Why did computer animation become so mainstream? Well the Graph Editor has a big role to play. And what better editor to learn than Maya’s used to animate today’s biggest movies and games.
The graph editor is a must know tool for the animator. If you’re looking excel as a 3d animator you must know the function curves well.
Scroll down for one hour of free video tutorials covering Maya’s Graph Editor in detail.
Why This Page?
When I used to teach animation I’d skip quickly over the Graph Editor, it’s technical and not a lot of fun to teach nor learn. Students were expected to figure out the details because of limited time, and I always liked to focus on the fun stuff like poses, action, acting and timing! Eventually I uploaded this class on the website and pointed it to students complaining on how they needed the information.
Surprisingly I noticed great improvements from my students, their animation has improved as a result of watching and understanding this part of Maya.
So this page is so you can learn the Graph Editor quickly. It’s also designed in a way so you can come back and skim back over the page for any forgotten details. The editor isn’t a difficult tool, the buttons aren’t hard to learn but it can be overwhelming to memorize all of the buttons and functions. This page should help you to retain that information.
Jurassic Park: A Quick History Lesson
Jurassic Park was the first film that properly demonstrated the potential of 3d animation in comparison to the other techniques of the day, for example stop motion. The problem with stop motion as Steven Spielberg put it was that the motion was “jerky”. Here’s a five minute section of the documentary “The Making of Jurassic Park” that details why CG was chosen (13 mins to 20 mins).
A lot of respect needs to be given to Stop Motion, CG still hasn’t conquered it’s other advantages like realism and tactile appeal. But it’s in 3d’s ability to control motion over time that gives it a clear advantage in animation. It’s a big part of the reason why 3d animation has become so dominant in film TV and Games.
Why Is The Graph Editor Important?
Computer animation mathematically records an objects motion over time. The graph editor visualises motion over time in the form of curves that can be interpreted by animators. This gives the 3d animator control over their scenes.
The graph editor’s handy for solving many motion problems. It helps identify and fix kinks that cause jerkiness, it can tweak and make changes to multiple keys at once, it can visualise what’s happening in the scene that might be difficult to see if plotted in the viewport. There’s hundreds of uses for how it can help improve your animation both in speed and quality.
This page covers the fundamentals of Maya’s Graph Editor. Most videos are demonstrated with the humble cube. But complexity can come from simple concepts. In future pages these more complex scenarios will be covered.
The Graph Editor becomes more liberating the more you use it, at first it may seem difficult or irrelevant, but stick at it, it’ll come with time. The heart of your ability to control motion is here on this page.
Maya’s Graph Editor is the tool responsible for the majority of animation you see in today’s biggest feature film/TV and games. So get started below!
Hotkeys and C3dC Prefs
This page is taught from the Preferences/Tools/Hotkeys that are designed for animators to speed up workflow. All default hotkeys are the notes as well, along with menu items. The C3dC hotkeys can be downloaded with any purchase on this site.
C3dC Site Subscription
If you’re not already on the C3dC Site Subscription you can check it out here .
If you’d prefer to download the videos rather than stream there’s other purchase options in the shop .
The main topics on this page are as follows…
Adding And Removing Keys
Scaling Key Methods
Copying And Pasting Keys
The Shelf Icons
All tangent Types Explained
Weighted Vs Non Weighted Curves
Breaking And Freeing Tangent Weights
Curve Management Display and Pinning
Euler Filter For Gimbal Issues
Baking Keys On Every Frame For Export
Managing Animation Expectations
Without practical application this page can lack clarity. It’s best to use the Graph as much as possible and come back to this page to best understand it in context.
It may take time before you’ll feel comfortable. Many new animators experience a disappointment that their animation isn’t what they’d hoped especially in the early months after mastering other specialities. The curves will probably only complicate this.
I hear comments from students like “I suck at animation”. This usually comes from students who’ve drawn or being modelling for years. But it’s unfair to disqualify yourself as a bad animator when you’ve hardly done any animation!!
Be sure to see the other pages Animation Fundamentals which is class one and Animation Pose Workflow which needs no Graph Editor knowledge. The editor’s awesome but we need to build our knowledge properly. The 3 part Run Cycle Class goes through the Graph’s application for 2 more hours Run Cycle parts 2 and 3 .
This is a time based art which doesn’t have many similar skills to borrow experience. Animation’s messy! It takes roughly 2 years of constant practice to reach a professional jnr level. And that’s animating every day. Be patient, good things take time! The ability to bring characters and creatures to life is fantastically rewarding.
Last of all fear not, animation’s heavily craft based. That means there’s a lot of standard concepts that can improve the quality of your animation.
This page was recorded in Maya 2016. In Maya 2017 The Graph Editor has been changed, fortunately the changes are mostly visual and it’s also faster!
Almost all the tools and functionality remain the same and can be used in the same way. This page is scheduled to be updated but should be very helpful even if you’re using 2017.