facial animation setup?


Eek how did you divide your face? For example when you pull the corners of the mouth does anything ellse fallow it? What about the upper face do the eyes also strech and squash? And will the brows also move with thte forehead? Cause I’m having problems figuring out what should strech when I pull the splines. So far what I have is divided the face in 3 parts. The mouth and nose. And the upper face left and right. But i’m not happy with that. I was wondering how did you divide the face? Does the whole face pull and strech in any direction?


I got quadrants, the mouth left/right, and upper left/right. The mouth corners drive the face up till the obolisks round the eyes, it also drives the muscles around the nose and brow as its linked to the cheek muscles. The nostrilll flare also drives this. The eye oblisks drive the brow too, which also drives the wrinkle muscles at the brow. These wrinkles can be driven also by individual brow controls.

The face is driven by triggers, this is very important it doesnt all move at once, muscles trigger other muscles when they reach a certain amount, both bulge laterial and veritical is uniquely triggered.Because with the face there are muscles inbedded in muscles layers, they have to insertion point. Untill they meet bone. Also there unique as the action isnt bilateral, ie both sides dont go in at the same time there asymetric. Its very complex stuff.



hi all…

I’ve went through a few pages of this thread, and very impressed.
I thought i’d throw out a general question to those who may have some experience…

I am creating a facial rig in maya for gaming. I was wondering what the most efficient method would be in regards to keeping it cheap for the programers. I’m familiar with blendshapes, but is there an better alternative. this thread is very helpful, Thanks!


Bones i think is your best bet, does your engine support blend shapes?



Hi Charles… We’re brainstorming what to use. I’m thinking bones, but we want to use the least amount as possible. Using blendshapes is a possiblity, but we’d have to work around a few other things to get it into the programming side.

Would you happen to have any tuitorials or links in mind could take a look at for various types of rigging? Thanks for the notes… josh


Well for game side stuff i only know of bone rigs as in an unbroken heirachy that gets exported. As for blendshape thats gunna be pretty heavy , engineside as your pushing verts around all over the place. Tutorials wise not atm sorry - most of my research into this area is on going pretty much. I think in my last place we had 12-15 bones in the face. I cant talk about our current tech(NDA’s), but most engines support bones. And with good skinning you can pretty much emulate all the poses gained from blendshaped with the added benefit of control the bones on an individual basis.



for a game if your looking at morphs definitley do not look at the maya style blend shape but rather stored deltas, much more optimal, eash post only stores the deltas or differences, far less data to handle than blendshapes where theres copies of meshes.


EEK, how did you deal with the parenting of the quadrants? I’m having double transforms when I parent the quadrants and the guides together. If I parent just the guides everything is fine and it all works great. But the quadrants do not fallow the head so that part does not work. When I parent the quadrants then the guides dont fallow the head and that is reall bad. This is my order of operations:

Bones that are constrained to the guides (curves). The curves have clusters wich are weighted to 2 or more quadrants. The quadrants allow for the distortion of the guides.

I know I’m parenting the worng thing. So wich way should I be looking at it?


where can I download the maya version of this?! there is no link around here!! I’m searching for half an hour now!! :scream:

help me out please…


Sorry for any updates, Ive been very busy lately, work is ramping up so its harder to find the time. As for the quadrants/curve issues double transform - i got the same issues and am currently trying if slowly to resolve it. The issue being skin> clusters>to head doubles the transform on the head. The ways around it im looking into is either keeping the rig at 0,0,0 and driving the mesh off it i.e essentially the rig being a realtime morph/blendshape and skinning on top. The issue with this being the controls - which could be parented to the head bone.

Or driving the muscles to follow the head perfectly, but getting muscles to work in all axis plus have parent transforms on them is really really bloody hard. So as to the tool there really isnt one per say, more that im in state of research for the face, thats on going. Im am still looking into the face, but a little slower.


No wories man I figured it out. It took a little bit of group flirting. But it works now.


Hi eek, very nice work you’ve done I’m not as a good rigger actually, I’m more focused on animation, however I’ve studied to know how to do a " enough" rig for my characters…

My question is about the T-muscles, the effect of squash that the peaks points do. Have you got any document, tutorial about how to do them? or can you explain how to do?

I’d really appreciate it.


Thiago Lima


I tried to read every page, but i just got too confused after about page 20. Anyways, i’m an animator, and i know “jack” about rigging.

I’ve taken a look at the early version (.max), and thought the rig had tremendous potential.

I guess my question is, is there a newer and better version i could take a look at? I don’t intend to copy or distribute the rig or face, but what i do need is something that moves and feels realistic. I’m doing some R & D, and i’m just curious to see the different ways people are using to animate and rig a face. For example, what does Pixar’s rig look like… or Davy Jones’s rig look like???

Any help, suggestions, pictures, or anything else you all can offer would be a big help. Already this thread has given me sooo many ideas.:thumbsup:


hi eyerybody
i m working in a production house newly
so we have undertaken a project in which we r animatng a camel with facial expressions
we want to make it look like clay model so is the rigging tecnique different for it or its the same rigging process.
how will i add facial expressions through bones.
we r using configuration 2gb ram, 256 GC .
and basically we r having a small production house so we rnt aware of rendering
they r expecting an output like ice age dvd quality.
pls reply urgently



I have this character that has an attribute that changes the head geometry using the polygon smooth tool to 3 different levels of smoothness. (1, 2, 3). The facial blends that came with the character works on all three levels of polygon smooth.

What I want to do is add a few more facial control attributes to this character. So, I went ahead and created the same 3 levels of poly smooth target blendshapes for each separate new blend that I am trying to add. <<<-----Am I correct to do that?

Now heres the problem: How do i set up it up so when I change the Head Smoothness attribute on the character to ‘level 3’ for example, that only the ‘level 3’ target blendshapes will be used, and not the ‘level 1 or 2’ blendshapes’? Or when I change the smoothness to ‘level 2’, then only the ‘level 2’ blendshapes are used.

Does this make sense?

Or is there a better way to do this?

Thank you.


woaah, think i just read more everything else ive read in my life put together, feeling very drowsy now… fantastic rig i love it…
have you made that tutorial yet??

i think im having helluzinationz iamamzzzzzzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ…


Hey Eek,

INSANE stuff you got going on! Keep it up!

hi eyerybody
i m working in a production house newly
so we have undertaken a project in which we r animatng a camel with facial expressions
we want to make it look like clay model so is the rigging tecnique different for it or its the same rigging process.
how will i add facial expressions through bones.
we r using configuration 2gb ram, 256 GC .
and basically we r having a small production house so we rnt aware of rendering
they r expecting an output like ice age dvd quality.
pls reply urgently

Hahahaha…this is the funniest post I’ve read in a long time. Let me guess…you also have an uncle in Nigeria who has $400,000 he needs transfered to an American bank because his father died, so the first person to send their bank info and social security number gets it?


i don’t know if this can help you but if you see my website you can download some facial bone rig setup

only for 3dsmax 8



ohh please …first post and you stick something like this up? Do you know how hard thousands of ppl around the world work, research and scour through thousands of websites and forum threads (like this one) to find the info they need and you fire this chaff up? “help! do my job! We want cinema-quality cg with no budget, timescale or knowledge of what we’re all doing over here in India” unbelievable.
At least some of the other single-number-of-post-members actually bothered to read the thread and then you come along and stick up a “we’re doing a camel on this spec pc - someone tell me where the finish-the-job button is”.
ivanisavich is totally on the money there, its the same muppet who keeps spamming everyone with that “I’ve half a million locked away - you can have a share too if you send me your details”
anyway - rant over. on with the subject.

eek sorry about the above in your thread - it just boils my taters and that kind of stuff is all over this site (probably followed up by rants from other users like myself straight after it too!). Do you have any recent images of stuff you’ve been working on? Early on in the thread theres lots of stuff like this and its good to see :slight_smile:

ratatat maybe you can limit the number of blendshapes on your ingame characters (like for pursing lips etc…) and work with joints on the rest of the stuff (blinks, cheek motion and the like) :slight_smile:

kruugs So your creating blendshapes from the higher ‘smoothed’ versions that you only want to work on their respective smoothed levels?

Dunno what software your using but in maya you might be able to set up a system whereby you’d have your level0 character (unsmoothed) and blendshapeNode0… then when you up the smooth level to 1 it not only smooths the model it activates the envelope influence of blendshapeNode1 to 100% (or 1) effectively enabling all the blendshapeNode1 blendshapes in the process and allowing them to influence the level1 smoothed character?

Thing is I’m not sure how you could get it to turn off level0 and level2’s blendshapes - probably some scripting is needed to do all that.

I’m kinda thinking on me feet here so someone will prob turn around and tell me to shut up hehehe but I think that would work technically

out of interest what would you want this method for? would a set of blendshapes at the level0 not just do the same job? :slight_smile:


acamporota - nice rig, had a quick look at your setups, there seemed that there was alot of dummys and point objects, the brief time I spent looking there appeared to be 3 dummys and a point for each muscle intersection, one dummy being a handle. Can you tell us abit about how you did this and why you did it this way? The muscle layout seems similar to Paul Neales, which is something I have on my christmas list.

Thanks for sharing, I too have been watching this thread and scouring the web for info, and this is great to see.