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Using Driven Keys to create a handController

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Date Added: 9th December 2009
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This task is not very complicated, but it's a tool in Maya you DEFINITIVELY should not miss! Seriously! You have probably downloaded several free rigs on the Internet and all of them have controls controlling other controls. Usually NURBS-curves or locators are used, but you can use just about anything as controllers. Whatever you choose to use, you want the user to be able to handle the rig without difficulties. Animators do not want to manipulate joints. They want controllers to drag around in the viewport. Actually, they usually don't care much about whats beneath the surface at all. They won't relate to it when animating. Make sure you have total control and avoid using floatSliders. About the sliders: This is a personal opinion, but using floatSliders make is so much harder for the animator to get accurate results. This is very easy to achieve using the channelBox. The channelBox is comfortable to work with because you can type in numbers directly, select attributes and use the MMB (middle mouse button) to drag values and while holding Ctrl while dragging you can set the value divided by five.
Let's get familiar with the channelControl then

Create a pCube (polygon cube) and name it something clever (or don't bother to rename it at all)
Open the channelControl (Window > General Editors > Channel Control)

As usual numbered images are clickable for larger view. Some other images are also clickable and if they are I will write a little note next to it.

Click to Enlarge

1 - Get familiar with the channelControl. By default Maya only shows rotate, translate, scale and visibility. This doesn't mean that there are no other attributes, they're just hidden. You can choose to add these hidden attributes to your objects using the channelControl. In Maya 7.0 you can also choose to display these attributes as keyable or non-keyable.

Say you want to show the attribute "rotatePivotTranslateY" in pSomethingClever's channel-Box. Simply scroll down and find it, then you click the "<>" button to make it non-keyable.
You can also hide rotate, translate, scale or visibility. Just choose the ones you want to hide and click "Move>>". You have now set the selected attribute to "Non-keyable hidden" .If you hid scaleY, this will still be affected if you press "s" to set key after using the scaleTool directly. However you will not be able to set a key on this attribute directly in the channelBox.

You can also use the right mouse button with the attribute selected to hide the attribute and other similar options you should look into.

Before we go any further I'd like to go through how driven keys work. The secret lies in the name really. An attribute will control another one based on keyed positions.

Let's do an example together and I'll walk you through the steps. We're going to let the translate of a cube control the rotate of a cone.

1. create a pCube and a pCone and rename the cube "pCubeDriver" and the cone "pConeDriven".
2. Open the "Set Driven Key Window" (Animate > Set Driven Key > Set) Make sure you are in the animation menu. (F2) You will not find the animation drop-down menu if you are in another mode.

The Set Driven Key Window should now be opened.
3. Select pCubeDriver and Click "Load Driver". Then select pConeDriven and click "Load Driven".

Click to Enlarge

2 - Now that we have them both loaded in the "Set Driven Key" window, we can go to work.

I want the cube to translate from translateZ = -10 to translateZ = 10 and I want the cone to rotate from rotateZ = -90 to rotateZ = 90.

When the cube is in origo ( translateZ = 0 ) I also want the cone to stay still. Therefore we need a key to determine the neutral position.

Select pCubeDriver and its translateZ (inside the "Set Driven Key" Window ) Click image below for explaination: and hit the "key" button.

Click to Enlarge

3 - Notice that the pConeDriven.rotateZ attribute in the channelBox has turned red. This indicates that this attribute has been keyed. Maya uses colorCodes to indicate different things. An expression will go purple and if your attribute has multiple connections it will turn yellow.

OK, we have set the neutral position now. Let's set the other two.

Select pCubeDriver and set its translateZ to -10, select pConeDriven and set its rotateZ to -90. (Even though the attribute is keyed earlier doesn't mean we can't set other values here. Since the pCubeDriver.translateZ has changed we can set a new value and therefore get an animation here. If pCubeDriver.translateZ was still at 0 we would have overwritten the neutral position of the cone to -90) If you want to test your driven keys now simply drag the cube between translateZ 0 and translateZ -10

You should see the cone rotate.

Click to Enlarge

4 - Now we have to set a key at pCube.translateZ 10 to complete the task. Select the cube and set the translateZ value to 10. Select the cone and set the rotateZ value to 90.

Hit "key"

Now we have done it basically. If you drag the cube back and forth you will see the cone rotating. But you'll also notice that if you drag it further than -10 or 10 nothing happens to the cone. There's no point in letting the animators be able to drag it further.

Select the cube and press "Ctrl+a" to open the attributeEditor. With the pCubeDriver-Tab selected scroll down to Limit Information and open the translate frame. Here you set the Trans Limit Z to -10 for Min and 10 for Max. Now you won't be able to drag it any further than the values we just set.

Scary scenario!!! The Animation Supervisor comes in to tell you that the animators want to have the cone to have a maximum rotation when the cube is at -5 and +5. You might be thinking.... "Maaan, now I have to do it all over again!" But fear not.

Click to Enlarge

5 - When you animate something a node is created holding an animationCurve for that movement. If you open the hyperGraph you can see how your scene elements are connected. (Window > Hypergraph)

Select the cube and click this icon to see the input-and output connections.

Select the pConeDriven.translateZ (animCurveUA) and open its attributeEditor (Ctrl+a remember?)

Under the Anim Curve Attributes frame you can replace the values that are allready listed there. I changed mine to five in this image. Since this is a curve, we can actually edit this in the graphEditor too. With the node selected open the graphEditor (Window > Animation Editors > Graph Editor) Select input and start tweeking. Here you can put some ease-in and ease- out if you want a smoother transition or create a halt at frame 0 etc. etc. It's highly tweekable.

p.s. Don't forget to set new limits to the cube's

If you want to play around with the file I created for this first part of this tutorial you can download the file here: I have supplied all my files in *.ma (Maya ASCII) so if you wish to make the files backwards compatible simply open it in your favorite textEditor and replace all the "7"'s with "6", or the version number for the application you are using, at the top of the document.

To download use this link

continued on next page >

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