Wire Tool Part 2
Advanced Attributes

Hello, everyone. Today, as promised a couple months ago, I'd like to work on finishing the Wire Tool by talking about its more advanced features. I'll do my best to go over all I can possibly determine. If anyone ever finds more uses for the Wire, or more applications in Maya that I'm not aware of, please let me know so I can add that info here.

As in the Wire Tool Intro, we're going to use a simple NURBS plane with a large patch ratio of about 40 in both U and V. (Figure 1) This number is a bit high, but note that for the Wire to be most effective, a large amount of geometry is required. Figure 1
Now, using the previous Wire demo as a guide, create a wire for the plane, however, create 2 instead of just one. Make sure they cross each other. (Figure 2).Figure 2
Let's look at the options in the Attribute Editor we didn't touch on in the first Wire demo. Instead of having seperate tabs for each of the wires, there's only one tab for both since they were created at the same time. Let's take a look at the Crossing Effect slider. By default, it's at 0. If you raise this slider up, you'll notice that where the 2 wires cross, the effect is compounded as the slider amount is increased. What this means, is where the wires cross, and when Crossing Effect is at 1, it doubles the effect of the wires. Pretty straight forward. (Figure 3)Figure 3
In the previous demo, I went over the Scale and Dropoff Distance folders, but you should note that now, since we created two wires at once this time, we now have two input boxes in each section. You can imagine how difficult it might be to know which curve is the one you wish to effect with multiple wires, so before changing one of the selections, it can be a good idea to first select the curve you want to change and make note of its name before trying to hunt down the curve you want. (Figure 4)Figure 4
You'll notice that the Locators folder has nothing in it. That's because you first have to create a locator for the wire. Now, it does not mean the standard Locator that can be created in the Create menu, but another kind of locator that is created in the following fashion - First, select a Curve Point on one of your wire curves. With the curve point selected, go to Deform > Wire Dropoff Locator. This will convert the CP to a Wire Locator. You'll notice now, that the Locators folder in the Attribute Editor has contents. (Figure 5)Figure 5
We now have 4 new Attributes that go with this Wire Locator. Param, Percent, Envelope, and Twist. Let's go through these.
Param very simply moves the Locator up and down the wire, in case you're not happy with its current position. The Percent slider increases or decreases the percentage and the size the wire has effect on the geometry, but you'll notice that it only takes place around the Locator's position, not on the entire wire. We'll come back to this later. (Figure 6)Figure 6
The Envelope slider is similar, as it will increase or decrease the Wire's effects in the Locator's region, but the size of the effected region stays the same. The Twist slider will literally twist the geometry around the wire in the Locator's region. (Figure 7)Figure 7
And while were talking about Envelope, you'll see another Envelope slider under the Deformer Attributes folder. It increases or decreases the effect of the wire for the entire wire, and not for any particular region. Pretty self-explanatory.
Let's add another Locator... heck, let's add 2 more. (Figure 8) You'll now see we have 3 sets of the four Locator sliders. Experiment with them and you'll see that you can now control different regions of the wire independantly. (Figure 9) You can see now why I like these tools for Landscapes. You can create some very cool looking cliffsides, alien environments, irregular desert hills, etc. using this!Figure 8Figure 9
1/17/2002
UPDATE! It was brought to my attention that I failed to mention a couple more things in regard to the Wire Tool! Take a look at the Deform menu, and you'll see that underneath the Wire command, there is another section called Edit Wire with a list of more commands: Add, Remove, Add Holder, Reset, and Parent Base Wire. Let's go over these now.
So, let's take a look at my new Wire scene. Those of you playing at home can make a new scene as well. :) (Figure 10) As you can see, I have a simple Wire created on a 40 span plane.Figure 10
Now, draw a second curve beside your wire like I have here. (Figure 11) Select it, and then Shift select the existing Wire. Go to Deform > Edit Wire > Add. This will add the second curve to the Wire, making it a wire as well. You'll now notice in the Attributes that you have 2 curve controls instead of just one. (Figure 12) As you probably can guess, by selecting this new Wire and pushing Remove, the new wire will deactivate, leaving a normal curve. To remove, you do not have to select the active Wire last as you did to Add.Figure 11Figure 12
A Holder will keep the effect of the Wire in a certain area, even if the Wire moves. Again, we have the Wire and curve on the side. First, select the curve and Shift select the Wire and click Add Holder. It's obvious what happens. (Figure 13) Move the Wire and Base Wire drasticly... the effect of the Wire stretches to maintain the Holder's geometry. (Figure 14)Figure 13Figure 14
The Reset tool will lower the Wire back to having no effect on the plane. However, you should know that this is based on the BaseWire's position. If you move, rotate, scale the wire and hit reset, it will return to its original shape and will lower back to plane level, but it will follow the BaseWire around. So, here we have the Wire before reseting (Figure 15). If I tweak the Wire and move the Base Wire (Figure 16)... and then Reset, the Wire results as in Figure 17. It has reset its position, but at the BaseWire's new location.Figure 15Figure 16Figure 17
Parent Base Wire very simply parents the selected wire and its Basewire together, enabling you to move them both with one node.
Well, that's about it. There's another tool called the Wrinkle Tool that is very similar to the Wire tool, but I'll save that for another tutorial. Remember to keep those tutorial ideas coming!
As usual, contact me about any mistakes, additions, etc. I hope this helped you!

Michael McKinley

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