How long does it take you to skin a character for production?

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  01 January 2011
How long does it take you to skin a character for production?

How long does it take you to fully skin a production-ready character of say, semi-stylized/realistic proportions using which app and additional tools/scripts/plugins? For simplicity's sake, let's not include setting up PSD, other deformers and muscle systems, but weights-painting only.

I have been wondering lately how other people not in my direct realm of access are faring on this rather tedious step in the pipeline and how slow I actually really am.

Looking forward to your input!

"Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do."-Bruce Lee

Last edited by TheRazorsEdge : 01 January 2011 at 01:08 PM.
  01 January 2011
I once had 4hours / character on a video game project. Or that one time of great emergency they gave me 20mins to skin a character ( I'm so glad the model was symmetrical so at least I could mirror the weights ! :o) )

But it can go to weeks and months depending of the project and character...
  01 January 2011
My record was around 30 minutes for a stylized character that was to be rendered at 200x200 pixel for a website. But as Eric mentioned it can for weeks and more. For some of our rush jobs I only do a basic skinning of maybe 2 hours and then do the skinning finetuning while animating. I know, it´s terrible, but sometimes I don´t have the time productionwise.

For a standard/stylized character for web/prop character for game/commercial, I guess 1 day or 2 for skinning and another 4 hours of morph angle gizmos would be okay to get a good quality and could be sold to the customer. This timing does not apply to a hero character. Work is done in 3DS Max or Maya without scripts or extra plugins.

I currently need around 4 to 12 hours for skinning and 4 hours for morphing/wiring/scripting the detail bits of a stylized character for web projects (prerendered, low to medium resolution for animation, high resolution for stills). But it took me several years, anatomy classes and a Max script workshop to get this far .

Schöne Grüße

  01 January 2011
Thanks a lot for your input guys!

Damn, I definitely cant boast of such fast skinning jobs, as you guys! lol I usually get the brunt of the workload on hero characters for at least HD resolution or larger, hence such speed can't really be expected, I guess.

Yeah, skinning can be such a pain and massively time-consuming. If I try to think back to when I started, I remember getting the feeling I was doing something wrong because it was taking me so long to get even remotely acceptable results in Maya. There seemed to be this secrecy in the air where nobody seemed to want to talk about or clearly state how long it actually takes. Especially in Maya it was driving me nuts until I discovered David Walden's skinningTools.mel not too long ago, which gave me a huge boost in efficiency and got me a little closer to approximately the speed I could get in XSI/Softimage. There I can paint weights on a basic humanoid or even basic quadruped character rather quickly without "external scripting help". The speed advantage I got in XSI simply blew me away.

Unfortunately skinningTools.mel does not work in Maya 2011 & above. David Johnson (djx) pointed me towards skinnny.mel, which I yet have to put through its paces as I kinda stuck to Maya 2009 for skinning 'til now for the sake of an established workflow rythm.

As Chris remarked, I guess it's pretty much a matter of knowledge of anatomy and experience, but just as much a matter of having the right tools at hand. I haven't done much skinning in Max yet, but enough to say those standard Biped envelope gadgets drive me mad. lol

If I may ask, what kind of MaxScript are you using, Chris?

Thanks a lot again for your input! I'd love to hear more from other people as well.

Cheers und "schöne Grüße zurück"!!
"Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do."-Bruce Lee

Last edited by TheRazorsEdge : 02 February 2011 at 11:04 AM.
  02 February 2011
Hey Felix,

on your questions about the scripts. Basically I write my own little helpers to speed up my workflow. Nothing big, just little custom-made tools to help me set envelopes more quickly, select bones and be able to export skinning information to and from characters. Simple stuff, but it speeds up my own workflow. A good overall skinning tool which I used was "Skin or Die", which you can download here, although I´m not sure if it works under Max 2011:


Last edited by dunkelzahn : 02 February 2011 at 02:32 PM.
  02 February 2011
Moins Chris!

Thanks a lot for the link to that script. I'll be sure to check it out.

"Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do."-Bruce Lee

  02 February 2011
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