Creating an animation motion trail in Maya

In animation it is important to understand how objects move through 3D space, and how to create smooth arcs and motion.  We can use the tools to get a good look at the exact path of objects in our animation is taking through 3D space.

We have a simple bouncing ball animation from a training course that is perfect for this example.  Let’s see how to add a motion trail.

Make sure the menu set is set to ‘Animation’:

The ‘Visualize’ main menu item will appear, it contains a number of tools for tracking the path of our animation objects:

Create Editable Motion Trail

Press the option box to open the options menu:

Time range: The option to set up the motion trail for either a specified start and end time or based on the length (in frames) of the time slider.

Use start/end if the animation on the object does not last for the entirety of the frames in the time slider.  For example you may have a car that moves past a scene of 200 frames, and the car is only animated for the first 120 of those frames, so you would only want a motion trail for the car object from frame 1 (Start time) to 120 (End time).

Show frame numbers: Shows the frame number directly on the motion trail, this is a handy option!

Click ‘Create Motion Trail’, The objects motion trail is now visible complete with keyframe numbers:

As we play our animation the motion trail turns red, indicating the frames of the animation which have been played:

Updating an arc directly on the motion trail

If a change is made to a channel value on a keyframe (translateY for example), the motion curve will automatically update.

For this example I am going to change the Y channel value, and will be turning on ‘Auto keyframe’ to make things a little easier:

Move the time slider to an existing keyframe and move the object in the workspace, the motion trail will automatically update the reflect the new Y channel value for that keyframe: