I had no idea that my life would be that much easier if I stopped being stubborn about it and started using tools and tricks to speed up my process while animating in Maya.
Using just a couple of hotkeys, very short scripts, and using tools and plugins, definitely made me think more about animating and less about the actual software that I am using.
To produce the best animation you can, you need to focus on actually animating way more than focusing on clicking around in the software to do things that don't need this long to be done anyway. Hotkeys can help you do that, and you will be amazed how much time you save just by using hotkeys. If you think about it, you can save many hours every year just by using hotkeys. Some even say that hotkeys/keyboard shortcuts are so important that they "could revive America's economy"! Maya already comes with pre-made hotkeys and you can use simple custom scripts and use your own hotkeys to execute them. 1- Alt + V = Start/Stop playback. 2- Ctrl + Shift + Right Click = World/Object Axes 3- Space + Right Click = Choose desired view or create new camera 4- > and < buttons to go to the next/previous key 5- Hold alt and press > or < to go to the next or previous frame I also use custom scripts and assign new hotkeys for them to switch between cameras, another to toggle nurbs curves on and off (which are usually used by riggers to create rig controls). I will talk in depth about custom scripts and custom hotkeys in another post.
1- Quickly create a new camera from the same point of view of the original camera by pressing Ctrl + Shift + C. 2- Quickly open 2 windows with different views by selecting Panels > Tear Off Copy, then right click on the Select Camera icon in the new window and select the view or the camera that you want. 3- Quickly select different controller "groups" (for example click only one button to select all the eye controls or click one button to select all face controls but not the body controls), select the controls, click Create > Sets > Quick Select Set, name it, then select Add to Shelf. Now you can just click on the set that is now added to the shelf. (This saves a lot of time). 4- Create a shortcut to almost any option Maya offers and add it to the shelf by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Middle Mouse Button the highlighted option in the different menus in Maya. (I recommend adding shortcuts to the Graph Editor, Outliner, and Quick Select Set to your shelf.) 5- Assign or edit any Hotkey by clicking Windows > Settings/Preferences > Hotkey Editor.
What about the frustration and headache when the inevitable gut wrenching moment of Maya crashing after forgetting to save for an hour or two of animation? Well, there is a life saving tool for that! It is called aTools. aTools has a ton of great options and shortcuts, but I mainly just leave it working in the background just for its crash recovery option. Just leave it open, and if (when) Maya crashes, shut down Maya, Open a new Maya scene, then Open the file you were working on by clicking File > Open. When the file opens, 90% of the time aTools you will give you a message asking you if you would like recover the animation lost in the crash. It really is a fantastic tool.
This is an amazing tool to store, share, and re-use saved animations and poses. I maye speak in depth about this tool in a different post, but to quickly explain what it does, you can save a certain pose, then later on just click on button and the pose will be duplicated in the frame that you are currently on. I am sure you can imagine how much time this can save.
There are many other plugins, tools, tips and tricks and scripts that can make the life of an animator easier. So let's consider this part 1 of a series dedicated to this topic. I hope this was helpful to you the same way this information was helpful to me and the people I work with.