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Dan Lane 16-10-2012 12:49 PM

ideal unit height for characters
Hi All,

I'm about to rig a character and just wondered if there is an ideal unit height for a character in Maya? I'm worried if it's rigged too small there may be precision issues and if it's too big the animators have to work with massive values.

Do people tend to think of 1 unit = 1 inch or 1 cm? Then work to a real world type scale maybe a human character is 170units/cm inside of Maya?

Thanks for reading


NextDesign 16-10-2012 01:00 PM

Usually you work to real world scale. Maya's default unit space is centimeters, so if your character is 5'9", you would make it 175.26 units tall. Precision problems are extremely rare, and I wouldn't worry about it. Also, just so you know, Maya doesn't actually show you the entire value, just an approximation. You can increase the shown precision in the channel box.

bullet1968 16-10-2012 02:50 PM

Im with ND. Find an average....I use 1.8M as a standard human male height...females approx 1.7. It will also depend on the case of race/parentage ND?

cheers bullet

ctbram 16-10-2012 04:12 PM

I tend to prefer working in real world units that is I always try to model to scale. This way if you share the model or import multiple models everything is the correct scale. If I was to change scale I would tend to do it across everything I model for the same reason.

One thing I have learned in Maya is that I just work in the default units of cm. The reason is that if you change the units it can make things like bevel go crazy. The reason is that the default bevel (which you cannot change) is .5 unit. So in cm you get a .5cm bevel and if you are beveling to create an edge to catch the light that is usually 1mm or less. So .5cm is only 5x what you'd want. Now change the default unit to inches and you are getting a .5in bevel which is almost 13x what you'd need for a light catching edge bevel. Now consider feet and your model literally looks like it has EXPLODED when you bevel as you are going to get 6 inch bevels which is over 130x what you would need for an aggressive light catching bevel.

I have tolerated this behavior on a couple of builds but in the end I just realized it's easier to convert to and work in cm and to scale.

Jay 16-10-2012 10:12 PM

model to scale everytime!

Set the scale of the scene before you begin work, or you'll run into probs down the line.

Most vfx houses work either in meters or cm, but it will still be to scale at the end of the day.

The more you make the model to scale the more chance you'll have of getting a better render out and if its a character to be rigged you wont be painting weights at .0001 which is too small a value to be working to in that type of work.

If none of the above and the previous threads cant convince you then I must say this: I read an article by the modelers at ILM about the work on the last Star Trek movie...everything was modelled to scale, its better for the detailing and it just looks right when it comes down to rendering realism.


bullet1968 16-10-2012 11:51 PM

I myself forget to work in scale sometime but 99% of the time I try. Initially I set up a library with scale cubes in various colours and sizes. When I model something like a building etc I use real world dimensions, which either I know anyway (Im a Surveyor) or I google. Like ctbram I work in cm, I dont know why but every time I try to work in metres Maya crashes. But its a simple scale up 100,100,100 to get metres.

cheers bullet

Dan Lane 17-10-2012 11:44 AM

Wow thanks for the fantastic replies, very good advice. :)
Thanks again


NextDesign 17-10-2012 02:12 PM

Plus, the focal length on your camera will be correct. If you model things too large, or too small, you'll get the incorrect amount of distortion.

badmanjam 18-04-2017 08:09 AM

Yeah, I prefer to work in real world scale, however I keep running into rigs that are tiny more often than real world. The Malcolm rig from Anim school is 9 cm tall for instance. I have worked in companies that work at 1/10 the scale. Does anyone know why?

grendizer 31-03-2019 02:17 PM

My coworker is an experienced Maya user and he also told me I should work at 1/10 the scale...

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