I first came to Cogswell Polytechnical Institute as a substitute teacher for their advanced rigging class. I really enjoyed it from the start and it didn’t take long before I was introduced to their animation students’ project film, Driven. I was hired on as a freelance to develop the pipeline for facial rigging. Despite being a student project, Driven was an exciting opportunity as I haven’t done many production facial rigs up to this point and I was eager to try some techniques I studied in the latest edition of Stop Staring. More info, plus the full movie after the jump

We used a combination of joints and blendshapes to make up the final rig. To speed up turnaround in blendshape creation, I gave the modeling and rigging leads a crash course in the workflow of “tapering” blendshapes: modeling more complex combination shapes and extrapolating more minute control shapes from them. This worked out really well for us because the complex shapes were already created in pre-production for animatic testing, and we were able to recycle a lot of modeling work to create the facial rigs.

I also experimented with a new layered skinning workflow using the plugin, ngSkinTools. I’ve been pretty excited about the potential of this plugin since it’s inception, and found it works really well for skinning facial joints. Traditionally, there tends to be a large number of joints making up the face, but not as much detail in the topology; requiring a decent of care in weighting. With the use of layers and masks, I really get to experiment with details, as I’m always preserving previous passes. The plugin worked out well, and I especially like it’s “Relax” tool for weighting the lips quickly.

Even though I only played a small role, I’m pretty happy with the project and the capabilities of the rigs. Late into the production, a decision was made to add a bit of dialog in the short and the rigs had enough control to pull off the new shots without requiring more feature updates.

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