Rigging for Education: Caroline and Henry

Caroline and Henry are now available for download at Cogswell’s website

After completing the Jaguar and Dragon, the rigging project continued to grow at Cogswell and has since been named Project Avatarah. I continued my work in developing more character rigs and after working on a couple of simpler bipeds that were styled more along the lines of popular characters such as Norman and Hogan, we went into designing the next set of bipeds with a higher-level design geared towards detailed acting and subtlety in motions. Caroline is the first rig we developed with this mindset and includes features such as bendy limbs, proportion adjusters, IKFK spine, breathing controls, and a toony facial rig capable of squash deformations.

Construction

Various elements of the rig were inspired by talks I had with my Rigging Dojo mentor during this time. Some of the techniques we discussed is the use of Maya’s bezier curves for creating bendy limbs, and an alternative setup to the Ribbon spine that makes use of joints attached to skinned spine curves using pointOnCurve nodes and aim constraints. I continued to brainstorm different challenges of the rig using my trusty sketchbook as well as figuring out how these different elements would eventually connect together in the final rig. From there, I practiced setting up various aspects of the character in isolated scenes in order to test movement and to figure out any early design problems in a simpler scene. Throughout this phase, I documented some of the rigging processes by keeping a personal “rigging diary” with different notes and recaps on what I accomplished on the rig. In addition to the notes, I also worked on reducing repitive tasks by developing a small collection of rigging scripts and snippets for use in the shelf or Script Editor. I passed these materials onto the student Rigging artist, Bugi Kaigwa, so he can quickly begin development of the Henry biped using similar techniques.

Caroline Brainstorm Notes

Brainstorming notes. I’ve been working to incorporate more sketching to better visualize my thought process prior to rigging the final character.

No Rig Survives First Contact With Animators

It’s usually a humbling experience seeing animators work with a new rig for the first time, and the same is true for Henry and Caroline. To accomodate the wealth of feedback from the teachers and students, we assembled a smaller testing team to help with consolidating the feedback into tasks that can be undertaken in later iterations of the rigs. Some key features that blossomed from this feedback loop are the FK/IK Spine (was originally IK only), and the Proportion Controls.

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Getting the joint placement right was a ongoing process. Late in the animation phase, I realized the shoulder joints would need to be redone which involved remaking the arm controls

Conclusion

While the shift to doing a rig for academics was disorienting at first. I ended up learning a ton of new things thanks to the larger feedback loop that an entire college Animation department can provide. It was a ton fun to work on these characters and I’m looking forward to see what others come up with in animating Caroline and Henry!

 

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