Puppeteer rig - Leap motion


I have an older artist friend who used to perform a Victorian puppet show in the eighties with hand crafted Marionette’s. I sat through one of his performances captured on film and found it very amusing and creative and really kind of a beautiful lost form of theater. I’ve always been intrigued by what I saw and inspired to one day replicate the performance in 3D.

Creating a rigged Marionette is no laughing matter however, and all my attempts were in vain. Recently though I caught eye of the new Leap Motion device and started to wonder if it would be useful for capturing such a performance in real time. LeapMotion link.

Seems a long shot, but if a simple hand rig could be controlled by the motion of the fingers, a carefully rigged set of constraints/springs/dynamic spline could theoretically control a low polygon rig, transferable to the final design at a later stage. My friend has expressed interest in capturing his performance and personally I think it would be a hit as a short vintage style film.

Anyway, I’m just ranting about an idea. I wonder if anybody has gotten there hands on the Leap motion device and had a chance to experiment with it in Cinema 4D. I’ve per-ordered one, but can’t speak of its usefulness in C4D. But if anybody else is interested in developing a plugin once the device is available, I’d love to hear from you.


That is clearly an interesting input device, and apparently cheap enough to do some experimenting on, so I might get one too (I have only PC though). I doubt Maxon will support it anytime soon, and even if they do, uh, see the other thread about my Space Navigator plugin. By default, the software doesn’t seem to do much more than emulate keyboard and mouse (and some touch screen stuff), so it’s not yet adapted to C4D in any way. I need to read the docs though.

The controlling will, though, definitely not be easy and depend a lot on what data Leap delivers, and what the data interface will be. For the simplest kind of interface, I guess a generic controller might track the ten finger tips and provide the 3D coordinates of them in some dialog / tag, free to use by any expressions.

Of course, that may not suffice. Expression evaluation may be too slow, done C4D natively, to track gestures. In that case, C++ code needs to be supplied on the plugin side to do multi-coordinate evaluation. Well, let’s see what it is able to do…


or check out the marionette tutorial setup on cineversity that came out with version 12 a couple years ago


I’ve not used Leap but just to say I’ve rigged puppets on a couple of jobs (example here -click on ‘0800 Repair Rigs Demo’ in the playlist - http://www.graphite9.com/Rigs.html )

The rigs weren’t really all that complicated, I used spring constraints for the bulk of it (CD Constraints in this case but the native one will work too). I used some clamps too to prevent it looking like the strings were stretching. Most of the rest was just a matter of figuring out the hierarchy of controllers that would be practical to work with.

One interesting thing with puppet rigs that I guess is good to keep in mind is that the center of gravity would be up around the shoulders (or the head I guess depending on how the strings are) rather than the pelvis as it would be on a regular biped rig usually, so you need to build the rig hierarchy a little differently.



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