Generic character rig

The generic character rig

Ray character rig

Ray character rig

Overview

Tools Used: Autodesk Maya

These character rigs were the two projects made throughout my Character Rigging for Production class.

Intent

The first character is a simple humanoid character that was used to teach the fundamentals of character rigging, like creating FK/IK controls for the arms and legs, movement controls for the head and torso, setting up custom pose controls, and space switching and dynamic parenting. The second character, Ray, is a more traditional 3D model that would have to be rigged. This rig features all of the controls from the previous character, but also includes techniques like skin weight painting, corrective blendshapes, a facial rig control scheme, and extra general character options like scaling.

Process

The arms and legs of the characters have both FK (Forward Kinematic) controls that allow animators to influence parts of the arm/leg separately and IK (Inverse Kinematic) controls that control the entire arm/leg with one control. The characters also have a meta control located near each arm/leg that allows the user to switch between using their respective FK/IK control.

FK arm control

FK arm controls. There is one control for each joint of the arm.

IK arm control

IK arm control. There is one control at the wrist that influences the entire arm.

IK leg control

IK controls for the legs.

The Ray character's mesh is bound to the joint skeleton system through the Heat Map skinning algorithm. While this does a good job of binding the mesh and joints together, it is not perfect and some joint-skin influences still need to be edited, which is done through skin weight painting. I used this technique to paint how much influence specific joints have over vertices of the 3D model when moved, with black representing no influence and white representing a maximum influence. For example, the shoulder joint of a model will have complete influence over the skin directly next to the joint, but have a slowly decreasing amount of influence over vertices that are farther away from the shoulder. This technique is applied to almost every single joint in the skeleton so that the rig can be animated with the most realistic-looking movement possible.

Mesh skin weights

Influences for the shoulder joint on the mesh.

Ray also uses a Delta Mush deformer and Corrective Blendshapes to further tweak his mesh for poses that painting skin weights alone cannot fix. The Delta Mush deformer automatically reshapes the mesh when it is moved by a joint to make it more like its default rest state (the T-pose from the first pictures). The intensity of this deformer is painted onto the mesh in a way similar to the skin weights in the last picture.

No delta mush

The shoulder joint with no delta mush applied.

Delta mush

The shoulder joint with the delta mush applied.

Corrective Blendshapes will reshape parts of a mesh when joints reach certain translation or rotation values to look more like a separate reference mesh. For example, to have Ray's mouth not look rectangular when opened, I created a copy of his head and sculpted the lips inward to make it more circular. Since these changes would look awkward when Ray's mouth was closed, the mouth control is set to begin mimicking the edited reference when the mouth is opened by a certain amount.

No blendshape

The default open mouth look, with no corrective blendshape applied.

Blendshape

A corrective blendshape is applied to the mouth for a more natural look when it is opened.

Ray also has a facial rig to allow the animator to control Ray's mouth, cheeks, and eyebrows to create expressions. There are controls on both corners of the mouth that control the shape of the mouth. Translating the controls up and down will shape the mouth into a smile or frown, while translating them in and out will thin or widen the mouth. Controls on the cheeks allow the user to puff Ray's cheeks out or suck them in by pulling them away or towards Ray's face.

Ray smiling

The mouth corner controls moved upwards to make Ray smile.

Puffed cheeks

Ray's cheeks puffed out.

Ray also features both eyelid controls to open/close Ray's eyes. The eyelids close in both directions, and also have an option to open the eyes wider. Eyebrow controls that animators can use to move either parts of Ray's eyebrows, or his eyebrows as a whole.

Left eye closed right eye opened wide

The left eye is closed, and the right eye is opened as widely as possible.

Left eyebrow changed by individual control right eyebrow moved entirely

The left eyebrow is moved with individual controls, right eyebrow is moved with the overall control.

Product

The first character is complete, and the Autodesk Maya file can be found here.

The Ray character is still in progress, but the latest version of the rig can be downloaded here.

Note: These files both require Autodesk Maya to open.