Rigging Characters for Animation, Pt. 1, From New Riders | 7 | WebReference

Rigging Characters for Animation, Pt. 1, From New Riders | 7

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Inside Maya: Rigging Characters for Animation. Pt. 1.

Hooking Up Control Boxes to Your Character Rig

Control boxes are the visual handles that the character animator uses to animate the character. The control boxes are an extra layer of setup hooked up to your skeleton's joints, IK, and hierarchical controls to give the animator a simple and intuitive way to see and select all the controls for your character that are meant to be animated. All the translation and rotation of your character should happen on character control boxes, not on random locators or selection handles that are difficult to see or select.

Control boxes can be made of NURBS curves or of polygon objects that have been disconnected from a shader. NURBS curves are the most common choice because you can isolate them for selection while animating using the NURBS Curve option in the Object Mode Pick Mask menu. You can also quickly view them on or off with the Show NURBS Curve option of the Show menu of your current 3D view port window (or from the HotBox).

Open the file CharacterControlBox.mb on the accompanying CD to see exactly what a control box is. As you can see, it is just a NURBS curve that has been shaped so that it creates a cubelike box shape—hence the name control box (see Figure 17.15). Control boxes can, of course, be any shape and size (because they are just NURBS curves), and the CVs of the curve itself can always be hand-tweaked to produce the correct shape.

Figure 17.15
A control box.

You can hook up a control box to a rigged character in several ways. Basically, the main goal is to in some way connect the transformation controls of the control box into the transformation controls of the character rig. You can achieve this through expressions, complex node networks, or just simple constraints or parenting relationships.

The most common and straightforward methods for hooking up control boxes to your character are the following:

Connecting your control boxes is really a crucial element of rigging your character because it is one of the last steps before your character is ready for animation testing. treat the process of hooking them up to your character accordingly. One thing to remember, though, is that it really doesn't matter how you get your control boxes hooked up to control your character, as long they work correctly and move the correct nodes around. Sometimes on simple characters you can get away with purely parenting techniques or direct connections alone (which is perfectly acceptable). Another good idea when it comes to hooking up your control boxes is to keep the translates and rotates of the control boxes transforms capable of going back to zero as the default attribute state. Therefore, if you need to move, scale, or position your control box, simply enter Component mode and shape it using the control vertices. This also usually means freezing the transforms before actually going through the process of connecting the box to control a joint or other transform node.

Also remember that control boxes are simply used to select animation controls for your character and to move the character around. The goal of these controls is that they be immediately accessible and selectable from any view. Sometimes it is difficult, but do whatever you can to make the controls easy to see and select from most angles. This includes making controls somewhat uneven in shape or asymmetrical, as well as color-coding so that if one is right on top of the other, it is still quite intuitive to differentiate between the two control boxes.

Here are a few easy ways to color-code your control boxes in Maya:

Note - Changing the wireframe display color affects only the OpenGL display of the node, not any look or color attributes of the shader or the software-rendered elements. However, it affects the "hardware"-rendered wireframe color.

Figures 17.16 and 17.17 show the control boxes for The Jerk and Spot models, respectively.

Figure 17.16
The control boxes for The Jerk.

Figure 17.17
The control boxes for Spot.

Created: March 27, 2003
Revised: November 7, 2003

URL: http://webreference.com/3d/insidemaya/1