My favorite tools for Maya

As a freelancer, I have to keep up with the latest tools that help me do my job faster and better. Some studios I work for have a team of people writing CG tools for the artists…and all is great in the world. Other studios do not. Some studios I have worked for do not have the basic tools I need every day.These are the tools I take with me on every job.

#1 Graph Editor Filter
Jeremy Cantor wrote this one and he is my hero. In a nutshell. Let’s say you have a creature with 8 tentacles and you are hand animating these tentacles to make pretty “S” curves back and forth. Now, let’s say there are about 20 bones in each tentacle. That is 160 controls with 3 rots each to keep up with!!! 480 curves!!! What’s a gurl to do? Breathe….now, download this .mel script for Maya…source it, and run it.

Or, put it on a shelf like I do and now you can get all the of your X rots on the tentacles with one click…and can manage them cleanly! Genius!!!

#2 Shot View
Most of the larger studios have some kind of play blast tool that enables you to quickly create an overlay in Maya with the correct aspect ratio – 16:9, 4:3 or whatever with your camera viewport. But, most of the smaller studios and 2D comp houses entering CG do not or they want you to make a comp to crop your shot effectively. What??? I don’t have time to make a comp to just show you some animation, right?

This is an awesome tool that quickly enables you to crop any camera and play blast effectively with the right aspect and your camera view. It also has a zoom tool to zoom into a camera view without loosing the settings. You can save shotView settings to your file too, so you don’t have to recreate it every time you open Maya.

#3 Zoo Tool Box
Finally, this tool creates a HUD that will overly the shotView tool with the name of the artist, lens info, frame count, and so on. This is so helpful when showing a director multiple playblasts. You can see right away what lens you are using, or what artists is working on the file, what frame number you are on…it’s a keeper!