Maya Lesson 2.4 - Scene Organization

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Grouping Objects in Maya
Group objects to move, scale, and rotate them as a single unit.

Groups are something that I (really all modelers) rely on heavily in my modeling workflow. A finished character model or environment can contain dozens, or even hundreds of separate polygon objects, so grouping can be used to aid selection, visibility, and object manipulation (translate, scale, rotate).

To demonstrate the usefulness of groups, create three sphere's in your scene and arrange them in a row as I've done in the image above.

Select the three objects and bring up the rotate tool. Try rotating all three spheres at once—is this the result you expected?

By default, the rotate tool rotates each object from its local pivot point—in this case, the center of each sphere. Even though all three spheres are selected, they still retain their own unique pivot points.

Grouping objects allows them to share a single pivot so that you can translate, scale, or rotate them as a group instead of individually.

Select the three spheres and hit Ctrl + g to place the three objects in a group together.

Switch into the rotate tool again and try rotating the spheres. See the difference?

Selecting a group: One of the greatest strengths of grouping is that it let's you automatically select similar objects with one click. To re-select the group of spheres, go into object mode, select a sphere, and press the up arrow to automatically select the entire group.

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Isolating Objects

Isolate Select > View Selected
Use the "View Selected" option to hide unwanted objects from view.

What if you're working on a complex model, and but only want to see one (or a few) objects at a time?

There are a lot of ways to play with visibility in Maya, but probably the most useful is the View Selected option in the show menu.

Select an object, find the Show menu at the top of the workspace, and then go to Isolate SelectView Selected.

The object you selected should now be the only thing visible in your view-port. View selected hides everything except the objects that are currently selected when the option is turned on. This includes polygon and NURBS objects, and also curves, cameras, and lights (none of which we've discussed yet).

The objects in your selection set will remain isolated until you go back into the Panel menu and uncheck “View Selected.”

If you plan on creating new geometry (through duplication, extrusion, etc.) while using view-selected, make sure you turn on the Auto Load New Objects option, highlighted in the image above. Otherwise, any new geometry will be invisible until you turn off view selected.

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Layers in Maya
Use layers to control the visibility and selectability of object sets.

Another way to manage the contents of a Maya scene is with layer sets. Using layers has a lot of advantages, but the one I want to talk about right now is the ability to make certain objects visible but un-selectable.

In complicated scenes it can be frustrating trying to select a single piece of geometry from the rest of the clutter.

To alleviate such difficulties, it can be massively beneficial to divide your scene into layers, which allow you to make certain objects temporarily un-selectable, or turn off their visibility altogether.

Maya's layer menu is in the bottom right corner of the UI beneath the channel box.

To create a new layer go to LayersCreate Empty Layer. Remember, keeping everything in your scene aptly named will only help you down the road. Double click the new layer to rename it.

To add items to the layer, select a few objects from your scene, right click on the new layer and choose Add Selected Objects. The new layer should now contain any objects that were selected when you clicked add.

You now have the ability to control the layer's visibility and selection settings from the two small squares to the left of the layer's name.

Clicking the V will allow you to toggle that layer's visibility on and off, while clicking the second box twice will make the layer unselectable.

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Hiding Objects

Hide Selected
Display > Hide Selected is another way to hide objects from view.

Maya also gives you the ability to hide individual objects or object types from the Display menu at the top of the UI.

To be honest, it's relatively rare that I use Display → Hide → Hide Selection for individual objects or groups, because I tend to prefer the methods introduced earlier in this lesson.

However, it's always beneficial to at least be aware of all the different ways to achieve something so that you can decide on your own which you prefer.

There are other options in the display menu that can be handy from time to time, namely the ability to hide or show all objects of a single type.

For example, if you're working a complex lighting set-up for an architectural interior and decide you want to go back and perform a few modeling tweaks without all the light shapes getting in the way, you could use Display → Hide → Lights to make all the lights disappear.

Admittedly, I'd probably just place all the lights into their own layer, but neither way is right or wrong—in the end it's just the way I'm used to working.

When you're ready to un-hide objects, use the Display → Show menu to bring hidden objects back into the scene.