Graph Editor Fundamentals

Maya: Animation Basics


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 todays biggest movies and games.

The value of function curves shouldn’t be under estimated. If you’re looking to be a pro cg animator you must use function curves.

Learn from one hour of free video tutorials covering the editor in detail. (Scroll down for videos)
 

Why This Page?

Teaching at numerous schools I noticed myself always skipping over Graph Editor. My students were mostly expected to just ‘figure it out’ because of the limited class time. Unfortunately the students missed out and I’ve found it to be a real missing for most people learning animation today.

So this page has been created for you to quickly learn the functionality of Graph Editor easily. The Graph Editor isn’t a difficult tool, all the buttons make a lot of sense and aren’t difficult to learn.

This is also for lecturers/teachers who like myself would rather focus on critiquing/reviewing and iterating students animation with feedback. The courses on Create 3d Charcaters are designed to be more like a video tutorial guide/text book. There’s no substitute for direct interactive feedback on your animation from a mentor/instructor. Feel free to spread this around and use it as a reference in schools. Let us know if you’d like more of this material in your educational facility. And a big thanks to those already using it!

 

Jurassic Park: A Quick History Lesson

Jurassic Park was the first film that properly demonstrated the potential of CG animation in comparison to other techniques of the day like 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).

Much respect should be given to Stop Motion and CG still hasn’t conquered other advantages like realism and appeal. However CG animation is clearly advantageous when it comes to controling movement as it can be edited/iterated and improved easily. We’ll see more in the tutes below.

 

Why Is The Graph Editor Important?

Computer animation perfectly records motion of objects over time. It helps you to control and visually correct motion. The graph editor’s lovely for fixing kinks and issues that cause jerky animation and you can also use it to tweak/change multiple keys at the same time or to visualise what’s happening in your scene regarding time and movement. There’s hundreds of uses that will help you improve your animation with quality and speed.

 

This Page

We’ll cover the fundamentals. Most videos are demonstrated with the humble cube. Make no mistake though great complexity comes from simple tools. In later classes we’ll can apply these concepts in more complex scenarios.

You may feel that the Graph Editor’s overly abstract. With time the graph editor is far more liberating than students first realise.

The heart of your ability to control motion is here on this page. The Graph Editor in Maya is responsible for the majority of animation you see in todays biggest feature film/TV and games. It allows you to deal with ‘issues of jerkiness’ and control the motion not possible in other mediums.

 

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. A $10 one month subscription will allow you to download the prefs and use the sites resources.

 

Topics Covered

The main topics on this page are as follows…

Basic navigation
Moving Keys
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
Cycling Curves
Snapping
Euler Filter For Gimbal Issues
Baking Keys On Every Frame For Export
Handy Hotkeys

 

Managing Animation Expectations

Without practical application this page may lack some clarity. It’s best to use the Graph as much as possible and come back to this page to further 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. 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 form which isn’t particularly intuitive and doesn’t have similar areas 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 radically improve the quality of your animation. This information hasn’t always been easy to find but times are changing!

 

C3dC Site Subscription

If you’re not already on the C3dC Site Subscription , sign up! Only $10 per month gives you access all the material on this site including the Preferences/Tools/Hotkeys and rigs . And we’ll be constantly adding new classes.

You can cancel at any time and still view the site and download items for the full month. The membership is automated by you and gives instant access.

If you’d like to download the videos rather than stream there’s other purchase options in the shop . If you’re a university or school please email us.

1. Introduction (6:42 mins)

Here’s the first videos to get you started in the Graph Editor. See a simple example of why the graph is important and how it can make animation easier.

Open the graph editor with the icons in the toolbar. You can also use the spacebar hotbox top quadrant or open a floating window under…

Graph Editor (7)
Windows > Animation Editors > Graph Editor

To navigate in the editor is simple use the same alt mouse combinations as in the perspective view. Zooming on one axis is done with the following combination…

Zoom One Axis = Alt + Shift (hold) Right Click (directional drag)

More detail in the videos below…

VIDEO 1.1 : INTRODUCTION TO THIS CLASS (1:07 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Open Graph Editor (0:00)
2. Later Classes (0:10)
3. Students Miss (0:20)
4. Concepts/Covers (0:27)
Information
A quick introduction to this class.
VIDEO 1.2 : OPENING THE GRAPH EDITOR (38 sec)

No. Video Points
1. Open Graph Icon (0:10)
2. Change Camera (0:13)
3. Graph Two Views (0:16)
4. Hotbox Graph Layout (0:28)
Information
Opening the graph editor is easy. Click on the icon in the left toolbox, forth and second icons from the bottom.

Also not mentioned in this video is the floating window…

Graph Editor (7)
Windows > Animation Editors > Graph Editor

The hotbox also has a quick way of bringing up the perps/graph layout.

Many people have a preference to keep the Graph Editor floating on a second monitor. My preference is always to embed it below the main camera, usually the shot camera, that way the mouse tends to move less. I’ll usually pop out a floating persp window on the second monitor. But these are all up to the individual animator and also dependant on shot requirements.

Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Graph Editor Opens the Graph Editor as floating window
Windows > Animation Editors > Graph Editor
7 (C3dC)
None (default)
VIDEO 1.3 : WHY THE GRAPH EDITOR IS IMPORTANT IN ANIMATION (2:21 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Why The Graph Is Important (0:00)
2. Set Key Translate (0:10)
3. Key Curve/Tangents (0:40)
4. Adjust Values (0:55)
5. Change Frame Rate (1:03)
6. Speeding Up Gravity (1:23)
7. Motion Trail (1:50)
Information
A quick simple video showing how handling curves and tangents can be advantageous in animation.
Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Set Key Translate Keys translate values at current time
Animation > Key > Set Key On Translate
shft w (C3dC)
shft w (default)
Preferences Window Opens the Preferences And Settings window. Icon in bottom right (cog man running)
Windows > Settings/Preferences > Preferences
alt 6 (C3dC)
None (default)
Play/Pause Tap to turn Playback on or off, hold for longer than 5 frames for release stop function
alt v (C3dC)
alt v (default)
Make Animation Hold Adds a motion trail on the selected object
Animation Menu > Visualize > Create Editable Motion Trail
None (C3dC)
None (default)
VIDEO 1.4 : NAVIGATING THE GRAPH EDITOR (2:36 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Set Keys (0:00)
2. Pan Zoom (0:10)
3. Zoom One Axis (0:38)
4. Frame Selected (0:58)
5. Framing Icons (1:25)
6. Current Time Mismatch (2:12)
7. Graph Time Scrub (2:18)
Information
Navigating in the Graph Editor is easy and much the same as navigating in the viewport.

Camera Dolly (Alt Rgt Mse)
Camera Track (Alt Mdl Mse)
Zoom One Axis Graph (Alt Shft Rgt Mse)

The main navigational trick is the Zoom One Axis Graph (Alt Shft Rgt Mse) be sure to click drag in the direction you wish to zoom. Frame Selected (f) is also a good key to get familiar with.

Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Set Key All Keys all attributes, even if channel box selection
Animation > Key > Set Key
shft s (C3dC)
s (default)
Camera Track Click drag hold, also works in other non cam windows
Display Menu > View > Camera Tools > Track Tool
Alt Mdl Mse (C3dC)
Alt Mdl Mouse (default)
Camera Dolly Click drag hold, also works in other non cam windows
Display Menu > View > Camera Tools > Dolly Tool
Alt Rgt Mse (C3dC)
Alt Rgt Mse (default)
Zoom One Axis Graph Click drag hold, move mouse on the axis you want to zoom. Context sensitive.
Alt Shft Rgt Mse (C3dC)
Alt Shft Rgt Mse (default)
Frame Selected Frames the selected object in the viewport. Also works in other windows, graph, node etc
Viewport Menu > View frame Selected
f (C3dC)
f (default)
Time Dragger Hold the key and then left click and drag in a viewport or in the graph editor to scrub though time. Also works with middle click drag.
v (C3dC)
k (default)
2. Moving Creating and Deleting Keys (5:35 mins)

Moving creating and deleting keys are easy.

To move keys

– Enter Move Tool (w) select keys or curves and middle click drag.

To create keys

– Common shortcuts Set Key (Also Channel Box), Set Key All, Set Key Translate etc.
Insert Key (i) icon then select a curve and middle click drag can also Insert Key (i): Insert Key
– Graph Editor > Keys > Add Key Tool (middle click)

To delete keys

– select a key or curve and hit delete

VIDEO 2.1 : MOVING KEYFRAMES IN THE GRAPH EDITOR (1:51 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Selecting Keys (0:00)
2. Move Keyframe (0:20)
3. Hold Shift Tip (0:35)
4. Move Up Axis (1:00)
5. Snap Keys (1:15)
Information
This video goes through the basic move modes and selection of keys.

It’s a good habbit to click drag box selections. Move Tool (w) enters the move mode. Move Key One Axis Graph (w shift clk mdl drag) will move and constrain to one axis.

Be sure to have the time snap on otherwise keys will be on frames with decimal places like 64.56. Keys should usually be on whole numbers (integers) 64 or 65.

Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Move Tool or with left mouse button for Move Tool marking menu
Icon in toolbox, double click for options
w (C3dC)
w (default)
Move Key One Axis Graph Moves a key on one axis in the Graph Editor
w shift clk mdl drag (C3dC)
w shift clk mdl drag (default)
VIDEO 2.2 : MOVING KEYFRAMES NUMERICALLY (1:38 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Move Frame Numerically (0:00)
2. Code Move Trick (0:26)
3. Move Value Numerically (0:50)
Information
Simple video showing how to move modes numerically using the Graph Tool bar numerical slots.

Important to remember the Maya trick of typing in a simple addition code into those fields like

+=10

This will move the selected curves by adding 10 units to every key.

Another hotkey not mentioned in this video is Snap Key Retain (ctl alt a), this will move all selected keys to start at the current time. Good to use this one too.

Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Snap Key Retain Moves selected keys to current time in Graph Editor, retains spacing
ctl alt a (C3dC)
None (default)
VIDEO 2.3 : DELETING AND CREATING KEYS (2:06 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Delete Keys (0:00)
2. Delete Hotkey Timeline (0:08)
3. Setting Keys (0:20)
4. Insert Hotkey (0:33)
5. Add Key Tool (1:35)
Information
Quick video on setting and deleting keys.

Set Key Hotkeys…

Set Key (Also Channel Box) (s)
Set Key All (shft s)
Set Key Rotate (shft e)
Set Key Translate (shft w)
Set Key Scale (shft r)
Insert Key (i)

Delete Keys…

Delete (delete)
Delete Current Frame (shift v)

Not shown in this video is the difference between Set Key (Also Channel Box) (s) and Set Key All (shft s).

Set Key (Also Channel Box) (s) (C3dC Prefs) Keys channel box if selected (not Maya default)
Set Key All (shft s) (C3dC Prefs) Ignores channel box selection, always keys all

Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Delete Will delete selection, object or component, or node, key etc
Edit > Delete
delete (C3dC)
delete (default)
Delete Current Frame Deletes keyframes at current time, or in a red timeslider selection
shift v (C3dC)
None (default)
Set Key (Also Channel Box) s in C3dC also works in channel box
Animation > Key > Set Key
s (C3dC)
s (default)
Set Key All Keys all attributes, even if channel box selection
Animation > Key > Set Key
shft s (C3dC)
s (default)
Set Key Rotate Keys rotate values at current time
Animation > Key > Set Key On Rotate
shft e (C3dC)
shft e (default)
Set Key Translate Keys translate values at current time
Animation > Key > Set Key On Translate
shft w (C3dC)
shft w (default)
Set Key Scale Keys scale values at current time
Animation > Key > Set Key On Scale
shft r (C3dC)
shft r (default)
Insert Key For Graph Editor (press and release)
i (C3dC)
i (default)
3. Scaling Keys In The Graph Editor (6:03 mins)

There’s a number of ways to scale keys. Scaling is important as it’s used to retime animation.

1. Enter Scale Tool (r) select keys and middle click drag, hold shift to constrain to one axis.
2. Lattice Deform Keys (Shelf Icon)
3. Region Tool (Shelf Icon)
4. Retime Tool (shelf Icon)
5. Numeric Scale: Graph Editor > Edit > Scale (options)
6. Numeric Retime: C3dC Shelf > Keys (right click) > Retime With Percentage or FPS
7. Multi Key Scaler: C3dC Shelf > Keys (right click) > Scale Keys Center Window

See the videos for detailed information on each method.

VIDEO 3.1 : SCALE KEYFRAME HOTKEY (54 sec)

No. Video Points
1. Scale Keys (0:20)
2. Mouse Direction (0:40)
Information
Simple video showing how to scale keys using Scale Keys Graph (r mdle clck drag)
Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Scale Tool or with left mouse button for Scale Tool marking menu
Icon in toolbox, double click for options
r (C3dC)
r (default)
Scale Keys Graph Scales keys around the click point, enter scale mode then middle click drag in a direction. Context sensitive.
r mdle clck drag (C3dC)
r mdle clck drag (default)
VIDEO 3.2 : OTHER SCALE TYPES (2:34 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Numeric Scale (0:00)
2. Region Tool (0:55)
3. Lattice Tool (1:18)
4. Retime Tool (1:58)
Information
More ways of Scaling Keys in the Graph Editor, Numeric Scale, Region Tool, Lattice Tool, and the Retime. It’s good to be familiar with these tools as they can all come in handy in different scenarios.
Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Numeric Scale Numeric Scale Window for scaling keys with numeric values.
Graph Editor > Edit > Scale
None (C3dC)
None (default)
Select With left mouse button for Selection Mask marking menu
Icon in toolbox, double click for options
q (C3dC)
q (default)
VIDEO 3.3 : NUMERICAL RETIME SCRIPT (1:16 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Numerical Retime (0:00)
2. Numerical Retime FPS (0:55)
Information
This video covers the numerical retime scripts. One for percentage and the other for fps. These are handy when moving backwards and forwards between an editing package. Often it’s handy to be able to retime in an editing package then apply the numerical retime back in Maya. use these scripts to do that from the C3dC Shelf
VIDEO 3.4 : MULTI KEY SCALE FROM CENTER SCRIPT (1:19 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Creating Noise (0:00)
2. Scale Issues (0:43)
3. Scale Keys Center (1:05)
Information
A handy key scaling clip that scales from the center of each curve. Great for scaling noise among other things. This script is found under the key menu in the

C3dC Shelf > Keys (icon) > (right click) > Scale Keys From Center.

Script By David Peers

4. Copying And Pasting Keyframes (2:51 mins)

Copying And Pasting Keyframes is easy. Ctrl c and ctrl v are hardcoded copy in merge mode in the C3dC preferences.

Copy Key (ctl c)
Paste Key (ctl v)

If you’re on OSX you can use command c and command v for the Maya default version. We can also use the

Graph Editor > Edit > Copy
Graph Editor > Edit > Paste (options)

The most common modes are insert and merge. But you can also paste in multiples and many other options too.

See the following video for more detailed information.

VIDEO 4.1 : COPY AND PASTE KEYS (2:51 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Stepped Paste (0:15)
2. Hardcoded Copy/Paste (0:49)
3. Paste Options (1:34)
Information
Quick video about copying and pasting keys in the graph editor. Couple of notes that are worth remembering.

1. The C3dC paste hotkey Paste Key (ctl v) is hardcoded to merge while pasting.
2. The Default Maya Paste mode is like a stepped paste, or paste connect.

The Paste Key Options Window Graph Editor > Edit > Paste (Options), is a great window for pasting in different scenarios.

Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Copy Key Note the default hotkey performs differently. See video.
ctl c (C3dC)
ctl c (default)
Paste Key Note the default hotkey performs differently. See video.
ctl v (C3dC)
ctl v (default)
Paste Key Options Window Options Window For Pasting
Graph Editor > Edit > Paste (Options)
None (C3dC)
None (default)
5. The Toolbar Icons: The First Toolbar Icons (2:39 mins)

Here’s the first toolbar icons. You’ll see Insert Key (i) again and the various move/scale tools, lattice, region and retime then see how to re check the value boxes for moving numerically.

The framing modes are covered as well. Simple stuff but a few very handy icons to be aware of.

VIDEO 5.1 : THE FIRST TOOLBAR ICONS (1:40 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Move Key Tool (0:00)
2. Insert Key Tool (0:57)
3. Region Tool (1:15)
4. Retime Tool (1:22)
Information
The first icons in the Graph Editor Shelf/Toolbar. Most of these we’ve already touched on.

– Move Key tool lets you move individual keys around quickly.
– Insert we’ve covered already but it’ll let you insert keys without affecting the curve.
– The Region tool is a quick scale method as explained in the Scale video
– The Retime tool is a tool for retiming animation as explained in the Scale video

Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Select With left mouse button for Selection Mask marking menu
Icon in toolbox, double click for options
q (C3dC)
q (default)
Move Tool or with left mouse button for Move Tool marking menu
Icon in toolbox, double click for options
w (C3dC)
w (default)
Insert Key For Graph Editor (press and release)
i (C3dC)
i (default)
VIDEO 5.2 : TOOLBAR KEY VALUE BOXES AND FRAME MODES (59 sec)

No. Video Points
1. Frame Input (0:00)
2. Value Input (0:15)
3. Check Values (0:20)
4. Frame All (0:30)
5. Frame Range Slider (0:35)
6. Center Time (0:42)
Information
Some more Graph Editor Toolbar icons covered here. Again most we’ve already covered. Frame and Value inputs and don’t forget the code trick that will move all keys additively…

Highlight the number then type a simple equation… +=10

The frame time icons are all easy though it’s often easier to just use the hotkey Frame Selected (f).

6. Tangent Types (9:56 mins)

Learn all of Maya’s tangents here. Tangents in the later versions of Maya have been a little confusing, but there’s not a lot to know. Tangents can affect the behaviour of curves between keys so this is a must know area of animation.

The main tangent modes are

– Auto
– Spline
– Linear
– Stepped

“Plateau” and “Clamped” are just slight variations on “Auto” tangents.

Then there’s a couple extra tangent types “Fixed” and “Stepped Next” under

Graph Editor > Tangents

Also see how to change the default tangent types in the animation preferences under

Preferences Window > Settings > Animation > Tangents

VIDEO 6.1 : TANGENTS INTRODUCTION (1:09 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Tangent Types (0:00)
2. Main Tangent Types (0:40)
Information
A quick introduction into tangents explaining the main tangent types and also the tangent types less commonly used.
Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Zoo Tangent Works Marking menu covering all tangent types in Maya and lots of extra aniamtion graph editor functionality.
A Zoo Tools Tool
a (hold) (C3dC)
None (default)
VIDEO 6.2 : SPLINE TANGENT TYPE (1:16 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Spline Tangents (0:00)
2. The Tangent Result (0:20)
3. End Tangents (0:45)
Information
Spline tangents angle the tangent of a key as the direction from the previous key to the next key.

When a key is on the end or beginning of a curve the tangent will point directly to the next/previous key.

This tangent type is great when we don’t want objects to stop between keys, the motion will be smooth and floaty.

Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Zoo Tangent Works Marking menu covering all tangent types in Maya and lots of extra aniamtion graph editor functionality.
A Zoo Tools Tool
a (hold) (C3dC)
None (default)
VIDEO 6.3 : LINEAR, STEPPED AND FLAT TANGENTS (2:19 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Linear Tangents (0:00)
2. Stepped Tangents (0:15)
3. Stepped Next Tangents (1:00)
4. Enable Stepped Preview (1:15)
5. Flat Tangents (1:40)
Information
Here we’ll discuss some more tangent types…

– Linear: Breaks the tangent and points each end to the next, straight lines/jerky
– Stepped: Removes any transitions, object will jump to the next position on the frame
– Stepped Next: Like stepped but in the reverse direction
– Flat: All tangent handles will be horizotal, no matter what the previous/next frames are doing

Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Zoo Tangent Works Marking menu covering all tangent types in Maya and lots of extra aniamtion graph editor functionality.
A Zoo Tools Tool
a (hold) (C3dC)
None (default)
VIDEO 6.4 : AUTO TANGENT TYPE (1:20 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Auto Tangent (0:00)
2. Changing Tangent Type (0:13)
3. Splining End Keys (1:00)
Information
Auto tangents will automatically flatten tangents while previous/next keys are similar/same values.

When the keys either side are different the tangent will blend to a spline mode.

End keys will always be flat.

Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Zoo Tangent Works Marking menu covering all tangent types in Maya and lots of extra aniamtion graph editor functionality.
A Zoo Tools Tool
a (hold) (C3dC)
None (default)
VIDEO 6.5 : CLAMPED TANGENTS (1:10 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Clamped Tangents (0:00)
2. Jerky behaviour (0:20)
3. Auto Tangent Comparison (0:25)
4. Clamp Advantages (1:00)
Information
Clamped Tangents are similar to Auto.

The main rule here is if either the next/previous keys are the same then flatten the tangents. If not then the tangents will be set to spline.

Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Zoo Tangent Works Marking menu covering all tangent types in Maya and lots of extra aniamtion graph editor functionality.
A Zoo Tools Tool
a (hold) (C3dC)
None (default)
VIDEO 6.6 : PLATEAU TANGENTS AND SUMMARY (1:38 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Plateau Tangents (0:00)
2. Plateau/Auto Comparison (0:20)
3. Conclusion (1:15)
Information
Plateau Tangents are virtually identical to Auto Tangents, only the Plateau Tangents have a little more range so the flat tangents will stay flat even if the next/previous keys aren’t exactly at the same value. There’s a little bit of snapping and no smooth transition as found on Auto Tangent.
Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Zoo Tangent Works Marking menu covering all tangent types in Maya and lots of extra aniamtion graph editor functionality.
A Zoo Tools Tool
a (hold) (C3dC)
None (default)
VIDEO 6.7 : FIXED TANGENTS AND SETTING DEFAULT TANGENTS (1:04 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Select Tangents Tip (0:00)
2. Move Tangents Tip (0:10)
3. Fixed Tangent Type (0:20)
4. Change Default Tangents(0:39)
Information
The Fixed Tangent Type locks the tangents so they don’t automatically change as we move keys.

A couple of tips here about selecting tangents and manually changing them too.

– It’s common to draw a box to select tangents
– Use middle click after selecting to alter the tangent manually

Default tangents can also be changed in Preferences Window (alt 6).

Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Preferences Window Opens the Preferences And Settings window. Icon in bottom right (cog man running)
Windows > Settings/Preferences > Preferences
alt 6 (C3dC)
None (default)
Zoo Tangent Works Marking menu covering all tangent types in Maya and lots of extra aniamtion graph editor functionality.
A Zoo Tools Tool
a (hold) (C3dC)
None (default)
7. Break And Free Tangent Weights (3:32 mins)

Gain full control over tangents in Maya by breaking and freeing tangents.

Select a key and hit the break tangents icon to break them. Once broken you can tweak each side individually. To return to other tangent modes just return to the spline/auto shelf icons etc.

Freeing tangent weights (or making them longer or shorter) is only slightly trickier. Maya has two curve types. ‘Weighted’ and ‘Non Weighted’.

Non Weighted mode is the default and doesn’t allow freeing the tangent weights, it’s how the algorithm works and this is great until we want total control. To free the tangent weights we need to convert curves type to ‘Weighted Tangents’.

Weighted Tangents: Graph Editor > Curves > Weighted Tangents

Then simply select keys and click the free tangent weight icon.

In most cases the ‘Non Weighted’ type is best but for fussy animators there’s also a preferences default so we can change the default type to “Weighted” if we like.

Preferences Window: Windows > Settings/Preferences > Preferences

VIDEO 7.1 : BREAK TANGENTS AND FREE TANGENTS (3:32 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Extra Tangent Icons (0:00)
2. Break Tangents (0:10)
3. Adjust Tangents (0:20)
4. Unify/Join Tangents (0:29)
5. Reset Tangents (0:35)
6. Free Tangent Fail(1:00)
7. Preferences Tangent Type (1:15)
8. Weighted Tangents (1:28)
9. Weighted Downsides (1:40)
10. Free Tangent Weights (2:00)
11. Full Tangent Control (2:30)
12. Lock Reset (2:50)
13. Shift Tip (3:10)
Information
Maya offers total control over tweaking the angle and length of each side of the tangents. There’s a couple of important things to remember.

The main point is that there’s two different curve algorythms in Maya. The default tangent type “Non Weighted Tangents” doesn’t allow us to weight tangents (or lengthen/shorten).

This video explains all the details and a few tricks that will give you full control over the tangents in Maya’s Graph Editor.

Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Weighted Tangents Changes the curve type to weighted so tangents can be scaled.
Graph Editor > Curves > Weighted Tangents
None (C3dC)
None (default)
Non Weighted Tangents Changes the curve type to non weighted so tangents can’t be scaled.
Graph Editor > Curves > Non Weighted Tangents
None (C3dC)
None (default)
Preferences Window Opens the Preferences And Settings window. Icon in bottom right (cog man running)
Windows > Settings/Preferences > Preferences
alt 6 (C3dC)
None (default)
8. Pinning Animation Curves (2:43 mins)

In this section learn about pinning animation curves in Maya. This’ll help you keep animation curves visible even after you’ve deselected objects. Also learn to use the autoload feature too.

Simply click the pins to pin the curves so they remain visible even if the object has been deselected.

The autoload icon stops maya from automatically switching the display to the current selected object.

VIDEO 8.1 : AUTOLOAD GRAPH EDITOR (2:03 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Default Load Mode (0:00)
2. Load Off (0:18)
3. Load Selection (0:35)
Information
The Load Icons allow you to edit the graph of objects that aren’t currently selected. Simple icons, not commonly used but handy in specific situations.
VIDEO 8.2 : PINNING ANIMATION CURVES (40 sec)

No. Video Points
1. Pin Curves (0:00)
2. Keeps Curves (0:05)
3. Pin Channel (0:25)
Information
Pin curves are good for comparing object’s curves without having to fish through many curves. A filtering method too.
Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Pin Channel Pins all selected attributes in graph editor.
Graph Editor > Curves > Pin Channel
None (C3dC)
None (default)
Unpin Channel Unpins all selected attributes in graph editor.
Graph Editor > Curves > Unpin Channel
None (C3dC)
None (default)
9. Curve Management And Display Modes (3:59 mins)

Here you’ll see how buffer curves take snapshots of our curves so you can compare later. They’re like a bookmark or undo that we can lock in and they can be very handy.

Display the curves in a variety of ways including normalising them from -1 to 1 that lets you see all the curves clearly at once and you can stack the curves in a similar way to the dope-sheet. These modes are up to you discretion as the animator.

VIDEO 9.1 : BUFFER CURVE SNAPSHOT: SNAPSHOT ANIMATION CURVES (1:11 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Buffer Curves (0:10)
2. Show Buffer Curves (0:15)
3. Swap Buffer Curve (0:25)
4. Rebuffer Curve (0:55)
Information
Buffer curves are a little like bookmarking but for animation curves. You can save the curves to a version and then compare at anytime without needing undo. This mode only gives two states so you can only have one backup curve at a time.
Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Show Buffer Curves Shows the Buffer Curves in the Graph Editor
Graph Editor > View > Show Buffer Curves
None (C3dC)
None (default)
VIDEO 9.2 : NORMALIZING AND STACKING CURVES (2:48 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Trans vs Rot Values (0:20)
2. Enable Normalize Curves (0:35)
3. 1 – 0 Range (0:40)
4. Disable Normalize Mode (1:10)
5. Renormalize Curves (1:35)
6. Frame Select Method (2:10)
7. Channel Box Filter (2:17)
8. Stacked Curve Display (2:25)
Information
A few ways of displaying curves here. The normalize mode displays the curve displays from a 0 -1 range, no matter how large the values.

The stacked curve display will stack curves so that none overlap, this is similar to the dope sheet only more in a curve view.

Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Frame Selected Frames the selected object in the viewport. Also works in other windows, graph, node etc
Viewport Menu > View frame Selected
f (C3dC)
f (default)
10. Cycling Animation In The Graph Editor (2:24 mins)

Cycling in Maya is important and you may use this feature a lot. Cycling’s a lovely timesaver and there’s many scenarios that cycling’s handy most notably for run and walks. Cycles are used in film and TV heavily but in games cycles form the majority of animation.

Simply press the cycle shelf buttons. There’s a couple of cycle types to understand. ‘Cycle’ and ‘Cycle With Offset’.

To disable the cycles we have to use the menus…

Graph Editor Menu > Curves > Pre (and Post Infinity To) > Constant

Also be aware that the infinity display is found under

Graph Editor Menu > View > Infinity

There’s other cycles types in the menu too. ‘Linear’ has curves continue straight on their current path and ‘oscillate’ will move backwards and forwards. Constant is the default curve setting, it keeps the object still after the last keyframe.

VIDEO 10.1 : CYCLE CURVE MODES (2:24 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Create Keys (0:00)
2. Cycle Icons (0:18)
3. Pre Infinity Cycle (0:25)
4. Post Infinity Cycle (0:30)
5. Cycle With Offset (0:49)
6. Linear Curve Mode (1:30)
7. Constant Curve Mode (1:45)
8. Oscilate Curve Mode (1:48)
9. Turning Cycle Off (2:13)
Information
This video explores all the cycle modes.

To cycle the animation curves you can use the C3dC Hotkey Cycle Infinity Hotkey (alt o). Or we can use the Graph Editor’s toolbar icons.

Also remember that you can display infinity time (the dotted line) with Cycle Animation Curve: Graph Editor > View > Infinity.

And there’s more modes in the Menus like Linear Animation Curve: Graph Editor > Curves > Pre/Post Infinity > Linear and Cycle Animation Curve: Graph Editor > Curves > Pre/Post Infinity > Constant.

Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Snap Key Retain Moves selected keys to current time in Graph Editor, retains spacing
ctl alt a (C3dC)
None (default)
Cycle Animation Curve Cycles Animation Curves (pre/post)
Graph Editor > Curves > Pre/Post Infinity > Cycle
None (C3dC)
None (default)
Cycle Offset Animation Curve Cycles Animation Curves With Offset(pre/post)
Graph Editor > Curves > Pre/Post Infinity > Cycle with Offset
None (C3dC)
None (default)
Cycle Oscilate Animation Curve Cycles Animation Curves by oscilating backwards and forwards (pre/post)
Graph Editor > Curves > Pre/Post Infinity > Oscilate
None (C3dC)
None (default)
Linear Animation Curve Sets Animation Curves to keep going in a linear direction (pre/post)
Graph Editor > Curves > Pre/Post Infinity > Linear
None (C3dC)
None (default)
Cycle Animation Curve Animation Curves stay put in infinity range (pre/post)
Graph Editor > Curves > Pre/Post Infinity > Constant
None (C3dC)
None (default)
Cycle Animation Curve Shows the infinity range for Graph Curves, before and after the anim curves stop (pre/post)
Graph Editor > View > Infinity
None (C3dC)
None (default)
Cycle Infinity Hotkey In graph editor cycles infinity selected curves for both pre and post modes
alt o (C3dC)
None (default)
11. Snap In The Graph Editor (2:44 mins)

Time snap should usually be on in the shelf and value snap off. Most of the time keys should be on exact frame numbers, this means you can can replace and update them easily. The exception to this is while scaling and you’ll want to keep cycles etc with the right spacing, this get more difficult when the frame numbers are low, like in cycles.

After scaling you can snap to closest frame with the global setting

Graph Editor Menu > Edit > Snap

It’s rare to value snap for attributes (the up and down axis) but the option’s there if needed.

Also lock the move mode to the time axis or the value axis. The use of this icon isn’t really needed since we can hold shift to constrain to either axis. But you may find it useful.

VIDEO 11.1 : SNAP SHELF ICONS (1:46 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Snap To Integer Time (0:00)
2. Snap Off (0:18)
3. Why Time Snap (0:34)
4. Scale Snap Issues (0:55)
5. Snap To Frame Old (1:06)
6. Snap Menu Item (1:14)
Information
Snap is handy in the Graph Editor for Time Snap. This should be on by default and it’s best to leave it at the default.

There are times when keys will go off whole numbers (integers) in such cases we can snap them back with Key Snap Menu: Graph Editor > Edit > Snap

Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Key Snap Menu Snaps all selected keys to closest whole numbers (integer) in time.
Graph Editor > Edit > Snap
None (C3dC)
None (default)
VIDEO 11.2 : MOVE LOCK AND DOPE-SHEET AND ANIMATION MIXER ICONS (58 sec)

No. Video Points
1. Unconstrained Drag (0:00)
2. Dope Sheet (0:18)
3. Animation Mixer (0:38)
Information
The last icons on the Graph Editor Toolbar here.

Unconstrained drag will limit the move tool to time only by default, not value. Hold shift for value drag, this is useful if you don’t like hold shift with the context sensitive style.

The last two icons are for opening the Dope-sheet and Animation Mixer.

12. Euler Filter And Baking (2:51 mins)

A couple of handy graph editor features here found in the menus.

1. Euler Filter
2. Baking (Plotting) Keys

The Euler Filter can help you get out of unwanted flipping issues regarding euler and gimbal problems. We’ll leave another page to explain exactly what gimbal is.

This isn’t a global gimbal fix however the Euler Filter will solve many large flipping issues in regards to gimbal. Usually when the curves are changing up to 180 degrees or above the Euler filter will try to find the shortest path between keys.

Baking will bake keys to every frame which is great for exporting to other programs like a game engine. Or it can also be handy in many advanced animation workflows too.

VIDEO 12.1 : EULER FILTER (1:45 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Set Keys (0:00)
2. Rotation Issues(0:15)
3. Euler Filter Fix (0:53)
Information
The Euler Filter is an important menu item in the graph that will fix big rotation issues. These are usually related to curves rotating much more than we’d expect. 180 degrees on two axis or 360 on a single curve.

The filter will reset the curve values so that the object never rolls more than it should.

This will fail when objects are really supposed to rotate more than 360 degrees so be careful.

It also solves major Gimbal/Euler rotation errors, and not all gimbal issues are fixed with this tool. Gimbal is a large area that deserves it’s own page to explain all the issues and fixes but this one is a good one to try when your rotations are flipping more than you’d ordinarily expect.

Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Euler Filter Fixes extreme problems with Gimbal/Euler rotations by setting rotation between keys to the smallest values (less than 306) whilst maintaining key rotations in the viewport.
Graph Editor > Curves > Euler Filter
None (C3dC)
None (default)
VIDEO 12.2 : BAKING KEY FRAMES (1:06 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Graph Bake Channel (0:00)
2. Bake Channel Options (0:23)
3. Bake Shelf Button (0:36)
4. Key Menu Bake (0:45)
Information
Quick video covering some baking options which usually puts a key on every frame.

While baking keys it’s often easiest to use the shelf icon in the Animation Shelf (not graph editor). But in the graph editor we’ve the menu item Bake Channel Graph: Graph Editor > Curves > Bake Channel. Select the attributes in the channel box and run this menu item to bake keys.

We can also bake keys using the menu item Bake Keys. This is the window with most options. It can be found in two locations.

Animation Menu > Key > Bake Animation
or
Edit > Keys > Bake Simulation

Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Bake Channel Graph Bakes animation curves on every frame or as per the options, based on channel box selection.
Graph Editor > Curves > Bake Channel
None (C3dC)
None (default)
Bake Keys Menu item that bakes animation curves based on settings in the window.
Animation Menu > Key > Bake Animation
or
Edit > Keys > Bake Simulation
None (C3dC)
None (default)
13. Extra Hotkeys: Make Hold, Move Snap and Zoo Tangent Works (3:22 mins)

Three very handy hotkeys here that can help us greatly speed workflow.

1. Make Hold
2. Move Snap
3. Zoo tangent Works

The make hold hotkey (alt a) (as covered in the ‘Selection Set and Pose Workflow Page’) allows you to change two keys very quickly for pose to pose animation. These keys make the ‘held pose’ or an area between keys that is completely flat/static.

The move snap hotkey (shift alt a) will move all selected keys so that the first frame of the selection moves to the current time. This hotkey is super handy and a little addictive once you get used to it.

Zoo Tangent Works has a lot of features regarding animation and function curves. It’s main feature is to change key types and this can be done while the graph editor isn’t open. It’ll find the current frame or nearest last frame and apply the tangent change to that key. It also has a lot of other features like tighten tangents and graph filters, setting default tangent types and more.

VIDEO 13.1 : HOTKEYS: MAKE HOLD AND SNAP MOVE (1:45 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Snap All Keys Time (0:00)
2. Make Hold Hotkey (0:30)
3. Make Hold Info (0:50)
4. Selection Based (1:27)
Information
A couple of C3dC hotkeys explained in this video. Great to know.

Snap Key Retain (ctl alt a) will snap keys to current time whilst retaining the spacing between keyframes.

Make Animation Hold (alt a) is great for pose to pose blocking. See more on the Zoo Anim Workflow page.

Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Snap Key Retain Moves selected keys to current time in Graph Editor, retains spacing
ctl alt a (C3dC)
None (default)
Make Animation Hold Changes two keys to match. The keys either side of current time or the current and next key. Both keys will match causing the object to be still in animation.
See video for more functionality.
alt a (C3dC)
None (default)
VIDEO 13.2 : HOTKEY: ZOO TANGENT WORKS (1:37 mins)

No. Video Points
1. Zoo Tangent Works (0:00)
2. Set Tangents (0:05)
3. Tighten Tangents (0:47)
4. Graph Filters (1:10)
Information
Zoo Tangent Works (a (hold)) is a Zoo Tools hotkey with lots of tangent curve related functionality.

The most useful settings are quick access to all tangent types, and while this works based on selection in the Graph Editor you don’t need to be in the Graph Editor. This marking menu works in the timeline as well and if you’re not on a frame it will work backwards in the timeline to find the last.

The default tangent type is flat if you simply tap the hotkey without activating the marking menu.

Other functionality includes tools like Tighten Tangents and Graph Filters. A great hotkey to explore here for pro animators.

Command Menu/Description Hotkey
Zoo Tangent Works Marking menu covering all tangent types in Maya and lots of extra aniamtion graph editor functionality.
A Zoo Tools Tool
a (hold) (C3dC)
None (default)
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Course: Maya Generalist Int