Under Your Skin: How to Create a Picker
Besides animating, I am passionate about using tools and creating tools to make a task efficiently. The tool I use the most is a picker. A picker allows the user to hide all the controls on the 3D rig and pick the controls from a window, where it is easy to see what controls you are grabbing. In this blog, I am going to show the picker from AnimSchool, which is the best and free!
To install the picker, head over to the Animschool website and download the picker for either Osx, Windows, or Linux. https://www.animschool.com/DownloadOfferResponse.aspx?key=22820187f92e9bee1
Install is simple, place the Animschool plugin into your Maya scripts folder. You then open can open the script by typing the following Mel (Maya Embedded Language) script: AnimSchoolPicker();
Then middle mouse drag this up to your custom shelf. Now you can add an icon and you only have to click your shelf button!
Creating the Picker:
Now that you have your shelf button and the picker installed I will go over how to use the picker and some tricks! To add a background go to the picker tab in the picker window and select add background. Then add your image and you can start to add buttons by clicking on the control on the rig and right clicking in the picker window and say add button. Go through you entire rig and add the buttons you would like. You can change the color by command or control clicking the button and changing the color by opening the color picker in the bottom left hand corner. You can also change the size by command or control clicking the button and pressing command or control + or -. You can also click next to the color picker and change the size. To the far right you can add text to your button!. Here is a tip: add a few (like 5) spaces before and after your your text so that your text can be easily read. If you don't put a few spaces the first and last letter are hard to read.
Tip: Create a button where you select all fingers. That way you don't have to highlight all the fingers you just click the button with a +. You can do this for all the leg, arm, and eye controls.
Another tip: Utilize a color system it helps make the picker more user friendly. (EX: all the left controls are red and the right controls are blue)
Now let's talk about the coolest part! You can add command buttons in Python or Mel! For example, sometimes you want to see the controllers, so instead of clicking Show>Nurbs curves in order to show or hide the curves I created a button that runs a custom script.
Hide Nurbs Curves MEL Script: string $panel = `getPanel -wf`; modelEditor -e -nurbsCurves (!`modelEditor -q -nurbsCurves $panel`) $panel;
Now this picker is only limited to your imagination! One thing that I typically do for my own pickers is create a button that selects the IK/FK switch and changes the value to 1 or 0 and Keys it! With this button all you would have to do when animating between IK/FK is push that button and BOOM, it is switched! You may be thinking, well Peter I don't know any Mel or Python. To be honest I don't know a whole lot either, but I am good at copying and pasting! All you would have to do is open up the script editor and turn on echo command and clear your history so it is easy to copy the script you are about to create. Then click your IK/FK switch turn it to 1 or 0 then set a key. Now go into your script editor copy those commands and make a command button! Now if you have other commands that you use a lot you can add it to your picker! Finally, please remember to save your picker with where ever you are storing your rig. Now if you updated your rig the picker will still work, but may have to go und the picker tab in the picker window and say Change Namespace. You will then have to open the Reference editor and make sure the namespaces are the same and as long as the rigger didn't change the naming convention your picker will still work!
I highly encourage using a picker because it allows you to view and manipulate the rig without seeing the rigs controls. It also gets rid of the frustration of clicking the wrong circle or forgetting which control does what you want.