Archive for June, 2012

So in the last part of this discussion, I had mentioned how the major problems of building a rig, reusing a rig, etc. etc. and sort of left it that CINEMA 4D R13 basically squashed those problems.

Very Nice!

However, it didn’t solve every problem. Yes, it made it so upkeep on the rigs was simple and easy and only needing to be done once. However, it’s not a perfect solution. First of all, building a rig was significantly faster, which was a huge plus. But fitting the rig to the character still took some time. Somewhere around the 6-10 minute mark, and I think that may have not included the face rig(which at the time was not done). And because I didn’t trust the updating, that meant having to rebuild and adjust the rig for each change. So those minutes, can add up.

goober Damn fingers. Difficult to navigate around, place joint pivots, and they don’t even FING!

So there needed to be a way to sort of automate that rebuilding process. So what ended up happening was a few python scripts were made. They are actually several scripts. The first script, generates a null object for each handle which I define in the template file. So I only need to put my adjustments in once(so 6-10 minutes) and then I can run this script to generate the positions and orientations. Then there’s a series of scripts that go through each component(i.e. spine, legs, arms, hands, face etc.) and looks at the handles for that object, and snaps it the null. This is done using a suffix at the end of the name for the null object, making it easy to use python to search for each handle+the suffix. Then you just snappity snap it into place. Bing bang boom. 10 minutes adjusted down to like 30 seconds(including build time).

This alone was huge for me. Because I would make change after change after change, I was just dying from adjusting so much. I should kick my own ass for not automating the process sooner. In fact, If I could I would automate the build process as well, but presently, I do not know how to do that so 30 seconds will do.

This video shows how long it takes to build a rig

So now creating rigs, updating, building, and adjusting have all been streamlined a fair bit. Theres still a few little glitches(adjusting controller size is the current bugabooo), but it’s not incredibly easy to work on the rigs. The Character Object/Component Tag of R13 makes it easy. The modular design of it, allows me to build components as I need them. For instance, when the body and face were finished, we still found that we would need specific rigs for certain characters clothing(as we were not planning on simming everything). 3 of the four characters have some sort of jacket or poncho, or whatever. Each one different from the next.

tooberJust a sample of some of the various components, and how some can be for specific characters

Well, what this means is I can build a jacket that’s specific to the Ottoman, or the Son, or the Wife, and I can choose when to build it. So when I’m building the Ottoman, I don’t need the Son’s jacket. So with the template and my scripts, once the rig is made, I generate the snap handles, and then building and adjusting it is easy too. The clothes essentially do not add any time increases for building and adjusting the rig which is nice. Well it adds maybe one second to build since its one more thing to click on.

So at this stage, the rigs are in a banging place. They are ready for the next great pipeline bottleneck: Skinning/Weight Painting/Binding, whatever the hell you want to call it. I call it a pain. But I’ll save that pain for another post…

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A lot has already been said and shown regarding the art of The Ottoman short( Concept art, models, textures, all have been shown and discussed, but nothing regarding the rigging action that has been going on throughout this short. I hope to do a series of posts discussing our rigging pipeline, in an effort to perhaps be of use for other groups or studios using CINEMA 4D and wanting to tackle some deep character work.

A little bit about my role with the project. I joined…shit I don’t really even remember, 2009 sometime if I recall correctly. I was just beginning Animation Mentor. I had met Dimos through a beta team, and since he’s a mentor at AM, we got in contact. This lead to me making some previs rigs that would make me cringe if I looked at them now. As time went on, I had a lot more time to work on the project and others, so I was given more things to do. Previs rigs lead to previs mech rigs which lead to the production rigs, which lead to the face rigs, which leads us to where we are now. I’ve done the vast majority of rigging on this project. As such, I want to share some of our pipeline.


With four characters to rig, that sounds pretty light by some standards. All four characters are more or less the same. Bipeds, five fingers, no toes, yadda yadda yadda. This meant they would all be very similar. More or less the same apart from some minor things. The Ottoman has a jacket that needs controls, the Son needs one, the Scorpion Driver has a goatee, the wife has dreadlocks. So they can all be based off the same rig with some minor differences between them on top of the base biped.

Now, when I began working on the production rigs, this was around R12, and was already taking way too long. I had to build four separate rigs, all based on more or less the same rig. I had slaved over the Ottoman rig. Getting it good and the sign off from Animators. It took a long time. And eventually, once that one rig was done, I blasted through the other 3 characters. When I say blasted, I mean I just locked myself in a room in a weekend, worked like all day on a character and rushed through them to get them done. Sounded good at the time…

screen-shot-2012-06-17-at-104821-pm Yeah, great, now, repeat all this 4 more times, by hand, that’s a good workflow aye? Nearly 2000 objects is hard to display.

Here’s the problem with this. Since all the rigs are based on the same thing. That means, when you find a bug in one, you got a good shot at a bug in the other ones. Then that means if you fix a bug in one, you gotta fix it in all other ones. Ontop of that, you have to make sure you built each one each properly, and you have to have some sort of solid system to maintain each bug, and be able to track it. Such a system, I sure as hell did not have.

r13And then Release 13 came out. And the world rejoiced.

But, then Release 13 came out. And with it, the character object. And while it wasn’t at all a surprise to me(since I was a beta tester, and had devoted nearly 2 years of work into that system) I knew that it was going to help solve these problems. What this system allows me to do, is make one template. This one template can be reused on each rig. This solves the biggest problems: 1. It’s easy as pie to rig each character. What took me a full day non stop going balls to the wall rigging(this is excluding weight painting mind you), has been condensed down to like 10 minutes. That’s insane in it of itself. 2. If there’s a bug in the rig, I fix it once in the template, and then it’s done. It can be propagated down to each rig. There’s an update feature in the Character Object. This was huge. It was huge for me, it was huge for this project, and it’s huge for any potential studio wanting to do character work. Make one template, reuse the hell out of it. This is standard are most studios.

For the Ottoman, we started with the Advanced Biped, which I made. However, it’s not as simple as that. We changed bits of business here, the hands are completely redone, there’s components for jackets and stuff, as well as a Face rig. So everything is much better, but things are still not perfect. But I set out to try to remedy that.

But that will wait til next time…

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