facial animation setup?


Hi kingmob, it’s getting there, just very busy at work! DAM!!!:annoyed: . Will try start this week.



no problem man…looks really neat tho.

I am very new to animation, and setting up my guys face with bones and set driven stuff…should work for my first attempt, but your setup looks very complex.

hope work is going well.


Dude… I think in theory this is a very good method.

I implemented my own version of this method you suggested into my Hi-res model. However, I organised my splines into a near anatomically correct way in that it mimicks the pulling of muscles and not so much pushing. Granted it is the best method I’ve seen. The sliders and orientation constrants with wieghted influence work well in your example. But I just want to worn people out there - It is very slow on hi-res characters.

You applied Linked X-Form and Mesh Selects to a very simple model. Then applied a meshsmooth. I had a model with many vertices and needed to apply a Soft selection in the Mesh Select Modifier.

I have a beafy machine with a 3dlabs Oxygen GVX1 GFX card… it still had trouble.


Wait. Wait. Before this sounds like I’m bagging the technique I should say first - I’m currently using.

I should suggest a work around.

  1. The Multires Modifier!

Use multires to the absolute minimum you can but to the point where your Helper Objects are near some vertices.

  1. Collapse the stack to Editable Poly, Patch or Mesh.

It won’t matter how bad the polygon reduction is because you can then go back to your original model. Copy and Paste all the modifiers in the Proxy object’s Stack to the Hi-res Model as the Helper objects are the only ones being animated.

(Because of this… the Linked-X-forms and their Helper objects can be applied a different looking but similar mesh - You only need to re set the Mesh Selects to the new mesh.)

NOTE: Don’t use Optimize because it deletes and moves vertices around - resulting in the helper objects driving the wrong vertices.

Multi-res will only delete vertices and generally keeps things more symmetrical.

If you’re using Character Studio or Bones, I’d go with animating the facial features the Pixar way. That is… Pantomime the body gestures and THEN go back to “Put the Icing on the cake” with the Lip Sync and expressions.

If your using Physique - Link the Helper objects and Splines to the actual Mesh itself… not the Biped Head as the manuals suggest. This is because Physique naturally assumes a new linked object is a new part of the Hierarchy and creates is own envelope weighting. (You can if you need to… but you just have to Turn Links Off in the Links Sub-Object level.) Set the Biped Head to Rigid - not Deformable.


Thanks for the reply…


its not that complex…just lots of it! i set it up because i needed a system that worked really well and gave me freedom todo anything-well 260 variations! i.e expressions, nuances!!


Firstly this system is inbeta state, ive spent about three years working it out. It relies on pushing, pulling vertices and so its memory intensive, this is why i work with a poly-version the subdivided at render time. My ideas came from using Softimage at the Framestore on Dinotopia mini-series. That character had around 300 controls, in its face alone!. I work by animating the characters peformance first then add the lip-sync, expression, nuance.

The facial stuff is the last thing in animation, it just helps the perfomance.It is’nt the perfomance.I’ll spend 10 days on acting and 3 on lip sync!

Gonzo be very careful implementing this rig in a hires model!!
i havent done that yet! I did this rig to see if there was another way to the whole system, and got sick of seeing bad mocap, and un-synced lip-sync.I put it on this forum to show my progression-and it’s still in progress.


Now back to the rig.

Vertices have positions in space, like say 101.5,30,67.34.My rig links these vertices by linked x-form, (clusters in Maya and XSI-Softimage.)to nulls points. Then addes constraints. i addes NURMS at the end. So basically this vertex controls a group of vertices through the NURMS acting like soft selection. Which are controlled by points,nulls.

My model stems from a sudivided editable poly object, not and edit mesh. If you model with edit mesh the faces are triangla, so you might get tearing,and snapping.Patch’s a whole other ball game because your linking and constraining bezier handles, and points.My stack is simple model->linkes->subdivided. If you add additition modifiers like multires you might get adverse affects, eg.

Youve wired up a cheek that controls the corner of the eye through link, constraints. With a moderately complex model.Sudividings fine because it doesnt affect, just adds more faces.

But mult-res generates an average of the model,which can reduced down. But this doesnt take into acount that important vertex you wired at the cheek to the eye. So the link is searching for a point that either doenst exist or has moved.This would effect every point up the stack. Also even if you wak the modifier at the top, i dont know if linked x-form looks up the stack.Sounds very dodgy!

I will endevour to stick this rig in a hires model, actually i have one.! But at present in BETA STAGE-NOT FOR PRODUCTION USE.

Ok, back to too much work.WANNA DO MY OWN STUFF!!


Will update some more soon!(definately this week!!)


When you’re talking about Beta, are you going to make a script out of it? Cause Beta generally refers to programs. What I DLoaded was a Max file. Was there more to it? Somethin I missed.

But this doesnt take into acount that important vertex you wired at the cheek to the eye. So the link is searching for a point that either doenst exist or has moved.This would effect every point up the stack. Also even if you wak the modifier at the top, i dont know if linked x-form looks up the stack.Sounds very dodgy!

First of all - I said apply Multires to the Editable Mesh. Then collapse it. Do this before all the crap goes in.

Multires doesn’t move vertices like Optimise. It only deletes. Sometimes it looks like it moves but it doesn’t really. Besides, you can simply go to it’s Vertex Sub-Object level. Select the points assigned to MeshSelect and choose “Maintain Base Vertices”. Generate. These selected verts are the priority ones and only stuff up at around 1% or less.

The problem I have at the moment is that I’ve already built my model. Next time I construct a new one… I won’t need to do this.
Most likely I’m just going to go with XSI 100% from then on so I’d like to the XSI version spit-firing!


yeah, this is looking really interesting. Its a nice way to get what seems like really cartoony deformations in the face so keep the posts and updates coming. If you have any mb files we could dl that would be cool too.



Awesome stuff man… really anxious to see how it all turns out…

Did you ever get a chance to work on the Maya setup of your facial rig?

Keep up the good work!


I will post my own rig using this technique in a couple of days. Its a little bit more complex to suit the character. I’ll send a very low poly version with it too.

It definately works.

I hereby fully endorse this event and/or product.
It has changed my life.

4 1/2 stars.


Thankyou! very much gonzo. Thats the great thing about this rig, you can fit the setup to any mesh however complex.

Ive just added a V/F expression/mouth shape control! will post pick on monday. So in all the rigs got about 900 variable expressions!!!:eek:

Im so pleased and amazed, that so may people are intrested and want to learn about the rig/technique, i will make a maya ans XSI version soon.And try to post a tutorial.

Once again thankyou all, and i’ll keep the posts coming. Also im gunna build a proper face soon, with eyebrows, hair, wrinkles etc, using the rig!



V/F expression control added.



Hi, Eek

I d like to give to my character better facial anim. I´ve got some traditional anim knowledge.The morphing (easy but so linear and rigid method) can´t compete with the freedom of drawing, I know.
But I´ve been lately trying to set up other methods. The trouble is that I´m in the artistic side of the field rather than the techie. So…no maxscript, and even blocked with a (sure you´ll find me stupid) problem like the one I´ve got when I try to link your (so clever and wonderfull, near what I was dreaming about!!! ) faceR8 facial set up to the head of a biped. When you move the Biped, splines linked vertex inherit twice the translation. But dono how to solve that.
I also made an alternative set up by using skin modifier instead. Seems to run faster. I´ve included the max 5 archive. Can´t wait anymore to see your finished set up… I Wasn´t able to open your last Zip.
Thanks a lot for sharing your knowledge!!!
Juan D.


Hi Zapatoon,

Thanks for getting in touch, this face will be eventually part of a whole mesh(body, arms,etc) So thats why your getting additive effect. You should never link/parent the mesh to anything if its got skinning, or linked X form. But only the rig/points controlling controlling it. So basically if u skin all the vertices of face to points/bones and move the points/ bones the face should be fine.

But using the skin modifier seems quicker!, might give it a try!

Thanks again.

Ive built my kassius rig+faceR8 rig now just need to put skin on them!!



wow…your different expressions turn out really good. right now im also trying to figure out how to use facial animation. cant wait till you get that maya file on here.

thats some good stuff


soooo… what ever happened with this i wonder… hmm…:surprised


dunno i’ve been dyin for updates still good thread though


Ok, hello…im still alive.!

Well basically had to hold off on the rig for a while. Got to do 90 hours of animation in 2 weeks ahhh!!! for work!ahhh!! But ive started building my website, and ideas on a new short which will use the rig!!

Did an update which used the skin modifier, instead of linked x-form, which speeds up the rig about 60-75% percent few bugs though. Im gunna host it on my site along with loads of other rigs, biped, quadraped. Animations, links, resourses. I’m gunna do a maya setup next,(it seems everyones really wanting a maya version of this rig!!) xsi later.

So, sorry for the delay, just busy with work.Dont have time to do my own stuff!! which is really annoying.

My next short will be about a mouse, so ive got lots of complex rigs todo, and animation!! more on my site…



just wondering… whats your website?


Havent finished it yet, about a week left to go. Gunna have links, resources, tutorials, textures, rigs, downloads, features, news. Its, gunna be an online source, for all this stuff. From anyone who wants to show off a technique, tutorial, rig, etc. I’ll put this rig onto it aswell. And if anyone else like yourself has a technique, tutorial ,rig texture,link they want show off i want it on there. Im gunna put my, showreel, short film, rigs on it. And hopefully some new short film ideas.

Tell you more when its nearly done!



ok i find this great… your a real miracle worker… spending all this time on it…

think i speak for all when i say… we apresiate you just letting us see the whole process and sharing it all with us…

great job!!

do you have character rigging tuts… btw… ? caus i really need something… a really good one(max user)