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The problem of updating..

March 26, 2009


The issue of updating rigs is a complex one – you have multiple systems involved from the modeling, rigging, skinning and animation; even dynamics and muscle systems (though not so much to the latter in the games industry).

What are the soft constants in a rigging system? But that I mean systems that are susceptible to change and readily updatable? Well the skin, and model are updated pretty often until the rig works out, and deforms correctly; so I’d classify these as soft.

Now the hard constants would pretty much be the rig, its the framework that everything else lives off. But internally to the rig only the animation controls are integral to the animator and need to be constant. Else animation will get lost if controls are removed.

Now a framework can be classified as a soft skeleton riding hard controls, with soft model and skin riding the skeleton. Now we can see what’s easy to change!

The skeleton for starters could easily be changed if the animation controls are kept the same. And even if there are removed or new ones added all that’s lost is the animation on that control. Everything else that rides this is susceptible to change anyway.

So when building pipelines, take into account that the rigs are likely to change, only deal with the things that matter to people you pass the rig onto i.e the animators – all they want is the same controls or updated controls as before with the same animations.


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  1. Chad Mauldin #
    March 28, 2009

    I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Our production environment currently has us changing rigs A LOT. we already have a abstracted skeleton, so updating bones won’t really kill any animation, but on thing we do run in to is huge changes to the character. Change big enough to warrant changes to the controls, mostly adding them. I was trying to provide even a second layer of abstraction, so changing the controls would not destroy animation so bad. Think like a puppeteers controls. The strings aren’t dependent on the other strings.

    This is still all thought processes stuff, but if we could make every part of a rig ‘soft’ like this we could theoritcally have an uber rig that could just adapt to every character and still retain motion animated on other characters.

    • March 29, 2009

      Essentially all you want is a skeleton and its controls, i.e the puppet – if you add controls nothing happens -if however you take controls away that were animated before you should only remove the animation from that control – or you do some fancy mapping of animation controls onto a new control – but this gets complicated. Essentially a well structured rig should have consistent controls from the outset – only extraneous controls should be added or removed. I.e by the time you’ve completed the rig and given it to the animators it should be solidly tested and approved by all.

      Think of it this way, you have controls connected to strings to the puppet – cutting a string doesnt destroy all the other strings, just one control. This is how it should be – pointing those strings to a new puppet doesnt matter now, because you just loading and saving the animation of the existing controls.

      Also about motion of other characters your talking a solid naming convention system.

  2. Maulik #
    April 17, 2009

    I am learning that these points are really important. Besides deleting/adding/renaming controllers I learned that it is also important to keep orientation and rotation orders unchanged. Both cases are fixable, but until I get scripts rolling to fix those issues I have to keep this in mind.

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