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Introduction to Rigging: Planning Your Rig

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Date Added: 28th February 2012
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Take a sneaky peak into the first chapter of one of 3DTotal's groundbreaking eBooks in this short sample tutorial. If you would like to build upon what you learn in the following article or if you would like to continue to follow this tutorial you can purchase the full eBook in the 3DTotal shop.

Please note: This eBook includes free resources, which can be obtained by purchasing the full product by clicking the banner above.

Chapter Overview

Welcome to this Introduction to Rigging tutorial series for Max. These tutorials are aimed for Max users that want to get proficiency in rigging, so basic notions of navigation and basic use of the software will not be explained. The objective of this series for beginners is to get you comfortable with rigging and the tools Max has to do this task. This tutorial will make you familiar with the concept of rigging and will show you how to optimize your work, to solve problems, to create good control for the animators and have good deformations on the mesh. The goal of this tutorial is to get your rigging skill to a professional level and be able to work as a rigging artist.

We will have a brief explanation and samples of Maxscript in the next chapters. Maxscript is the script language of Max, and you will use it to code. Code can sound scary but it will do Max perform tasks for you, and will make your life much easier and speed up your way of working. Maxscript is a really powerful tool that will allow us to optimize all the repetitive tasks. Through simple examples, you will get confidence with it and see all the potential you can achieve when you keep using it in your future rigs in a daily basis.

The concepts we need to know before approaching a rig will be defined in this chapter. We will also see how to face the task of creating a rig. We will speak about working in a professional environment and the issues that usually arise when working as a rigger at a studio.

Planning and Reference


Before starting any new rig for any type of character, it is important to get references, it doesn't matter the kind of character or creature we want to rig. Before we even start Max, we should look at references. Internet and drawing books are great tools to get info.

It's a good practice to find references for these items: controls, bones, deformations and facial expressions.

Control References

Control for a rig is the control you will give the animators to animate a character. I recommend looking at the work of other rigging artists, not only people that use 3ds Max but any other application. At the end of the day almost everything can be translated to other software, the important thing is the concept.

There are a lot of forums to help you get inspired and a lot of demo reels that show how other people rig their work. And there are a few available free rigs that you can download and play with to decide what you like or dislike about them.

Try to save and categorize all the reels and demo rigs you find on internet. This is normally quite helpful when you want to start a new character; seeing other people approach is always inspiring.

Bones Reference

We need references to help us to decide where to place the bones in our 3D mesh. Use any search engine and look for references for the skeleton of the character you want to rig. This will help to decide where to place the bones in our 3D package.

You don't have to recreate exactly the same amount of bones as the real skeleton.
For example, a vertebral spine has 38 or 39 elements and when we translate this to a 3D rig, we will use between 3 and 8 bones only, enough to achieve good deformations. Something similar happens with a human hand: it has 27 bones and we will use 15 for our rig.

Deformation Reference

It's always good to search for videos before starting your rig; Sites such as Youtube or Framepool will help you very much. Remember to be specific in your search, like adding the specific area of the body you want to focus on, for instance: hand, shoulder. Use two different types of movement and action in the search. This can help you to see de deformation of each body area, for example: running, walking, jumping.

Drawing books are another great source of inspiration, for both humans and animals. The explanation of how to paint a human or animal in different poses and how the shapes change can be easily translated to 3D. If you are working on a human character, your own body and a mirror will be your easiest reference.

Facial Expressions Reference

The way a person shows feelings (such as happiness, sadness, anger) is mainly by facial expressions.

The other way of transmitting feelings is the body language, but this is a job for animators. As a rigger, you will have to provide them with the tool to achieve what they need, so study the facial expression and make a face rig that can provide what animators want is necessary for a good rig.

Internet is again a great source. For cartoony characters, 2D animation and concept artist facial expressions drawings are always the best choice (Fig.01 and Fig.02).

Fig. 01

Fig. 02

continued on next page >

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Swapnil on Thu, 19 July 2012 7:30am
It's very nice for rigging artist, Thank you ...
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