Rigging For Bipeds
Rigging For Bipeds
This isn't a beginner tutorial, but I expect that you will still get something out of it if you are. I expect that you have a working knowledge of Max 4, 5 or 6 as this is the tool that I will be using, and have done the tutorials on IK, bones, helper objects and wiring. You can adapt this for just about any of the main 3D packages out there, just some of the terminologies will change. I 'll try to point some of those out as we go along so if you are not familiar with Max but use Maya or XSI you should still get allot out of this tutorial.
You should read the tutorial on rotations that is found here on my site Transformations, The Myths and Facts. This will cover allot of misconseptions about how 3D works with positions, rotations and Scales, but mostly rotations.
If you have any problems with the tutorial or have questions please contact me via e-mail.
A good rig can't make the animation good, but a bad rig can make a good animator rip their hair out and call you all kinds of nasty names. All the acting of a character comes out of the animator, not from the rig. What I have found from years of rigging my own characters and then animating them is if I spend a bit more time with the rigging I can spend less time fighting with the rig and more time getting the character to come to life. This often isn't time adding more to the rig but trying to find ways of making it simpler.
If you are the technical person for your production and not a trained animator don't assume that what you might want in a rig is what the animation team will want. I find that most technical people that haven't animated a great deal are often drawn to complex and highly automated rigs. However, I have found that the better an animator is, the less automation they want. There is nothing worse for a talented animator then fighting the rig for who is in control. The first thing I hear in responce to this is "I designed it to be turned off". I have always made it a prcatice to ask the animators once a project is over if they used any of the fancy automatic features that I have added. The resonce is almost always, "That feature was real cool, no I never used it".
There are a couple of questions you need to ask yourself first before you get started. I think the most important is, what is the character going to be used for? If you only see the character from the waist up in one shot, only rig the charater for that. For that matter you should save yourself time and only model the top half of the character. If the character will be reused alot and you are not sure of what the character will be doing then you have to rig for all possibilities. This is imposible though. Allot of the characters that I have done have been for TV series work and I don't now from one week to the next what the characters will have to do. I set them up for as much as possible but then I often find myself rerigging for very spicific shots that I could not have forseen. Other questions are...
Where is the center of weight?
Do the hands need to lock down to anything?
Do the feet need to lock to the ground?
Will there be animation on the fingers?
Will there be animation on the toes?
Is this a forground character or BG character?
Is it a mechanical or organic character?
Is this character for feature film, TV series, commercial or just as a stand in for an achitectural animation?
Will there be many animators working with the rig or just one or two?
Will you need to be able to reuse animation?
I will try to give you ways of finding answers to these questions for the character that you are rigging. Since there are no hard and fast rules but only guild lines you will have to make some of the discisions yourself.
Sizing up the model
I always find it currious that different departments on some productions never ask what the next will need from the work that they are doing. Lazyness is the only thing I can think that drives this kind of attitude. This isn't to say that it is the modeling department that is most to blame, it is every step of a production that does this.
There is a big difference to just creating a good looking model and making one that can be rigged and animated and look good in any pose. Who ever is rigging the character should be part of the models aproval process right along with the art director. Not in an artistic way, but a technical way. Some times the technical will make for artistic changes if the model just isn't going to be able to move in the ways that will be needed by the animator.
The image is of a character that I have written tutorials about in both the Advanced Training manuals from discreet and the Max 6 manuals that ship with the software. This is a fairly well modeled character with edge loops and rings going in the right directions, there are also the right amout of edges to get the detail needed but not more so that the skining process will be easier. This this is not a tutorial on modeling I will not go further into it but to say that it is far different to make a model that looks good and one that can be rigged well and looks good in any pose.