Maya ----> UT2003 Character Model Tutorial
By Sundeep Dass
www.sunny-d.com
funkadelicdass@yahoo.com
Written March 2, 2003

Skeleton and Animation Preparation

Ok, you just finished up your textures, and now you've got this great STATIC model. It's always cool to see your model animated, but before we get there, there are a few "major" things you need to do to your mesh.

First of all, you need to be ABSOLUTELY SURE that you are done with tweaking your model. This includes moving verts, UVs, and anything else that will deform your mesh. You really should be very content about the way your model looks before moving on to rigging and animation. Ready? Let's go...

Ok, now that you have finished modeling and texturing, you need to delete the history on all the pieces of your model. You can select pieces of your geometry and you'll likely see all of your past operations that you performed on that model will be reocrded in the channel box (stuff like polyExtrude, polyUVplanar map, etc, etc). If you don't delete history, Maya will then transfer all these operations onto your joints when you bind your geometry to a skeleton. In simple terms, this will cause all kinds of crazy stuff to happen. That's why you need to delete history before binding geometry.

To delete history on your geometry:
1. Select all of your character's geometry.
2. Go to the Edit menu --> Delete by type --> History


**Deleting history is honestly one of the most important things you must do before you bind your geometry to a skeleton. If you don't do this step, I guarantee you it will come to bite you in the ass. Your model may deform correctly in Maya, but once you take it into UnrealED, bad things will happen. So DELETE THAT HISTORY!

Ok, now it's time to build a skeleton. You guessed right, I'm not going to guide you through, step by step, how to build a skeleton, but here's a few tips:

-Create at least 3 joints for your spine. You're going to need at least 3 joints for animation blending purposes when we get to UnrealED and the model import process.

-You need to place a weapon bone in your right hand, preferrably right in the middle of the palm. Actually, if you want your character the be a lefty, you can put the weapon bone in the left hand. The bottom line is that you should designate a joint somewhere in your model to be the weapon bone. Name the joint "weapon" or something like that, AND MAKE SURE YOU DO NOT ANIMATE THIS BONE!!! (unless you know what you are doing, but if you don't, leave it alone)

-Give all your joints unique names. It sounds trivial, but helps a ton, especially with animation. It's easy to know what you are moving when your joint is named "right_shoulder" instead of "joint 22". Plus, UnrealED likes unique names; trust me.

-Adjust your local rotation axis for all your joints. When using Maya's "mirror joints" tool, the app generally likes to screw up your rotation axis on the mirrored joints. The best way to fix this is to select the joint, then type this line into your mel command box:

joint -e -oj xyz -zso -ch;

Or, you can go into component mode and manually rotate each joints' rotation axis. The bottom line is that you want the x-axis of the joint to be pointing down towards that joint's child (don't worry about joints at the end of your hierarchies, like finger tips, etc.). See the image below.

Are we cool with all that? Ok, binding your skeleton and geometry, coming up next...

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