Reusing rigging information for other characters?

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  11 November 2002
Heya Lunatique,

Quote: Aren't locators just part of the skeleton? If the two systems are different, what are the pros and cons of building a system based on skeleton vs. locators?

That's a good question.. it really depends on how you want to work yourself. I usually do things based on the skeleton, because I want to have absolute control over where joints are and what their orientation is. So the first thing I do is build a skeleton to fit a model. Then, my scripts run through that skeleton and build the animation rig based on where the joint locations are. That way, if I have a new model that I want to animate, I can import the skeleton, adjust it as necessary, and run the rigging scripts and it builds the animation rig for me.

If, however, you want to build the skeleton procedurally, you still need to provide information to your scripts as to where the joints should be.. that's where the locators come in. So instead of building the skeleton first and then building the rig.. you're placing locators where you want the skeleton to be built, then letting the rig building script handle BOTH the skeleton and the animation rig.

So you can kinda break it down like this:

o Import Model
o if you want to have the script automatically generate the skeleton, then:
o Create Locators
o Generate Skeleton
o Build rig based on skeleton

hope that helps explain things a bit..

Twisted Imperia,

Quote: but how would i do something like adding a hand rig to that, to place the joins in space do i have to havea locator for each one? or what do u recomend

That's usually why I build the skeleton rig myself first.. however, something I've found really "handy" (ahem.. sorry. , is because hands are so difficult and time consuming to get right, I usually have a "hand file" which is separate.. then I make that part of my "buildHandRig" script.. it imports that file and takes all the animation curves from the joints (usually setDrivenKeys) and re-connects them to the appropriate joints on the skeleton which is going to be my animation rig.

So you have an entire script which looks like this:

global proc buildAnimationRig ( string $character )
    // the skeleton is already loaded.. begin 
    // putting the anim rig together

    // import the geometry
    importRigGeometry $character;

    // parent the geometry
    // all the geometry is named the same thing as
    // the bones that are in the scene.. just with
    // a _geo at the end.  So the geometry for the
    // "root" joint is named "root_geo".  This
    // makes it easy to automatically parent the 
    // geometry.

    // build the arm controls
    buildIkArm "l_";
    buildIkArm "r_";

    // build the leg controls
    buildIkLeg "l_";
    buildIkLeg "r_";

    // build the back controls

    // add facial animation
    buildFacialRig $character;

    // add hand controls
    buildHandRig "l_";
    buildHandRig "r_";
    // clean everything up

    // add character sets

    print ("Finished creating " + $character + " animation rig.\n");


then the procedure for the hand rig might look something like:

global proc buildHandRig (string $side)
    // this procedure will import the hand rig
    // and connect the joints

    // find the rig
    string $rigEnv = `getenv "CHARACTER_RIG_FILES"`;

    string $handRig = ($rigEnv + "/");

    // import the hand rig
    file -import $handRig;

    // now connect things using really tricky mel

    // now remove the temporary hand rig
    delete topNodeOfTemporaryHandRig;


see how that would work?

oh.. and stal3fish..
Quote: huh, who needs them trianing dvd's getting alllll the info right here

whatcho talkin 'bout willis! I got 15 childrens ta feed, a mom who's sick with the gout, and a gallstone the size of mt. everest.. buy mah damn dvd! <grin>

hope this was helpful!

jason schleifer
Animator -
Co-Founder -
  11 November 2002
Quote: I get nervous around brother was killed by an Xform...*sigh*

haha. I just saw this for some reason.. you crazy bastard!
jason schleifer
Animator -
Co-Founder -
  11 November 2002
Jason- Thanks for the explaination! At this point, most of it goes right over my head, since mel looks scary to me. But, I'll have to bite the bullet and learn it if I want my production pipeline to flow more freely.

Just so that I can you help feed your 15 children, take care of the mother with the gout, and a gallstone the size of Himalaya--no, wait, Mt. Everest, I went ahead and ordered $2,425 worth of training material from A/W, Gnomon, and And yes, that's in American dollars.

I figured, if these teaching materials are put together by guys like you and Alex, they definitely pay for themselves in 10 folds when I sponge all that knowledge up. I need to have the quickest and dirtiest way to get my short up and running for production, and I just don't have the time to sit there for a year to fumble through everything by trial an error. I need to know the most effective pipeline and ways of working right off the bat, and guys like you and Alex are my guiding light.

Last edited by Lunatique : 11 November 2002 at 02:02 AM.
  11 November 2002

glad to be able to help out! and please.. don't hessitate to ask questions and throw out ideas and share concepts and stuff like that. It's a growing industry and we're all learning every day!

I've got my own short I'm trying to figure out as well.. it's a fun but frustrating (at times) process!

jason schleifer
Animator -
Co-Founder -
  11 November 2002
Incredible, I wish I had Jason's brain...
Lunatique, if you fail at mel like me you might want to have a look at the JointFactory, a script that creates the best, most complex and yet most flexible and easily animated human rig I've ever seen, created by a couple norwegian guys working on a feature film. It's free at
  11 November 2002
Who is this Jason character?

Does he think he is working on the Lord of the Ring or something?

Oh wait...... damn!!

Jason, do you come up with all this stuff by yourself? or do you have a team of gnomes that stay up 27 hours a day thinking about new ideas?
Maybe the key is having 15 kids to juggle... Hhmm.. I should get myself some of those!! Do they come in different sizes?

  11 November 2002
lol jason & goosh

jason, i got some stale bread in the kitchen cupboard i can post?

  11 November 2002
Steven- oh yeah, I came upon that months and months ago, except at the time, I thought rigging was still light years ahead of me, so I didn't give it any thought. Well, it looks like lightyears just went by. . ..

Jason- Wow, you're doing a short! I picture it as something very humorous. I think it's because of your laid back personality. BTW, HOW DID you learn all that mel? Did you study it as a hobby, or did you learn it all serious like a techie geek?

goosh- gnomes can program mel? Hot damn, I need to kidnap me a few.

Another question: Alex(gnomon) lives by wrap deformers for his animations. Are you guys using that method too?
  11 November 2002
Mr. Stahlberg,

If I could model like you, I'd gladly give up half my brain to science, the other half to religion, and the other half to mathematical explorations... oh yeah, and I'd leave a bit over for checking out my girlfriend.

Linatique - yeah, working on it.. it's a story my brother wrote when he was 6 about a kid and his dog.. kinda morbid story for a six year old, but it should be fun. The challenge I'm having with it is tryign to use maya to make it look like crayon drawings... figuring out whether or not the paper texture should change every frame, or be static for a shot.. how wiggly the lines should be.. how to make the motion blur look like crayon blur and not smooth standard motion blur.. all that kinda stuff. But it'll be fun. I'll start posting stuff as I get further along.

Oh! and I learned mel mainly 'cuz I had to.. I started working at Alias|Wavefront when Maya was in alpha 1 or alpha 2... there was no file format at that point.. so the only way to reproduce what you were doing was to do it all in Mel. as that was about 7 years ago now, I've had quite a bit of time to get used to the language..

Jason -
stale bread.. mmm. .crunchy!

goosh -
you kinda get forced to come up with this sorta stuff the more you do it. I HATE doing things over and over again.. if I'm doing something and I know I'm going to have to re-do it at some later point, I try and put it down into a mel script.. it's much easier that way... and I can spend more time watching tv and drinking new zealand wine.

Oh, as for skinning and such, I don't use the wrap deformer that often.. I've found it slow and not very accurate for my stuff. I usually end up just dealing with influence objects and joints.. but every new character is a new challenge, so who knows? the next creature I work on I may decide wrap deformers are the way to go!

jason schleifer
Animator -
Co-Founder -
  11 November 2002
jeesus.. haha! I just looked at my last message.. I've got a friggin smiley face at the end of each paragraph!

I'm so predictable.

jason schleifer
Animator -
Co-Founder -
  11 November 2002
Quote: Originally posted by jschleifer
jeesus.. haha! I just looked at my last message.. I've got a friggin smiley face at the end of each paragraph!

I'm so predictable.

stop it Jason, right now!
  11 November 2002
can't... help.....iiiiittt.....
jason schleifer
Animator -
Co-Founder -
  11 November 2002
LOL thanks Jason

Hey, I kinda dig wrap deformers, so much in fact I've never bothered very much to explore other possibilities. I did, a little, but who knows maybe I'm missing something by giving up to soon. Can you describe a typical place where you might use influence nodes? Shoulder blade? Kneecap? What shape was your influence node, what did the end result look like? (If you have a little screenshot detail that doesn't give away too much confidential info...)
  11 November 2002
I pretty much use 'em everywhere.. buttocks, bicep.. tricep.. those ligaments on the side of your neck.. etc etc.

Unfortunately, I don't have anything I can post right now.. if ya got a model you want me to rig up, tho, I'd be happy to show you on that!

jason schleifer
Animator -
Co-Founder -
  11 November 2002
Holy cow! Do it Steven Do it Steven Do it Steven!

A Stahlberg model with a Jason rig. Hot DAMN. I'm going to pass out.
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