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Free Autodesk Maya Tutorials: Animation Tutorials

Motion Path Animation

If you have a done a little bit of 3D animation you have probably come across keyframing. You can animate virtually anything with keyframes, but if it comes to vehicles moving around and especially around curves it is extremely hard to get the car or spacecraft or whatever all the time at the exact right position facing the right way all the time, so your object ends up sliding around… But there is a way to animate this, a very simple way actually. It’s called “Motion Path”-animation.

So, what do we need for this? Well, a spacecraft that we are going to animate of course:

(I am totally aware that it is a very bad one, but it will do the job ;-) and that’s all that counts …)

Next we need a few obstacles that the spacecraft is going to fly through, just to make it a bit mire interesting…

What we need to do now is create a curve along the way we want the spacecraft to move, meaning through the loops in this case. It would be best if you created the curve in the direction your spacecraft is going to fly already, but if you for some reason did it the wrong way around you can use [Edit Curves] -> [Reverse Curve Direction].

Now we need to select the Object(s) we want to an to animate first, and then the curve we want it/them to move along last (To select multiple Objects hold down the  [Shift]-Key …). This order is very important for otherwise the whole thing won’t work!

Now, set your timeslider on the bottom to show exactly the amount of time you want the animation to be, so for example 1-300 or something.

Next, in the Animation-menu, go [Animate] -> [Motion Paths] -> [Attach to Motion Path].

Your Spacecraft is now following the curve you set up earlier.

If, just as in my case the spacecraft is facing the wrong direction, there is a simple way to fix this.

Click on your object and in the Attribute Editor there should be a tab called ?motionPath1?. Select it and now you can edit quite a few things

To fix the direction your object is facing just play around with the “Front Axis” and “Up Axis”-boxes until it is positioned right. But be careful: The two boxes should NOT both show the same letter, X for example, for it might look right when the animation is not running, but it you play back your scene, Maya suddenly gets confused and the result looks quite weird.

If your Object is positioned right but is upside down or looking back instead of looking the way it is flying you can check the “Inverse Up” and “Inverse Front”-boxes until everything is right. This last step is a lot of try and error actually ;-) Good luck animating! The result should look something like that:

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Added: 2008-01-15 by Lollylan

Do you have a question about one of the tutorials or are stuck somewhere? Feel free to contact me. I am always glad to be able to help!

Latest update

28.11.2010: An all new videotutorial is up and running (3 parts so far): The Domino Effect (Dynamics) 2