Color Code Keyframe Ticks in Maya

The Maya timeline represents simplicity, sometimes to a fault. New users might take a while to get used to how Maya displays frames and keyframe ticks within the timeline, but it will quickly become a functional element in the application, once you are.

a couple of ways to create color coded keyframe ticks in Maya

There are a couple of things you can do in Maya to customize the display of the timeline. You can make the keyframe ticks larger by changing a preference setting, making them a bit easier to see. You can make the timeline itself take up more space vertically in the application.

You can also use color coded keyframe ticks to create a visual reference of what the keyframes are in your animation. Maya has a couple of ways to do this by default.

Color Coding Keyframe Ticks

Here, animator Sebastian Osborn shows a couple of ways to create keyframe ticks in Maya that have a different color than just the default red.

Sebastian covers using breakdown keys, which actually show up in green in the timeline and in other animation editors in Maya. He also shows how to use Maya’s Tick Special Color feature.

This will allow you to add a unique color, other than red or green, to keyframe ticks that you choose.

There are also see scripts that will allow you to add more than one specialty color to the timeline. One that comes to mind is the Color Key Script.

The Breakdown Key

In Maya, the breakdown key serves a unique purpose, and will inherently behave differently than any other keyframe. As the name suggests, it is reserved (although not specifically) for creating breakdowns between your poses.

Keeping that intent in mind, breakdown keys will “rove” in Maya, assuming that you would like to keep the breakdown’s relationship to your other red keyframes.

If you slide a keyframe around temporally, the adjacent breakdown keys will keep the spacial relationship proportional. It is good to note that the relationship is between the red keys — hence the breakdown.

In Sebastian’s example in the video, he moves a red key with two adjacent breakdowns on either side. In that case, the breakdown keys don’t really function relevantly.

Typically a breakdown would exist between two red keyframes, or poses in your animation. Then moving one of the red keys on either side of the breakdown, the breakdown will keep the proportion you set by roving naturally.

If there are no adjacent keys, Breakdowns keys will act as if they are unbounded.