Sunday, 27 July 2014

The ParentMaster - a Great Free Plugin for Maya Animators

Parent Master
Autodesk Maya is free to students, and now has a huge user base around the world. Many Maya users have sought to improve the software, developing free plugins that can be plugged in to your free copy of Maya, adding to its usability and helping to solve some of the trickier problems associated with digital animation.

The ParentMaster is a plugin created by Paolo Dominici which greatly simplifies the business of attaching and un-attaching objects in Maya. Say you want to animate a character picking up a ball and then dropping it. This free tool will make your life much, much easier.

What is the Parentmaster plugin for?
The free Parentmaster plugin is a way to attach and un-attach objects in Maya.

What do you need to do?
By following this tutorial you should be able to:
  1. Import a free plugin into Maya – the ParentMaster - and install it successfully.
  2. Learn how the Parent Master works by attaching and un-attaching objects in Maya using the free ParentMaster factory Maya file
  3. Use the ParentMaster to animate a character picking up a ball and then dropping it.

PART 1 – Import and install the plugin

a) Import the plugin
You can find the free plugin here: http://www.creativecrash.com/maya/script/zv-parent-master

You will need to register with Creative Crash and then log in.

b) Installation

Import the ParentMaster plugin and open it up.

Find the Read me document inside and follow it carefully.

Place "ZvParentMaster.py" in your scripts folder in Maya. Navigate through documents to find your Maya folder. It should look something like this:

Win XP: "C:\Documents and Settings\USERNAME\My Documents\maya\scripts"
Win Vista/Win 7: "C:\Users\USERNAME\Documents\maya\scripts"
Mac:"/Users/USERNAME/Library/Preferences/Autodesk/maya/scripts

Now place the "zv" folder in the same folder (If that doesn’t work, try placing it in the icons folder instead.

In Maya, open up the Script Editor and go to the Python tab, copy and paste these two rows (see above):
          import ZvParentMaster
          ZvParentMaster.ZvParentMaster()

Now highlight the Python script and click on "Save Script to Shelf...", specify a name for the shelf (eg PM) and click "OK".

You should now see a tab on your shelf labeled PM. Click on it, and this symbol should appear in your view port:  If you have any problems with installation, try going through the process again.

Troubleshooting:
If you can't make the ParentMaster install, follow these steps

1. Video demonstration
To see Paolo Dominici demonstrate how it works, check out the demo at http://www.paolodominici.com/zvparentmaster/

2. Network problems
If you're working on a networked computer, and the install isn't working, try installing the scripts in your local drive as well as your main Maya profile.


The ParentMaster "factory"
PART 2 – animate the ParentMaster factory.
Your goal is to complete the exercise so that the parcel moves through the factory, attaching and un-attaching as it goes.

  1. Open up the Maya scene file that comes with the ParentMaster – it looks like a little factory. Create a project, and set to it.
  2. At the frame where you want to attach the parcel to the blue pusher, select the box, select the pusher, and click on the attach button
  3. At the frame where you want to un-attach the parcel from the blue pusher, select the box, select the pusher, and click on the detach button.
  4. Keep repeating the process until the parcel box moves through the factory.

Technical Notes

How to edit Parent Master constraints and adjust the timing in the Graph Editor:
  1. Go to the Parent Master menu bar and select the 5th icon down labeled “Select constraints and snap groups”, and click on it
  2. This will show your ParentMaster key frames in the Graph Editor
  3. Adjust the timing of the key frames just like you would any keyframes in Maya
And to use the ParentMaster on a Mac (which is a little tricky) try this video helpfully recorded by Animation Apprentice student Alexi Balian:





PART 3 – Use the Parent Master to animate a character picking up and ball and dropping it.

  1. Import the character rig Morpheus. Google “Morpheus rig maya” to find and download the rig.
  2. Import a table (find one at www.turbosquid) into your shot
  3. Create a ball. Create/polygon primitives/sphere
  4. Set Morpheus’s hands to IK.
  5. Under Preferences, set your animation to stepped curves
  6. On stepped curves, animate Morpheus picking up the ball and dropping it, using the Parent Master.
Problems

Note that the Parent Master does not work with referenced files. Or, rather, it can be made to work - but it is difficult.

---Alex

To see how to use the TweenMachine in Maya, see this post. For more information on finding work in the animation and visual effects business, read our post on how to find a job in the animation industry, and check out our post about what not to do at a job interview. Also see our post on starting your own small animation business, learn how to create an invoice, and see how we are helping our students find work through our film co-operative Nano Films.  Download the free Escape Studios Careers in VFX Handbook. Take a look at how awn.com can help you find a job, and read our piece about how to survive as a freelance animator. Also, find out what Cinesite look for in a student's demo reel, and read our post on setting up your own animation business.


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