Nov 21, 2023

Easy animation handling in Maya

This blog post is intended to illustrate and teach various tricks and processes for animating


Maya is an impressive engine for animation; it boasts multiple tools that enable you to automate projects, promoting a simplified process that can even be executed automatically.

The mission

This documentation is intended to illustrate and teach various tricks and processes for animating, such as following specific edges, animating particles organically, and cleaning keyframes for characters.

Towards the end, there will be a video demonstrating an animation with variants that loop, using animation baking and cleaned keys.


  • Maya 2019 or 2020

Animation in Maya, basic notions

Pressing ‘S’ we will set keyframes for the selected object, bone, vertex etc. (In Decentraland, animations applied to vertices without assigned weights may not be visible. To render the cache, it can be exported in Alembic, ensuring that all movements are visible).

First, we need to define our objectives and select the appropriate preferences to save time in the future.

Basic animation in Maya

In Preferences, we can choose the option for the entire scene. The most common option for animation is:

Animation set preferences

The evaluation mode is tipically adjusted, especially if we are working with a simulation theme, to prevent our computer from freezing during the process.

Tangents determine the type of curves that will be applied when adding a new key.

Be cautious with these options, as they can significantly alter the view and timing. Adjust them as needed.

My recommendation is to leave the last two marked in this way. This allows you to follow the animation from different perspectives simultaneously, ensuring it remains faithful to the established frame rate.

Time slider set preferences

Keyframes select and move

Once the key frame is set, it can be modified from the main time slider by selecting the key and dragging it. Excercise caution when moving, as incorrect adjustments can disrupt the key’s position.

Only perform this action if the animation is complete and you want to quickly shorten or extend its duration.

Graph Editor basic notions

In the Graph Editor, we can view all the animation curves for the selected objects. From here, we can move, modify, duplicate, create loops etc. In my case, I have named them “cubeTest”.

Graph Editor

When applying the initial keyframes, the curves will appear, and by clicking the “+” symbol next to each object on the left, we can isolate the curves that interest us along the axes of movement.

Graph Editor curves

Graph Editor color curves

Graph Editor tangents menu

In this video, I explain the most commonly used options to choose for basic animations. All the options for modifying the tangents are located in the upper central part.

Graph Editor tangent

Most important Graph Editor tangents.

Graph Editor isolate tangents

Isolate tangents.

It's useful for creating sudden changes or achieving tighter, more intense glitch effects.

Graph Editor loops

If we want to repeat an animation in a loop, we must go to:

Curves > Pre/Post Infinity > Cycle

If you are satisfied with the result, you can bake that information, as proved in the video. Further explanation will be provided later.

Navigating and using the Graph Editor

The graph editor is a powerful tool that, with pre-established combinations from other animation menus, can automate the process.

But first, step by step: Navigating in this menu is simple.

To move a keyframe, select it and drag. If you want to move it tied to a vertical or horizontal position, press “Shift” while dragging in the desired direction; an arrow will appear, indicating the chosen direction.

Here’s a trick: if we manipulate its tangent and are in a loop, we can easily create fast, measured jumps.

Move in Graph Editor

Useful tips

  • Apply only the values you need; server input connections with those you don't require and then freeze them.
  • Duplicate the same base animation that you like and make modifications from it by going to Edit>Duplicate Special>Duplicate Input Graph.

Useful tips for animating


Creating a basic initial animation can be faster with just three clicks. By incorporating tools like the pose editor and other animation features, we can save a significant amount of work. I will explain in the future how they work and how to implement them in the future.

Isabel Cutanda
Animation Lead and Environment Artist

Passionate about 3D work since childhood, rigging as my main passion

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