How/where to further my knowledge of rigging?

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  07 July 2013
How/where to further my knowledge of rigging?

Like the title suggests, I'm looking for advice on how/where to further my knowledge of rigging (in 3ds Max) beyond intermediate.

Basically, I feel totally handicapped by lack of information on the subject. I've wasted so much time and money using Digital Tutors only to find their methods are almost always useless (in my humble opinion), and they don't give any feedback in their forums.

I've bought Paul Neale's downloadable tutorials - which in contrast are as good as it gets, but they're really dated and limited (I've only encountered his 3 Ogre rigging tutorials). I've spent some time on TraptCG, though I feel the guy's techniques are a little unorthodox and a bit clunky. Of course there's scraps of information on Youtube, which is often better than most other places, but hard to find.

I bought a book on Amazon that claims to be a definitive guide to rigging for intermediate-advanced users but from what I've read so far, it looks like it only covers techniques relevant to building his monster. Otherwise it's pretty good.

So, what I'd like to know is is there an illusive A-Z guide on rigging to move into advanced territory? Some kind of Rigging Bible of sorts? I'd love to learn the subject inside-out.

Last edited by STEVONATRON : 07 July 2013 at 07:18 PM.
  07 July 2013

Firstly, I'm fortunate that my university provides me with a digital-tutors account, but like you I've also found their tutorials (even the ones with "..For Production" in the title) to be of little use.

I think I was in you position a few months ago when I started this thread on CGSociety and this thread on tech-artists, there were some interesting responses.

Unfortunately there's no A-Z of things to know, but one of the beauties of rigging is that skills are easily transferable - so for example if you know how to set up a knee joint, you can set up an elbow joint or even get a good start at rigging a Luxo Jr. lamp.

You also have to not only consider the features you're including, but also how easy an Animator would find controlling them; for example does the Animator find it easier to control finger rotations with spline/dummy controller object on the mesh or using spinners and sliders in the modify panel.

Personally, I find the best way of learning to download a rig made by someone who knows more than you and try to reverse engineer it, an excellent example of this would be Brad Noble's Skeleton Rig.

It's interesting you should mention Paul Neale (whose training material I've found very helpful), he's got some rigging master classes coming up which might interest you (and he's got 4 DVD's not 3).

You should try to learn MAXScript (which is one of the topics which is being covered by Paul) because it will help you create efficient custom UI's, create tools and allow you to some stuff which simply can't be done without script.

I think I'm getting to stage where I'm on the fringes of progressing from an intermediate stage to and advanced stage, so some of the stuff I mentioned on my "My Summer Character Animation Project" thread ( might be of use to you.

  07 July 2013
Harry, thanks a lot for your thorough response and opinion/advice. I've had some excellent responses across on the Polycount forums to the same question I've posted here.

The only gratitude I have for Digital Tutors is that they've inadvertently compelled me to try and learn how to do stuff without needing tutorials any more. The tipping point was when I needed to rig a realistic bird wing. I thought 'great there's a tutorial on Digital Tutors'. It begins with the guy (rightly) going through the research of wing anatomy - only to go ahead and completely disregard it! I hope most artists realise that a bird has 'arms' - this guy indeed builds the 'arms', but then refines the bones into dozens of little bones so as to make the entire 'arm' flex like rubber! I would be a lot more forgiving if I weren't paying a fortune to access these videos.

So I tried to build some kind of make-shift rig of my own, and, well, that's where I find myself now. I saw Paul Neale's example of wing rig (beautiful by the way) and knew at that point I needed to learn the whole thing and stop piecing together parts of tutorials when making stuff.

I'd join Paul Neale's master classes in a beat if it were not for the time difference between the UK and Canada, along with the fact he wouldn't understand my Geordie accent! Also I don't think a few classes would cover the amount of information I want to learn.

Regarding his DVD's, I only bought the 3 rigging tutorials he made, the fourth is a skinning tutorial, which I don't really need.

I've got my eye on this book at Amazon which will hopefully advance my knowledge along with other books such as the Max 2013 Bible - to use more as a reference.

Other than that I'm still unsure where to turn...

Last edited by STEVONATRON : 07 July 2013 at 02:23 PM.
  07 July 2013
I'm sure you're aware that that book on Amazon is for Maya, if you're wanting to learn rigging in Maya I've heard very good things about Jason Schliefer's Animator Friendly Rigging ( which is quite old, but this guy worked on the Lord of the Ring's films so you can expect him to cover some relevant and advanced topics.

I'm just about to finish university and don't have any production experience, but something I've found is helpful (and which might be quite obvious) is to break down an entire character rig into specific parts and work on them. For example I've got several scenes which just involve spine rigs and other which are just about arms and legs, once you've got specific parts working in individual scenes then try to recreate them in one scene and get them working together.

What sort of stuff are you learning at the moment? Hopefully I have some links or articles saved which might help you.

  07 July 2013
It's funny you mention the book on Amazon being for Maya - I had just ordered it a little earlier, but cancelled it when I read one of the less positive user reviews (along with it being Maya platform). Apparently the guy who wrote it goes a bit nuts with massive naming conventions and is too descriptive about irrelevant stuff.

I started reading through your post which you linked to earlier, ('My Summer Character Animation Project') - very good read I must say, and lots of nice links.

At the moment I'm still trying to deconstruct Paul Neale's Wing rig, from how he describes it in his video. I'm combining that with a couple other similar tutorials; there's one on TraptCG and one on Youtube.

On the side I've been watching a series of Maxscript 101 videos on Vimeo - hope to eventually feel confident in this area too.
  07 July 2013
I felt my ears burning.

Let me start by saying do not purchase DVD's from CGA, he is a thief and has not paid the creators of the content in many many years. Most of it can be found on youtube and I don't have a problem any more if you down load mine.

As for my Master Classes they spend more time on discussing how tools and combinations of tools work so that you can build your own rigs. I have found that just teaching how to build rig X and not explaining in detail how to approach or how each tool works doesn't get any one very far. Intro To Character Rigging already passed by and the next coming up would be the Max Script 101 class. In my opinion if you can't script you really are not a character rigger as everything that I do in character rigs is scripted for the most part. It allows for things that are not possible otherwise.

I also have a long format class on facial rigging coming up but don't know the dates of it quite yet. I need to get a production out of the way first before I can set that. I will also be looking at other longer format classes as well for the future so keep your eye out for them via Twitter or Facebook.

The DVD material that you do have of mine is dated but relevant still. You need the forth DVD how ever to get the updates to the first three as a few things changed in Max over the course of me creating them. For instance you don't need a script controller any more to extract a rotation from an IK joint.
Paul Neale
  07 July 2013
Hi Paul,

I think that makes us both shafted by the guy at CGA - those DVDs cost a fortune. I was already aware of their existence on Youtube, but deliberately bought them believing you would be paid, as I totally disagree with piracy. Honestly I feel really annoyed about this.

Have you considered selling your material (like you said, even your old stuff is still relevant) via sites like this one? Or just set up a Paypal account on your site?

I understand what you mean by the need to be competent with maxscript to be good at rigging. I've mentioned earlier that I'm trying to mimic your wing rig, and so far I've got something pretty good (if I do say so myself lol). But the difference as far as I can tell, is that I'm using quite a number of modifiers to make each feather work, where as I guess you used only a couple modifiers and then script to point back to them. By the way, you will be credited with a 'referred to Paul Neale' when I'm finished.

I would love to hook up to one of your master classes, it would undoubtedly be invaluable. But I wouldn't be able to commit due to a number of reasons; mostly that my part time job hours change weekly - that, and I'm not paid well so don't have a lot of money at the moment.

However, if you were to consider putting together a maxscript DVD, I would definitely throw my support at you. Books and DVDs work best for me because I can refer to them in my own time and when I need them.
  07 July 2013
Glad to hear that your rig is working out for you.

As for the Master Classes I also record them and you get a copy of that after the class. So eve if you couldn't make the class you would still get the recording.

More information about how the classes are run is here. I will also have a long format class that will be offered as soon as I know better when I can do it. It will be three downloadable classes and one live on line one because I do hear all the time that people are not able to make the classes when they are all live.

I will be selling my DVD's on my site at some point. Just need to compile them all into bite size down loads and get them up on my site.
Paul Neale
  07 July 2013
Cool, thanks for the info. As soon as I'm financially 'stable' I'll be looking out for your classes, probably the maxscript ones. If not, I'll definitely be buying your DVDs when you make them available.

  07 July 2013
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