Stumbling Toward 'Awesomeness'

A Technical Art Blog

Thursday, August 30, 2018

UE4 Python API Documentation

The team has worked really hard to get this building and automagically updated as we expose more useful stuff:

https://api.unrealengine.com/INT/PythonAPI/

posted by Chris at 4:56 PM  

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Creating a Volume Slider in UE4 with Python

Working in cinematics and Sequencer, I often would like a global audio slider to lower audio levels while I am working on a sequence. I thought this might be a good simple tool example. This is completely bare bones, just a single slider in a dialog, for something more complex, you can check out scriptWrangler.

import unreal
from PySide import QtCore, QtGui, QtUiTools
 
class VolumeSlider(QtGui.QDialog):
 
    def __init__(self, parent=None):
        super(VolumeSlider, self).__init__(parent)
        self.setWindowTitle("Volume Slider")
        self.slider = QtGui.QSlider()
        self.slider.sliderMoved.connect(self.slider_fn)
        self.slider.setRange(0,100)
        self.slider.setValue(100)
 
        layout = QtGui.QVBoxLayout()
        layout.addWidget(self.slider)
        self.setLayout(layout)
 
        #load the master SoundClass
        self.master_sound_class = unreal.load_asset(None, name='/Engine/EngineSounds/Master')
 
    def slider_fn(self):
        volume_float = self.slider.value()/100.00
        #set the volume to the desired value
        self.master_sound_class.properties.set_editor_property(name='volume', value=volume_float)
 
APP = None
if not QtGui.QApplication.instance():
    APP = QtGui.QApplication(sys.argv)
 
main_window = VolumeSlider()
main_window.show()
posted by Chris at 1:05 AM  

Friday, April 6, 2018

Vector Math Examples in UE4 Python

One of the most visited/indexed posts on this site was the brief Maya vector math post, now that we are releasing Python in UE4, I thought I would port those examples to UE4 Python.

Creating Vectors

Let’s query the bounding box extents of a skeletal mesh actor. This will return two points in world space as vectors:

bbox = mesh.get_actor_bounds(False)
v1, v2 = bbox[0], bbox[1]

If we print the first vector, we see it’s a struct of type Vector

print v1
#<Struct 'Vector' (0x000001EACECEFE78) {x: 540.073303, y: 32.021194, z: 124.710869}>;

If you want the vector as a tuple or something to export to elsewhere, you just make a tuple of its components:

print (v1.x, v1.y, v1.z)
#(540.0733032226562, 32.02119445800781, 124.71086883544922)

If you want to create your own vector, you simply do:

my_vec3 = unreal.Vector(1,2,3)
Print my_vec3
#<Struct 'Vector' (0x000001EACECECA40) {x: 1.000000, y: 2.000000, z: 3.000000}>

Length / Distance / Magnitude

The Vector struct supports many mathematical operations, let’s say we want to get the distance from v1 to v2, we would subtract them, which returns a new vector, then we would get the length (‘size’ in this case) of the vector:

new_vec = v2-v1
Print new_vec.size()
#478.868011475

The vector struct has a lot of convenience functions built in (check out the docs here) , for instance, let’s get the distance from v1, to v2 (the diagonal across our bounding box), without doing the above by calling the dist() function:

print v1.dist(v2)
#478.868011475

There is also a distSquared function it you just want to quickly compare which are greater and not calc real distance.

USE CASE: FIND SMALL ACTORS

Using what we got, let’s play in the default scene:

We can iterate through the scene and find actors under a certain size/volume:

for actor in static_meshes:
    mesh_component = actor.get_component_by_class(unreal.StaticMeshComponent)
    v1, v2 = mesh_component.get_local_bounds()
    if v1.dist(v2) < 150:
        print actor.get_name()
#Statue

I am querying the bounds of the static mesh components because the get_bounds() on the actor class returns the unscaled bounds, you may notice that many things in the scene, including the statue and floor are scaled. This is reflected in the get_local_bounds() of the mesh component.

DOT PRODUCT / ANGLE BETWEEN TWO VECTORS

If we wanted to know the angle between two vectors, we would use the dot product of those, let’s create two new vectors v1, and v2, because our previous were not really vectors per se, but point locations Just like in UE4, you use the ‘|’ pipe to do a vector dot product.

v1 = unreal.Vector(0,0,1)
v2 = unreal.Vector(0,1,1)
v1.normalize()
v2.normalize()
print v1 | v2
print v1 * v2

Notice that asterisk will multiply the vectors, pipe will return the sum of the components, or the dot product / scalar product as a float.

For the angle between, let’s import python’s math library:

import math
dot = v1|v2
print math.acos(dot) #returns 0.785398180512
print math.acos(dot) * 180 / math.pi
#returns 45.0000009806

Above I used the Python math library, but there’s also an Unreal math library available unreal.MathLibrary, you should check that out, it has vector math functions that don’t exist in the vector class:

dot = v1|v2
print unreal.MathLibrary.acos(dot) #returns 0.785398180512
print unreal.MathLibrary.acos(dot) * 180 / math.pi #returns 45.0000009806
print unreal.MathLibrary.radians_to_degrees(unreal.MathLibrary.acos(dot)) #returns: 45.0

USE CASE: CHECK ACTOR COLINEARITY

Let’s use the dot product to check if chairs are colinear, or facing the same direction. Let’s dupe one chair and call it ‘Chair_dupe’:

fwd_vectors = {}
for actor in static_meshes:
    if 'Chair' in  actor.get_name():
        actor_vec = actor.get_actor_forward_vector()
        for stored_actor in fwd_vectors:
            if actor_vec | fwd_vectors[stored_actor] == 1.0:
                print actor.get_name(), 'is colinear to', stored_actor
        fwd_vectors[actor.get_name()] = actor_vec
#returns: Chair_dupe is colinear to Chair

I hope this was helpful, I can post some other examples later.

posted by Chris at 1:23 AM  

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Stumbling Into UE4 Python

Out of the gate, it’s important to understand that the Python exposure wraps BluePrint, not the C++ SDK, if something isn’t exposed to blueprint, you cannot access it with Python.

A Note on Naming

There are notable differences that should be pointed out regarding the python exposure and the UE4 programming documentation. UE4 class names have dropped the prefix, an FRotator would be unreal.Rotator, FVector, unreal.Vector, etc. Functions on those classes have been converted to PEP8 style names that differ from their C++ counterparts, for example Actor.GetActorBounds is Actor.get_actor_bounds, just FYI.

Detective Work

If you have ever used an initial alpha or beta embedded Python implementation in an application, like Maya or MotionBuilder, (if you’re old like me!) –you know the drill. There’s no documentation yet, but you can use existing blueprint/C++ documentation and native python built-in functions like dir, help, and type to try and navigate.

DIR()
Python’s dir command returns a ‘directory’ of all attributes of an object. This is extremely useful. Let’s query the attributes of a static mesh actor:

print dir(actor)

This returns a massive list, if you print each item, you’ll see something like this:

...
get_remote_role
get_squared_distance_to
get_tickable_when_paused
get_typed_outer
get_velocity
get_vertical_distance_to
get_world
has_authority
hidden
initial_life_span
instigator
is_actor_being_destroyed
...

HELP()
Jamie Dale has put a lot of work into making help work as expected, through dir we saw the actor has a get_velocity property, let’s ask help abut it:

help(actor.get_velocity)

Help returns not only info about get_velocity, but tells us what a function takes and returns:

Help on built-in function get_velocity:
get_velocity(...)
    x.get_velocity() -&gt; Vector -- Returns velocity (in cm/s (Unreal Units/second) of the rootcomponent if it is either using physics or has an associated MovementComponent
    param: return_value (Vector)

TYPE()
Type just returns the type of object, but it’s useful when you’re not sure exactly what something is. Let’s ask what type our actor is:

print type(actor)
#<type 'StaticMeshActor'>

Now let’s ask it about the get_velocity above, we know it’s a function because I just used it, but as an example:

print type(actor.get_velocity)
#<type 'builtin_function_or_method_with_closure'>

With these core concepts, you can really begin stumbling around and making useful scripts and tools!

In Practice

Let’s query all StaticMeshes in a level (the default UE4 map). First thing is to load the level:

import unreal
 
level_path = '/Game/StarterContent/Maps/Minimal_Default'
level = unreal.find_asset(None, name=level_path)

Next we use get_all_actors_of_class to query all the static meshes:

static_meshes = unreal.GameplayStatics.get_all_actors_of_class(level, unreal.StaticMeshActor)
print static_meshes
#returns: [StaticMeshActor'"/Game/StarterContent/Maps/Minimal_Default.Minimal_Default:PersistentLevel.Table"', StaticMeshActor'"/Game/StarterContent/Maps/Minimal_Default.Minimal_Default:PersistentLevel.Statue"', StaticMeshActor'"/Game/StarterContent/Maps/Minimal_Default.Minimal_Default:PersistentLevel.Floor_14"', StaticMeshActor'"/Game/StarterContent/Maps/Minimal_Default.Minimal_Default:PersistentLevel.Floor"', StaticMeshActor'"/Game/StarterContent/Maps/Minimal_Default.Minimal_Default:PersistentLevel.Chair_15"', StaticMeshActor'"/Game/StarterContent/Maps/Minimal_Default.Minimal_Default:PersistentLevel.Chair"']

That’s returned a long list of class objects, let’s make that more readable by calling the get_name function of each class with a simple list comprehensions:

print [mesh.get_name() for mesh in static_meshes]
#returns: ['Table', 'Statue', 'Floor_14', 'Floor', 'Chair_15', 'Chair']

How did I know there was a get_name functions? I saw it when I ran directory on the static mesh actor: dir(actor).

Let’s move the table:

if mesh.get_name() == 'Table':
    xform = actor.get_actor_transform()
    location = actor.get_actor_location()
    print xform
    print location
#returns:
#<Struct 'Transform' (0x0000000095E5D3C0) {rotation: {x: 0.000000, y: 0.000000, z: 0.000000, w: 1.000000}, translation: {x: -180.000000, y: 0.000000, z: 32.000000}, scale3d: {x: 1.000000, y: 1.000000, z: 1.000000}}>
#<Struct 'Vector' (0x00000000B8ACE5C0) {x: -180.000000, y: 0.000000, z: 32.000000}>

Let’s change the location and use set_actor_location to set a new location:

location.z += 28 #location = 60
actor.set_actor_location(location)
#returns:
#Traceback (most recent call last):
#TypeError: Required argument 'sweep' (pos 2) not found

Wow, so that fails, we need to find out why, let’s ask help:

print help(actor.set_actor_location)
Help on built-in function set_actor_location:
 
set_actor_location(...)
    x.set_actor_location(new_location, sweep, teleport) -> HitResult or None -- Move the Actor to the specified location.
    param: new_location (Vector) -- The new location to move the Actor to.
    param: sweep (bool) -- Whether we sweep to the destination location, triggering overlaps along the way and stopping short of the target if blocked by something. Only the root component is swept and checked for blocking collision, child components move without sweeping. If collision is off, this has no effect.
    param: teleport (bool) -- Whether we teleport the physics state (if physics collision is enabled for this object). If true, physics velocity for this object is unchanged (so ragdoll parts are not affected by change in location). If false, physics velocity is updated based on the change in position (affecting ragdoll parts). If CCD is on and not teleporting, this will affect objects along the entire swept volume.
    param: sweep_hit_result (HitResult) -- The hit result from the move if swept.
    param: return_value (bool)
    return: Whether the location was successfully set (if not swept), or whether movement occurred at all (if swept).

Ok, awesome, so I’ll tell it I don’t want it to sweep, and I do want it to teleport:

location.z += 28 #location = 60
actor.set_actor_location(location. False, True)

You should see the table move!

NOTE: Careful, in order for your Python changes to be added to the undo stack, you need to use unreal.ScopedEditorTransaction.

I hope this was helpful, I can post some other examples later.

posted by Chris at 1:28 AM  

Monday, April 2, 2018

ScriptWrangler: A light-weight script editor for embedded Python environments

As a UE4 Python tool example, I wrote a pretty bare bones script editor for UE4 and tossed it up on github. While my goal was making a tool to allow me to play around with UE4 Python, this is actually a lightweight script editor for any python environment that is lacking one.

Epic will make some kind of script editor in the future, but until then, feel free to use (and improve!) this one:
https://github.com/chrisevans3d/scriptWrangler

This requires PySide, you can pip install that, I gave an example in my previous post, here.

To run the script, you simply enter the path to it, example:

posted by Chris at 3:48 PM  

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Python Ships in Unreal Engine 4.19

ADDING THE PLUGIN

For anyone with version 4.19 of the engine or later, you now have access to Python. It’s marked ‘experimental’, enable it under plugins:

You then can enter python through the command line:

As the Python implementation wraps blueprint and blutilities, you only have access to things exposed through blueprint.

INSTALLING THIRD PARTY LIBRARIES

The team has made it a lot easier to install 3rd party libraries by shipping with pip.exe, it’s in this folder: <build>\Engine\Source\ThirdParty\Python\Win64\Scripts

Here’s an example of installing PySide into the build:

&gt;&gt;pip install --target=Y:\Build\UE_4.19\Engine\Source\ThirdParty\Python\Win64\Lib\site-packages Pyside
Collecting Pyside
  Using cached PySide-1.2.4-cp27-none-win_amd64.whl
Installing collected packages: Pyside
Successfully installed Pyside-1.2.4
posted by Chris at 10:15 AM  

Monday, March 5, 2018

uExport: A Simple Maya Tool for Exporting to UE4


I posted the skeleton of this a while ago in the post “Why does everyone write their own FBX exporter?“, many people asked me for the exporter over the years and I sent it to them. Since that post, uExport has become the way we get all characters into UE4 at Epic. It’s been crazy to see this little fledgling tool, developed largely in spare time to allow us to export non-A.R.T.v1 rigs (like the kite and deer in the first demo I worked on at Epic) become something we rely on so much.

It’s here on GitHub, there’s a lot more info in the readme.

posted by Chris at 9:05 PM  

Monday, February 5, 2018

Python Style Guidelines: Consistency is King

I wanted to touch on something that comes up every once in a while: The PEP8 Style Guide. When you’re first getting into Python, you are messy as hell, and as you gain more experience, you start understanding the need to adhere to basic standards for code style. However, just at that moment, I see people completely miss the point of PEP8, and go down this path of assuming that anyone not adhering to PEP8 is doing it wrong.

That’s not the case, and without really understanding PEP8, you could easily fall into this trap.

PEP8 Is About One Thing

PEP8, as defined by itself is about one thing over all CONSISTENCY. Literally the FIRST THING PEP8 says after the Introduction this:

But people don’t really want to pay attention to that, I mean you’re looking at the PEP8 docs to be told how to write code, not that you might be in a situation where you should ignore their standards. But the most important message they impart is to be CONSISTENT.

Python Application APIs

In the VFX and games industry, most of the Python we write is inside existing applications through exposed C++ APIs that have been wrapped in Python. Often people wonder why these professional applications don’t adhere to the PEP8 Style Guide. The answer is simple, they are wrapping existing C++ functions, for CONSISTENCY they use the same camelCase function name as in C++, not lowercase_underscore following PEP8. But why?

  • It allows someone who knows the C++ function to immediately know the Python function
  • It allows a user who is accessing a new method added to an existing class to not have to wonder about it’s naming
  • In documentation, the often human-written explanations of functionality are often completely usable for Python docs

At Crytek, when we implemented Python exposure in the engine, we had to think about this and I noticed that almost all applications with C++ Python APIs were consistent with the C++ style/naming. Here are some examples:

  • Maya: cmds.setAttr()
  • 3dsMax: GetLengthSquared()
  • CryEngine: Alembic.playSequence()
  • PySide: QtGui.QMainWindow.setCentralWidget()
  • Modo: scene.ItemLookup()
  • Houdini: point.setAttribValue()
  • MotionBuilder: actor.setDefinitionScaleVector()
  • Substance: sbsexporter.getExportedDependencies()

Are all these developers stupid for ignoring the ‘Jesus book’ of Python Coding Standards? No, they are actually following it! Remember: CONSISTENCY!

Interpretation of The Good Book

Let’s take a look at some times when you should or shouldn’t follow the good book. These are just my take on things, I would love to hear your take in the comments. Also, this post mainly centers on naming standards, it’s usually best to decide as a team which PEP8 rules you want to follow and which don’t make sense.

I am generating a python API that wraps my C++ code

Be consistent with your naming standards that are already set. Even Python itself has multiple libs that don’t follow PEP naming just to be consistent with existing work. This one was covered above, so I’ll move on.

I am writing code that fits within an existing Python API

Be consistent with that API. If you’re in Maya or using PySide, you’re forced to use their function names. Please don’t have half your code with their function names and then half the code with your own PEP8 function names, this is really inconsistent. Not to mention when you override or reimpelent existing functions,  you’ll find yourself typing something like “on_close”. Another annoyance will be style enforcement in IDEs, if you use PEP8 you are probably enabling style enforcement, and you’ll a ton of false warnings from the API you’re using.

I am writing a standalone Python application or package

Use the PEP8 Styleguide if it makes sense. But don’t feel the need to refactor all your code, again, just take a look at Python’s own threading or logging modules, they don’t adhere to their own standards because it didn’t make sense.

ADDITIONAL NOTE:
I was pointed to the blog of Eric Husler, a veteran VFX and game pipeline programmer who covered this very topic in his post PyQT Coding Style Guidelines, his sentiments also follow the above:

“While you may be programming in Python, you’re creating Qt classes – inheriting their conventions along the way. When adding a new method, you should keep the consistency of Qt – that way someone working with your widgets doesn’t have to think about whether a method came from Python, and so use underscores, or came from Qt itself, and so use camel humps.”

He offered good examples of what we are discussing above, here is a widget with custom functions consistent with QT:

widget = MyWidget()
widget.setWindowTitle('Testng')
widget.loadItems()
widget.setMaximumWidth(100)
widget.refreshResults()

Here is a widget that has custom functions that adhere to PEP8 style but are inconsistent with QT:

widget = MyWidget()
widget.setWindowTitle('Testing')
widget.load_items()
widget.setMaximumWidth(100)
widget.refresh_results()

 

 

posted by Chris at 9:39 AM  

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Mighty Message Attribute

I recently had a discussion about storing relationships in Maya, and hadn’t realized the role of the message attribute wasn’t this universally cherished thing. In previous posts entitled ‘Don’t use string paths‘, or ‘Why Storing String Refs is Dangerous and Irresponsible‘ I outlined why this is the devil’s work, but in those posts I talked about the API, PyMel and Message Attrs. I didn’t really focus on why message attrs were so important: they serialize node relationships.

For quite some time I have advocated storing relationships with message attrs. At the Maya SIGGRAPH User Event, when they asked me to speak about our modular rigging system, I kind of detailed how we leveraged those at Crytek in CryPed.

msg

I am not quite sure when I started using message attrs to convey relationships, I’m no brainiac, it could have been after seeing this 2003 post from Jason Schleifer on CGTalk:

image

Or maybe I read it in the Maya docs (unlikely):

“Message attributes only exist to formally declare relationships between nodes. By connecting two nodes via message attributes, a relationship between those nodes is expressed.”

So why does Maya use this, and why should I?

As you read in the docs above, when Maya wants to declare a relationship between a camera and image plane, they do so with a message attribute that connects them. This is important because this bond won’t be broken if the plane or it’s parent is renamed. As soon as you store the string path to a node in the DAG, that data is already stale.  It’s no longer valid.  When you query a message attribute, Maya returns the item, it’s DAG path will be valid, regardless of hierarchy or name changes.

Jason’s example above is maybe the most simple, in my image (a decade later) you can see the messages declaring many relationships abstracting the character at three main levels of interface, Character, ChatacterPart and RigPart. I talked about the basic ideas here in a 2013 post about object oriented python in Maya.

Though Rob vigorously disagreed in the comments there, I am still doing this today.  Here’s an example from the facial code we released in EPIC’s ARTv1 rigging tools some time ago. The face is abstracted on two levels, the ‘face’ and the ‘mask’, here I am only displaying the message connecting them:

wiring

By using properties as described in that previous blog post, below I am accessing the system, creating a face instance, walking down the message connection to the mask node, and then asking it for the attach locations. It’s giving me these transforms, by querying the DAG, live:

msg

So, that property looks like this:

    @property
    def attachLocations(self):
        return cmds.listConnections(self.node + '.attachLocations')
    @attachLocations.setter
    def attachLocations(self, locs):
        for loc in locs:
            utils.msgConnect(self.node + '.attachLocations', loc + '.maskNode')

Setting the attach locations through python would look like this, and it would rebuild the message attrs:

face.mask.attachLoactions = ['myLoc1', 'myLoc2']

Working like this, you have to think hard about what a rigger would want to access at what level and expose what’s needed. But in the end, as you see, through python, you have access to everything you need, and none of the data is stale.

How and when to use strings

There are times when the only way you can store a relationship is by using a string in some fashion. Here are some situations and how I have handled them in the past, feel free to leave a comment with your experiences.

  • Maya can’t store a relationship to something that doesn’t exist (has been deleted). It can’t store a relationship when it’s not open. In these situations, instead of storing the name in an attr, I stamp the two nodes with a string attr to store the relationship, then you query the world for another node with a matching stamped attr.
  • Many times you need to feed your class an initial interface node to build/wrap. Instead of feeding it a string name, you can query the world for node type, in the Ryse example above, the rigging and animation tools could query cmds.ls(type=’CryCharacter’), this would return all characters in the scene. This means all rigging and animation tools needed a common ‘working character’ combobox at the top to define the character the tool is operating on. If you don’t have a node type, you can use a special string attr to query for.
  • Sometimes you’re like saving joint names to serialize skinning data or something. You can use message attrs to play it safe here as well. Some pseudocode: For character in characters, if character identifier matches file on disk, for mesh in character.meshes if mesh in file skin it. For joint in character.joints if in file, add them to the skincluster, etc. Here you’re validating all your serialized string data against your class which is traversing the DAG live.
  • Message attrs can get SLOW if you’re tracking thousands of items, you should only be tracking important things you would want later. In CryPed, when we wanted to track all nodes that were created when a module was built, we would stamp them all with a string attr that was the function name that built the module. To track this kind of data HarryZ at Crytek had the pragmatic idea of just doing a global ls of the world when a buildout started and then one at the end and boolean them out, this caught all the intermediate and utility nodes and everything generated by the rigging code.
posted by Chris at 6:10 AM  

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Skin Weights Savior

Lots of people were interested in Deformer Weights and ways to save/load skin weights faster. Trowbridge pointed out that the API now allows for setting in one go, no loops needed, like the C++ call. Aaron Carlisle on our team here at Epic had noticed the same thing. Aaron took the time to write up a post going over it here:

Using GetWeights and SetWeights in the Maya Python API

Also, it looks like you can get/set blind data in one go now… 😮

posted by Chris at 11:20 PM  

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Skin Save/Load Tool

deformerweightsplus

Some had asked me to package the previous code together into a tool. I was reluctant because there were many situations where it just didn’t work. I made something to aid a discussion on the beta forum.

However, accidentally, I seem to have the code working. It’s odd, but the solution to skinClusters not being paintable after deformerWeights was used to load them was to try and make another skinCluster (which errors, but fixes the Artisan issue).

I have tossed this on GitHub here:
https://github.com/chrisevans3d/deformerWeightsPlus/

 

posted by Chris at 10:46 AM  

Monday, September 26, 2016

Save/Load SkinWeights 125x Faster

DISCLAIMER/WARNING: Trying to implement this in production I have found other items on top of the massive list that do not work. The ignore names flag ‘ig’ causes a hard crash on file load, the weight precision flag ‘wp’ isn’t implemented though it’s documented, the weight tolerance flag ‘wt’ causes files to hang indefinitely on load. When it does load weights properly, it often does so in a way that crashes the Paint Skin Weights tool. I have reported this in the Maya Beta forums.

Previously I discussed the promise in Maya command ‘deformerWeights‘. The tool that ships with Maya was not very useful, but the code it called was 125 times faster than python if you used it correctly..

Let’s make a python class that can save and load skin weights. You hand it a few hundred skinned meshes (avg Paragon character) and it saves the weights and then you delete history on the meshes, and it loads the weights back on.  What I just described is the process riggers go through when updating a rig or a mesh _every day_.

Below we begin the class, we import a python module to parse XML, and we say “if the user passed in a path, let’s parse it.”

#we import an xml parser that ships with python
import xml.etree.ElementTree
 
#this will be our class, which can take the path to a file on disk
class SkinDeformerWeights(object):
    def __init__(self, path=None):
        self.path = path
 
        if self.path:
            self.parseFile(self.path)

Next, let’s make this parseFile function. Why is parsing the file important? In the last post we found out that there’s a bug that doesn’t appropriately apply saved weights unless you have a skinCluster with the *exact* same joints as were exported. We’re going to read the file and make a skinCluster that works.

#the function takes a path to the file we want to parse
def parseFile(self, path):
    root = xml.etree.ElementTree.parse(path).getroot()
 
    #set the header info
    for atype in root.findall('headerInfo'):
        self.fileName = atype.get('fileName')
 
    for atype in root.findall('weights'):
        jnt = atype.get('source')
        shape = atype.get('shape')
        clusterName = atype.get('deformer')

Now we’re getting some data here, we know that the format can save deformers for multiple shapes, let’s make a shape class and store these.

class SkinnedShape(object):
    def __init__(self, joints=None, shape=None, skin=None, verts=None):
        self.joints = joints
        self.shape = shape
        self.skin = skin
        self.verts = verts

Let’s use that when we parse the file, let’s then store the data we paresed in our new shape class:

#the function takes a path to the file we want to parse
def parseFile(self, path):
    root = xml.etree.ElementTree.parse(path).getroot()
 
    #set the header info
    for atype in root.findall('headerInfo'):
        self.fileName = atype.get('fileName')
 
    for atype in root.findall('weights'):
        jnt = atype.get('source')
        shape = atype.get('shape')
        clusterName = atype.get('deformer')
 
        if shape not in self.shapes.keys():
            self.shapes[shape] = self.skinnedShape(shape=shape, skin=clusterName, joints=[jnt])
        else:
            s = self.shapes[shape]
            s.joints.append(jnt)

So now we have a dictionary of our shape classes, and each knows the shape, cluster name, and all influences. This is important because, if you read the previous post, the weights will only load onto a skinCluster with the exact same number and names of joints.
Now we write a method to apply the weight info we parsed:

def applyWeightInfo(self):
    for shape in self.shapes:
        #make a skincluster using the joints
        if cmds.objExists(shape):
            ss = self.shapes[shape]
            skinList = ss.joints
            skinList.append(shape)
            cmds.select(cl=1)
            cmds.select(skinList)
            cluster = cmds.skinCluster(name=ss.skin, tsb=1)
            fname = self.path.split('\\')[-1]
            dir = self.path.replace(fname,'')
            cmds.deformerWeights(fname , path = dir, deformer=ss.skin, im=1)

And there you go. Let’s also write a method to export/save the skinWeights from a list of meshes so we never have to use the Export DeformerWeights tool:

def saveWeightInfo(self, fpath, meshes, all=True):
    t1 = time.time()
 
    #get skin clusters
    meshDict = {}
    for mesh in meshes:
        sc = mel.eval('findRelatedSkinCluster '+mesh)
        #not using shape atm, mesh instead
        msh =  cmds.listRelatives(mesh, shapes=1)
        if sc != '':
            meshDict[sc] = mesh
        else:
            cmds.warning('>>>saveWeightInfo: ' + mesh + ' is not connected to a skinCluster!')
    fname = fpath.split('\\')[-1]
    dir = fpath.replace(fname,'')
 
    for skin in meshDict:
        cmds.deformerWeights(meshDict[skin] + '.skinWeights', path=dir, ex=1, deformer=skin)
 
    elapsed = time.time()-t1
    print 'Exported skinWeights for', len(meshes), 'meshes in', elapsed, 'seconds.'

You give this a folder and it’ll dump one file per skinCluster into that folder.
Here is the final class we’ve created [deformerWeights.py], and let’s give it a test run.

sdw = skinDeformerWeights()
sdw.saveWeightInfo('e:\\gadget\\', cmds.ls(sl=1))
>>>Exported skinWeights for 214 meshes in 2.433 seconds.

Let’s now load them back, we will iterate through the files in the directory and parse each, applying the weights:

import os
t1=time.time()
path = "e:\\gadget\\"
files = 0
for file in os.listdir(path):
    if file.endswith(".skinWeights"):
        fpath = path + file
        sdw = skinDeformerWeights(path=fpath)
        sdw.applyWeightInfo()
        files += 1
elapsed = time.time() - t1
print 'Loaded skinWeights for', files, 'meshes in', elapsed, 'seconds.'
>>> Loaded skinWeights for 214 meshes in 8.432 seconds.

“>>> Loaded skinWeights for 214 meshes in 8.432 seconds.”

So that’s a simple 50 line wrapper to save and load skinWeights using the deformerWeights command. No longer do we need to write C++ API plugins to save/load weights quickly.

posted by Chris at 1:27 AM  

Saturday, September 24, 2016

DeformerWeights Command, Cloaked Savior?

export-skin

This post was originally going to be entitled ‘Why Everyone Writes their Own Skin Exporter’. Maya’s smooth skin weight export tool hasn’t changed since Maya 4.0 when it was introduced 15 years ago. It saves out greyscale weightmaps in UV space, one image per joint influence per mesh. The only update they have done in 15 years is change the slider to go from a max of 1024 pixels to 4096, and now 8192!

Autodesk understands the need and importance of a skin weight exporter, they even ship it as a C++ example in their Maya Developer Kit / SDK. So why are they still shipping this abomination above?

got-this

Like blind data discussed before, in pythonland we cannot set skinweights in one go, we must iterate through the entire mesh setting skin weights one vertex at a time. This means a Maya feature or C++ plugin can save and load skin weights in seconds that take python 15 minutes.

I have written lots of skin weight save/load crap in my time, and as I sat down and started to do that very thing in an instructional blog post one night, we had an interesting discussion in the office the next day. ADSK added ‘Export Deformer Weights‘ in 2011, but it has never really worked. I don’t know a single person who uses it. But it does save and load ‘deformer’ weights via the C++ API –so there’s real promise here!

 

44521502

Save/load skin weights fast without writing a custom Maya plugin? This is kinda like the holy grail, which is ridiculous, but you should see the lengths people go to eek out a little more performance! My personal favorite was MacaroniKazoo back in 2010 reaching in and setting the skinCluster weight list directly by hand using an unholy conglomeration of python API and MEL commands. Tyler Thornock has a post that builds on this here.

So I asked the guys if anyone had looked at Export Deformer Weights recently, everyone either hadn’t heard of it, heard it was shit, or had some real first-hand experience of it being “A bit shit.” But still –the promise was there!

Export Deformer Weights: Broken and Backwards

So, first thing’s first, I made an awesome test case. I am going to go over all the gotchas and things that are broken, but if you don’t want to take this voyage of discovery, skip this section.

skin01

I open the deformer weight export tool, and just wow.. I mean the UI team really likes it’s space:

export-def1

I save my skin weights to an XML file, delete history on the mesh, and open the import UI:

export-def2

Gotcha 1) It requires a deformer to load weights onto. You need to re-skin your mesh.

I re-skinned my mesh and loaded the XML using Index.. drumroll..

skin02

Well, this is definitely not applying the weights back by vertex index. I decided to try ‘Nearest’:

skin03

Gotcha 2) Of the options [Index, Nearest, Over], ‘Index’ is somehow lossy, and anything other than ‘Index’ seems to crash often, ‘Nearest’ seems totally borked. (above)

So this was when I just began to think this was a complete waste of my time. I was pretty annoyed that they even shipped a tool like this, something that is so needed and so important, yet crashes frequently and completely trashes your data when it does work.

this-is-fine

Not Taking ‘Broken and Backwards’ for an Answer

I am already invested and, not understanding how loading weights by point index could be lossy and broken, I decided to look at the XML file. The tool writes out one XML file per skinCluster, here’s a rundown of the file format:

Mesh Info (Shape) – the vertices of the shape are stored local space x,y,z and corresponding index

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<deformerWeight>
  <headerInfo fileName="C:/Users/chris.evans/Desktop/test_sphere.xml" worldMatrix="1.000000 0.000000 0.000000 0.000000 0.000000 1.000000 0.000000 0.000000 0.000000 0.000000 1.000000 0.000000 0.000000 0.000000 0.000000 1.000000 "/>
  <shape name="pSphereShape1" group="7" stride="3" size="382" max="382">
    <point index="0" value=" 0.148778 -0.987688 -0.048341"/>
    <point index="1" value=" 0.126558 -0.987688 -0.091950"/>
    <point index="2" value=" 0.091950 -0.987688 -0.126558"/>
    ...

Joints (Weights) – There is one block per joint that calls out each vertex that it have influences for on the shape

  <weights deformer="skinCluster1" source="root" shape="pSphereShape1" layer="0" defaultValue="0.000" size="201" max="380">
    <point index="0" value="0.503"/>
    <point index="1" value="0.503"/>
    <point index="2" value="0.503"/>
    ...

And that’s it, not a lot of data, nothing about the skinCluster attributes or options, no support for spaces like UV or world. (odd, since it’s had UV support for 15 years)

Next I decided to run the tool again and see what command it was calling, I then looked up the command documentation and here’s where it gets interesting, go ahead, take a look!

def_bary

So now I am hooked, someone is putting some thought into this –at least on some level.

image

I don’t at all understand why the UI has none of these options, but I need to get this working. If you read through the docs, the command also supports:

  • Exporting multiple skinClusters/shapes/deformers per XML file
  • Exporting skinCluster/deformer attributes like ‘skinningMethod’ and ‘envelope’
  • Local and world space positions with a positional tolerance

“Someone is putting some thought into this”

So I started trying to figure out why a file format that explicitly knows every influence of every vertex by index and inf name, doesn’t load weights properly. After some trials I hit gotcha #3:

Gotcha 3) Of the options the weights only load properly if the skinCluster has the *exact* same influences it was saved with. Which really makes no sense, because the file format has the name of every joint in the old skinCluster.

So now I had it working, time to wrap it and make it useful.

The Documentation is a Lie.

So, first thing’s first, I did a speed test.

Importing with deformerWeights was about 125 times faster: Gold mine.

But I just couldn’t get some of the flags to work, I thought I was just a moron, until I finally tried the code example in the ADSK Maya documentation, which FAILS. Let’s first look at the -vc flag, which is required to load using ‘bilinear’ or ‘barycentric’ mapping/extrapolation:

cmds.deformerWeights ("testWeights.xml", ex=True, vc=True, deformer="skinCluster1")
 
# Error: Invalid flag 'vc'
# Traceback (most recent call last):
#   File "<maya console>", line 1, in <module>
# TypeError: Invalid flag 'vc' #

Gotcha 4) The python examples do not work. -vertexConnections flag doesn’t work, -attribute flag doesn’t work, so no saving skincluster metadata like ‘skinningMethod’, etc. Because of that, ‘barycentric’ and other methods that need vertex connection info do not work. The ‘deformer’ flag shows that it takes a list of deformers and writes them all to one file, but this is not true, it takes a single string name of a deformer.

I now know why the UI doesn’t have all these cool options! –they don’t work!

Gotcha 5) It doesn’t take a file path, to save a file to a path you need to specify the filename, and then the path separate.

cmds.deformerWeights ("testWeights.xml", path='d:\\myWeight\\export\\folder\\', ex=True, deformer="skinCluster1")

Perhaps someone fixed this stuff, documented it, and then reverted the fix, but this has been around since 2011.. I tried the above in maya 2016 latest service pack and all my links above are to that version of the documentation.

I wasn’t really intending to write this much, so now that we know this can import weights 125 times faster, we’ll make a tool to utilize it. Stay tuned!

posted by Chris at 2:15 AM  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Embedding Icons and Images In Python with XPM

xpm1

As technically-inclined artists, we often like to create polished UIs, but we have to balance this with not wanting to complicate the user experience (fewer files the better). I tend to not use too many icons with my tools, and my Maya tools often just steal existing icons from Maya: because I know they will be there.

However, you can embed bitmap icons into your PySide/PyQt apps by using the XPM file format, and storing it as a string array. Often I will just place images at the bottom of the file, this keeps icons inside your actual tool, and you don’t need to distribute multiple files or link to external resources.

Here’s an example XPM file:

/* XPM */
static char *heart_xpm[] = {
/* width height num_colors chars_per_pixel */
"7 6 2 1",
/* colors */
"` c None",
". c #e2385a",
/* pixels */
"`..`..`",
".......",
".......",
"`.....`",
"``...``",
"```.```"
};

This is a small heart, you can actually see it, in the header you se the ‘.’ maps to pink, you can see the ‘.’ pattern of a heart. The XPM format is like C, the comments tell you what each block does.
Here’s an example in PySide that generates the above button with heart icon:

import sys
from PySide import QtGui, QtCore
 
def main():
    app = QtGui.QApplication(sys.argv)
    heartXPM = ['7 6 2 1','N c None','. c #e2385a','N..N..N',\
    '.......','.......','N.....N','NN...NN','NNN.NNN']
    w = QtGui.QWidget()
    w.setWindowTitle('XPM Test')
    w.button = QtGui.QPushButton('XPM Bitmaps', w)
    w.button.setIcon(QtGui.QIcon(QtGui.QPixmap(heartXPM)))
    w.button.setIconSize(QtCore.QSize(24,24))
    w.show()
 
    sys.exit(app.exec_())
 
if __name__ == '__main__':
    main()

You need to feed QT a string array, and strip everything out. Gimp can save XPM, but you can also load an image into xnView and save as XPM.

Addendum: Robert pointed out in the comments that pyrcc4, a tool that ships with PyQt4, can compile .qrc files into python files that can be imported. I haven’t tried, but if they can be imported, and are .py files, I guess they can be embedded as well. He also mentioned base64 encoding bitmap images into strings and parsing them. Both these solutions could really make your files much larger than XPM though.

posted by Chris at 3:23 PM  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Tracing and Visualizing Driven-Key Relationships

sdk

Before I get into the collosal mess that is setting driven keys in Maya, let me start off by saying, when I first made an ‘SDK’ in college, back in 1999, never did I think I would still be rigging like this 15 years later. (Nor did I know that I was setting a ‘driven key’, or a ‘DK’ which sounds less glamorous)

How The Mess is Made

simple

Grab this sample scene [driven_test]. In the file, a single locator with two attributes drives the translation and rotation of two other locators. Can’t get much ismpler than that, but look at this spaghetti mess above! This simple driven relationship created 24 curves, 12 blendWeighted nodes, and 18 unitConversion nodes. So let’s start to take apart this mess. When you set a driven-key relationship, it uses an input and a curve to drive another attribute:

curves2

When you have multiple attributes driving a node, maya creates ‘blendWeighted’ nodes, this blends the driven inputs to one scalar output, as you see with the translateX below:

curves

Blending scalars is fairly straight forward, but for rotations, get ready for this craziness: A blendWeighted node cannot take the output of an animCurveUA (angle output), the value must first be converted to radians, then blended. But the final node cannot take radians, so the result must be converted back to an euler angle. This happens for each channel.

craziness

If you think this is retarded; welcome to the club. It is a very cool usage of general purpose nodes in Maya, but you wouldn’t think so much of rigging was built on that, would you? That when you create a driven-key it basically makes a bunch of nodes and doesn’t track an actual relationship, because of this, you can’t even reload a relationship into the SDK tool later to edit! (unless you traverse the spaghetti or takes notes or something)

I am in love with Node Edtor, but by default hypergraph did hide some of the spaghetti, it used to hide unitConversions as ‘auxiliary nodes’:

auxnode

Node Editor shows unitConversions regardless of whether aux nodes are enabled, I would rather see too much and know what’s going on than have things hidden, but maybe that’s just me. You can actually define what nodes are considered aux nodes and whether ‘editors’ show them, but I am way off on a tangent here.

So just go in there and delete the unit conversion yourself and wire the euler angle output, which you would think is a float.. into the blendWeighted input, which takes floats. Maya won’t let you, it creates the unitConversion for you because animCurveUA outputs angles, not floats.

This is why our very simple example file generated over 50 nodes. On Ryse, Maruis’ face has about 73,000 nodes of driven-key spaghetti. (47,382 curves,  1,420 blendWeighted, 24,074 unitConversion)

Finding and traversing

So how do we find this stuff and maybe query and deal with it? Does Maya have some built in way of querying a driven relationship? No. Not that I have ever found. You must become one with the spaghetti! setDrivenKeyframe has a query mode, but that only tells you what ‘driver’ or ‘driven’ nodes/attrs are in the SDK window if it’s open, they don’t query driver or driven relationships!

We know that these intermediate nodes that store the keys are curves, but they’re a special kind of curve, one that doesn’t take time as an input. Here’s how to search for those:

print len(cmds.ls(type=("animCurveUL","animCurveUU","animCurveUA","animCurveUT")))

So what are these nodes? I mentioned above that animCurveUA puts out an angle:

  • animCurveUU – curve that takes a double precision float and has a double output
  • animCurveUA – takes a double and outputs an angle
  • animCurveUL – takes a double and outputs a distance (length)
  • animCurveUT – takes a double and outputs a time

When working with lots of driven-key relationships you frequently want to know what is driving what, and this can be very difficult because of all the intermediate node-spaghetti. Here’s what you often want to know:

  • What attribute is driving what – for instance, select all nodes an attr drives, so that you can add them back to the SDK tool. ugh.
  • What is being driven by an attribute

I wrote a small script/hack to query these relationships, you can grab it here [drivenKeyVisualizer]. Seriously, this is just a UI front end to a 100 line script snippet, don’t let the awesomeness of QT fool you.

dkv1

The way I decided to go about it was:

  1. Find the driven-key curves
  2. Create a tiny curve class to store little ‘sdk’ objects
  3. List incoming connections (listConnections) to get the driving attr
  4. Get the future DG history as a list and reverse it (listHistory(future=1).reverse())
  5. Walk the reversed history until I hit a unitConversion or blendWeighted node
  6. Get it’s outgoing connection (listConnections) to find the plug that it’s driving
  7. Store all this as my sdk objects
  8. Loop across all my objects and generate the QTreeWidget

Here’s how I traversed that future history (in the file above):

 #search down the dag for all future nodes
 futureNodes = [node for node in cmds.listHistory(c, future=1, ac=1)]
 #reverse the list order so that you get farthest first
 futureNodes.reverse()
 drivenAttr = None
 
 #walk the list until you find either a unitConversion, blendWeighted, or nothing
 for node in futureNodes:
     if cmds.nodeType(node) == 'unitConversion':
         try:
             drivenAttr = cmds.listConnections(node + '.output', p=1)[0]
             break
         except:
             cmds.warning('blendWeighted node with no output: ' + node)
             break
     elif cmds.nodeType(node) == 'blendWeighted':
         try:
             drivenAttr = cmds.listConnections(node + '.output', p=1)[0]
             break
         except:
             cmds.warning('blendWeighted node with no output: ' + node)
             break
 if not drivenAttr:
     drivenAttr = cmds.listConnections(c + '.output', p=1)[0]
 if drivenAttr:
     dk.drivenAttr = drivenAttr
 else:
     cmds.warning('No driven attr found for ' + c)

This of course won’t work if you have anything like ‘contextual rigging’ that checks the value of an attr and then uses it to blend between two banks of driven-keys, but because this is all general DG nodes, as soon as you enter nodes by hand, it’s no longer really a vanilla driven-key relationship that’s been set.

If you have a better idea, let me know, this above is just a way I have done it that has been robust, but again, I mainly drive transforms.

 What can you do?

Prune Unused Pasta

pruned

Pruned version of the driven_test.ma DAG

By definition, when rigging something with many driven transforms like a face, you are creating driven-key relationships based on what you MIGHT need. This goes for when making the initial relationship, or in the future when you maybe want to add detail. WILL I NEED to maybe translate an eyelid xform to get a driven pose I want.. MAYBE.. so you find yourself keying rot/trans on *EVERYTHING*. That’s what I did in my example, and the way the Maya SDK tool works, you can’t really choose which attrs per driven node you want to drive, so best to ‘go hunting with a shotgun’ as we say. (shoot all the trees and hope something falls out)

Ok so let’s write some code to identify and prune driven relationships we didn’t use.

CAUTION: I would only ever do this in a ‘publish’ step, where you take your final rig and delete crap to make it faster (or break it) for animators. Also, I have never used this exact code below in production, I just created it while making this blog post as an example. I have run it on some of our production rigs and haven’t noticed anything terrible, but I also haven’t really looked. 😀

def deleteUnusedDriverCurves():
    for driverCurve in cmds.ls(type=("animCurveUL","animCurveUU","animCurveUA","animCurveUT")):
        #delete unused driven curves
        if not [item for item in cmds.keyframe(driverCurve, valueChange=1, q=1) if abs(item) &gt; 0.0]:
            cmds.delete(driverCurve)
 
deleteUnusedDriverCurves()

This deletes any curves that do not have a change in value. You could have multiple keys, but if there’s no curve, let’s get rid of it. Now that we have deleted some curves, we have some blendWeighted nodes that now aren’t blending anything and unitConversions that are worthless creatures. Let’s take care of them:

def deleteUnusedBlendNodes():
    #rewire blend nodes that aren't blending anything
    for blendNode in cmds.ls(type='blendWeighted'):
        if len(cmds.listConnections(blendNode, destination=0)) == 1:
            curveOutput = None
            drivenInput = None
 
            #leap over the unitConversion if it exists and find the driving curve
            curveOutput = cmds.listConnections(blendNode, destination=0, plugs=1, skipConversionNodes=1)[0]
            #leap over the downstream unitConversion if it exists
            conns = cmds.listConnections(blendNode, source=0, plugs=1, skipConversionNodes=1)
            for conn in conns:
                if cmds.nodeType(conn.split('.')[0]) == 'hyperLayout': conns.pop(conns.index(conn))
            if len(conns) == 1:
                drivenInput = conns[0]
            else:
                cmds.warning('BlendWeighted had more than two outputs? Node: ' + blendNode)
 
            #connect the values, delete the blendWeighted
            cmds.connectAttr(curveOutput, drivenInput, force=1)
            cmds.delete(blendNode)
            print 'Removed', blendNode, 'and wired', curveOutput, 'to', drivenInput
 
deleteUnusedBlendNodes()

We find all blendWeighted nodes with only one input, then traverse out from them and directly connect whatever it was the node was blending, then we delete it. This is a bit tricky and I still think I may have missed something because I wrote this example at 2am, but I ran it on some rigs and haven’t seen an issue.

Here are the results running this code on an example rig:

pruned_graph

Create a Tool To Track / Mirror / Select Driven Relationships

This is a prototype I was working on at home but shelved, I would like to pick it up again when I have some time, or would be open to tossing it on github if people would like to help. It’s not rocket science, it’s besically what Maya should have by default. You just want to track the relationships you make, and also select all nodes driven by an attr. Also mirror their transforms across an axis (more geared toward driven transforms).

sdkWrangler

Write Your Own Driver Node

Many places create their own ‘driven node’ that just stores driven relationships. Judd Simantov showed a Maya node that was used on Uncharted2 to store all facial poses/driven relationships:

facePoseNode

The benefits of making your own node are not just in DAG readability, check out the time spent evaluating all these unitConversion and blendWeighted nodes in a complex facial rig (using the new Maya 2015 EXT 1 Profiler tool) –that’s over 760ms! (click to enlarge)

profiler

Though it’s not enough to make a node like this, you need to make a front end to manage it, here’s the front end for this node:

poseFaceUI

Give Autodesk Feedback!

feedback

As the PSD request is ‘under review’, maybe when they make the driver, they can make a more general framework to drive things in Maya.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many ways to try to manage and contain the mess generated by creating driven-key relationships.  I would like to update this based on feedback, it’s definitely not an overview, and speaks more to people who have been creating driven-key relationships for quite some time.  Also, if you would find a tool like my Maya SDK replacement useful, let me know, especially if you would like to help iron it out and/or test it.

posted by Chris at 3:16 PM  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Reminder: Maya saves ScriptEditor tabs on crash

backup

This is just a reminder that for some time now Maya has been saving all ScriptEditor tabs on crash. I frequently bump into people who don’t know or don’t remember this. If your Maya says that it’s attempting to save in your /Temp folder, it’s also saving all your ScriptEditor tabs.

posted by Chris at 11:56 AM  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Why Storing String Refs is Dangerous and Irresponsible

Yes! Definitely a clickbait title if there ever was one; but this is important! Some of you contacted me regarding my earlier post (Don’t Use String Paths), where I said you should never use string names to keep track of anything even vaguely important in Maya.

This problem is so fundamental in Maya that the initial Python code test I came up with for the Crytek Technical Art Dept used to be a simple maya node renamer. No joke.

THE PROBLEM

From time to time I see code that attempts reach out into the DAG and grab nodes by concatenating tokens like:

character_side + '_' + character_name + '_arm_' + UID + '_' + type

This is SUPER dangerous. You are basically guessing that an object exists, and betting your whole tool or codebase on this, it’s super fragile.

Let’s use the example of making a turtle, let’s call him ‘Red’, he’s red, and his shell is soft:

cmds.joint(name = 'red' + '_' + shell_hardness + '_' + animal_type + '_hand')
cmds.select('red' + '_' + shell_hardness + '_' + animal_type + '_hand')
# Error: No object matches name: red_soft_turtle_hand
# Traceback (most recent call last):
#   File "", line 1, in 
# ValueError: No object matches name: red_soft_turtle_hand #

First up, you should *never* do this, when you are creating a node with a name you are making from scratch, you *must* first check if it exists. If it exists, Maya will alter the name and you will not be able to find it, your code will immediately break either with the above error, or this one:

cmds.select('red_soft_turtle_hand')
# Error: More than one object matches name: red_soft_turtle_hand
# Traceback (most recent call last):
#   File "", line 1, in 
# ValueError: More than one object matches name: red_soft_turtle_hand #

SLIGHTLY BETTER

So here’s something a bit more safe, but still not recommended in situations where this is important:

hand_jnt = cmds.joint(name = 'red' + '_' + shell_hardness + '_' + animal_type + '_hand')
print hand_jnt
# >>: red_soft_turtle_hand1

Here, we’re storing the node created in a variable, if the name is not the name we expected, we still know how to find the node. This is a lot safer, your code will continue to run, but it’s also not a great way of working. Maya created our joint, but called it ‘red_soft_turtle_hand1’, but, because we stored the node returned from the command creating it into a variable, we can print hand_jnt, and it will return ‘red_soft_turtle_hand1’.

To be super clear, this is more safe because:

  • Maya is resolving any name clashes for you automatically
  • You get the *real* name returned to you from Maya upon node creation
  • If you create a node name that exists elsewhere, it returns you a full path automatically

This is somewhat acceptable in code that’s building a rig. Wham! Bam! You created a node and then did something with it seconds later and never looked back!

STILL A PROBLEM

So let’s say you’re doing the slightly safer way, and you’re storing long paths of nodes which Maya gives you the name of. As soon as you store a long path, it’s stale.  This is what I meant above, the longer you store this information, the less reliable it is.

Let’s look at our joint, its long path is:

|root|pelvis|shell|some_other_joint|arm1|arm2|red_soft_turtle_hand

If *any* of the six parent nodes names change, just a single character! You’re dead in the water. If the hierarchy changes: you’re dead in the water.

If you’re working with someone who defends the above by saying the following

  • “Oh, the hierarchy will never change”
  • “Oh, there will never be a node with the same name”
  • “Oh, no one will ever rename any of these”

The Maya DAG is the wild west.
You WILL have duplicate node names.
You WILL have hierarchy changes.
Professional tools don’t only work with a bunch of caveats,
if it’s a valid Maya scene, your code should work with it:
BE PREPARED.

THE SOLUTIONS

There are clear ways to overcome the challenge above, they’re not secrets, they are actually the professional way Autodesk tells you to do it in the docs, code examples, and their own implementations.

You don’t *have* to work 100% in the API or PyMel, but like we said before, as soon as possible get a pointer to your object. Think of any string path as having a short half-life.

Using The Maya Python API

In C++ when you pass around an object, you have a pointer to it’s location in memory. The name and DAG path can change, but you can at any time get the current name, and path. Fresh, not stale!

import maya.OpenMaya as om
m_dg = om.MFnDagNode()
m_obj = m_dg.create("joint")
m_dagPath = om.MDagPath()
 
if m_obj.hasFn(om.MFn.kDagNode):
    om.MDagPath.getAPathTo( m_obj, m_dagPath )
    print m_dagPath.fullPathName()
# >>: |joint1

Using PyMel

PyMel wraps the API, a PyMel object is a *real* python object that stores the actual MObject, but you don’t have to use the API.

myJoint = joint(name='doesnt_even_matter')
print myJoint.fullPath()
# >>: |root|pelvis|shell|some_other_joint|arm1|arm2|red_soft_turtle_hand|doesnt_even_matter
#In case you never used PyMel, here's some examples of convenience functions:
myJoint.transformationMatrix()
myJoint.inputs()

Notice that PyMel is handing you back python objects, you can ask the object for it’s full path at any time, and it will be fresh data.

Using Message Attrs

Message attributes are how Alias decided users will serialize relationships between nodes. I have removed this section because future-me wrote an entire post dedicated to this (The Mighty Message Attribute).

MAKING A PLAN

The important thing here is that you decide a consistent way of using the above. At Crytek we tried to have all core functions that accepted or passed DG nodes, do the handoff as MObjects. We serialized all important relationships with message attrs, and when there was too much data for that to be efficient, we stamped nodes with metadata.

RETROFITTING

If you have an existing pipeline where you build a lot of string references by concatenating tokens like the example above, you can make a convenience function that will validate your assumptions and deal gracefully with issues. Something like my_utils.get_node(‘my’ + ‘_’ + ‘thing’)

posted by Chris at 3:28 PM  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Maya DAG nodes in QT tools (don’t use string paths)

fragile

 

String paths to Maya objects are _fragile_. This data is stale as soon as you receive it, long paths are better than short, and taking into account namespaces is even better –BUT when it comes down to it, the data is just old as soon as you get it, and there is a better way.

A Full Path that is Never Stale

If you store a node in a Maya Python API MDagPath object, you can ask at any time and get its full path. Because it’s basically a pointer to the object in memory. Here’s an example:

import maya.OpenMaya as om
 
#create and populate an MSelectionList
sel = om.MSelectionList()
sel.add(cmds.ls(sl=1)[0])
 
#create and fill an MDagPath
mdag = om.MDagPath()
sel.getDagPath(0, mdag)
 
#At any time request the current fullpath to the node
print mdag.fullPathName()

CHALLENGE: Can you write a renaming tool that doesn’t use string path node representation? That works with all DG nodes? Without using PyMel? 😉

Embedding Maya Python Objects in PyQT (UserRole)

So.. if we can store a pointer to an object, how do we track that with QT UIs, pass it around, etc? It can be really difficult to find a way to be responsible here, you have all these lists and node representations, and in the past I would try to sync lists of python MDagPath objects, or make a dictionary that mirrors the listView… but there is a way to store arbitrary python objects on list and tree widgetitems!

In this code snipet, I traverse a selection and add all selected nodes to a list, I add ‘UserRole’ data to each and set that data to be an MDagPath:

    listWids = []
    for item in nodes:
        sel = om.MSelectionList()
        sel.add(item)
        mdag = om.MDagPath()
        sel.getDagPath(0, mdag)
        name = mdag.fullPathName()
        if not self.longNamesCHK.isChecked():
            name = name.split('|')[-1]
        wid = QtGui.QListWidgetItem(listWid)
        wid.setText(name)
        wid.setData(QtCore.Qt.UserRole, mdag)
        listWids.append(wid)

Now, later when we want to get the full path name of this widgetItem, we just ask it for this data. That returns the MDagPath object, and we can ask the object for the current full path to the node:

print self.drivenNodeLST.currentItem().data(QtCore.Qt.UserRole).fullPathName()

So this is a good way to have arbitrary data that travels wit the QT node description, which is usually some kind of widget.

posted by Chris at 12:40 PM  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

PyQt: Composite Widgets

customWid2

So the past few nights I was racking my brain a bit to get multiple widgets adding to a listview. I wanted to see a list of animations, each item in the list needed to have clickable buttons, and special labels.

I scoured the internets, and dusted off my old trusty ‘Rapid GUI Programming with Python and QT‘ book, I got the idea for the above from the ‘Composite Widgets’ chapter subsection, though they don’t use setItemWidget to insert a composite widget into another widget.

Here is what my QtDesigner file looked like:

customWid

I wanted to dynamically load a UI file of a custom widget and compile it with the UIC module. I first looked at making a delegate, but I just could not get that working, if you have done this with a delegate, let me know in the comments! (From the docs, it seems delegates cannot be composites of multiple widgets)

In the end I used pyuic4 to compile the above UI file into a python code, I dumped this, minus the form/window code, into a class I derive from QWidget:

class animItemWidget(QtGui.QWidget):
    def __init__(self, parent=None):
        super(animItemWidget, self).__init__()
        self.horizontalLayout_4 = QtGui.QHBoxLayout(self)
        self.horizontalLayout_4.setSpacing(2)
        self.horizontalLayout_4.setMargin(3)
        #blah, blah, blah

At the bottom of that length UI frenzy of an init, let’s connect a button to a function:

self.connect(self.button02, QtCore.SIGNAL("clicked()"), self.awesome)

Now define that function, let’s just print that the animation that the widget in the list whose button you clicked is AWESOME:

    def awesome(self):
        print self.label.text() + ' is awesome!'

This could do anything with the anim name or various data bound to this object, like check out/sync a file from Perforce, load a file in Maya, etc.

Now let’s make our main window. We are going to use setItemWidget to insert our animItemWidget into the QListWidget called ‘list’. Notice that I have access to every UI element in the composite widget.

from PyQt4 import QtGui, QtCore, uic
 
class uiControlTest(QtGui.QMainWindow):
    def __init__(self):
        super(uiControlTest, self).__init__()
        self.ui = uic.loadUi('uiControlTest.ui')
        self.ui.show()
 
        for i in range(0,100):
            wid = animItemWidget()
            wid.label_2.setText('Last edited by chrise @2014.06.21:23:17')
            wid.label.setText('Animation ' + str(i))
 
            wid2 = QtGui.QListWidgetItem()
            wid2.setSizeHint(QtCore.QSize(100, 40))
            self.ui.list.addItem(wid2)
            self.ui.list.setItemWidget(wid2, wid)

Now, of course, in my example I just quickly made a bunch of widgets, so their names are all default, but you get the idea. If you have a better way to do this, perhaps something more performant, please let me know in the comments.

Note: It looks like that book is freely available on a college class website, save yourself 50 bucks: http://www.cs.washington.edu/research/projects/urbansim/books/pyqt-book.pdf

posted by Chris at 2:38 AM  

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Maya: Vector Math by Example

BEFORE WE BEGIN

This post is about how to use vector math and trigonometric functions in Maya, it is not a linear algebra or vector math course, it should give you what you need to follow along in Maya while you learn with online materials. Kahn Academy is a great online learning resource for math, and Mathematics for Computer Graphics, and Linear Algebra and its Applications are very good books. Gilbert Strang, the Author of Linear Algebra, has his entire MIT Linear Algebra course lectures here in video form. Also, Volume 2 of Complete Maya Programming has some vector math examples in MEL and C++.

vector_wikipedia

VECTORS

Think of the white vector above as a movement. It does have three scalar values (ax, ay, az), sure, but do not think of a vector as a point or a position. When you see a vector, I believe it helps to imagine it as a movement from 0,0,0 – an origin. We don’t know where it started, we only know the movement.

A vector has been normalized, or is considered a unit vector, when it’s length is one. This is achieved by dividing each component by the length.

VECTOR LIBRARIES

There are many Python libraries dedicated to vector math, but none ship with Python itself. I have tried numPy, then pyEuclid, and finally piMath. It can definitely be a benefit to load the same vector class across multiple apps like Maya, MotionBuilder, etc.. But, I used those in a time when MotionBuilder had no vector class, and before Maya had the API. Today, I use the vector class built into the Maya Python API (2.0), which wraps the underlying Maya C++ code: MVector

I had to call out 2.0 above, as those of you using the old API, you have to ‘cast’ your vectors to/from, meaning that classes like MVector (Maya’s vector class) don’t accept python objects like lists or tuples, this is still the case with the 2014 SWIG implementation of the default API, but not API 2.0. One solution is to override the MVector class in a way that it accepts a Python lists and tuples, essentially automatically casting it for you:

class MVector(om.MVector):
    def __init__(self, *args):
        if( issubclass, args, list ) and len(args[0])== 3:
            om.MVector.__init__(self, args[0][0], args[0][1], args[0][2])
        else:
            om.MVector.__init__(self, args)

But that aside, just use Maya Python API 2.0:

#import API 2.0
import maya.api.OpenMaya as om
#import old API
import maya.OpenMaya as om_old

 

CREATING VECTORS IN MAYA

Let’s first create two cubes, and move them

import maya.cmds as cmds
import maya.api.OpenMaya as om
cube1, cube2 = cmds.polyCube()[0], cmds.polyCube()[0]
cmds.xform(cube2, t=(1,2,3))
cmds.xform(cube1, t=(3,5,2))

Let’s get the translation of each, and store those as MVectors

t1, t2 = cmds.xform(cube1, t=1, q=1), cmds.xform(cube2, t=1, q=1)
print t1,t2
v1, v2 = om.MVector(t1), om.MVector(t2)
print v1, v2

This will return the translation in the form [x, y, z], and also the MVector, which will print: (x, y, z), and in the old API: <__main__.MVector; proxy of <Swig Object of type ‘MVector *’ at 0x000000002941D2D0> >. This is a SWIG wrapped C++ object, API 2.0 prints the vector.

Note: I just told you to think of vectors as a movement, and not as a position, and the first example I give stores translation in a vector. Maybe not the best, but remember this translation, is really being stored as a movement in space from an origin.

So let’s start doing stuff and things.
 

LENGTH / DISTANCE / MAGNITUDE

We have two translations, both stored as vectors, let’s get the distance between them, to do this, we want to make a new vector that describes a ray from one location to the other and then find it’s length, or magnitude. To do this we subtract each component of v1 from v2:

v = v2-v1
print v

This results in ‘-2.0 -3.0 1.0’.

To get the length of the vector we actually get the square root of the sum of x,y,and z squared sqrt(x^2+y^2+z^2), but as we haven’t covered the math module yet, let’s just ask the MVector for the ‘length’:

print om.MVector(v2-v1).length()

This will return 3.74165738677, which, if you snap a measure tool on the cubes, you can verify:

distance

Use Case: Distance Check

As every joint in a hierarchy is in it’s parent space, a joint’s ‘magnitude’ is it’s length. Let’s create a lot of joints, then select them by joint length.

import maya.cmds as cmds
import random as r
import maya.api.OpenMaya as om
 
root = cmds.joint()
jnts = []
 
for i in range(0, 2000):
    cmds.select(cl=1)
    jnt = cmds.joint()
    trans = (r.randrange(-100,100), r.randrange(-100,100), r.randrange(-100,100))
    cmds.xform(jnt, t=trans)
    jnts.append(jnt)
 
cmds.parent(jnts, root)

joint_dist

So we’ve created this cloud of joints, but let’s just select those joints with a joint length of less than 50.

sel = []
for jnt in jnts:
    v = om.MVector(cmds.xform(jnt, t=1, q=1))
    if v.length() < 50: sel.append(jnt)
 
cmds.select(sel)

 

DOT PRODUCT / ANGLE BETWEEN TWO VECTORS

The dot product is a scalar value obtained by performing a specific operation on two vector components. This doesn’t make much sense, so I will tell you that the dot product is extremely useful in finding the angle between two vectors, or checking which general direction something is pointing.

dot = v1*v2
print dot

USE CASE: Direction Test

direction

The dot product of two normalized vectors will always be between -1.0 and 1.0, if the dot product is greater than zero, the vectors are pointing in the same general direction, zero means they are perpendicular, less than zero means opposite directions. So let’s loop through our joints and select those that are facing the x direction:

sel = []
for jnt in jnts:
    v = om.MVector(cmds.xform(jnt, t=1, q=1)).normal()
    dot = v*om.MVector([1,0,0])
    if dot > 0.7: sel.append(jnt)
cmds.select(sel)

USE CASE: Test World Colinearity

This one comes from last week in the office, one of my guys wanted to know how to check which way in the world something was facing. I believe it was to derive some information from arbitrary skeletons. This builds on the above by getting each vector of a node in world space.

def getLocalVecToWorldSpace(node, vec=om.MVector.kXaxisVector):
    matrix = om.MGlobal.getSelectionListByName(node).getDagPath(0).inclusiveMatrix()
    vec = (vec * matrix).normal()
    return vec
 
 
def axisVectorColinearity(node, vec):
    vec = om.MVector(vec)
 
    x = getLocalVecToWorldSpace(node, vec=om.MVector.kXaxisVector)
    y = getLocalVecToWorldSpace(node, vec=om.MVector.kYaxisVector)
    z = getLocalVecToWorldSpace(node, vec=om.MVector.kZaxisVector)
 
    #return the dot products
    return {'x': vec*x, 'y':vec*y, 'z':vec*z}
 
jnt = cmds.joint()
print axisVectorColinearity(jnt, [0,0,1])

You can rotate the joint around and you will see which axis is most closely pointing to the world space vector you have given as an input.

USE CASE: Angle Between Vectors

angle

When working with unit vectors, we can get the arc cosine of a dot product to derive the angle between the two vectors, but this requires trigonometric functions, which are not available in our vector class, for this we must import the math module. Scratching the code above, let’s find the angle between two joints:

import maya.cmds as cmds
import maya.api.OpenMaya as om
import math
 
jnt1 = cmds.joint()
cmds.select(cl=1)
jnt2 = cmds.joint()
cmds.xform(jnt2, t=(0,0,10))
cmds.xform(jnt1, t=(10,0,0))
cmds.select(cl=1)
root = cmds.joint()
cmds.parent([jnt1, jnt2], root)
 
v1 = om.MVector(cmds.xform(jnt1, t=1, q=1)).normal()
v2 = om.MVector(cmds.xform(jnt2, t=1, q=1)).normal()
 
dot = v1*v2
print dot
print math.acos(dot)
print math.acos(dot) * 180 / math.pi

So at the end here, the arc Cosine of the dot product returns the angle in radians (1.57079632679), which we convert to degrees by multiplying it by 180 and dividing by pi (90.0). To check your work, there is no angle tool in Maya, but you can create a circle shape and set the sweep degrees to your result.

Now that you know how to convert radians to an angle, if you store the result of the above in an MAngle class, you can ask for it however you like:

print om.MAngle(math.acos(dot)).asDegrees()

Now that you know how to do this, there is an even easier, using the angle function of the MVector class, you can ask it the angle given a second vector:

print v1.angle(v2)

There are also useful attributes v1.rotateBy(r,r,r) for an offset and v1.rotateTo(v2). I say (r,r,r) in my example, but the rotateBy attr takes angles or radians.

CHALLENGE: Can you write your own rad_to_deg and deg_to_rad utility methods?

USE CASE: Orient-Driver

poseDriver
Moving along, let’s apply these concepts to something more interesting. Let’s drive a blendshape based on orientation of a joint. Since the dot product is a scalar value, we can pipe this right into a blendshape, when the dot product is 1.0, we know that the orientations match, when it’s 0, we know they are perpendicular.

vecPoseDriver

We will use a locator constrained to the child to help in deriving a vector. The fourByFourMatrix stores the original position of the locator. I tried using the holdMatrix node, which should store a cached version of the original locator matrix, but it kept updating. (?) We use the vectorProduct node in ‘dot product’ mode to get the dot product of the original vector and the current vector of the joint. We then pipe this value into the weight of the blendshape node.

Now, this simple example doesn’t take twist into account, and we aren’t setting a falloff or cone, the falloff will be 1.0 when the vectors align and the blendshape is on 100% and 0.0, when they’re perpendicular and the blendshape will be on 0%. I also don’t clamp the dot product, so the blendshape input can go to -1.
 

CROSS PRODUCT / PERPENDICULAR VECTOR TO TWO VECTORS

The cross product results in a vector that is perpendicular to two vectors. Generally you would do (v1.y*v2.z-v1.z*v2.y, v1.z*v2.x-v1.x*v2.z, v1.x*v2.y-v1.y*v2.x), ut luckily, the vector class manages this for us by using the ‘^’ symbol:

cross = v1^v2
print cross

USE CASE: Building a coordinate frame

crossProduct

If we get the cross product of v1^v2 above, and use this vector to now cross (v1 x v2)x v1, we will now have a third perpendicular vector to build a coordinate system or ‘orthonormal basis’. A useful example would be aligning a node to a nurbs curve using the pointOnCurveInfo node.

crossProduct

In the example above, we are using two cross products to build a matrix from the tangent of the pointOnCurveInfo and it’s position, then decomposing this matrix to set the orientation and position of a locator.



Many people put content like this behind a paywall.
If you found this useful, please consider buying me a beer.

posted by Chris at 11:49 PM  

Monday, June 10, 2013

WordPress Malware Massacre

army_of_darkness_02

Some of my friends alerted me to my site being listed in the google malware database a week ago, but I was focusing on E3 and hadn’t had time to look into it. As it turns out, a vulnerability in a wordpress theme that I didn’t even have active allowed a virus to completely hose all sites on my co-located server with spam and random shit.

I wrote a quick python script [dirTools.py] that looks over all files and directories on linux and reports the following:

  • Html infested with twitter iFrame code injection
  • Malicious PHP, and code injected into existing PHP that eval’s strings obfuscated in
    • base_64
    • gzip
    • rot13
  • .htaccess files that change mod_rewrite.c to re-direct your users to bogus sites and internal php files
  • Files with permissions set greater than 664 and folders greater than 755
  • Hidden directories

I wrote this this afternoon and it’s focused on only this specific wordpress malware, it’s just basically some example code that warns of the above, and has two methods to remove PHP and HTML code injections.  Feel free to ask me questions, use at your own risk, by default the fixer methods are commented out, so this only reports issues. With them uncommented; they do make file edits to fix the code injections.

posted by Chris at 1:56 AM  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Object Oriented Python in Maya Pt. 1

I have written many tools at different companies, I taught myself, and don’t have a CS degree. I enjoy shot-sculpting, skinning, and have been known to tweak parameters of on-screen visuals for hours; I don’t consider myself a ‘coder’; still can’t allocate my own memory.  I feel I haven’t really used OOP from an architecture standpoint. So I bought an OOP book, and set out on a journey of self improvement.

‘OOP’ In Maya

In Maya, you often use DG nodes as ‘objects’. At Crytek we have our own modular nodes that create meta-frameworks encapsulating the character pipeline at multiple levels (characters, characterParts, and rigParts). Without knowing it, we were using Object Oriented Analysis when designing our frameworks, and even had some charts that look quite a bit like UML. DG node networks are connected often with message nodes, this is akin to a pointer to the object in memory, whereas with a python ‘object’ I felt it could always easily lose it’s mapping to the scene.

It is possible now with the OpenMaya C++ API to store a pointer to the DG node in memory and just request the full dag path any time you want it, also PyMel objects are Python classes and link to the DG node even when the string name changes.

“John is 47 Years Old and 6 Feet Tall”

Classes always seemed great for times when I had a bunch of data objects, the classic uses are books in a library, or customers: John is 47 years old and likes the color purple. Awesome. However, in Maya, all our data is in nodes already, and those nodes have attributes, those attributes serialize into a Maya file when I save: so I never really felt the need to use classes.

Although, all this ‘getting’, ‘setting’ and ‘listing’ really grows tiresome, even when you have custom methods to do it fairly easily.

It was difficult to find any really useful examples of OOP with classes in Maya. Most of our code is for ‘constructing’: building a rig, building a window, etc. Code that runs in a linear fashion and does ‘stuff’. There’s no huge architecture, the architecture is Maya itself.

Class Warfare

I wanted to package my information in classes and pass that back and forth in a more elegant way –at all times, not just while constructing things. So for classes to be useful to me, I needed them to synchronously exist with DG nodes.

I also didn’t want to have to get and set the information when syncing the classes with DG nodes, that kind of defeats the purpose of Python classes IMO.

Any time I opened a tool I would ‘wrap’ DG nodes in classes that harnessed the power of Python and OOP. To do this meant diving into more of the deep end, but since that was what was useful to me, that’s what I want to talk about here.

To demonstrate, let’s construct this example:

#the setup
loc = cmds.spaceLocator()
cons = [cmds.circle()[0], cmds.circle()[0]]
meshes = [cmds.sphere()[0], cmds.sphere()[0], cmds.sphere()[0]]
cmds.addAttr(loc, sn='controllers', at='message')
cmds.addAttr(cons, sn='rigging', at='message')
for con in cons: cmds.connectAttr(loc[0] + '.controllers', con + '.rigging')
cmds.addAttr(loc, sn='rendermeshes', at='message')
cmds.addAttr(meshes, sn='rendermesh', at='message')
for mesh in meshes: cmds.connectAttr(loc[0] + '.rendermeshes', mesh + '.rendermesh')

So now we have this little node network:

node_network

Now if I wanted to wrap this network in a class. We are going to use @property to give us the functionality of an attribute, but really a method that runs to return us a value (from the DG node) when the ‘attribute’ is queried. I believe using properties is key to harnessing the power of classes in Maya.

class GameThing(object):
	def __init__(self, node):
		self.node = node
 
	#controllers
	@property
	def controllers(self):
		return cmds.listConnections(self.node + ".controllers")

So now we can query the ‘controllers’ attribute/property, and it returns our controllers:

test = GameThing(loc)
print test.controllers
##>>[u'nurbsCircle2', u'nurbsCircle1']

Next up, we add a setter, which runs code when you set a property ‘attribute’:

class GameThing(object):
	def __init__(self, node):
		self.node = node
 
	#controllers
	@property
	def controllers(self):
		return cmds.listConnections(self.node + ".controllers")
 
	@controllers.setter
	def controllers(self, cons):
		#disconnect existing controller connections
		for con in cmds.listConnections(self.node + '.controllers'):
			cmds.disconnectAttr(self.node + '.controllers', con + '.rigging')
 
		for con in cons:
			if cmds.objExists(con):
				if not cmds.attributeQuery('rigging', n=con, ex=1):
					cmds.addAttr(con, longName='rigging', attributeType='message', s=1)
				cmds.connectAttr((self.node + '.controllers'), (con + '.rigging'), f=1)
			else:
				cmds.error(con + ' does not exist!')

So now when we set the ‘controllers’ attribute/property, it runs a method that blows away all current message connections and adds new ones connecting your cons:

test = GameThing(loc)
print test.controllers
##>>[u'nurbsCircle2', u'nurbsCircle1']
test.controllers = [cmds.nurbsSquare()[0]]
print test.controllers
##>>[u'nurbsSquare1']

To me, something like properties makes classes infinitely more useful in Maya. For a short time we tried to engineer a DG node at Crytek that when an attr changed, could eval a string with a similar name on the node. This is essentially what a property can do, and it’s pretty powerful. Take a moment to look through code of some of the real ‘heavy lifters’ in the field, like zooToolBox, and you’ll see @property all over the place.

I hope you found this as useful as I would have.

posted by Chris at 1:03 AM  

Monday, January 7, 2013

Abusing ‘Blind Data’ in Maya

‘Blind data’ is custom data that you can store on any object or its components (vertex, edge, polygon, etc). The documentation says ‘Blind data is information stored with polygons which is not used by Maya in any way..’ I believe it is used when importing meshes from other apps that have properties that do not map to Maya, so that when you take them back to those apps, those properties remain.

Anyway, the important point here is that blind data is metadata (int, float, double, boolean, string, binary) that you can attach to any component. It matters not what happens to said component, you can extract a polygon from a mesh, it’s index will have changed, it’s object will have changed, but its blind data will remain with it. The only drawback can be that it can be painfully slow to write this data, but we will get to that later.

Simple Example

First let’s create a blind data template, this is required to store the data later. We use the command ‘blindDataType’ to create a template for a string type called ‘skinningInfo’ or ‘skin’ for short, giving it an ID 12344. Then we query the ID and it returns the blind data attribs we have created.

cmds.blindDataType(id=12344, dt='string', ldn='skinningInfo', sdn='skin')
print cmds.blindDataType(id=12344, tn=1, q=1)
>>['skinningInfo', 'skin', 'string']

So now we have our template, let’s try using it, this is more focused on getting the idea across than speed:

#query vertex # of mesh
v = cmds.polyEvaluate(node, v=1)
#loop through vertices
for vtx in range(0, v):
    #get influences
    infs = cmds.skinCluster(sc, inf=1, q=1)
    #get weights
    objVtx = node + ".vtx[" + str(vtx) + "]"
    vals = cmds.skinPercent(sc, objVtx, q=1, v=1)
    #build dict of influence:weight
    for i in range(0, len(infs)):
        weightDict[infs[i]] = vals[i]
    #write value to blind data
 cmds.polyBlindData(objVtx, id=12344, at='vertex', ldn='skinningInfo', sd=str(weightDict))

So here you have saved a dictionary per vertex that has key/value pairs of influence/weight. You can query like so:

#I have a vertex selected in component mode
print cmds.polyQueryBlindData(cmds.ls(sl=1), id=12344, showComp=1)
['polySurface2.vtx[64].skin', "{u'joint2': 0.49755714634259796, 'joint3': 0.49755714634259784, 'joint1': 0.0048857073148042395}"]

Now On To Something More Useful

So let’s create a function to store skinning data per-vertex, as you may have seen with the above, that was painfully slow. If you have written any skinning tools, you know that the solution to this (other than learning C++) is to apply your change to all vertices at once. Below we build two lists, one of vertices and one of weights, then we

def storeBlindSkinning(mesh, sc):
	'''
	mesh is a skinned mesh, and sc is the skincluster affecting the mesh
	'''
	vtxList = []
	v = cmds.polyEvaluate(mesh, v=1)
	infs = cmds.skinCluster(sc, inf=1, q=1)
	vtxWeights = []
	for vtx in range(0, v):
	    objVtx = mesh + ".vtx[" + str(vtx) + "]"
	    vtxList.append(objVtx)
	    vals = cmds.skinPercent(sc, objVtx, q=1, v=1)
	    for i in range(0, len(infs)):
        	weightDict[infs[i]] = vals[i]
            vtxWeights.append(str(weightDict))
        cmds.polyBlindData(vtxList, id=12344, at='vertex', ldn='skinningInfo', sd=vtxWeights)

Setting all the data at once is 1/3 faster, however, setting this data takes quite some time, and you may want to take a hit for a progress bar. (break it up into groups) On ~60,000 vertices this took 10min (15min doing it inside the loop). I don’t mind that hit if it means that I can now detach/alter/slice my mesh without losing skinning data. You can even extract faces and the new vertices created will get the same blind data as their original. (one becomes two)

As always, the C++ API is much faster, my colleague, Bogdan speed tested the above function and 50,000 vertices took only a few milliseconds, compared to 10 minutes in pythonland.

Remember, there are other ways to store skinning data, using UVs, position, vertex color channels, etc. I just wanted to introduce people to blind data in Maya and show a potential use.

posted by admin at 4:04 AM  

Monday, July 16, 2012

CINEBOX SIGGRAPH Talk and Studio Workshops

CRYENGINE CINEBOX

I am giving a talk at SIGGRAPH 2012 entitled ‘Film/Game Convergence: What’s Taking So Long?‘ where I discuss the inherent differences between games and film and go over a few case studies of projects that attempted to use a game engine for film previs. I also talk a bit about the development of our CINEBOX application, the decisions we had to make, and how we dealt with many of the issues previous attempts have run into.

STUDIO WORKSHOPS

I will be giving two more Studio Workshops this year, the first is a followup to last year’s Introduction to Python, entitled ‘Python Scripting in Maya‘. The other workshop is ‘Building a Game Level‘, which is the same basic workshop I gave last year where I show people how to make a playable game level in CryEngine in an hour. Studio Workshops are hands-on sessions where each attendee has a computer and follows along with the instructor. It’s a great chance for people of all ages to learn new things.

posted by admin at 8:06 PM  

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Maya: Walking the Line

I am still finding my feet in Maya, on my project, some files have grown to 800mb in size. Things get corrupt, hand editing MAs is common; I am really learning some of the internals.

In the past week I have had to do a lot of timeline walking to switch coord spaces and get baked animations into and out of hierarchies. In 3dsMax you can do a loop and evaluate a node ‘at time i’, and there is no redraw or anything. I didn’t know how to do this in Maya.

I previously did this with looping cmds.currentTime(i) and ‘walking the timeline’, however, you can set the time node directly like so: cmds.setAttr(“time1.outTime”, int(i))

Unparenting a child with keyed compensation (1200 frames)
10.0299999714 sec – currentTime
2.02 sec – setAttr

There are some caveats, whereas in a currentTime loop you can just cmds.setKeyframe(node), I now have to cmds.setKeyframe(node, time=i). But when grabbing a matrix, I don’t need to pass time and it works, I don’t think you can anyway.. I guess it gets time from the time node.

Here’s a sample loop that makes a locator and copies a nodes animation to world space:

#function feeds in start, end, node
	if not start: start = cmds.playbackOptions(minTime=1, q=1)
	if not end: end = cmds.playbackOptions(maxTime=1, q=1)
	loc = cmds.spaceLocator(name='parentAlignHelper')
	for i in range(start, (end+1)):
		cmds.setAttr("time1.outTime", int(i))
		matrix = cmds.xform(node, q=1, ws=1, m=1)
		cmds.xform(loc, ws=1, m=matrix)
		cmds.setKeyframe(loc, time=i)
posted by admin at 11:44 AM  
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