Dynamics Making Maya Better
Dynamics Making Maya Better

When getting to know any program you can always take it to another level by using hotkeys. But when it comes to most 3d applications we can truly make any program unique with coding. Autodesk's Maya is no different, with a number of free, paid and open-source tools available to use. Some tools might make simulation easier, others might help you animate more efficiently. This ability to develop on top of an existing program to help make it do things better or differently is crucial to development of the creative process.

Dynamics and simulation got easier with the implementation of Maya's Bifrost but it does have its limitations. With Houdini increasing in popularity some companies and individuals are pushing the boundaries of what is possible inside Maya. If you want to learn how to develop your own tools and plugins to make Maya better have I have compiled a guide on how to learn python as a 3d artist.

Let's jump in and explore a few tools that can make your Maya experience better.

Ragdoll Dynamics

Ragdoll Dynamics is the new kid on the block, founded by Marcus Ottosson, at the start of 2020. It has quickly made an impact on how we think about ragdoll animation. Once setup, Ragdoll Dynamics puts the power in the artist's hands allowing the artist to tweak, re-simulate and even adjust on top of that simulation. It allows artist to stay focused on the core performance of the shot, letting the dynamics make it better.

Ragdoll Dynamics Maya Breakdown

Expanding on the breakdown on Medusa's hair you get a sense of the quality and the time savings you can get with enabling Ragdoll Dynamics to your rig. This gives the animator the ability to get "Free" secondary motion based on the environment or parent, in this case Madusa's head motion. The artist is able to focus on the motion of the snakes without worrying if the head motion changes. This could save the artist hours of work per revision.

I wanted to chat with Marcus to understand why he decided to go on this journey to build Ragdoll Dynamics inside of Maya instead of other packages. He "really wanted something like this to exist, but was not finding anything. At one point I accidentally got wrapped up in an nCloth project many years ago and saw such great potential. I thought to myself that if I could just find a way to overcome how technical it all was, and make it about 10-100x more performant, this would be a clear winner to me." Marcus and many others have been pushed into developing tools by a means to solve things that annoy them.

But why did you decide to build this for Maya? "Maya itself isn't the goal. Animators are. It just so happens that animators reside in Maya; if they were elsewhere then that's where I would be too."

I find with some new creative technologies we often find ourselves asking when does the technology burden the creative process? I wanted to get Marcus's thoughts, "If we're talking about tools, can tools become so overly complicated that they make you lose sight of what you were trying to achieve in the first place? Then yeah. I'd argue nCloth did that for me. Great potential, wrapped up in a poor user interface. Many times I end up with what the computer wanted me to end up with, rather than what I originally had in mind. That said, I think there's something to be said for 'happy accidents' which I think is a large part of creativity. In choosing one of the many results you stumble upon during what becomes an exploration process." The 'happy accidents' come from the analytical nature of the creative, using math to determine the outcome. Marcus continues to say "That's the core challenge of making tools. It's what I struggle with the most and expect to continue to struggle with the most. Creativity is fluid, it's subjective." With anyone working in a creative field we know art, can't be done by a large committee but by individuals themselves.

When developing, how do you approach this problem? "No two artists are alike. And you build one tool to fit all of them. It's a process of reduction; of removing as many steps between idea and goal as possible, but no more. Sometimes you don't remove enough, and the tool is overly complex. Sometimes you remove too many and the tool is limited."

When deciding to try new things determination to not quit is paramount to the success of the idea. Marcus adds "...in 2013, and since then it has been my mission to (1) learn about software and (2) learn about business. That was 9 years ago and my determination has never been stronger." Working with creatives and the creative process isn't a true or false statement. Outcomes from this process are looked at on a range. Some ideas can come close but I wouldn't call them bad or in this case false. They are just not what our desired outcome is. We all continue to push what our creative outcomes can be and how we can improve upon that process. For me the idea of what Ragdoll Dynamics is doing helps, and allows us to continue on our own artistic journey.

ZIVA Dynamics

ZIVA dynamics has taken muscle simulation to the next level. ZIVA wad founded in early 2015 by James Jacobs a winner of the academy award for scientific and engineering in 2013 and USC professor Dr. Jernej Bardic. They have changed the way VFX muscle simulation is done. Used by top studios in the world including DNEG, Framestore, Sony Imageworks and more, they have been able to bring creatures and characters to life with muscle and skin simulations. Although Maya has its own built in muscle simulation, it doesn't compare to the quality, speed and efficiency the of process created by ZIVA.

©Ziva Dynamics Inc
©Ziva Dynamics Inc
©Ziva Dynamics Inc
©Ziva Dynamics Inc

Although they have recently been acquired by Unity they continue to push the boundaries of simulation with their new work - ZIVA RT- allowing for real time simulation inside the Unity engine. It will be exciting to see what happens over the next few years with ZIVA and the new heights it can reach with this partnership.

Ziva Dynamics RT

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