformation
attributes are locked. If you try to manipulate the transformation attributes,
the manipulator appears gray, indicating the attributes are locked. If you
decide you want to modify the geometry that you’ve bound to the skeleton
as its skin, you must first unbind the skin from the skeleton. After you’ve
modified the geometry, you can then rebind it to the skeleton.
7 Exercise the skeleton to see how the skin point sets have been created. Note
how the skin point sets move with the joints to which they are bound. You

Animation
Character
might want to edit skin point set membership. To edit set membership, see
Using Maya: Hypergraph, Sets, and Expressions.

Binding by partition set


In binding by partition set, Maya binds a geometry’s existing partition sets
to a skeleton. The number of sets should equal the number of joints with
bones. For information on creating partitions in Maya, see Using Maya:
Hypergraph, Sets, and Expressions.

To bind by partition set:


1 Select the geometry and the skeleton or the specific joints to you wish to
bind.
2 Select Skinning→Bind Skin-❐
The Bind Skin Options window is displayed.
3 In Bind to, choose Complete Skeleton or Selected Joints.
4 Click Coloring on to color the joints according to the colors assigned to the
skin point sets.
5 In Bind Method, click Partition Set.
In the Partition window, select the name of the partition you wish to bind.
Only partitions composed of point sets are valid for binding by partition.
Default Maya partitions such as the renderPartition and layerPartition are
not valid for binding since they contain sets of objects, not points.
6 At the bottom of the Bind Skin Options window, click Bind.

Using Maya: Animation 287


Skinning Skeletons
Binding multiple objects as skin

Maya binds the selected partition’s sets to the skeleton, with each set bound
to the nearest joint.
Note that because the skin is bound to the skeleton, the skin’s transformation
attributes are locked. If you try to manipulate the transformation attributes,
the manipulator appears gray, indicating the attributes are locked. If you
decide you want to modify the model that you’ve bound to the skeleton as
its skin, you must first unbind the skin from the skeleton. After you’ve
modified the geometry, you can then rebind it to the skeleton.
7 Exercise the skeleton to see how the skin point sets have been created. Note
how the skin point sets move with the joints to which they are bound. You
might want to edit skin point set membership. To edit set membership, see
Using Maya: Hypergraph, Sets, and Expressions.

Binding multiple objects as skin


Maya allows you to bind many objects as skin. You can attach new objects as
skin at any time. There are two ways to attach additional objects to a
skeleton which already has a bound skin: using the bind skin menu, or using
set editing tools.

Binding additional objects with the Bind Skin menu:


When you add new objects as skin, the skeleton must be in the same position
that was in when you bound the original skin. This position is called the
bind pose. The following section contains more details on returning the
skeleton to the bind pose.
Once the the skeleton is at the bind pose, follow the bind by closest point
instructions to bind additional skins to the skeleton.

Binding additional objects using set membership:


A second way to attach new skins is with the Set Editor by adding points to
existing jointClusters. If you choose to attach new skins with set editing
tools, note that if the skeleton is not at the bind pose, the new skins will
immediately be deformed by the skeleton as soon as they are added to the
jointCluster’s set. If this deformation is not desired, move the skeleton to the
bind pose before adding the points into the jointCluster’s set.

288 Using Maya: Animation


Skinning Skeletons
Returning to bind pose

Returning to bind pose


The pose a skeleton is in during skinning is called the bind pose. When you
pose a character, the skeleton’s action causes skin deformations. The only
pose that does not cause skin deformations is the bind pose; when the
skeleton is in the bind pose, the skin is in the same shape that it was in when
it was a geometry.
Yo will want to return the skeleton to the bind pose before binding new skin
geometries. You will also want to return the skeleton to the bind pose before
adding lattice flexors.

To return a skeleton to its bind pose:

Animation
Character
1 Select any joint on the skeleton.
2 Choose Skinning→Go to Bind Pose.
The skeleton assumes the pose it had during skinning, when the geometry
was bound to the skeleton.
If possible, the skeleton assumes the pose it had during skinning, when the
geometry was bound to the skeleton. It may not be possible for Maya to
move the skeleton to the bind pose. Constraints, keyframed IK Handles, IK
Handles using the spline solver, locked attributes and expressions can all
create situations where a skeleton is unable to go to the bind pose. If the
skeleton is unable to move to the bind pose, you will receive an error
message saying: Error: Could not reach bindPose due to
constraints, expressions, or keyframed handles. When this
happens, a quick way to allow the skeleton to reach the bind pose, is to
disable the source of the conflict:
3 Choose Modify→Disable Nodes→All.
Maya only stores the bind pose for joints which have skin attached. It is best
to always bind skin from the top-down so that there are no joints above the
bound skin that do not have skin attached. Otherwise, going to the bind
pose may cause your skeleton or skin to become distorted. For this reason , it
is best to have all of the skeleton and skins displayed when you go to the
bind pose. If either the skeleton or the skins are distorted, undo, and
consider resetting the skeleton’s bind pose to a new position.

To reset a skeleton’s bind pose:


You might want to reset a skeleton’s bind pose. You can do so as follows:

Using Maya: Animation 289


Skinning Skeletons
Displaying skin point set colors

1 Select any joint on the skeleton.


2 Choose Skinning→Preserve Skin Groups→Detach Skeleton.
The skin on the skeleton will move its undeformed position. If the
undeformed position is not appropriate for the new bind pose, position the
skin based on the new bind pose.
3 Choose Skinning→Preserve Skin Groups→Reattach Skeleton.
The new bind pose will be set at the current postion of the skeleton.

Displaying skin point set colors


Maya assigns each skin point set a color. When the points (CVs or vertices)
in a skin point set are displayed, the points are displayed in the assigned
color.

To display the skin point set colors:


1 Select the skin.
2 If the skin is from a NURBS geometry, choose Display→ NURBS
Components →CVs. If the skin is from a polygonal geometry, choose
Display→Polygon Components→Vertices. If the skin is a lattice geometry,
choose Display→Object Components→Lattice Points.

Editing skin point sets


You can edit skin point sets by using the Set Editor. For information about
the Set Editor, please refer to Using Maya: Hypergraph, Sets, and Expressions.

Detaching and reattaching skin


Occasionally, you might want to modify the skeleton, reset the bind pose, or
do some further modeling on the skin. To do so, you first need to detach the
skin from the skeleton. When you finish editing the skeleton or modeling the
skin, you can reattach the skin to the skeleton.
You can detach the skin in two modes:
• Detach
• Preserve Skin Groups - Detach

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Skinning Skeletons
Detaching and reattaching skin

Typical reasons for using Detach include the following:


• You no longer want the geometry to act as a skin.
• You plan to change the topology of the skin geometry before reattaching.
• You want to reset the skin groups and percentage values to their default.
Typical reasons for using Preserve Skin Groups - Detach include the
following:
• You do not want to lose the current skin groups and percentage values.
• You want to reset the bind pose on the skeleton.
• You want to modify the skeletal hierarchy.
Important: In order to reattach the skin while preserving skin groups, you

Animation
Character
must detach the skin in preserve skin groups mode. If you detach the skin
using the standard detach option, you must reattach the skin by
reperforming the bind skin operation.

Detaching skin without preserving skin groups and


percentages
To detach skin without perserving skin groups and percentages:
1 Select the skin(s) you want to unbind.
2 Choose Skinning→Detach Skin.
The Detach Skin Options window is displayed.
3 From History, choose Delete History, Keep History, or Bake History.
The Delete History option will unbind the skin, move it to its undeformed
position, and delete any unused jointClusters. The Keep History option will
unbind the skin, and move it to its undeformed position, but will not delete
unused jointClusters. The Bake History option will unbind the skin without
moving it to its undeformed position, and delete unused jointClusters.
4 Click the Coloring check-box to set whether to remove joint colors.
5 At the bottom of the Detach Skin Options window, choose Detach to detach
the skin.
Unless you use the Bake History option, the skin will move to its uneformed
location. The skin’s transformation attributes (translate,rotate, and scale) will
be unlocked. Unused jointCluster’s in the skin’s history will be deleted
unless you use the Keep History option.

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Skinning Skeletons
Animating with skin and skeleton groups

Detaching skin while preserving skin groups and


percentages
To detach skin while preserving skin groups and percentages:
1 Select a joint in the skeleton or explicitly select the joints which you wish to
detach.
2 Choose Skinning→Preserve Skin Groups→Detach Skeleton or
Skinning→Preserve Skin Groups→Detach Selected Joints based on how
much of the skeleton you wish to detach.
The skin affected by the detached joints will move to its undeformed
position. Its transformation attributes (translate, rotate, and scale) will be
unlocked so that you can reposition it. To reattach the skin with its old
percentages and groups, use the Preserve Skin Groups - Reattach technique.

Reattaching skin while preserving skin groups and


percentages
You can only reattach the skin using this method if you detach the skin
using the Preserve Skin Groups - Detach options. If you detach the skin
using the Detach Skin method, your skin groups and percentages were
deleted so you should the basic Bind Skin operation to reattach the skin.

To reattach skin while preserving skin groups and percentages:


1 Select the skeleton or explicitly select the joints which you wish to reattach.
2 Choose Skinning→Preserve Skin Groups→Reattach Skeleton or
Skinning→Preserve Skin Groups→Reattach Selected Joints based on how
much of the skeleton you wish to reattach.

Animating with skin and skeleton groups


After skinning, create a group for your character that includes the character’s
skeleton and skin. Having a group that includes everything that your
character consists of can greatly ease the management of the character within
an animation, particularly when you have many characters in an animation.
You can easily view everything a character’s group can include from the
Hypergraph. For more information on using the Hypergraph, please see
Using Maya: Hypergraph, Sets, and Expressions.

292 Using Maya: Animation


Skinning Skeletons
Animating with skin and skeleton groups

To group skin and skeleton:


1 Select a skeleton and its skin.
2 Choose Edit→Group.
A group for the character is created. Note that this group node should only
be used for organizational purposes. It should not be used to translate,
rotate, or scale the character. Moving the group node causes the skin to get
doubly transformed since it is transformed once by the skeleton and a
second time by the group node.

Animation
Character

Using Maya: Animation 293


Skinning Skeletons
Animating with skin and skeleton groups

294 Using Maya: Animation


14 Using Flexors

Maya offers a wide variety of deformer tools for creating deformations.


Flexors are high-level deformer tools for deforming a skeleton’s skin; their
effects can be linked to the actions of the skeleton.

Animation
Character
For more information about Maya’s basic deformer tools, please see Using
Maya: Animation, Basic Deformers.
This chapter describes flexors. Using flexors includes the following:
• “Understanding flexors” on page 296
• “Creating lattice flexors” on page 301
• “Positioning lattice flexors after creation” on page 302
• “Editing joint lattice flexor attributes” on page 302
• “Editing bone lattice flexor attributes” on page 313
• “Creating sculpt flexors” on page 324
• “Editing sculpt flexor attributes” on page 325

Using Maya: Animation 295


Using Flexors
Understanding flexors

• “Joint-driven sculpting” on page 325


• “Creating cluster flexors” on page 326
• “Editing cluster flexor attributes” on page 328
• “Editing with cluster flexor manipulators” on page 328

Understanding flexors
Flexors are high-level deformers that deform skin based on how a skeleton
moves. There are three types of flexors:
• Lattice flexors (joint lattice flexors and bone lattice flexors)
• Sculpt flexors (joint sculpt flexors and bone sculpt flexors)
• Cluster flexors (joint cluster flexors only)

Lattice flexors
Lattice flexors are tools for deforming the skin around joints and the bones
of joints. They can smooth or wrinkle skin around joints and provide muscle
definition around bones. You could use a joint lattice flexor to ease and
smooth the skin around a joint as it bends, or you could use a bone lattice
flexor to show bulging muscles around the bones of joints.

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Using Flexors
Understanding flexors

Animation
Character
Skin bending around joint without lattice flexor (note creases)

Using Maya: Animation 297


Using Flexors
Understanding flexors

Skin bending around joint with lattice flexor (note smoothed crease)

Sculpt flexors
Sculpt flexors provide a way to create various types of bulges and dips in a
character’s skin.

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Using Flexors
Understanding flexors

Animation
Character
Sculpt flexors are ideal for deformations such as muscle bulges, knee cap
action, or elbow cap action. You can create sculpt flexors at joints (joint sculpt
flexors) or at the bones of joints (bone sculpt flexors).

Cluster flexors
Cluster flexors can provide realistic smoothing effects by allowing you to
control the points in a skin point set around a joint with varying percentages
of influence.

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Using Flexors
Understanding flexors

To understand cluster flexors, you need some background on the role of the
basic cluster deformers in the skinning process. When you skin a skeleton,
the skin points are organized into a partition of sets called skin point sets. A
skin point set is created to correspond to each joint and bone combination.
Also automatically created for each skin point set is one of Maya’s basic
deformers, the cluster deformer. Cluster deformers that enable skinning are
called joint cluster deformers. A joint cluster deformer is what glues a skin
point set to a joint-and-bone combination so that the skin moves with the
skeleton. A joint cluster deformer is like a basic cluster deformer except that
it acts specifically on a skin point set. (For more information on basic cluster
deformers, please refer to Using Maya: Animation, Basic Deformers.)
Cluster flexors are high-level tools that provide you with a way to
manipulate joint cluster deformers. Cluster flexors can be created only at
joints (joint cluster flexors only) because they control joint cluster deformers.

300 Using Maya: Animation


Using Flexors
Creating lattice flexors

Creating lattice flexors


Lattice flexors create a lattice deformer around a joint (joint lattice flexor) or
bone (bone lattice flexor). The flexor’s effect on the skin around the joint or
bone can be driven by the action of a joint.
When you create a lattice flexor, the lattice’s reset (base) position
corresponds to the bind pose.
To edit a joint lattice flexor, see “Editing joint lattice flexor attributes” on
page 302.
To edit a bone lattice flexor, see “Editing bone lattice flexor attributes” on
page 313.

Animation
Character
To create a lattice flexor at a joint or bone:
1 Put the skeleton in bind pose by clicking any joint or bone and choosing
Skinning→Go to Bind Pose.
It’s possible to create a flexor on a skeleton that’s not in the bind pose, but
it’s not recommended—you might get unexpected results.
2 Select the joint or joints on which you want to create a joint flexor. To create
a bone flexor, select the parent joint of the bone. To create flexors on all joints
or bones, select any joint on the skeleton.
3 Choose Skinning→Create Flexor... .
The Create Flexor window is displayed.
4 From the Flexor Type: pull-down menu, choose lattice.
5 To create one or more joint lattice flexors, use the Joints box. In the Joints
box, click At Selected Joint(s) to create flexors only at the selected joints, or
click At All Joint(s) to create flexors at all the skeleton’s joints.
6 To create one or more bone lattice flexors, use the Bones box. In the Bones
box, click At Selected Bone(s) to create flexors only at the bones of the
selected parent joints, or click At All Bone(s) to create flexors for all the
bones.
7 To specify the divisions of the lattice, use the Lattice Options box. The
default is 2 S divisions, 5 T divisions, and 2 U divisions. You can enter new
numbers for the divisions or use the sliders. The greater the number of
divisions, the smoother the deformation effect; the smaller the number of
divisions, the faster the performance.

Using Maya: Animation 301


Using Flexors
Positioning lattice flexors after creation

8 Click Position the flexor if you want to adjust the location of the lattice
flexor before closing the Create Flexor window.
9 If you would like to move, rotate, or scale the flexor without worrying about
deforming the skin, you can do so now. Click Position the Flexor. Then
choose one of the transform tools (move, rotate, or scale) and change the
flexor’s position.
10 To create the lattice flexor(s), click OK.
Once you have created the lattice flexors, you edit them to control how they
deform the skin. To edit joint lattice flexors, see “Editing joint lattice flexor
attributes” on page 302. To edit bone lattice flexors, see “Editing bone lattice
flexor attributes” on page 313.

Positioning lattice flexors after creation


To position a lattice flexor after creation:
1 Put the skeleton in bind pose by selecting it and choosing Skinning→Go to
Bind Pose.
2 Select the lattice group from the Outliner.
The lattice group is the highest-level lattice in the Outliner. If you open this
lattice (the default name is lattice followed by a number), you’ll see the lattice
that deforms the skin underneath it (the default name is deformed followed
by a number).
3 Select a transform tool.
The manipulator of the selected tool appears on the lattice.
4 Move the lattice with the manipulator.

Editing joint lattice flexor attributes


The attributes of joint lattice flexors control how the flexors deform the skin
around joints. Use the Attribute Editor to edit joint lattice flexor attributes.
Editing joint lattice flexor attributes includes:
• “Viewing joint lattice flexor attributes” on page 303
• “Renaming joint lattice flexors” on page 303
• “Editing rounding” on page 305

302 Using Maya: Animation


Using Flexors
Editing joint lattice flexor attributes

• “Editing creasing” on page 303


• “Editing length in” on page 306
• “Editing length out” on page 308
• “Editing width left” on page 310
• “Editing width right” on page 311

Viewing joint lattice flexor attributes


To view joint lattice flexor attributes:
1 Make sure the skeleton is not in the bind pose.

Animation
Character
Flexors don’t deform skin in the bind pose. To see the effects of flexors, you
must view the skeleton in another pose.
2 Select a joint lattice flexor.
3 Choose Window→Attribute Editor... .
The Attribute Editor is displayed. In the Attribute Editor, you can modify
the attributes of lattice flexors on joints to create specific effects.

Renaming joint lattice flexors


By default, joint lattice flexors are given the name “jointFlexor” with a
number added at the end. You can change the default name. Using names
that describe the purpose of the lattice flexor can be helpful when you have a
complex character with many flexors.

To rename a joint lattice flexor:


1 View the joint lattice flexor’s attributes in the Attribute Editor.
2 In the flexorShape: field, enter a new name.

Editing creasing
The creasing attribute affects the bulging of a joint’s point groups on the
inside of a bend. When you enter a creasing value, the flexor points on the
inside of the bend move inward or outward to change the shape of the
bulge.
• A positive creasing value causes the skin to bulge outward.
• A negative creasing value causes the skin to tuck inward.

Using Maya: Animation 303


Using Flexors
Editing joint lattice flexor attributes

The following figures illustrate positive and negative creasing.

Positive creasing effect with joint lattice flexor

Negative creasing effect with joint lattice flexor

To edit creasing:
1 View the joint lattice flexor’s attributes in the Attribute Editor.

304 Using Maya: Animation


Using Flexors
Editing joint lattice flexor attributes

2 In Creasing, enter a new value or use the slider.


Note that you can also edit the creasing attribute from the Channel Box.

Editing rounding
Rounding affects the bulging of a joint’s point groups on the outside of a
bend. When you enter a rounding value, the flexor points on the outside of
the bend move outward or inward to change the shape of the bulge.
• A positive rounding value causes the skin to bulge outward.
• A negative rounding value causes the skin to bulge inward.
The following figures illustrate positive and negative rounding:

Animation
Positive rounding effect with joint lattice flexor Character

Using Maya: Animation 305


Using Flexors
Editing joint lattice flexor attributes

Negative rounding effect with joint lattice flexor

To edit rounding:
1 View the joint lattice flexor’s attributes in the Attribute Editor.
2 In Rounding, enter a new value or use the slider. A positive rounding value
causes the skin to bulge outward, and a negative rounding value causes the
skin to bulge inward.
Note that you can also edit the rounding attribute from the Channel Box.

Editing length in
The Length In attribute affects the locations of flexor points along the joint’s
point group around the upper bone. When you enter a Length In value, the
flexor planes along the upper bone move away from or towards the joint.
• A positive Length In value causes the lattices to move away from the joint,
spreading the bend effect up the upper bone.
• A negative Length In value causes the lattices to move towards the joint,
making the bend effect more local to the joint.

306 Using Maya: Animation


Using Flexors
Editing joint lattice flexor attributes

When you change the Length In value, you modify the regions affected by
the round, crease, and width effects.
The following figures illustrate positive and negative length in effects.

Animation
Character
Positive length in effect with joint lattice flexor

Negative length in effect with joint lattice flexor

Using Maya: Animation 307


Using Flexors
Editing joint lattice flexor attributes

To edit length in:


1 View the joint lattice flexor’s attributes in the Attribute Editor.
2 In Length In, enter a new value or use the slider. A positive value causes the
deformation to spread farther up the bone towards the joint’s parent joint. A
negative value causes the deformation to concentrate towards the joint.
Note that you can also edit the length in attribute from the Channel Box.

Editing length out


The Length Out attribute affects the locations of flexor points along the
joint’s point group around the lower bone. When you enter a Length Out
value, the lattices along the lower bone move away from or towards the
joint.
• A positive Length Out value causes the flexor lattices to move away from the
joint, spreading the bend effect down the lower bone.
• A negative Length Out value causes the flexor lattices to move towards the
joint, making the bend effect more local to the joint.
When you change the Length Out value, you modify the regions affected by
the round, crease, and width effects.
The following figures illustrate postive and negative length out effects.

308 Using Maya: Animation


Using Flexors
Editing joint lattice flexor attributes

Animation
Character
Positive length out effect with joint lattice flexor

Negative length out effect with joint lattice flexor

Using Maya: Animation 309


Using Flexors
Editing joint lattice flexor attributes

To edit length out:


1 View the joint lattice flexor’s attributes in the Attribute Editor.
2 In Length Out, enter a new value or use the slider. A positive value causes
the deformation to spread farther down the joint’s bone. A negative value
causes the deformation to concentrate towards the joint.
Note that you can also edit the length out attribute from the Channel Box.

Editing width left


The Width Left attribute affects the bulging of a joint’s point groups on the
left side of a bend. When you enter a Width Left value, the flexor points on
the left side of the bend move outward or inward to change the shape of the
bulge.
• A positive Width Left value causes the skin to bulge outward.
• A negative Width Left value causes the skin to bulge inward.
The following figures illustrate positive and negative width left effects.

Positive width left effect with joint lattice flexor

310 Using Maya: Animation


Using Flexors
Editing joint lattice flexor attributes

Animation
Character
Negative width left effect with joint lattice flexor

To edit width left:


1 View the joint lattice flexor’s attributes in the Attribute Editor.
2 In Width Left, enter a new value or use the slider. A positive value causes
the skin to bulge outward, and a negative value causes the skin to bulge
inward.
Note that you can also edit the width left attribute from the Channel Box.

Editing width right


Width Right affects the bulging of a joint’s point groups on the right side of
a bend. When you enter a Width Right value, the flexor points on the right
side of the bend move inward or outward to change the shape of the bulge.
• A positive Width Right value causes the skin to bulge outward.
• A negative Width Right value causes the skin to bulge inward.
The following figures illustrate positive and negative width right effects.

Using Maya: Animation 311


Using Flexors
Editing joint lattice flexor attributes

Positive width right effect with joint lattice flexor

Negative width right effect with joint lattice flexor

To edit width right:


1 View the joint lattice flexor’s attributes in the Attribute Editor.

312 Using Maya: Animation


Using Flexors
Editing bone lattice flexor attributes

2 In Width Right, enter a new value or use the slider. A positive value causes
the skin to bulge outward, and a negative value causes the skin to bulge
inward.
Note that you can also edit the width right attribute from the Channel Box.

Editing bone lattice flexor attributes


To edit bone lattice flexor attributes, use the Attributes Editor. Editing bone
lattice flexor attributes includes:
• “Viewing bone lattice flexor attributes” on page 313
• “Renaming bone lattice flexors” on page 314

Animation
Character
• “Editing length in” on page 314
• “Editing length out” on page 316
• “Editing width left” on page 318
• “Editing width right” on page 311
• “Editing bicep” on page 321
• “Editing tricep” on page 322

Viewing bone lattice flexor attributes


To view bone lattice flexor attributes:
1 Make sure the skeleton is not in the bind pose.
Flexors don’t deform skin in the bind pose. To see the effects of flexors, you
must view the skeleton in another pose.
2 Select a bone lattice flexor.
3 Choose Windows→Attribute Editor... .
The Attribute Editor is displayed. In the Attribute Editor, you can modify
attributes of lattice flexors on bones to create specific effects.

Using Maya: Animation 313


Using Flexors
Editing bone lattice flexor attributes

Renaming bone lattice flexors


By default, bone lattice flexors are given the name “boneFlexor” with a
number added at the end. You can change the default name. Using names
that describe the purpose of the lattice flexor can be helpful when you have a
complex character with many flexors.

To rename a bone lattice flexor:


1 View the bone lattice flexor’s attributes in the Attribute Editor.
2 In the flexorShape: field, enter a new name.

Editing length in
The Length In attribute affects the locations of flexor points along the bone’s
point group. When you enter a Length In value, the flexor planes move
away from or towards the center of the bone.
• A positive Length In value causes the lattices to move away from the center,
spreading the bend effect to a greater area of the bone.
• A negative Length In value causes the lattices to move towards the center,
making the bend effect more localized.
By changing the Length In value, you can lengthen or shorten the bulging
created by the other deformation parameters.
The following figures illustrate no effect, positive length in effect, and
negative length in effect.

314 Using Maya: Animation


Using Flexors
Editing bone lattice flexor attributes

Animation
Character
No length in effect with bone lattice flexor

Positive length in effect with bone lattice flexor

Using Maya: Animation 315


Using Flexors
Editing bone lattice flexor attributes

Negative length in effect with bone lattice flexor

To edit length in:


1 View the bone lattice flexor’s attributes in the Attribute Editor.
2 In Length In, enter a new value or use the slider. A positive value causes the
deformation to spread away from the center of the bone. A negative value
causes the deformation to concentrate towards the center of the bone.
Note that you can also edit the length in attribute from the Channel Box.

Editing length out


The Length Out attribute affects the locations of flexor points along the
bone’s point group. When you enter a Length Out value, the flexor planes
move away from or towards the center of the bone.
• A positive Length Out value causes the lattices to move away from the
center, spreading the bend effect to a greater area of the bone.
• A negative Length Out value causes the lattices to move towards the center,
making the bend effect more localized.
By changing the Length Out value, you can lengthen or shorten the bulging
created by other deformation parameters.

316 Using Maya: Animation


Using Flexors
Editing bone lattice flexor attributes

The following figures illustrate positive and negative length out effects.

Animation
Character
Positive length out effect with bone lattice flexor

Negative length out effect with bone lattice flexor

Using Maya: Animation 317


Using Flexors
Editing bone lattice flexor attributes

To edit length out:


1 View the bone lattice flexor’s attributes in the Attribute Editor.
2 In Length Out, enter a new value or use the slider. A positive value causes
the deformation to spread away from the center of the bone. A negative
value causes the deformation to concentrate towards the center of the bone.
Note that you can also edit the length out attribute from the Channel Box.

Editing width left


Width Left affects the bulging of a bone’s point group on the left side of a
bend. When you enter a Width Left value, the flexor points on the left side of
the bend move outward or inward to change the shape of the bulge.
• A positive Width Left value causes the skin to bulge outward.
• A negative Width Left value causes the skin to bulge inward.
The following illustrate positive and negative width left effects.

Positive width left effect with bone lattice flexor

318 Using Maya: Animation


Using Flexors
Editing bone lattice flexor attributes

Animation
Character
Negative width left effect with bone lattice flexor

To edit width left:


1 View the bone lattice flexor’s attributes in the Attribute Editor.
2 In Width Left, enter a new value or use the slider. A positive value causes
the skin to bulge outward, and a negative value causes the skin to bulge
inward.
Note that you can also edit the width left attribute from the Channel Box.

Editing width right


Width Right affects the bulging of a bone’s point group on the right side of a
bend. When you enter a Width Right value, the flexor points on the right
side of the bend move inward or outward to change the shape of the bulge.
• A positive Width Right value causes the skin to bulge outward.
• A negative Width Right value causes the skin to bulge inward.
The following figures illustrate positive and negative width right effects.

Using Maya: Animation 319


Using Flexors
Editing bone lattice flexor attributes

Positive width right effect with bone lattice flexor

Negative width right effect with bone lattice flexor

To edit width right:


1 View the bone lattice flexor’s attributes in the Attribute Editor.
2 In Width Right, enter a new value or use the slider. A positive value causes
the skin to bulge outward, and a negative value causes the skin to bulge
inward.
Note that you can also edit the width right attribute from the Channel Box.

320 Using Maya: Animation


Using Flexors
Editing bone lattice flexor attributes

Editing bicep
Bicep affects the bulging of a bone’s point group on the inside of a bend.
When you enter a Bicep value, the flexor points on the inside of the bend
move outward or inward to change the shape of the bulge.
• A positive Bicep value causes the skin to bulge outward.
• A negative Bicep value causes the skin to bulge inward.
The following illustrate positive and negative bicep effects.

Animation
Character
Positive bicep effect with bone lattice flexor

Using Maya: Animation 321


Using Flexors
Editing bone lattice flexor attributes

Negative bicep effect with bone lattice flexor

To edit bicep:
1 View the bone lattice flexor’s attributes in the Attribute Editor.
2 In the Attribute Editor, choose Extra Attributes.
3 In Bicep, enter a new value or use the slider. A positive value causes the skin
to bulge outward, and a negative value causes the skin to bulge inward.
Note that you can also edit the bicep attribute from the Channel Box.

Editing tricep
The Tricep attribute affects the bulging of a bone’s point group on the
outside of a bend. When you enter a Tricep value, the flexor points on the
outside of the bend move outward or inward to change the shape of the
bulge.
• A positive Tricep value causes the skin to bulge outward.
• A negative Tricep value causes the skin to bulge inward.
The following illustrate positive and negative tricep effects.

322 Using Maya: Animation


Using Flexors
Editing bone lattice flexor attributes

Animation
Character
Positive tricep effect with bone lattice flexor

Negative tricep effect with bone lattice flexor

To edit tricep:
1 View the bone lattice flexor’s attributes in the Attribute Editor.
2 In the Attribute Editor, choose Extra Attributes.

Using Maya: Animation 323


Using Flexors
Creating sculpt flexors

3 In Tricep, enter a new value or use the slider. A positive value causes the
skin to bulge outward, and a negative value causes the skin to bulge inward.
Note that you can also edit the tricep attribute from the Channel Box.

Creating sculpt flexors


You can create sculpt flexors at joints (joint sculpt flexors) or at the bones of
joints (bone sculpt flexors). You can use sculpt flexors to make skin slide
more realistically over a joint, or use them on bones to create bulges or dips
as the joint moves.

To create a sculpt flexor:


1 Put the skeleton in bind pose by selecting any joint and choosing
Skinning→Go to Bind Pose.
It’s possible to create a sculpt flexor on a skeleton that’s not in the bind pose,
but it’s not recommended—you might get unexpected results.
2 Select the joint or joints on which you want to create the flexor. If you want
to create a bone sculpt flexor, select the bone’s parent joint. To create flexors
on all joints or bones, select any joint of the skeleton.

324 Using Maya: Animation


Using Flexors
Editing sculpt flexor attributes

3 Select Skinning→Create Flexor.


The Create Flexor window is displayed.
4 From the Flexor Type: pull-down menu, choose sculpt.
5 Click the boxes under Joints and Bones to indicate where you want to
position the flexor or flexors: at selected joints or all joints, and at selected
bones or all bones.
6 Set the Max Displacement, Dropoff Distance, Dropoff Type, Mode, and
Inside Mode options as you would for a basic sculpt object.
These options are described in Using Maya: Animation, Basic Deformers.
7 Click OK to create the flexors on the joints and bones you indicated.

Animation
Character
Once you have created the sculpt flexors, you manipulate them to deform
the skin when the joints move. See “Joint-driven sculpting” on page 325.

Editing sculpt flexor attributes


To edit sculpt flexors:
1 Select the flexor you want to modify.
2 Open the Attribute Editor by selecting Window→Attributes.
The sculpt flexor’s attributes are displayed.
3 Change the attributes as desired. These attributes are described in Using
Maya: Animation, Basic Deformers.

Joint-driven sculpting
To have a joint’s attributes drive the sculpt deformation, use the Set Driven
Key tool. (For more information on Set Driven Key, please refer to Using
Maya: Animation, Keyframe.)

To set joint-driven sculpting:


1 Put the skeleton in bind pose by selecting any joint and choosing
Skinning→ Go to Bind Pose.
2 Select the sculpt flexor.
3 Select Keyframe→Set Driven Key... .

Using Maya: Animation 325


Using Flexors
Creating cluster flexors

The Set Driven Key window is displayed.


A default driver and driver attribute are loaded for you. The driver is the
joint whose motion controls the animation of the sculpt deformation. The
Attribute is the transform of driver joint that the sculpt deformation is
specifically keyed to.
Driver attributes include the following:
autoGuide The guide axis (or axes) correspond to the axes the joint is
permitted to rotate in (based on the Joint Limits setting in
the Attribute Editor). Auto Guide is the default and works
well in most cases.
rotateX The guide axis is the joint’s X-axis.
rotateY The guide axis is the joint’s Y-axis.
rotateZ The guide axis is the joint’s Z-axis.
maxXYZ The guide axes are the joint’s X-, Y-, and Z-axes.
4 In the browser, select the attribute you want to animate.
5 Set the key by clicking Key.
The key for the bind position of the character is created.
6 Select the handle of the joint chain, move the joint chain, and continue
setting keys by clicking Key.

Creating cluster flexors


Cluster flexors allow you to control how smoothly skin moves around joints
during posing and animating.

326 Using Maya: Animation


Using Flexors
Creating cluster flexors

Animation
Character
During skinning, cluster deformers are automatically created to bind skin
point sets to joints. These cluster deformers that bind skin point sets to joints
are called joint clusters. Joint clusters indicate their deformation effects on
skin point sets by their drop-off values. The drop-off values are percentage
values that indicate the range and magnitude of the deformation effects. By
controlling the range and magnitude of drop-off, you can control the
smoothness of skin around a joint.
Cluster flexors provide a way for you to manipulate the drop-off directly.
Rather than having to specify actual values for the percentages, you can use
the cluster flexor’s manipulators to edit the deformation effects.

To create a cluster flexor:


1 Put the skeleton in bind pose by selecting any joint and choosing
Skinning→Go to Bind Pose.
2 Select the joint (or joints) on which you want to create the flexor.
3 Choose Skinning→Create Flexor... .
The Create Flexor window is displayed.
4 From the Flexor Type: pull-down menu, choose jointCluster.

Using Maya: Animation 327


Using Flexors
Editing cluster flexor attributes

5 Click the boxes under Joints to indicate where you want to position the
flexor or flexors: at selected joints or at all joints.
Except for simple cases, you will probably want to adjust the cluster to
position it and change the percentages for the best effect on the skin bending
around the joint.
6 Click Create.
Cluster flexors are created at the selected joints.
7 Open the Hypergraph by choosing Window→Hypergraph... .
The Hypergraph will indicate the cluster flexor(s) as a “jointFlexor” with a
number appended. The number indicates the order in which the flexors have
been created.
When you select the cluster flexor, note that a “J” is displayed near the
cluster flexor’s joint.

Editing cluster flexor attributes


To edit cluster flexors:
1 Select the cluster flexor you want to edit.
2 Open the Attribute Editor by selecting Window→Attribute Editor... .
In the Attribute Editor, you can edit the attributes of the cluster flexor, the
cluster flexor’s shape, and the joint cluster deformer (the cluster deformer
that binds skin point sets to joints). The cluster flexor’s attributes folder is
identified as “jointFlexorn,” the cluster flexor’s shape attributes folder is
identified as “jointFlexor_Shape,” and the joint cluster deformer (the cluster
deformer that binds skin point sets to joints) attributes folder is identified as
“JointnClustern.”
3 Edit the attributes as desired. Note that the attributes of cluster deformers
are described in Using Maya: Animation, Basic Deformers.

Editing with cluster flexor manipulators


You can use the cluster flexor’s manipulators to edit the deformation effects
of joint clusters. A cluster flexor’s manipulators include of pair of rings.

328 Using Maya: Animation


Using Flexors
Editing with cluster flexor manipulators

Animation
Character
Cluster flexor manipulator rings
Each ring includes two manipulators: a diamond manipulator and a radial
manipulator.

Using Maya: Animation 329


Using Flexors
Editing with cluster flexor manipulators

Diamond
manipulator

Diamond manipulator (selected)


Located at the center of the ring, the diamond manipulator controls the
range of smoothing. The diamond manipulator controls the range of drop-
off of the joint clusters acting on the skin point sets bound to the current
joint and the current joint’s parent joint.

330 Using Maya: Animation


Using Flexors
Editing with cluster flexor manipulators

Radial
manipulator

Animation
Character
Radial manipulator (selected)
Located on the ring, the radial manipulator controls the magnitude of
smoothing. The radial manipulator controls the magnitude of drop-off of the
joint clusters acting on the skin point sets bound to the current joint and the
current joint’s parent joint.

To edit with the cluster flexor manipulators:


1 If you have just created the cluster flexor, you need to choose to have the
cluster flexor manipulators displayed. In the Hypergraph, select the cluster
flexor (identified as “jointFlexorn”). Open the Attribute Editor; from Display,
click on Display Handle. A cross-shaped mark is displayed at the center of
the joint, near the “J” that identifies the cluster flexor.
2 Select the joint with the Show Manipulator Tool.
The cluster flexor manipulators are displayed.
3 Be sure the joint is not in the bind pose. Flexors do not provide deformation
effects when the skeleton is in the bind pose. By having the joint in some
other pose, you can see the effects of your editing.
4 To edit the range of smoothing, select one of the diamond manipulators.
5 Use the left mouse button to click and drag the diamond manipulator
towards or away from the joint.
The range of smoothing changes as you drag the manipulator.

Using Maya: Animation 331


Using Flexors
Editing with cluster flexor manipulators

6 To edit the magnitude of smoothing, select one of the radial manipulators.


7 Use the left mouse button to click and drag the radial manipulator towards
or away from the joint.
The magnitude of smoothing changes as you drag the manipulator.
Note that you can also edit the drop-off values of joint clusters from the
Attribute Editor. The Upper Value of the current joint’s joint cluster and
Lower Value of the parent joint’s joint cluster are controlled by radial
manipulators. The Upper Bound of the current joint’s joint cluster and
Lower Bound of the parent joint’s joint cluster are controlled by the diamond
manipulators. For total smoothing, the values, which are expressed as
percentages, should be equal 100.
Editing which skin points are in which skin point sets can also help to
control smoothing effects.

332 Using Maya: Animation


Index

A C D
animating characters dampening
characters 11, 27 animating 27 joints 67
IK chains 124 deforming 25 Degrees of Freedom 52, 60
keyframing 124 flexors 25 dependency graph loops
motion capture 125 geometry 12 IK spline 112, 119
necks, tails, spines 103 modeling 12 diamond manipulator 173
with skin and skeleton skeletons 14
Disconnect Joint 49
groups 136 skinning 22, 127
attributes child joints 16, 33
editing joints 55
setting IK spline handle 115
closest point
binding by 130
E
Auto Create Curve 113 cluster flexors 25, 143 end effectors 76, 79
Auto Create Root Axis 112, 122 creating 171 displaying 84
Auto Joint Limits 54 editing attributes 172 end joints 35, 74, 76, 78
Auto Joint Orient 53 editing with manipulators 175
Auto Parent Curve 122 manipulators 172
Auto Simplify Curve 113 Connect Joint 46 F
Autopriority 87 control vertices (CVs) 22
fish
creating
animating with IK spline 118,
cluster flexors 171
122
B IK chains 83
IK handles 82 flexors 25, 140
IK spline handle 103 cluster flexors 25, 143
ball joints 52, 60
joint chains 36 lattice flexors 25, 140
Bicep deformation 165
joints 36 sculpt flexors 25, 142
bind pose 133
lattice flexors 145 flipping
reseting 133
parent transform with IK eliminating in rotate plane
returing to 133
spline 112 (RP) solver IK handles 101
binding by closest point 130 preventing IK spline start
sculpt flexors 168
binding by partition set 131 joint 116
Curve Editing Tool 105
binding multiple objects 132 flipping in motion path
curves
bone lattice flexors 145 auto-creating with IK spline preventing IK spline start
bones 14 handle 113 joint 117
bone lattice flexors 145 auto-simplifying with IK spline forward kinematics 20, 70
compensating scale 54, 64 handle 113
Index

IK spline handle 103


transforming IK handle 109 G
geometry 12
skin 22
skinning 127

Using Maya: Modeling 333


Index

goal IK spline handle 103 joint cluster points 23


displaying 84 animating sinuous joint clusters 23
goal’s axis motion 122 joint lattice flexors 145
displaying 84 auto-creating curve 113
joint limits 64
goals 77, 79 auto-parenting curve 112
Joint Orient 63
creating 103
curve 103 Joint Tool 36
joints 14, 32
H human spines 120
manipulating curve CVs 105, Auto Joint Limits 54
handle vectors 77, 79 119 Auto Joint Orient 53
motion path 117 ball joints 52
handle wires 76, 78
offset 108 child joints 16, 33
human spines compensating scale 54, 64
parenting to transform or
IK spline handle 120 dampening 67
joint 118
rolling 106 Degrees of Freedom 52, 60
selecting 107 disconnecting 49
I setting keys 106 editing attributes 55
sliding joint chain 107 editing joint limits 64
IK chains 35
snapping curve to start end joints 35, 74
animating 124
joint 113 inserting 41
Autopriority 87
soft body on curve 118 joint chains 17, 33
creating 83
tail, back, and neck 121 joint lattice flexors 145
posing 100
tips for using 118 Joint Orient 63
IK handles 14, 20, 35, 74
tool options 109 limbs 34
Autopriority 87
twisting 106 local axis orientation 63
creating 82
IK systems 98 parent joints 16, 33
editing attributes 94
accessing 99 positioning 40
editing display 96
creating 98 Preferred Angle 61
editing limits 96
renaming 99 removing 42
end joints 74
viewing available IK renaming 58
Priority 89
solvers 99 resizing display 40
setting creation options 85
Insert Joint Tool 41 root joints 18, 32
setting PO weight 90
Rotate Damp Range 68
setting weight 89 inverse kinematics 20, 70
Rotate Damp Strength 68
Snap Enable 88
Scale Compensate 54
Solver Enable 88
Segment Scale
start joints 74 J Compensate 64
Sticky 89 setting creation options 50
joint chain planes 79
IK solvers 21, 35, 75 start joint 35
editing attributes 97 joint chains 17, 33
start joints 74
IK spline solvers 81 adding to 37
Stiffness 62
multi-chain (MC) solvers 81 creating 36
rotate plane (RP) solvers 77 inserting joints 41
single chain (SC) solvers 75 limbs 17

334 Using Maya: Modeling


Index

K N reference planes 80
Remove Joint 42
keyframing 124 Number of Spans 113, 114 Reroot Skeleton 50
minimum keys 124 rerooting skeletons 50
using Channel Box 124 rolling
kinematics 70 O IK spline handle 106
root joints 18, 32
offset
Root on Curve 107
L IK spline handle 108
overlapping Root Twist Mode 114
lattice flexors 25, 140 IK spline handle joints 119 Rotate Damp Range 68
bone lattice flexors 145 Rotate Damp Strength 68
creating 145 rotate plane (RP) solvers 77
editing bone lattice flexor
attributes 157
P behavior 81
end effectors 79
editing joint lattice flexor parent joints 16, 33 end joints 78
attributes 146 partition set goals 79
joint lattice flexors 145 binding by 131 handle vectors 79
positioning 146 partitions 22 handle wires 78
Length in deformation 150, 158 pelvic region joint chain planes 79
Length out deformation 152, 160 positioning skeleton root plane indicators 80
limbs 17, 34 in 123 pole vectors 80
mirroring 45 plane indicators 80 reference planes 80
limits PO weight 90 rotation discs 80
joint limits 64 start joints 78
points 22
twist discs 80
skin point sets 22
skin points 22 rotation discs 80
M pole vector’s axis Rounding deformation 149
displaying 84
Mirror 45
pole vectors 80
Mirror Across 45
posing S
Mirror Joint 45
IK chains 100 Scale Compensate 54
mirroring 43 sticky posing 102
sculpt flexors 25, 142
modeling 12 Power Animator creating 168
motion capture 125 IK spline twisting in Maya 114 editing attributes 169
motion paths Preferred Angle 61 joint-driven sculpting 169
Index

IK spline handle 117 Priority 89 seals


moving animating with IK spline 122
start joint off IK spline
Segment Scale Compensate 64
curve 111
multi-chain (MC) solvers 81
R selecting
IK spline handle 107
activating 87 radial manipulator 173

Using Maya: Modeling 335


Index

setting keys
IK spline handle 106
Snap Curve To Root 113
Snap Enable 88
V
single chain (SC) solvers 75 Solver Enable 88 vertices 22
behavior 77 IK spline handle 115
end effectors 76 spline solvers 81
end joints 76
goals 77
start joint flipping W
in motion path 117
handle vectors 77 Width left deformation 154, 162
preventing IK spline 116
handle wires 76 Width right deformation 155, 163
start joints 35, 74, 76, 78
start joints 76
stickiness 102
sinuous motion
IK spline handle 122 Sticky 89
sticky posing 102
Z
skeletons 14, 32
animating 14 Stiffness 62 zero rotation
building 14, 31 IK spline joint orientation 116
combining 46
construction strategies 50 T
disconnecting 49
flexors 25 tips
mirroring 45 building skeletons with
grid 32
posing 14
IK chain length 35
rerooting 50
IK chains with rotate plane
skinning 22, 127
(RP) solvers 81
viewing hierarchy outline 39
IK chains with single chain
skin (SC) solvers 77
binding 127 IK spline handle creation 118
skin point sets 22 skeletons with many limbs 34
skin point sets 22 using mirroring to create
displaying colors 134 limbs 43
editing 134 tool options
skin points 22 IK spline handle 109
skinning 22, 127 transforming
binding by closest point 130 IK spline handle curve 109
binding by partition set 131 Tricep deformation 166
binding multiple objects 132
twist discs 80
detaching skin 134
displaying 84
reattaching skin 134
Twist Type 115
sliding
twisting
joint chain along curve 107
IK spline handle 106
snakes
animating with IK spline 118,
122

336 Using Maya: Modeling