Interesting Technique: Joints with shapes


I ran across an interesting little trick yesterday. Normally on rigs you will create controls out of something like splines, and use that to drive a joint to which your character is skinned. To pull this off, usually you will parent your joint under a control, or point-orient-scale constrain the joint to either your control or a null (empty group) under your control. Sometimes you’ll have two complete heirarchies, one for joints and the other for controls.

Now if you are constraining a joint between multiple controls (for IK/FK switching for example), then you have to have the bones and controls separate. But if you are doing a simpler rig (such as for a prop) that uses joints and you don’t want to turn on the handles for the joints (because little plus signs in the interface all blend together) then there is another option available.

Create your spline shape that will control a joint. Select the Shape node of that spline. Now add the joint-to-be-controlled to the selection. Now type “parent -s -r” in the MELScript window (minus the double quotes). This will reparent the shape to the joint instead of having it under a transform null. The fun thing is that when you select that shape in your interface, Maya will actually redirect the selection so you are selecting the joint! You can go into component mode and rotate/translate/scale the control points as desired to get your control shape in the right place.

Does anyone use this technique? Any downsides?

Michael Duffy


cool…makes sense…i don’t know why i didn’t think of that before.




Interesting but you lose the marking menu of the preferred angle with right click on the joint


Hey that´s pretty cool, Michael. Could save me a lot of hassle in setting up Fk controls. I´ll test in on a character and let you know.

Thanks for the tip-


This is the coolest thing… thanks for posting it!



i make the bow to you. that’s really cool idea.

:bowdown: :bowdown: :bowdown:


Well the only thing I have a problem wiht is that you will have Nurbs curves or locators parented a bunch of different bones. Then if you want to actually find them by digging around the outliner, you have to go looking through all those bones.
It just loses a little bit of the cleanliness of having them under their own null group. But like you mentioned, it could be handy for props that you wont have too much to deal with.
Good tip!


The other thing I encounter is the curve is no longer be a curve.
I means… I off all the selection mask but curve. I can’t pick it…cause it is not curve anymore…(it is a joint now)
so…I still let the sekeleton mask on…It’s somehow lose the meaning of the control curve function to me…
but I still think it is usefull in somewhere.


3don, what version of Maya are you using. In Maya Complete 4.5 I can turn on just curve selection and then only the curves will be selectable, even if they have been reparented with the “parent -s -r” technique. Is anyone else running across the problems that 3don describes? I can’t seem to reproduce them here.

Michael Duffy


yeah,MDuffy. you a right…
I use maya4,
I try in 4.5…it works just fine…

thanks for sharing again.:thumbsup:


what does the flags in detail mean:

thx in advance…:wavey:


yeah that is sweet… i even tried it with an anotation shape that is pretty neat give that a try… seems to work with any shape node… very neat…

thx MDuffy

:applause: :bounce: :airguitar



If you check the online docs that come with Maya (hit F1 and then go to “MEL Commands”) you can get a list of the flag for all the commands.

in the command “parent -s -r”, the -s means you are just reparenting the shape node, and the -r means you are parenting it using relative mode (so it will snap to the position of what you are parenting it to). If you don’t use -r then Maya will create a new transform node above the shape so that it can keep it in place (absolute mode, which is default), but that is not what you want.

3don, good to hear that your selection problems were just caused by 4.0. That’s a relief.

Michael Duffy


yep great technique michael , I use it all the time.
I also use it to built nice custom anim. Controlls which are more than just 1 curve.
thats antoher cool use for it.


btw, the only donwside of this technique is that u directly key the joints. this can be a bit more work, if you transfere the animation to another skeleton (depends on the approach u use). or if you controll more than one joint with one animation control.


That works great! well for me any way. Just one little question to anyone who might know. How does one go about undoing it after one has applied this method and saved out the scene. (and I can’t simply undo it) :hmm: Although it’s not that big a deal I can live with the curves still there while I use IK for my scene.



You can undo this by simply parenting the shape to a transform (an empty group), or by absolute parenting the shape to somewhere else (parent -s -a).

Mike Duffy


Cool. thanks!




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