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Soft-Modifying Objects

The Soft Modification tool Soft Modification tool gives you the ability to sculpt, or smoothly modify, dense surfaces (Figure 4.70).

Figure 4.70

Figure 4.70 Choose the Soft Modification tool from the toolbar.

You can use this tool for animation as well as modeling, because its parameters can be keyframed as long as the construction history has been enabled (see Chapter 1 for more about construction history). The Soft Modification tool's uses range from adjusting a dense facial mesh, to creating smooth terrain, to animating bulging muscles on a superhero's arm (Figure 4.71).

Figure 4.71

Figure 4.71 Faces, smooth terrain, and muscles are just a few examples of what Soft Modification can do.

The Soft Modification tool works by tapering the effect of adjusting points on surfaces. In Maya 8, this tapering is displayed as a color-coded gradient while the softMod is selected. SoftMods allow smooth adjustments of a surface across several points. This technique is especially useful when you're working with dense surfaces: Without the Soft Modification tool, it would be far too time-consuming to individually move the large number of components required to make smooth changes.

As with the other translation tools, you can activate the Soft Modification tool and then select the area of the object you want to soft-modify. Or, if you select an object first and then choose the Soft Modification tool, the effect is automatically applied to the center of the object. The effect can be moved at any time, unless you delete the construction history.

To soft-modify an object

  1. Create a primitive polygonal plane (Create > Poly Primitives > Plane), give it Subdivisions Height and Width of 100, and scale it to about 20 times its original size (Figure 4.72).
    Figure 4.72

    Figure 4.72 In the Channel Box, increase the Subdivisions Width and Height to create a dense polygon plane.

  2. Make sure your plane isn't selected, and then click the Soft Modification tool Soft Modification tool in the toolbar.
  3. Click the part of the object where you want to create the soft modification (softMod).

    A softMod node is added to the surface, and its manipulator becomes active (Figure 4.73).

    Figure 4.73

    Figure 4.73 Add a softMod to a surface. The orange and black gradient displays the variable effect of the softMod.

  4. Select the y translate axis of the manipulator, and drag it up (Figure 4.74).
    Figure 4.74

    Figure 4.74 Drag the y axis of the softMod manipulator.

  5. Click the Cycling Index to display the Falloff manipulator (Figure 4.75).
    Figure 4.75

    Figure 4.75 The Cycling Index is a circle with a line through it under the softMod manipulator. Click the Cycling Index to toggle on the Falloff manipulator.

  6. Click and drag the red circle surrounding the Falloff manipulator to increase or decrease the drop-off area (Figure 4.76).
    Figure 4.76

    Figure 4.76 Click and drag the red circle around the Falloff manipulator to adjust the drop-off area.

  7. Click the translation icon on the Falloff manipulator, and drag it from side to side (Figure 4.77).
    Figure 4.77

    Figure 4.77 Using the Move tool, click and drag the Falloff manipulator.

  8. Press ctrl_a.gif to open the Attribute Editor for the softMod, and select the arrow next to the Falloff Curve (Figure 4.78).
    Figure 4.78

    Figure 4.78 The new ability to bring up a larger graph window makes editing the Falloff Curve much easier.

    The graph opens in a new window, so that you can adjust it more easily (Figure 4.79).
    Figure 4.79

    Figure 4.79 Click the graph in the Fallout Curve window...

  9. Click the ramp to create a new edit point (Figure 4.80).
    Figure 4.80

    Figure 4.80 ...to create edit points.

  10. Click and drag the edit point into the desired position.

    or

    Click the box with an x in it to delete the edit point.

  11. Add two edit points, and position them as shown in Figure 4.81.
    Figure 4.81

    Figure 4.81 The softMod now has a smooth, wavelike shape.

    You can see the results of editing the Falloff Curve on the surface of the softMod you created.
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