Grabbing and Releasing Objects the Easy Way

One of the trickier hitches with animating in maya is dynamic parenting, aka space switching. Constraints go a long way but without the know-how it can be very frustrating to animate the passing of objects from one space to another. While there are some great tools for speeding up workflow and easing the pain of space switching if you just need to switch spaces from one object to the world it's fairly easy with the standard maya toolset. We'll start with a pre-existing scene of an animated scooper and by the end it will pick up a ball and release it into the air in a few easy steps.

  • First we want to find the frame in which the the scooper meets and picks up the ball. Scrubbing through the timeline reveals that frame 9 is where the ball is most likely to be picked up.
  • While on Frame 9 parent constrain the ball to the scooper by first selecting the scooper, then the ball and choosing from the Animate menu set: constrain>parent. If you playback the animation now we notice that the ball is following the scooper though the duration of the animation.
  • Back on frame 9 we want to set a translation and rotation key for the ball. We notice in the channel box that the constrained attributes changed from blue (connected by constraint) to green (blending between constraint and animation curves), and that and attribute called "blendParent" was added to the ball and set to 0. 0 equals animation curves, 1 equals the constraint, and in between equals the percentage between the two in which the ball will follow.
  • Right away we will key the blendParent attribute at frame 9 to 1 because that is when we want the ball to start animating with the scooper. Then we immediately go back to frame 8 and key the blendParent attribute to 0 so the ball holds for the beginning of the animation. Now we see the first half of our animation is complete. For the first 8 frames the ball is still (we can animate if we want too), and when we reach frame 9 the ball is picked up by the scooper. Now for the ball to release we take the same steps in reverse. Can you do it without finishing this tutorial? :)
  • Next we will find the frame in which we want the ball to be released from the scooper. Once again after scrubbing it seems frame 58 is a good candidate for releasing the the ball.
  • We want to again set keys to the translation and rotation of the ball as well as the blendParent. This will record the world position of the ball and get it ready to be properly released. Then we will immediately move to the next frame (59) and key blendParent to 0 releasing the ball. Now we simply add a bit of animation to the ball following the momentum of the scooper to get it off screen. Since we already keyed the ball at 58 we can just move later in the timeline, move the ball off frame and key it.

Hope this was helpful. Happy animating!

Start File | Finished File

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