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Know the Basics: Maya Part 4: Organisation

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Date Added: 21st November 2016
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In part four of the Know the Basics: Maya 2017 series, Paul Hatton explores the best practice for organising your files and workflow...


Previous tutorials

Know the Basics: Maya Part 1: Interface
Know the Basics: Maya Part 2: Viewports and Navigation
Know the Basics: Maya Part 3: Modelling

I appreciate that this isn't necessarily the most fascinating subject to write an article on but boy is it important! If you want to maximise your efficiency and make projects as streamlined as they can be then you've got to keep organised. I appreciate that if you're a one man band then it's easy to get into bad habits resulting in frustration and a loss of efficiency. Hopefully the tips in this article will help you avoid those annoying hold ups as much as possible.

Step 1: Workspaces

Keeping your interface organised and efficient is absolutely key to staying on top of things. If you're spending unnecessary time looking for tools that you use regularly then this will not only waste valuable time but it will also more than likely take the enjoyment out of the creative process. The best way to keep things organised is to use workspaces. In the top right hand corner you'll notice a drop down menu called 'Workspace'. Use this to select and even create custom workspaces.

Use workspaces to make efficient use of the locations of your panels and tools.

Step 2: Outliner

This tool is brilliant for seeing in a hierarchical form what is contained inside your scene. If you're not used to this sort of hierarchical display then you basically have your first set of layers which then contain sub layers which are 'children' of the layers above them. There is therefore a relational aspect to the hierarchy. At the top of the 'Outliner' window in the 'Display' menu you can adjust what is displayed and what isn't.

See your scene in hierarchical form.

Step 3: Layer Editor

The layer editor is another way to keep your objects organised and to see them in a node based hierarchy view. Using the editor you can create new layers, nest them together, and add objects into layers. From there you can show, hide or edit multiple objects quickly and easily. Organising your scene like this is a great habit to get into. There are two options for the layer editor which are 'Display' and 'Animation'. Each provides different functionality and is worth the investment of learning how they work.

Use either of the 2 types of layer editor to keep your scene organised.

Step 4: Content Browser

The Content Browser is a brilliant little tool which enables you to insert content into your scene. You can navigate around your local directories as well as example folders. The beauty of the browser is that you can then just drag and drop them into your scene. Brilliant! As it lets you view all of your local files as well, it is essential to name your files intelligibly! A good habit to get into anyway.

Use the content browser to keep all your assets easily accessible.

Step 5: Naming Objects

A good habit to get into is to name your objects! This is particularly essential if you work in a team context and are sharing files. Even if you work on your own though it's a good habit and it will speed up your workflow no end. To edit an object name simply select your object and head over to the 'Attribute editor'. Adjust the name and it's done! You can also double click a node in the 'Outliner' and change the name there if you'd prefer.

Get used to naming your objects so you can find things quickly.

Step 6: Naming Conventions

An extension of naming objects will be to follow a set of naming conventions. All of your scene files should follow the same conventions to ensure that they are consistent. This sort of thing is brilliant in a team context and comes into its own when you're animating characters for example. If all of your characters bones are always named in the same fashion then any animator can pick it up and run with it.

Develop a naming convention so that all your projects are consistent.

Step 7: Grouping Objects

With your objects correctly named in a logical manner, another way that you can keep your objects organised is to group similar objects. This is useful in particular when you want to select objects that have something in common. For a character for example, you might group the clothes or the accessories. To group or ungroup objects use the 'Edit' menu and select 'Group' or 'Ungroup'.

Group similar objects together for easier selecting and editing.

Step 8: Sets and partitions

Another way to associate related objects, other than using groups, is to use sets and partitions. Think of sets as a collection of objects which can be selected together without making any alteration to the hierarchy of the scene. As an extension of that, a partition is then just a collection of exclusive sets which specifies that an object can't be in multiple sets within the same partition! You can create a set from the 'Create' menu.

Associate related objects without affecting the hierarchy of the scene.

Step 9: Optimise Scene Size

At points your scene will become a bit unmanageable and may therefore benefit from some optimisation. One of the best ways to do this is to use the 'Optimise scene size' function which is contained in the 'File' menu. According to Maya's documentation this will remove empty, invalid, and unused information from the scene.

Optimise the scene using this handy tool.

Step 10: Backups

Good housekeeping includes keeping backups. There's little more frustrating than losing work that you've painstakingly created. The automatic way of ensuring that you have the necessary backups is to ensure that 'autosave' is set. Do this by going to 'Window' -> 'Settings/Preferences' and 'Preferences'. Then select 'Files/Projects' and make sure 'Autosave' is enabled. If you'd prefer to do it manually then you'll need to just find a way of remembering!

Keeping backups will help you avoid losing work unnecessarily.

Top tip: Renaming multiple objects

Do this by selecting all your objects followed by opening the menu next to the input field on the status line. Click 'Rename' and type in your base name. Each object will be given the base name and then a unique incremental number.

Rename multiple objects quickly and easily.

Related links

For more from Paul Hatton, check out C A Design Services
Download Maya 2017
Check out Maya 2017 on Twitter
Grab a copy of Beginner's Guide to Character Creation in Maya
Know the Basics: Maya Part 1: Interface
Know the Basics: Maya Part 2: Viewports and Navigation
Know the Basics: Maya Part 3: Modelling


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