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

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

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

This book excerpt is from Erick Miller's "Inside Maya 5." ISBN 0735712530. All rights reserved. Chapter 17: Rigging Characters for Animation, is posted with permission from New Riders.

When setting up a character for animation, you need to complete several tasks. This chapter discusses those tasks in relation to the Parking Spot project outlined in Chapter 3, "Digital Studio Pipeline," and explains why they're important.

Specifically, this chapter explains setting up a character for animation through revealing the step-by-step workflow involved with rigging the following setups in Maya:

  • Quadruped spine and hips setup

  • Quadruped IK legs and feet

  • IK spline tail and ears setup

  • Low-res stand-in geometry

  • Control boxes hooked up to your character rig

  • The advanced biped spine

  • Stretchy IK legs and classic reverse foot

  • Advanced IK arms and clavicular triangle

  • An advanced additive hand and fingers

  • Facial controls and blend shape deformers

  • Eye controls

  • Smooth binding proxy geometry

  • Painting of smooth skin weights

  • Painting of weights using per vertex selections

  • Additional influence objects

Setting Up a Character for Animation

The very first step in creating a character setup rig is to research and gather the animation requirements of your character, including the types of motion the character has to achieve and the types of controls the character must have to fulfill these requirements.

Next, you should analyze the storyboards for the project and get a feel for what the specific shots might need. Also look into what kind of extra controls or capabilities might need to be added for each character or on a shot-by-shot basis.

Note - One important thing to keep in mind while reading this chapter is that the characters in the project are not necessarily supposed to be photorealistic. Instead, they're 3D puppets that an animator will be controlling in both realistic and unrealistic—and perhaps even cartooney—ways to act and tell the story.

Creating Clean Joint Hierarchies for Animation

Now comes the time to actually decide how the joints will be laid out for the characters according to their skeletal structures. This is the experimental time during which you can try out different things for overall joint placement without affecting anything. Joints in Maya are very versatile (see Figure 17.1); they enable you to create and arrange them in whatever form you please.

The next step is to draw the joints in 3D space. The best workflow for drawing your character's joints is to put the 3D view ports into 4-up mode by going to the Panels menu of the 3D view port window and clicking through to the menu item Panels, Layouts, Four Panes. Next, using the Joint tools found under the menu path Skeleton, Joint Tool, begin drawing your joints in one of the orthographic windows (either front or side, but not the Perspective view—it's much more difficult to control where the tool places the joints along a third axis in that view, so it's more difficult to place them accurately by simply clicking in the view window). As you click the first joint, look in the other orthographic windows to see where it appears in relation to your character. Now use the middle mouse button to drag the joint into place in the other orthographic windows.

Figure 17.1
Joints are flexible.

After you have built your skeleton, you will need to orient the joints. Do this by selecting all your joints and using the Skeleton, Orient Joint menu command (see Figure 17.2).

Figure 17.2
Choosing the Orient Joint command.

If you need to move or reposition any of your joints at any point before binding, use the Insert key with the Move tool activated. This enables you to move the joints without moving the children. Be sure to never rotate or scale your joints into place, and always translate them.

After you translate your joints, you need to be sure to rerun the Skeleton, Orient Joint command, or select the root joint of your skeletal hierarchy and execute the following command:

joint -e -ch -oj xyz;

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

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