3 Simple Things To Setup Maya To Be a Faster Artist
3 Simple Things To Setup Maya To Be a Faster Artist

Setting up Maya correctly for animation can quickly change the way you work and increase your productivity. Maya like most creative application is setup to work for everyone but has the ability to be fine tuned to work for you. Over the years I have slowly built a Maya setup that has become second nature to me. This setup has worked for me and could help you work faster, but just remember not everything that works for me will work for you.

Hotkeys

Hotkeys are the unsung hero to any great working experience. Maya does an okay job giving you a base hotkey setup, but it hasn't been tailored to work explicitly for animators. Once you are comfortable with Maya's base hotkeys it is time to start the customization. Here are a few of my favourites:

Show/Hide Toggle

Maya - Viewport Show Toggle
Maya - Viewport Show Toggle

Yes I know Maya has a default way to toggle off and on some object types. To me this falls short of ideal, we should be able to toggle a group of objects we want to hide. In my case it is items commonly found on rigs, allowing me to have a clean look at my poses and motion.

In/Out Toggle

Maya - Frame In/Out
Maya - Frame In/Out

This hotkey was inspired by RV and most editing and playback tools. Quickly having the ability to chop down the playback range with out messing with sliders or punching in frame numbers.

Axis Toggle

Maya - Axis Toggle
Maya - Axis Toggle

I can't tell you how useful this feature is! Being able to toggle between; local, object and world axis allows you to toggle thought the axis on any object with a single button press.

With much demand I have released a version that you are able to download from my Gunroad page to add to your own workflow. The install and setup guide can be found here.

Caution

Hotkeys are a great example on why it is useful to learn python. Setting up hotkeys comes down to personal preference and will dramatically increases performance once you get the hang of it. Be careful, too many hotkeys can be an issue as well if they aren't used often you might as well add them to a shelf button.


Settings

Maya has a few key features that when toggled on quickly increases productivity. The following settings are the first things I recommend everyone turn on.

Maya - Channelbox Link
Maya - Channelbox Link

We have the option to connect the channel box to the timeline and graphic editor. It quickly becomes apparent how powerful the feature is especially when you want to isolate a specific attribute. To turn on this setting click 'Channels' inside the channel box and navigate down to 'Sync Selection in Graph Editor' and 'Sync Timeline Display'.

Maya - Viewport link
Maya - Viewport link

This one has me perplexed as to why Autodesk decided to have it off by default. The ability to view your animation across all viewports in a given. The only time I might suggest someone turns this off is with a low spec machine that is having a hard time keeping up. To turn on this setting head to 'Settings' on the left hand side select 'Time Slider' and down to 'Playback' there you will see 'Update View'.


Keeping Clean

I can't express how important it is to keep your file clean. You can have all the tools in the world but if you can't quickly navigate your scene they are useless. Maya is a sandbox of creativity, with that keeping the file organized from display layer, animation layers to groups, having a clear name is important. It might not be important when you are currently working on the scene. But it becomes paramount when you or someone else needs to debug or pick up your work. At times when working in a team shots will be moved from one artist to other to finish or pickup a note. Keeping your scene clean will make that transition easier for yourself and other artist. Spend the 2 minutes at the start to keep yourself from the pain down the road.

Naming Convention

Just like keeping your file clean saving files in a way that can be quickly iterable will make your life easier. My suggestion is always:

 NAME_SHOT_NUMBER_v001 - abaker_101_010_0100_v001

With this method we indicated the your name, the shot number and allow for versioning. You might ask why I would be need my name in the scene file? Having your name in the scene file allows you to clearly state that this file was last edited by yourself and if it needs to be passed on they will in turn be aware of the life cycle of this file.

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