All I have been doing these last few weeks is rigging. It's still not entirely finished even now. I've been having problems fixing the way the shoulder deforms, and that is what still needs fixing.
The rig itself, ie, the controls and its mechanics are all working fine though, and whats more, my rig has a custom interface too.
Ok, this could end up being one of my long winded techy posts, but to reduce the words, I've got a video to show some of the things it does, followed by some descriptions of how some of the things work. More, shorter videos showing specific areas it greater detail will follow later on in the year.
So, first things first, the way you set keys for animation on this rig is slightly different. What we've all been used to is posing the character using the controls on the rig, then clicking a selection button that selects the controls on the rig and then hitting the key button. Well instead, using the interface I've made, rather than that, I've created check boxes, and anything that is checked will have a key set when the set key button is pressed. There are two useful things with this method, one, you only have to press one button to set a key (rather than hitting a selection button before hand), and two, you don't have to lose your current selection. Meaning that, if you are blocking out the character, you can check everything (except maybe the face and switch controls) and just pose, set key, pose, set key and so on, not worrying about the selection at all. So that's the first main difference.
The second difference with this rig is that I have put 3D controls on the hands, face and feet. I've tried to make this rig more about posing in 3D, rather than channel box sliding. This is especially important for our characters hands because it needs to type and pick up objects easily. The finger controls work in a kind of IK / FK mode at the same time. So in the video, you will see that they not only rotate into position, but then they can also be picked up and moved, making pressing things easier.
This is the first fully controllable face I've rigged, which kind of leads in to the next big difference. In the interface I have a tab for preset poses. While manipulating individual controls is great, it isn't so good for blocking out quick poses, so with the buttons on this tab, you can assign common poses to the characters face and hands.
The rig also has IK / FK switching arms and legs, however you might have noticed that the legs had something else. There is another switch that controls the IK legs a bit differently. Instead of using a pole vector control to position the knee, there is also a twist attribute, but also, the leg doesn't flip when lifted up high. (it does flip in one position, but I couldn't see the character ever doing a backwards kick. and even if he did need to, there is the pole vector version of the IK leg rig to use instead.)
The last main thing is the 'dress up' tab. As our character will be acting as a butler, a maid, a chef, and a detective, and himself, he needs a slight change on clothes! This is where you control what costume he is wearing.
As an extra, at the end of the video you can also see the hair dynamics built into the rig. Although by default it is switched off to improve playback in Maya. You might have noticed me trying to move the monocle control with interactive playback, but (as I have just found out) if there are already keyframes on the control, you can't actually move it even with interactive playback on!
Its been a long, but enjoyable experience rigging the character, however, the worst bit is still to come. I've got to fix the shoulders!
The plan is to start animating with the rig as it is, while slowly improving the deformations on the shoulders with blendshapes, and then updating the rig in the scenes at the end.
I hope this has been interesting. At some point (possibly over Christmas) I will be creating a technical document on the rig and its interface. Next on the to-do list is animation!
A Flock of Pixels