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Know the Basics: Maya Part 6: Motion Graphics

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Date Added: 21st December 2016
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In part six of our Know the Basics: Maya tutorial series, learn how to add motion graphics to your project...


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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
Know the Basics: Maya Part 4: Organisation
Know the Basics: Maya Part 5: Animating

Motion graphics have been around for a long while now but they're actually relatively new to Maya. When you think of motion graphics you would probably think of something like After Effects to get your work done, but you can actually do a lot right inside Maya now. In extension 2 of the 2016 release Autodesk added motion design tools include Type Tool, SVG Tool and the MASH Toolkit. We'll take a look at the MASH toolkit in more detail to explode an object, in this case a piece of text.

Step 1: Create the text to explode

Create some text and change its attributes. In the 'Geometry' tab make sure 'Deformable Type' is checked so that the text is split into many faces, ensuring that the text will explode into small parts. Use the 'Reduce Threshold' to even out the triangulation.

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The first step is to create an object that you want to explode.

Step 2: Create a cube

Create a cube. Make the cube really small so that you can still see it but so that it would only take up a small part of the average size of your object's faces. This cube will be replicated on every face of the mesh once we have created the MASH network. These replicated cubes will help us to see how the mesh is going to explode, and will be a helpful visual representation of the strength of the effect.

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Create a cube which will be used to get a visual representation of the strength of the explosion.

Step 3: Create the MASH Network

With the cube selected, create a MASH network by going to 'MASH' and 'Create MASH Network'. In the 'Attribute Editor' go to the 'Distribute' tab and then to the 'Mesh' rollout. From the 'Outliner' drag the text object onto the 'Input Mesh' slot. Change the 'Method' to 'Face Centre' and check 'Flood Mesh'. This will create a MASH point on every surface.

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The MASH network will let us explode our object.

Step 4: Create a random node

Go to the first MASH tab in the attribute editor and in the 'Node' rollout simply right click on the 'Random' node before selecting 'Add Random Node'. This is the process for creating any type of node. There are an array of nodes, each with a neat graphic so that you can easily identify them. Underneath the primary nodes there are also a set of utility nodes which you can also use. We'll now take a look at one of those utility nodes.

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The random node puts a MASH point on every face.

Step 5: Setting up the explode: theory

We're going to use a node called 'Explode' to drive our explosion. This node essentially extracts the faces of a mesh from their original position and transforms them. This gives the appearance of an explosion. One of the beautiful things about using the explode node is that the model maintains smooth shading throughout. The result therefore looks a lot better.

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Explosions play a huge part in motion graphics and so knowing how to create them is important.

Step 6: Setting up the explode: practical

Add a new node called 'Explode'. Do this in the same way you create the random node. Then drag from the outliner the same object mesh onto the 'Explode Mesh' slot. In the 'Strength' rollout you can then play around with the strength sliders to customise the explosion.

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The explode node lets us specify how our chosen object will explode.

Step 7: Create a falloff object

In the 'Falloff Object' rollout right click and select 'Create' to create a falloff object. This will give us an object which can be used to contain the explosion within a defined volume. Transform (Move, rotate and scale) the object so that it is the size and shape that you want for your explosion.

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The falloff object will let us contain the explosion to a specific volume.

Step 8: Key frame the falloff

Select the explode node from the outliner and head over to the 'Attribute Editor'. In the 'Transform Attributes' rollout you'll find a set of attributes including translation, rotation and scale. Right click on 'Translate' and select 'Create Key'. This will create a key at frame 0 for the position of the node. In the timeline move forward to another frame, say number 50 and adjust the translation values. Create a new key again in the same manner as before. If you scrub through the timeline then you'll see the object explode before you.

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Key framing the fall off object lets us animate when the explosion happens.

Step 9: Deleting the exploded faces

When our faces explode out we're going to want those faces to have a life span and essentially die/disappear after a period of time. We can do this in the MASH network by creating an 'Offset' node and changing its 'Offset Scale' to -1 on all three axis. This will ensure that as the faces explode they will transition from a scale of 1 (Default) to the scale set in the offset node which is -1.

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Deleting the faces after explosion can be done using the 'Offset' node.

Step 10: Conclusion

The MASH network is incredibly powerful with a whole host of other nodes which extend the functionality of the network to anything that your imagination can conjure up! There are nodes such as 'Mute' which controls the strength of connected nodes as well as 'Symmetry' which lets you copy the whole network across a specified access. The system is quick, responsive and stable which gives you a system that you can rely on.

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Use the MASH network to create incredible motion graphics.

Top tip: The Mash Editor

The Mash Editor gives you an interface for seeing all of your nodes. You can use the outliner as you normally would but the mash editor removes all unnecessary scene data so that you can focus on what's important when setting up your motion graphics.

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The MASH Editor lets you see what nodes you have.

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
Know the Basics: Maya Part 4: Organisation
Know the Basics: Maya Part 5: Animating

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