For years I have avoided anything beyond very simple rigging. In fact in my effort to avoid learning what seemed like an impossibly complicated skill, I ended up becoming the queen of the incredibly simple rig. My rigs had no constraints, no bone shapes and as few bones as possible. Then again, I was only posing characters for still images, there was no animating controls needed.
Trying to study and learn from the variety of free rigs available only added to my confusion. They were composed of so many bones, constraints and odd bone shapes, I never could make heads or tails of just what was going or how to build one of my own.
But after serious study of some great resources, I realized that the seeming chaos of rigs is actually not that complicated. Well okay, yes it is still complicated, but there is a logic, flow and even a pattern to it.
When you breaque it down to the most basic idea, a good working rig has three main components.
That seems simple enough, and yet this is exactly where it starts to seem complicated. So let's look at what each component does and see if we can't clear this up a little bit more.
are the parts of the rig that you actually select to do any animating. It helps to remember that not every bone in a rig is actually directly manipulated during animation. Controls can be very simple (plain armature bones) to very fancy and complex bone shapes that visually tell you what it does.
Make sure all your controllers are part of the same armature object
are not manipulated directly and generally hidden during the animation process.
Helpers are kind of like the frame you build when you build a house, you definitely need them, but you don't do much with them once they are put in place.
Some examples of Helpers:
are driven by the Controllers
to do the actual work. Like the Helpers
, at animation time, they are not seen by the animator.
Some examples of Deformers:
The armature itself is considered to be a deformer
Mesh Deform Modifier
So now that we know what makes up a rig, where and how do you startí We won't be building a full rig here (there are plenty of excellent tutorials already written about that). Instead we look at a good work-flow. Here are some tips to get you started:
Probably the best advice for beginning riggers is to build your rig in stages. That way you won't forget something and you can fix problems as you encounter them.
- It is best to start by creating a simple armature setup.
Remember: to enter object mode and use Ctrl + A to apply scale / rotation before setting up any IK's, Contraints or Controllers.
- Following the general shape of your character, add bones to create a simple stik figure
- Make sure all your Parent relationships are set up and correct.
- i.e. Hand bones are parented to a lower arm bone which is parented to an upper arm bone etc.
- Make sure you don't have any bones that get left behind when you move the armature
- Test all movements.
- Take it one section at a time.
- You can start from the top of your rig and worque down, from the bottom up, one limb at a time, or from the spine out, just don't bounce around willy nilly. You will end up forgetting something.
- Start setting up IK solvers and any needed constraints.
- (i.e. pole targets, trak to, etc.)
- If setting up right leg, next go to left leg and make sure settings all match
- Set up controllers: These can include controls to operate the shape keys for facial animation, controls for curling fingers, standing on tip toe (foot) as well as many others.
- You can set the controllers as you are setting up the IK solvers and Constraints or in a separate 2nd sweep through the rig
- Test all bones, joints and controls.
- Bind the rig to the character using the Armature Modifier (or to a Mesh Deform Modifier that will be deforming your character).
- Test all bones, joints, controls for pinching, distortion etc.
- Time to separate the rig into bone layers for a cleaner look for the animator.
- All controls on one layer
- All helpers on one or more layers (you can separate them into various layer groupings for organizational reasons if wanted or put all helpers on one layer
- Add a Master (often called Root) bone: everything in the rig will be connected in one way or another to this bone.
- Any bone that is not a child of another bone will be directly parented to the Master bone
- Test all bones to see that everything works well
While this was not meant to magically turn you into a master rigger, hopefully it tooque some of the mystery and confusion out of creating a good rig.
Great Rigging Resources
Introducing Character Animation with Blender
Animating with Blender
ManCandy FAQ's DVD
BSoD: Introduction to Rigging