Wire Tool

This tutorial is more of a demonstration than any real tutorial. It seems to me, in my experiences with school instruction, that no teacher really has the time to go over every tool in the vast toolbelt that is Maya, so I've decided to go over a few of the tools that aren't really taught very often. I hope you enjoy, and I hope you'll take it upon yourself to request descriptions of any tools you're not that knowledgeable of. As stated on my main Tutorials page, if I don't know it, I'll be more than happy to look it up so we can both learn something. :) I start with the Wire Tool because it's one of the more un-taught tools.

Now, the Wire Tool can be a very useful tool for creating things like landscapes, mountain ranges, and the like. It could also be used creatively to create things like scars or something on characters. However, know that for the Wire Tool to be most effective, a good amount of geometry needs to be present. Too less, and the effect won't be that apparant.

Also, the reader should know that as I delved into the Wire Tool in order to write the best tutorial I could, I realized just how much in-depth this tutorial would have to be in order to talk about EVERYTHING one could do with the Wire Tool, therefore, this demo is called Wire Tool Introduction. Later on, I'll post a Wire Tool Advanced demo and go into some of the more advanced options of the Wire.

For this demonstration, we're going to go over some of the simpler effects you can create using the Wire Tool. First create a NURBS plane. We're going to need a nice bit of geometry, so increase the Patch U and V to 40 under the Inputs of the plane in the Channel Box as seen in Figure 1. This number is a bit exaggerated. In actual application you probably don't want quite so high; maybe closer to 20 or 30, depending on the situation.Figure 1
Now, go in the Top View and draw a curve over the plan using either CV or EP, doesn't matter. I'll be using CV for the majority of the curve functions I'll talk about in any of my tutorials. (Figure 2)Figure 2
The curve you made should be right on top of the surface. You want to make sure the curve isn't too far from the surface, or the Wire Tool won't take effect. Once you have the curve drawn, go to [Animation] Deform > Wire Tool. Down at the bottom of the screen, in the Help Line, you'll see the instructions on how to exactly use the Wire Tool. First, select the surface and press ENTER. Next, select the curve and press ENTER. Now, raise the curve up on the Y axis. You should see something like in Figure 3.Figure 3
Move the Wire. Pretty cool, huh? Now scale or rotate your wire. Ok, now, select some CVs of the curve by going into component mode (F8). Move some CVs. Talk about control, eh? (Figure 4) NOTE: if you got any weird jagged effect, don't worry, I'll talk about that in the next couple of steps. :)Figure 4
Now, open the Outliner (Window > Outliner). Here, you'll notice that the Wire Tool actually created TWO curves (Figure 5). Select the curveBaseWire and display it by going to Display > Show > Show Selection. Underneath your plane, another curve should appear (Figure 6). Now, start moving, rotating, scaling, and editing THIS curve. You'll quickly notice that this curve controls where the effect of the Wire Tool COMES FROM. NOW we're talking control!Figure 5Figure 6
I'm sure you can begin to imagine what the Wire Tool might be able to accomplish, but let's take a moment to take a look at the options available for the Wire Tool. With the curve selected, press Ctrl+A to open up the Attributes Editor for the Wire (Figure 7). I'm not really going to go over all of these settings in this introduction to the Wire Tool. In a later Tutorial, I'll go more in-depth as to what all the Wire Tool options do. Feel free to experiment yourself, however. Right now, the only options I'm going to touch on are the Parameters, Scale, and Dropoff Distance folders.Figure 7
First, we have the Parameters folder. In this section we've got 4 sliders and a checkbox. The Rotation slider will actually deform the geometry around the curve, rotating the geometry. The Crossing Effect slider only works if you have 2 wires intersecting each other across the geometry. I'll go over this more in a later tutorial. The Local Influence slider will change how much pull the curve has on the surface. It works in tandem with the Tension slider. If your Tension and Local Influence are both down, you can quickly see the result. The geometry isn't affected nearly as strongly (FIgure 8). If your Local Influence is up to 1, than your Tension will not have much effect (Figure 9).Figure 8Figure 9
The Freeze Geometry checkbox will toggle your curveBaseWire's effect from Full to Bias. If unchecked, the movement of the Base Wire will change where the effect of the Wire comes from, as mentioned before. If checked, however, the Wire's effect origins are frozen. The movement of the Base Wire will then only affect the Bias of the effect's direction, but not the effect's origin. (Figure 10)Figure 10
The Scale Folder only contains a small number input box. One good trick to know, is if you hold down CTRL while left-click-dragging in this box, it will act just like a slider. The Scale Attribute will scale the effect of the Wire (Figure 11).Figure 11
The Dropoff Distance Folder also contains a number input box. Again, by CTRL + LMB dragging, you can operate this input box just like a slider. The Dropoff Distance controls how much effect the Base Curve has on the surface (Figure 12).Figure 12
That's all this Wire Tool Introduction is going to touch on. I hope you have learned something helpful. Keep on a lookout for a more advanced Wire Tool demo in the near future.

I hope this tutorial has helped you! Any errors, suggesions, comments are welcome. Pleae contact me!

Michael McKinley