Are Riggers and TDs Secretive?

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  01 January 2013
Are Riggers and TDs Secretive?

I'm currently a student studying 3D animation at university using 3ds Max and I wanted to get your feedback the question "are riggers and TDs secretive"? The reason I bring it up is that I think it's difficult to find tutorials which go beyond the intermediate level which, I think, was set by Paul Neale and his rigging series for CG Academy. What I'm finding is, because I have no industry experience and have little knowldge of what an animator wants or what's required in a professional studio, I'm having to try and reverse engineer the features that I see in demo reels to improve my knowledge and while I actually think that this process of deconstructing a system and trying to rebuild it is a very good way of learning, the point still remains - the resources for advanced level rigging seem to be slim.

I'm not trying to imply that riggers or TD are secretive or miserly with their knowledge, in fact I know riggers can talk passionately about their work in a professional environment, but perhaps I get the sense that keeping a few tricks up your sleeve is essential to differentiate yourself from your competition when it comes to applying for, and getting a job. And because rigging is so arbitrary - that is, having knowledge of, say, rigging a human can give you a good grounding for rigging animals, car, etc. - this compounds the issue.

Perhaps it's because rigging is an experimental art best learned by trial and error or maybe it's in part due to the relatively small size of the community or maybe I'm wrong and I've missed some advanced tutorials.

I'm keen to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for your time,
  01 January 2013
I think you pretty much answered your question correctly in all accounts. Not to mention that not everyone has the time to do tutorials and post them online.
I've been trying to resurrect my old maxTD website, but I don't have much time for that these days. Still, I will be able to make it, although its focus will change a little bit.
Anyway... There are still other places with a lot of material to learn from, even if they're not free. DigitalTutors is a great one. Even though you will to find super-advanced setups, what you learn through the rest of the material would be sufficient for you to apply it to more complex situations.
Following receipes is cool. It's better when you understand what the ingredients are doing, and you start inventing your own dishes.
  01 January 2013
not to mention NDA's
if someone works for a studio they're not even allowed to mention that they use Maya for there is no way that they would be able to show details of their rigs...

@Toonman2 - say hi to JimS!
Michael Goldfarb
  01 January 2013
NDAs are a big one and resources created on company time are company property so you can't exactly be giving away a lot of these elements.

I can't even upload half the things I work on to my portfolio because a lot of the products in them have yet to hit the market.
[Invivo Animation Reel]
  01 January 2013
You study 3D animation at the university but learn from online tutorials?
No teachers to help you answer these relatively simple questions?

Sounds like the university is a waste of money.
  01 January 2013
Escape Studios London just announced a webinar on 7th of February 2013. The head of rigging at the Prime Focus will be showing tips and tricks from the movie Total Recall.

Register until they have free places to give.

btw.: You just have to look for these kind of things. There are tons of thing like this webinar out there, short courses, and advanced online trainings too. You should check the Gnomon Schools Online Courses as well. They are doing really advanced things there with tutors from big budget movies. Can be pricey..
  01 January 2013
Try join python-inside-maya mailing list. There are a lot of helpful TD frequenting it.
  01 January 2013
Originally Posted by arctor:
@Toonman2 - say hi to JimS!

Jim says you should stay off public forums and get to work!!
Don't shoot the messenger...
  01 January 2013
In the 3D industry really the only reason you'd ever need a degree that I can think of is if you were going to teach at a university or highschool as a fall back if you can't find work. Other than that it's just a very expensive piece of paper.
  01 January 2013
have a look at
The things we own, end up owning us.
  01 January 2013
Originally Posted by darkjedi1929: have a look at

Whats the story with THAT forum?
I joined it and I cant post. PMed the admins, nada.
Illustrates what the op was talking about.
The terminal velocity of individual particles is directly related to pink rabbits on a bank holiday.
Characters, Games, Toys

Last edited by Kanga : 01 January 2013 at 07:55 AM.
  01 January 2013
I share tones of what I do. I have on line tutorials, Intro To Character Rigging is this tuesday, I have piles of info on my site and if you search here and at The Area you will find posts from me going back many years.

The DVD's from CGA are very old but very valid still. I suggest not buying anything from that guy how ever as he hasn't paid the creators of the content that he sells in many many years and refuses to take down the site or pay us.

In general I think that alot of people don't like to share their knowledge in fear that they will loose out some how. I have never had that feeling and find that it has always got me more work. Sergio and I go way back and used to share what we were doing and that it how we both learned.
Paul Neale
  01 January 2013
There is lots of TD knowledge available, specially rigging. I think the reason why you don't see as much of that "high level" knowledge in workshops or tutorials, comparing to, lets say modeling or animation ones, besides NDAs is the fact that when you reach the point where you need that "high level", it means you're doing something very specific. And since in essence it's an engineering task to solve a specific issue, according to the needs of the show you're working on, unless it's a detailed "making of", it makes sense the majority of tutorials are about common workflows, how to solve common issues, best practices, leaving it up to the TD how to build his own way from there on to tackle the task at hand like rigging that 4 headed mutant with 90 arms the concept guy came up with

Btw, thanks PEN, your Max rigging tutorials saved my arse on my graduation animation project, and i still use that knowledge with Maya
  01 January 2013
Personally I share a lot at work, in private chats, and on some mailing lists, but that's because it can be easily wrapped into short, focused replies and it's usually easy to tell what level the dialogue should be had at.

If I don't contribute more resources to the community it's not because of NDAs (which only prevent that much of my knowledge from being shared honestly), it's mostly because the mix of maths, eye for detail, software knowledge, and experience in general would mean that only people with a very similar mind-set and approach to things would appreciate what would take a ridiculous amount of hours to produce.

I could probably go further back to the basics and write or help about those, but that would make the writing and explaining boring and unenjoyable, and I guess I'm not altruistic enough to do that.

The long story short about it is that I, and I know many like me, can't be arsed, even if I enjoy both writing and teaching.

Solid TDs with a well rounded set of skills, I can assure you, are not afraid to give away their tricks, because they are paid for the ability of coming up with the tricks within the day, not because they know a few from before. Those overly protective of some sleights of hand and software exploits are normally somewhere in the early middle part of their career, or simply aren't that good if that's all they have going for them.
Come, Join the Cult - Rigging from First Principles
  01 January 2013
Thanks for all the responses.

@CHRiTTeR: Yes, I learn from online tutorials; the department at the university I study isn't very large and the lecturers have to teach all areas of Max which means none of them are specialists and I've moved beyond their level of rigging knowledge.

@szelpaldaniel: thanks for those links, especially the Escape Studios one, I signed up to their rigging webinar and also their "VFX Career Talk" (which should have taken place today but was moved to next week).

@darkjedi1929: I've signed up at Tech-Artists, CGHub, The-Area and LinkedIn and I'm trying to post quite regularly (you know, get my face out there ).

@PEN: I've learned a lot from you (and judging by the "special thanks" section on peoples show reels, so have many others). I try to answer users questions, until now its been mainly on The Area, when I have the time and I think I can lend a hand - for example if you see the last post here:

I posted this exact question over at Tech-Artists and one of the memebers said that he was going to set up a website called AnimatorMeetsRigger which would help riggers (mainly student riggers or people with no industry experience) get honest feedback about their rigs on the understanding that and animation created using the rigs could be used in the animators showreel - seems like a fair trade.

Thanks again for the replies,
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