Category Archives: Maya tips

Maya: Retiming Video Reference

This is a little tip I actually picked up after Animation Mentor but regularly use now, it simply allows you to retime your video reference using Maya’s Graph Editor. I’m not sure how mentors teach this, so thought I’d type it up and share.

Here I’ve gone through and imported an image sequence onto an image plane, with an offset of -100 frames to match my starting frame for the shot.
Retiming video reference in Maya

You’ll notice the Image Number is a purple colour, meaning it’s being controlled by an expression. My first frame for this shot is 101, and this value is also 101. My last frame is 224 and this value is also on 224, the frame number you’re currently on is in direct correlation the the number contained in this box.
Retiming video reference in Maya

What I like to do is right click and choose Delete the ExpressionRetiming video reference in Maya

This will set the value back to 1 and as the name implies, deletes the expression which was controlling the playback of the image sequence.

Now I can go to frame 101, type 101 into this box, right click on it and set a key. Then I can also key 224 into the final frame.

Retiming video reference in Maya

I’ve essentially re-entered the numbers that were already there. This time the numbers are being controlled by my keys, not an expression. You can visually see the difference now the box is red.

The beauty now is if I open my graph editor, I can now see a curve representing the playback of my image sequence.

Retiming video reference in Maya

If I set it to linear instead of the spline tangent above, it will play back at 1:1, as it did before.

Retiming video reference in Maya

But now within the graph editor I can add keys and slow sections down, speed others up, etc. I can retime my whole video reference or just sections I’d like.

Retiming video reference in Maya

This is great if you have video reference and an audio track you’d like to match actions more closely to, if you find your acting is a little too even and would like to add a bit extra texture in the timing before blocking or if you want to do some cartoony actions with timing that is not entirely based on reality.

Lighting & Viewport 2.0

My most asked question from this blog is how I light and render my shots. My basic answer is I don’t render anymore, and I start with a simple 3 point lighting set up.

1. Rendering:
Instead of rendering I use Viewport 2.0, this gives a higher quality image in my Maya viewport:

To “render” I simply do a playblast. The quality isn’t as good as a render, but it allows me to easily touch up shots and continually update my reel. As an animator I think that’s more important than render quality.

2. Lighting:
I’ll use a more simple example to give a quick run down of how I light my shots. I should note there should be a ground plane so the character casts a shadow, see my edit below for turning on shadows.

Firstly Switch to Viewport 2.0. I generally turn the anti-aliasing values up to their highest. I don’t recommend actually animating in Viewport 2.0, it’s more intensive and can be quite buggy at times.


This is a view of my lighting set up. Here I’ve used Directional Lights as it’s a such a simple set up, when lighting a more complex scene Spot Lights might often be a better choice.

If I just reduce the scene to one light, it should get an idea of what each light is doing.

Key Light = the main light source.

Fill light
brings some detail into the shadows, you can see here I like to add a fair bit of colour to it.viewport05

The rim light just helps separate the character from the background. It’s just a subtle touch.


The combination of all 3 lights should give a good starting point to your lighting set up.

To turn on shadows you need to do it both in your viewport and on the light you want to be casting shadows.

Maya Hotkey Placement

Ever thought about where your most used shortcuts are on the keyboard? Wouldn’t it make sense to have them together and in easy reach of your free hand?



My new set up, and I’m sure this will change/improve over time.
Q, W, E, R, T, S, D, F = remain the same.
Y = activate insert key (graph editor)
A = playback toggle
G = time dragger tool (formerly by holding K in the graph editor)
Z = last keyframe
X = previous frame
C = next frame
V = next keyframe

The following shortcuts are from Aaron Koressel
Option + W, A ,X, D = moves my keys up, left, down and right in the graph editor (ackMoveKeys)
Option + C = snaps selected keys to the current frame in the graph editor (ackSnapToTime)
Option + S = snaps values to be the same as the last selected key in the graph editor (ackSnapEndKeyValues)

Texturing Tribe Rigs


This is hopefully a simple way of changing textures without digging too deeply into it. A fairly basic-intermediate understanding of Photoshop is needed.

First up.
If you open the texture file you’ll see something like this.texturing02

Save another version with a new filename. I tend to work with Tiff to retain layers, though I’m sure somebody will tell me why Targa is a better filetype.

If you open up your reference file of any of the characters, go into the Window > Rendering Editors > Hypershade and go into Textures. You should see anim_color_MAP(file) (this may be a different name for other characters). Click on that and in the attribute editor you should see Image Name under File Attributes. Click the small folder, find your new texture map and load that in.


In the texture map each area corresponds to a different area of the body. If I change it to simple colours you should be able to see what area of the texture map applies to which part of the rig. The red area is the right arm, the green is the torso, etc.


A good way to get a general guide of where things will be on the texture map is to use the 3D Paint Tool. You can basically roughly paint on the mesh and then clean it up in Photoshop. Select your mesh first then, go into your Rendering shelf click the 3D Paint Tool icon (should be the last one). Next, in the Attribute Editor click Assign/Edit Textures. Now you should be able to freely paint on the mesh.


When you’ve got a rough idea painted, hit the Save Textures button in the Attribute Editor. In your project’s Source Images folder, you should have a new 3DPaintTextures folder with the the new texture map inside. Using this you can now make a cleaner final version in Photoshop.


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