View Full Version : Workflow: Multiple rigs or one super rig?

01 January 2011, 09:24 PM
I'm putting together some characters for my final student project, one of which is a lumbering fish monster. I want to build a muscle system to add some jiggle and flex (using basic Maya Muscle), but I probably won't be using it in every shot. I also need to build a rudimentary skeleton mesh to hide beneath the skin which will be revealed by an x-ray shader when the monster is electrocuted.

At this point, I have the basic smooth-bound character set-up, but I'm not entirely sure how to tie everything together. Specifically, should I copy the rig and put the muscles into a separate file, or should I try to build everything into one super rig?

I'm tempted to go with the super rig to avoid juggling multiple assets, but I'm worried that it may cause problems later down the line.

01 January 2011, 10:41 PM
From my modest experience I would recommend to have different separated rigs for different needs. I have used super-rigs in the past to suit every shot with a single model, and they have resulted to turn the whole process slow due to the big number of gadgets present in scene... although, well, I have to say that my PC is not very powerful. Maybe yours could manage such a load. But in the end I think you spend the same time whether you make a big super rig or multiple rigs: The big rig is not going to save you any time on rigging, I am sure.
Also, I am a Max user, so maybe my opinion will not suit Maya workflow...I just hope it helps.
Good luck with your project.

01 January 2011, 04:38 PM
There are some major pro's and cons to both approaches, and largely depending on your time, resources and technical experience.

The most optimized approach for a studio pipeline is obviously having multiple rigs, but it requires a bit more sophisticated a tool set.

If you are building the rigs with mel/python (and utilizing variables, loops, etc), then having multiple rigs would be fairly easy. You could just have one lo-res rig that is capable of driving any of the others. You could then write a rudimentary "connect" script that could find matching joints and constrain them to your master rig. In that way, only your master rig would need the ik handles and all the fancy stuff, the others could just be the skeleton, which would get driven by your rig. So then you could have any of the rigs in the shot at any given time.

What's best for a studio pipeline, however, is definitely NOT always best for small/solo projects. If you're not doing mel, and are doing more than just the rigging, the obvious problem with multiple "black box" rigs is that if you decide to make a change to one, you've got to manually keep the others up to date.

If you're black-boxing it (i.e. building most of the rig manually) - which I'd assume you were - driving all the mesh's on one rig would probably make your life a little easier. Okay, probably a lot easier. You'll just need to make sure you can hide your muscle/sim setup and ensure it's not siming when you don't want it to. You'd want to keep a mesh for your basic skinCluster, and a separate mesh for simulation. For a solo project, I don't think it's going to cause you too much grief to go with this approach - in fact, it'll likely cause you a lot LESS grief. I can't think of any big problems this would cause down the line, unless you don't have any way to hide the sim mesh.

Good luck!

01 January 2011, 05:50 PM
Well, I should also add that (as I'm sure you know) there is the third option of referencing your master rig into your other scenes. So you could theoretically keep a master rig with no geometry, and reference that into scenes that have just geometry. So you wouldn't necessarily need to maintain multiple rigs.

That could be a pretty useful approach if you need to keep your file sizes down and I've heard that most of the kinks have been worked out of Maya's referencing, but I haven't used it in some time so I can't really speak from experience.

01 January 2011, 04:23 AM
If I were you, I'd save out the 'basic' rig, then use that as a reference for the x-ray and muscle rigs. That way if you need to tweak the skin weights, or whatever, it will fix ALL the rigs that referenced it, but your animators don't have to load any laggy extras they don't need.

01 January 2011, 04:05 PM
This is great advice. My original plan was to keep everything separate, but I wasn't looking forward to migrating each revision across several different files. I really like the concept of referencing the basic rig into the more advanced variations, since it seems to give me the best of both worlds without making my life too complex.

Thanks for taking the time to help me out!

01 January 2011, 06:16 PM
Cool. The referencing approach can have some benefits on a small project but I would highly recommend planning ahead and taking a few precautions as (in my experience) referencing is prone to strange issues (usually due to a lack of understanding about how referencing works, but occasionally due to bugs).

1) Always save in MA and not MB. (so you can troubleshoot your files if they run into a problem).

2) Lock down your model and joint names before doing any serious weighting (as much as is possible).

3) ALWAYS SAVE VERSIONS. Any time you make change to the model or rig, be SURE to save a backup version of those files. You're going to need to be able to revert your files if you run into an unresolvable issue. If you're using maya's built in versioning system, set the number of versions to unlimited.

4) Never change the rig from the file in which it is referenced. Always make changes to the source file. Even if you know this, it's easy to make the mistake.

5) Get yourself a good weight transfer tool that accounts for multiple transfer techniques and can transfer weights per vertex, by world space, etc. Last time I used stuff available online, the comet tools were pretty good. But if you need to make a change to joint positions - you're going to have to export your weights, detach the skin, and re-import the weights.

That's all I can think of right now, but it's just good to cover all of your bases when using referencing.

good luck!

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