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Connecting Attributes
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FIGURE 11-3 The Expression Editor
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created in the last section, the following expression could be used directly to connect the Rotate X attribute of tail_2 to the Rotate X attribute of tail_1: tail_2rotateX = tail_1rotateX ; If we wanted to mimic the tail s behavior that we set up in the Connection Editor, the expression would look like this: tail_2rotateX tail_3rotateX tail_4rotateX tail_5rotateX = = = = tail_1rotateX tail_1rotateX tail_1rotateX tail_1rotateX ; ; ; ;
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Here, we are connecting the Rotate X attribute of each child joint to the root joint, tail_1 The animation that results from rotating tail_1 in X is identical to what we did in the Connection Editor in our first example with the direct connections The real power of expressions comes into play when we need to specify exactly how the connections are made
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Let s say, for example, that we want to make each joint in our tail rotate twice as much as its parent joint To do this, we can write expressions that use mathematical operations, in this case multiplying the rotation of each parent joint by 2:
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Once again, break the previous connections on the tail skeleton Instead of using the main menu bar to open the Expression Editor, we will use the marking menu in the Channel Box Select tail_2 in the Outliner or view window and then highlight its Rotate X attribute in the Channel Box Right-click in the Channel Box and choose Expressions The Expression Editor will open with the tail_2rotateX object and attribute loaded into the Selected Obj & Attr field Copy and paste the tail_2rotateX text from the Selected Obj & Attr field into the Expression area at the bottom of the Expression Editor window Add the following script to complete this expression: tail_2rotateX = tail_1rotateX * 2; Click the Create button in the Expression Editor to create the expression that will connect these attributes in this manner Once the expression is created, notice that the value field for the Rotate X attribute of tail_2 is purple This indicates that the value is being controlled by an expression Test the expression by rotating tail_1 in X and verifying (in the Attribute Editor or Channel Box) that the X rotation value for tail_2 is twice as much Return to the Expression Editor and write the expressions for the rest of the joints You do not need to create a new expression for each connection All of the connections for each joint can be entered into this one expression
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Using Functions
So far, we have been able to replicate the behavior of the joints with expressions just as we did with direct connections Another great use for expressions is to insert mathematical (and other
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Connecting Attributes
types of) functions For this example we will automate the animation of the tail by controlling the tail_1 joint with a function that is based on time:
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In the Expression Editor, add one more line to the current expression: tail_1 = 30 * sin(time * 20) ; Click the Edit button in the Expression Editor to make that change and then click Play in the timeline The sin function will create an oscillating sequence of data so that the tail will rotate back and forth between 30 and 30 degrees The speed is determined by multiplying the time (Maya s playback clock) by a number, in this case 20
Keyed Relationships
A keyed relationship occurs when attributes are connected based on some custom input from the user The user actually specifies, or keys, the attributes of an object based on the values of another object The most common keyed relationship is the basic keyframed animation, in which the attributes of all animated objects are keyed at a certain frame At another frame, they are keyed with different values Every time a key is placed, a relationship is made between time and the animated attributes What if you wanted to key the attributes of certain objects based on something other than time For example, if you wanted to pose the tail skeleton at different poses based on the rotation of the first joint instead of time, what would you do If you were really great at math, you might be able to do this with expressions, but it would take way too long To handle such a situation, Maya offers a tool called a Set Driven Key
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