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  • Writer's picturePeterKerkvliet

Under Your Skin: Helping with Rigging

So the beginning of this quarter we did not have all the non-hero characters rigged yet; however, we did have the hero rigs mostly done. The rigging team just needed help with getting the weights painted. I knew the general idea of painting weights, but I did not know how this particular rig worked because the rigged joints are not a hierarchy. Instead, the joints are grouped and then parented to the respective joints. This hierarchy system allows one to easily fix the rig without breaking it. One just has to pull the group of joints from the parents and you could replace it with the updated joints. So, when you go to bind the skin you just select all the joints to create a selection set so you never have to open up all the groups and find the specific joints you need again. Then you select the mesh and say bind skin. When you open up the selection box for bind skin, you make sure that hierarchy is not selected, because you are binding the skin based on a selection of joints. Now you begin to paint weights. The key to doing this is to flood all the weights to the root and then lock all the joints except the root and the joint that you want to steal the weight from. I think how magic works in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and painting weights are rather similar. In Harry Potter, nothing can come from something one has to take something to make something. So in the case of painting weights, you have to take the weights (From the core where you flooded the weights) and then place the weights to the respective areas on the mesh. This process took me a while, but I enjoyed doing it

Then you can mirror the weights, but unfortunately, Maya does a poor job of mirroring the joints, so you have to do some clean-up. One of the riggers showed me a tool that made painting weights even better and faster. When I paint weights, I set two keys on the joint so that I can scrub through and see how the deformations look. Now when you do this you can see where some areas are rough and need the weights smoothed. This is where Brave Rabbit's smooth weight tool comes in. This smoothing tool distributes the weights nicely and is much faster than manually smoothing them out with Maya's paint weights tool.

Once I finished the body and added the additional mesh (Clothes and hair) I rigged the character's face with a very basic facial rig. I followed our riggers name convention and I grouped the joints and controllers just as he had done. So I then painted the weights around the face so that animators could move her brows, eyelids, glasses, nose, and mouth. The only problem was she did not have any teeth or inner mouth modeled, so there is very little reason to have our character open her mouth in this short film.

For my first facial rig and skinning a full character before I am pretty proud of how she turned out. This rig is far from perfect, but during the week I rigged her I had learned a lot about rigging. This experience will make me a better animator because I now feel comfortable adding different types of constraints, parents, and blendshapes to a character and I am not worried that I may break the rig.

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