Corner Charicature

Tips

There is plenty of information out there on the internet that describes in detail the topic of animation. What I wish to do here is share some of the handy information I've gathered and continue to gather as it pertains to animating in Maya. My experience may also be helpful to people moving from 2D to 3D and are relatively new to Maya. My past grief can hopefully ease yours.

Mel scripts

The Maya community is huge and one of the awesome benefits of this fact is the amazing number of tools people have scripted to make our lives easier. If you've ever found something about Maya that is annoying or cumbersome, most likely someone else has too and a tool has been written addressing the issue. Here are some of my favourite and most used scripts.

Pose 2 Shelf I use quite a bit. I use it to make handy buttons.
Grease Pencil allows you to draw inside of Maya, great for us 2Ders and a great time saver.
Pose library let's you store poses with thumbnail images in a nice organized interface. I've used it to store phonemes, hand poses, eyebrows, expressions, the list goes on.
pmFramcounter is the first framecounter I ever used in Maya (there are others out there).Why Maya? Why don't you have a built in framecounter?
Maya now has its own frame counter.
Auto Tangent helps to simplify splining your tangents. Spline your curves with no more overshooting tangents (holy smokes, why isn't this built into Maya?)
dkAnim is the simplest animation export tool I've ever used. Super simple to use and not at all as frustrating as the AnimImportExport plugin built into Maya.
cMotion Trail has very simple interface to create helpful motion trails for polishing your arcs and spacing.

Preparation

It's a good idea to make your own custom selection buttons for selecting common combinations of controllers on the rig your animating (unless the rig comes with it's own custom shelf or UI). Before blocking my animation I like to make a new custom shelf where I can create the following selection buttons: All - selects all of the character's controls, Spine - selects all controls from the hip to the head, LArm & RArm - selects all left or right arm controls including shoulders and hands, LLeg & RLeg - selects all of the left or right leg controls. I'll also create buttons to select the entire face, then just the mouth, the eyes with eyelids and eyebrows, just the eyes and eyelids, and just the brows. I'll create buttons to select all of each hands' finger controls as well (if they're seperate from the hand). This is a real time saver through all of your stages of animation from blocking to polish. When you want to focus on a section of the character's anatomy, press the appropriate button and away you go!

All of these selection buttons are created with the Pose 2 Shelf script which in addition to creating pose buttons can also create selection buttons. Or, if you're into MEL scripting, the command would be:

catch (`select -add "control name"`); (If referencing characters be sure to have the namespace included in the control name.)

Using the script is easy. The first time that it is run, it creates a button on the current shelf and opens its interface. When you need it in the future, just press the p2s button on the shelf. To use the script, first select the controls you wish store. Press the "selection2shelf" button and your selection will be stored as a button on the current shelf. Using the "pose2shelf" button stores the controls' position.