March 2019: ewertb.soundlinker.com is getting relocated to ewertb.mayasound.com, please update your bookmarks.

Maya API How-To #32

Back · Previous · Next Maya

How do you use Maya's "function" attribute types, commonly found on Trax character and clip animation nodes?

Using the "Node and Attribute Reference" from Maya's documentation you'll find the following uses for the attribute type "function":

animBlend::blend

animCurve::apply

character::clipEvaluate.clipEvaluate_Hidden
character::clipEvaluate.clipEvaluate_Raw

clipLibrary::clipEvalList.clipEval.clipEval_Hidden
clipLibrary::clipEvalList.clipEval.clipEval_Raw
clipLibrary::clipFunction

clipScheduler::blendList.blendList_Hidden
clipScheduler::blendList.blendList_Raw
clipScheduler::blendList.clipEvaluate
clipScheduler::clipFunction.clipFunction_Hidden
clipScheduler::clipFunction.clipFunction_Raw

fluidShape::fieldList.fieldFunction.fieldFunction_Hidden
fluidShape::fieldList.fieldFunction.fieldFunction_Raw
fluidShape::emissionList.emissionFunction.emissionFunction_Hidden
fluidShape::emissionList.emissionFunction.emissionFunction_Raw

sampler::function.function_Hidden
sampler::function.function_Raw

Unfortunately, there's no obvious means to wrap this type of data in the API. There is no MFnFunctionAttribute, for example. Well, I suppose that's the reason that several of these are marked "For Internal Use Only," right?

Right off the bat, and to avoid making you read the rest of this expecting a clever solution, I'm going to admit that I do not know how to utilize these attributes to introduce custom behavior. What follows is my assumptions for how they might be used within Maya, and possible theories for how one might start to crack the shell of their mysteries. All very caveat lector from here on in…

The Rosetta Stone

My interpretation of "function" is that the data is a pointer which the node dereferences and executes as a callback within its compute() method. If this is indeed the case there are a couple of ways that I can see Alias implementing it:

Firstly, they could be using something akin to MFnPluginData. The value is passed as generic data, and its only the fact that the node knows how to interpret it that makes it a function. I note, however, that none of these attributes are storable, and one of the purposes behind MFnPluginData is to allow for serialization of custom data. Since this isn't a factor here, perhaps the overhead of this class isn't required.

Second guess is that they are simply storing a 32-bit integer value, similar to a Tint32. Within the node, the value is cast to an appropriate function definition, and dereferenced; e.g.:

MDataHandle inputHandle = datablock.inputValue( aEmissionFunction );
int fnInt = inputHandle.asInt();

MDataHandle toHandle = datablock.inputValue( aFieldFunctionInmapTo );
short paramTo = toHandle.asShort();
MDataHandle fromHandle = datablock.inputValue( aFieldFunctionInmapFrom );
short paramFrom = fromHandle.asShort();

(EmissionFunction*)(fnInt)( paramTo, paramFrom );

This value would refer to a static/global function, and the plug would be initally assigned to a default behavior that was defined within the node itself. Other nodes, once connected to this plug, could replace the default behavior by assigning the address of its own callback function. It would be required to have the same declaration signature, of course.

Mind you, either way such usage would seriously compromise the rules of the dependency graph, where each node is responsible for its own internal calculations and data storage. It certainly piques one's curiosity as to its implementation.

The Stonecutters

Before one even gets so far as to deciphering the glyphs for the callback functions, the first hurdle would be connecting your own source attribute to one of these "function" attributes. So the question is: What is the secret knock to get in? Perhaps a clue can be obtained by querying the attribute via MFnAttribute::accepts(), as this will indicate which MFnData::Type and/or MTypeId will be accepted for an incoming connection.

I wrote a quick "fnAttr" command to run a query of the MFnData::Type enumerations against a couple of the attributes listed above:

string $animBlend = `createNode animBlend`;
// Result: animBlend1 //

fnAttr -at blend $animBlend;
// MFnData::kComponentList: No
// MFnData::kDoubleArray: No
// MFnData::kDynArrayAttrs: No
// MFnData::kDynSweptGeometry: No
// MFnData::kIntArray: No
// MFnData::kLattice: No
// MFnData::kMatrix: No
// MFnData::kMesh: No
// MFnData::kNumeric: YES
// MFnData::kNurbsCurve: No
// MFnData::kNurbsSurface: No
// MFnData::kPlugin: No
// MFnData::kPluginGeometry: No
// MFnData::kPointArray: No
// MFnData::kSphere: No
// MFnData::kString: No
// MFnData::kStringArray: No
// MFnData::kSubdSurface: No
// MFnData::kVectorArray: No
string $clipLibrary = `createNode clipLibrary`;
// Result: clipLibrary1 //

fnAttr -at clipFunction $clipLibrary;
// MFnData::kComponentList: No
// MFnData::kDoubleArray: No
// MFnData::kDynArrayAttrs: No
// MFnData::kDynSweptGeometry: No
// MFnData::kIntArray: No
// MFnData::kLattice: No
// MFnData::kMatrix: No
// MFnData::kMesh: No
// MFnData::kNumeric: YES
// MFnData::kNurbsCurve: No
// MFnData::kNurbsSurface: No
// MFnData::kPlugin: No
// MFnData::kPluginGeometry: No
// MFnData::kPointArray: No
// MFnData::kSphere: No
// MFnData::kString: No
// MFnData::kStringArray: No
// MFnData::kSubdSurface: No
// MFnData::kVectorArray: No

These results seem to lend support to the Tint32 theory above. Can we use a numeric to make an arbitrary connection to this node?

string $fn = `createNode unknown -name fnImpersonator`;
// Result: fnImpersonator //

addAttr -at "long" -longName "function" -shortName "fn" $fn;

connectAttr ( $animBlend + ".blend" ) ( $fn + ".function" );
// Error: Connection not made: 'animBlend1.blend' -> 'fnImpersonator.function'.  
          Data types of source and destination are not compatible. //

connectAttr -f ( $fn + ".function" ) character1Scheduler1.clipFunction_Raw;
// Error: Connection not made: 'fnImpersonator.function' -> 'character1Scheduler1.clipFunction_Raw'.  
          Data types of source and destination are not compatible. //

The Babel Fish

Of course, even if a connection were possible the workings behind this function are undocumented, and there's no way to know what you need to do on the other side of the connection that would make sense to the target node. I expect that one would need to appeal to Alias and see if they might provide some "behind the scenes" as to how you could utilize it for your own needs. I'd be surprised if they capitulated, but one can't know but to ask.

22 Jan 2006