Joints And Orientation In Maya

Maya: Rigging, Manual

In This Class You’ll Access…
This fundamental rigging class is for students wanting to deal with joints in Maya. This is an area of rigging that can cause a lot of confusion for students. The good news is it’s not very hard! Most training skips over this fundamental skill without taking the time to explain each step in detail. So we’ll go through it thoroughly here. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy joint orientation can be. This class is 35 minutes but once you’ve learned the information you’ll be able to create and orient joints for your characters and props in minutes.


It’s this fundamental skill flows straight into the next classes. So for example creating curve controls from here is as simple as pressing a button!

Even if you’re not planning on being a rigger knowing joint orientation is also critical for animators too so lets get started and get to know joint orientation in Maya.

Running Time: 37 mins
Software: Maya 2017
Maya 2015 (Legacy)

Instructor: Andrew Silke

Class Time: 37 mins

1. Why Orient Joints? (2:31 mins)

1.1 – Introduction (1:37 mins)
1.2 – Why Orient Joints? (54 sec)

2. Joint Creation and Orientation (10 mins)

2.1 – Creating Placing (2:17 mins)
2.2 – Freeze Transforms (53 sec)
2.3 – Orienting Joints (4:31 mins)
2.4 – Orienting Forks (3:01 mins)

3. Manual Roll Up Values (8:07 mins)

3.1 – Manual Ups (1:42 mins)
3.2 – Manual Roll Ups (3:25 mins)
3.3 – Zero Rot Axis (3:00 mins)

4. Mirroring Joints (10 mins)

4.1 – Naming Joints (2:52 mins)
4.2 – Tgl Local Rot Axis (21 sec)
4.3 – Joint Mirror (1:46 mins)
4.4 – Mirror Behaviour (2:36 mins)
4.5 – Perfect Sym Issues (3:04 mins)

5. Co Planar Orientation (6:00 mins)

5.1 – Co Planar Prep (1:07 mins)
5.2 – Co Planar Use (2:15 mins)
5.3 – Elbows Knees CoPlanar (2:38 mins)
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  1. ojkoorde
    October 12, 2017 at 10:34 pm ·

    In movie 3.3 – can you elaborate on why after manually rotating joint pivots it is necessary to zero ‘joint orient’ values in attribute editor?

    • Andrew Silke
      October 13, 2017 at 11:41 am ·

      Yes, that’s just a Maya issue that’s not obvious until you’ve done a lot of rigging. What happens is that if you parent an object to the joint and then zero the object, it won’t match the orientation of the joint if there’s a “Rotate Axis” offset, instead, it will match the orientation plus the offset.

      You can easily change the “rotate axis” offset by manually rotating the “local rotation axis” manipulators, most people don’t realize what Maya is doing under the hood.

      You’d never really want an offset because of this parenting issue which is super annoying, so to be clean it’s best practice to take it out with a script/button.

  2. stanislaw.menschow
    February 16, 2019 at 11:30 pm ·

    In the video 3.2, when you are working with Maya 2018 and you try to select the local rotation axis, it won’t select it. Seems like the 2018 release of Maya is just broken that way.
    For anyone who has the same problem:

    $j=`ls -sl`;
    select ($j[0]+”.rotateAxis”);

    Paste that into the script editor and make shelf button out of it (File > Save Script to Shelf).
    That way you can just select the joint in object mode, hit the button and it will select the LRA.

    • Andrew Silke
      February 17, 2019 at 1:20 pm ·

      Hi Stanislaw, great tip for other people with this problem, thanks for letting me know.

      I had some trouble running that code with a syntax error, not sure why as I’m a python guy but this worked

      $j=`ls -sl`;
      $axis = $j[0] + “.rotateAxis”;
      select $axis;

      To work around this issue without using scripting, check that you’re properly in component mode. So follow this gif from Autodesk. Make sure that the icons look like this…

      I’m in 2018 and it’s ok for me. If you still have issues what Update are you using, like 2018.4?

      This should be what our hotkey “alt-1” (or “f8”) does. It properly enters component mode. Sometimes Maya can get caught in between these modes, for example, if you right-click on an object > vertex, you’re not actually entering component mode properly, and that’s a bad thing mostly in my opinion. And another reason I always use the alt-1 hotkey.

      But I’m curious if that solves the issue, it may not? Let me know.

  3. ville.vehmaa
    May 10, 2019 at 5:38 pm ·

    I’m using Maya LT on my work. Most of these methods can be done in it too. The broblem is zeroing out the joints orients on manually rotated local rotation axis. Would really appreciate if you could have pointed way of doing that even though it could be a complicated.

    But all in all, great tutorials!!!


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