Maya’s Graph editor is the most popular animation tool used to animate today’s most prominent movies and games; it allows you to control animation in a much more precise and visual way. The editor is a must know tool for the professional animator. Learning the functions on this page will give you that extra edge while animating.
Scroll down for one hour of free video tutorials covering Maya’s Graph Editor in detail.
Why This Page?
For many artists, the graph editor reminds them of high school math. And in animation schools, it’s often skipped over. Everyone loves to focus on the fun ideas like poses, action, acting, and timing! But a solid understanding of the Graph Editor can improve your animation more than an acting class while learning.
This page is designed to have you learn the Graph Editor quickly and so that you can come back and skim back over the page in the future as your animation progresses. The editor is easy to understand, the buttons aren’t hard to learn, but it can be overwhelming to memorize all of the functions.
Jurassic Park: A Quick History Lesson
Jurassic Park was the first film that demonstrated the potential of 3d animation in comparison to the other techniques of the day, for example, stop motion. Steven Spielberg commented that stop-motion at that time looked “jerky.” There is a five-minute section of the documentary “The Making of Jurassic Park” (13 mins to 20 mins) that shows how CG animation won the FX film battle to dominate movies and TV. Unfortunately, YouTube has removed this video, but if you can find it, it’s a great history lesson in animation.
3d can accurately track motion over time, and that gives it a clear advantage compared to more traditional mediums; it’s a reason why 3d animation has become so dominant in today’s media.
Why Is The Graph Editor Important?
Computer animation records the motion of an object over time. The graph editor visualizes this motion in the form of curves that can be interpreted by animators. Though it does take some practice, this control gives the 3d animator extra power to perfect their scenes.
The Graph Editor is handy for solving motion problems. It helps identify and fix kinks that cause jerkiness; it can tweak and make changes to multiple keys at once. There are hundreds of uses for how it can help improve the speed and quality of your animation.
About This Page
This page covers the fundamentals of Maya’s Graph Editor. We demonstrated most videos with a simple cube. But don’t worry complexity comes from these simple concepts. In future pages you’ll see how to apply these concepts to more complex scenarios.
At first, the editor may seem confusing or irrelevant, but stick with it, in time it’ll become a liberating tool.
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 hotkeys can be downloaded with Site Subscription on this site.
If you’re not already on the C3dC Site Subscription you can subscribe here .
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, it may be confusing to understand why the Graph Editor is so powerful. If you are a beginner, our suggestion is to use the tool as much as possible. After animating for a few months, come back to this page, and these concepts will make more sense.
It may take time before you’ll feel comfortable. Many new animators experience a disappointment in their first animation attempts; this is especially common if you’ve already mastered other specialties. It’s unfair to disqualify yourself as a lousy animator when you’ve hardly done any animation!! Animation can take years to learn properly. It is a relatively easy skill to learn, but if you’d like to achieve mastery it can take a lot of practice!
These classes are recommended before watching this page…
Animation Pose Workflow
Run Cycle Class One
We recorded this page in Maya 2016. In Maya 2017/18 The Graph Editor icons and background look has changed, fortunately, the changes are mostly cosmetic, and all the functionality remains the same.
This page is scheduled to be updated once Maya 2019 arrives.