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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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So with my new job I have been working a lot more in Maya. I can’t necessarily say I enjoy it just because I’ve been working non-stop in CINEMA 4D for the last…6 years? Anyway, I’m making my rounds with it, and I’m learning to get by with it. One of the things that’s really nifty is the ease of being able to isolate what you are looking at. In Maya, by default, if you select something and press SHIFT+I it will hide everything but that object. Nifty. However, for all that niftyness, you still gotta either go into the menu and turn it off, or deselect everything and hit the shortcut again. So I thought I could probably use that in C4D. So I made a little python script that does this.

In a nutshell, select your object(s) run the script. Boom, only those are visible.  Run it again, everything is back to normal. If you hold CTRL and run the script, it will include any children of whatever you have selected. The other nice thing is that it should preserve all of your existing layers(see, internally, it’s doing this magic through layers), so when you de-solo everything, your layers are back as they should be. No Muss, No Fuss.

Well, maybe a little fuss. I think if you solo something that is being animated via a deformer, if the deformer isn’t active, the animation wont be either. You don’t lose your animation, it’s just not capable of scrubbing your animation until you deSolo. I think that may be a limitation.

Anyway, do what I did. Map it to SHIFT+I, and CTRL+SHIFT+I(did you know you can do two shortcuts for one command? Awesomeness) and use it at your hearts desire. Feel free to donate via the pay pal on the right if you feel inclined. Otherwise, enjoy.


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I have news. BIG news. News that ends one thing but begins another…

I’ve been selected to be part of the Walt Disney Animation Studios Talent Development program. I got a call on Friday, and could not believe it, and Monday afternoon, I found out I was offered a spot. The program is a 3-6 month paid mentorship/internship. It’s basically 3 months of mentoring, and if you do well, you get another 3 month period, and then if their is space at the end, potentially a job.

I’m surprised. I’ve wanted to be in Animated films for many years, and when I went to Disney’s Inspire Days back in 2010, that is where I wanted to go, so to be able to go there, is kind of mind blowing, even if it is just for 3-6 months. However, joining the program means I have to leave my current position at MAXON.

The whole thing is bittersweet. I want to work at Disney, but my whole professional, post-college career has been MAXON, so making that jump is weird, and sort of scary in a way.

I just wanted to say thank you to MAXON, namely Paul and Rick for giving me an internship back in 2005. Then for hiring me after the internship. Thanks to both of them and Kai for getting me a job in 2008 again. The shit hit the fan that year economically, and having a job out of college was pretty huge. Thanks for trusting me to handle some trade shows here and there, and for just trusting in me to get things done. I know a lot of my growth in rigging is due to Kai being there every day for me to pester with questions. Pretty much 100% of my python knowledge is because Rick let me pester him with questions. Without those two, I wouldn’t be where I am in this industry. I am who I am because of their mentoring. And Paul has been one of the most understanding, and helpful bosses ever. That is the Babb way, helping others when they can, and they’ve helped me out a lot, and taken me in as part of the family, and my fiance as well(although, she was more in the family first then I joined in).

The rest of the MAXON crew, thanks for the fun memories. I’ll always remember staying late after work for some sporting competitions. I can say that I’ve drawn blood and had blood drawn from playing air hockey. Never thought that happened, but I’ve seen it happen first hand. I was also a part of the destruction of that air hockey table. Then playing a REALLY stupid looking/sounding game, but all we had were balloons, and we made it work. Then the ping pong. A lot of that is due to mine and Andy’s competitive nature. So thanks for that Andy. It was a blast.

Thanks MAXON. You always  Thank you for everything. I wish you all the best. I’m sure I’ll see you guys around.

…Now onto the next chapter in life…

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So, I’ve been doing some freelance from time to time over the last year, and I checked out my resume page…I hadn’t updated that in a substantially long time. So I have updated it here(and on LinkedIn) with some more information on some of the projects I have been fortunate enough to work on over the past year.

In addition to that I’m not sure I ever made a noise about my new Demo Reels. The animation reel has a couple of new shots from 2011, and there’s also a rigging reel! oooooh. I never had one before, but now I do. Shows some cool shit from The Ottoman project. Hopefully I’ll have some more soon! This has been a hectic crazy ass week including getting my ass kicked by my allergies, but I managed to update these things just so we’re up to date.

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Happ new year. My resolution is to be more creative, draw more, study animation more than just practice, and hopefully not lose my shit as I get ready to get married this August!

I also hope to do more posts here more regularly. Happy New Year! May 2012 be prosperous and fruitful for us all.

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CTN Expo has come and gone once again. CTN is a show that I was looking forward to, ever since…well last year. CTN is like just a small condensed amount of talent/awesome-ness, that It’s almost spoiled that I’m stuck in a booth all day. But let me recap my experience.

The perk of being an exhibitor is I just got to waltz right in mwahaha! So I walked in, and did a quick walkthrough. There’s just so many talented artists there, some people I’ve heard of ans some I haven’t. My regret is that I don’t have enough money to buy everyones book and enough time to talk with them about their progress. But alas, I did not.

So I got in on friday and I was starting off the show on the mainstage. Things were rocky. They didn’t have R13 on the bitchin Cintique, so I had to run it off of my laptop, which kind of sucked balls, because I was stuck working in 1024×768…I don’t know if you’ve tried to do that anytime recently, but it’s a real pain in the ass. But I made the best of it, just worked on an animation, and got some people to at least stare at the screen for a bit.

After that it was back to the booth. One of my favorite things about CTN, is you don’t get all the stupid “So what is 4D?” questions we often get at other shows. Though you still get the people who see stereo anaglyph glasses and assume what’s on the screen(the MAXON demo reel) is stereo as well. Well, surely everyone knows what an anaglyph preview looks like…but no they don’t. However, to combat some of that, I get props to the CTN folks for recognizing the fact that they are actually Steampunk. Two people said something and that’s more than any other time at a show for me.

The cool thing is that we were right next to Disney and Sony and just down from ReelFX. Three studios I would love to work at someday. I actually got to talk to some guys from Disney. Bobby Pontillas gave me some good feedback on my animation reel, and Chris Gallagher and I got to talk a fair bit and I got some feedback there about my rigging reel, which is cool. Turns out he actually was a C4D user way back in the day.

Last year at CTN I got a book by Tony White and Glenn Vilppu. Both were back again this year. But again, I’m poor, so I can’t buy everything I want. I’d buy more stuff from the both of them. All I ended up buying was The Art of Character Design by David Coleman. It was only 10 bucks and I have been eyeing that DVD for some time. I skimmed it that night and it was looking pretty good.

If you can afford it next year, you should go because the amount of creativity there is mindblowing. I saw so many talented artists, it just pushes you to try and grow as well to keep up.

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A cool way to look at your resume.

Check mine out:

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Tomorrow(Wednesday August 31st) at like…10AM or 11AM I think it’s 11AM, I’ll be on Cineversity Live with Rick to talk about some of the new features of Release 13. I’ll be there showing stuff off like the new Visual Selector tags, Muscles, CMotion, Character object, all kinds of stuff. Come check it out and ask questions.

I’ll be showing off cool shit like some of these videos:

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Life has been busy. Last week, MAXON announced CINEMA 4D Release 13. It’s probably the best version of CINEMA I’ve ever been a part of, and I have been a part of it since R8. It’s also the most involved I’ve been in a beta really. There’s just a great bunch of tools out there, the Physical Render makes some really sexy renders, as does the new SSS shader. There’s a bunch of stuff, but since I don’t render, it doesn’t appeal to me. But MAXON made a shit ton of improvements to both Character rigging and Character Animation.

For character animation they’ve implemented a lot of little things, F-Curve updating in the viewport as you adjust it, local axis manipulation(ie selecting all the joints of a finger, and rotating to make it curl), as well as locking or even limiting axes while animating(so you can only rotate on Y, or only move and not rotate an object).

For rigging, they gave you the Character Object and Component tag, which I have been a part of since…gosh a while ago. The system is, in my opinion the most flexible system out there. Others may prove me wrong, someone mentioned Biped and CAT in Max and the CDK in XSI, the former 2 i believe are not as flexible but again, I might be wrong and if I am, please lemme know with some examples, but hold your thoughts til the end of this, please.

This system is those two objects i mentioned above. Well, one object, one tag. Basically you have a template file stored in your library. This can either be one that came with the app that you shouldn’t touch, or a custom one you create yourself. In this template file you use the Component tag to define and control everything.

The Character Object then reads these template files, and based on the Component tag setting allows you to create “components”. The Components represent elements of your rig, spine, legs, arms, hands, etc. The Component tag dictates when and where a component can be created. So you can go nuts and make it possible to add arms to your head, or make it more restrictive so it behaves more naturally, it’s really up to the template designer(me I prefer the latter the majority of the time).

windowHere you can see the Object Manager showing the Character Object as well as 2 components that have been built. The Attributes Manager below lists the template as well as components that can be created.

Once you’ve built your components, you then can then switch to Adjust mode, which will simplify your viewport to these circles that are handles. You can just click and drag to move the handles to match the appropriate parts of your mesh.

window-1On the left is the rig when you switch to adjust mode. The right shows the rig adjusted to the character

Then, you switch to the Bind tab, drop the objects you want to be bound, and because the Component tag has it all set up, it knows which joints to weight, so if you are using something like an IK/FK Blend with 3 chains, it knows which chain to bind properly, because the template designer set it up. The Adjusting is really quite insane, that it knows how to handle such complicated setups. The rig in the pictures for instance uses IK/FK Blend for Arms, Spine, and Legs, as well as a Bendy/Rubber Hose type setup for the arms and Legs, SplineIK for the Spine, FK Arm orientation(ie to follow the collar or remain independent), Head Orientation(follow the Head or Neck), footroll and all sorts of stuff. To adjust before you’d have to disable tags, remove goals in some instances, find all the joints move them all, make sure they all match, put the goals back in, and turn expressions back on. For such a process to be simplifies to those simple circles is mind blowing, and when I switch out of Adjust mode, the rig is correct and ready to go!

This is all, like I said, handled by the Component tag, which is a complex beast. Making your own template takes time, it takes patience, and some know how. But it’s also fairly intuitive. Tabs, are pretty well named to know what things do(for the most part). You have control over where things get inserted(Insertion Tab) what elements from the template get included when a component is created(Include), what joints get bound(Bind), and setting up your Adjustment rules so the rig can be adjusted properly(Adjustments).

But like I said, I think the true power of this system is its flexibility. Yeah it can make just about any rig you want(It comes with bipeds, quadrupeds, bird rig, fish rig, etc.) but you can make your own rigs. I have a face rig I have been working on in my spare time for instance.

Big deal, so do other systems right? Yes, they do, and like those other systems, if the template is set up properly you can mix and match these templates to create a mythical creature of some kind. If you want a good example of this check out Chris Korns 2011 Siggraph video. His lobster creature is badass.

The nice thing is as I make changes to templates, they update, much like an Xref would(those are new too by the way). For example, The Ottoman project, I’ve been making a template for us to use on it. The idea being, we have 1 template I have to adjust, and all of our main characters would be updated when I make changes. In terms of rigging, I honestly don’t plan on NOT using this. I am now looking at making sure I am always trying to use this system, because I think it is amazing, and for people who have wanted to do Character animation but struggle learning Rigging, this helps tremendously. I lowers the learning curve to just needing to know how to do weight painting, which while a time consuming and sometimes difficult to get looking good, is not a tough thing to understand HOW to do it as opposed to like setting up proper forearm twists and up vectors and all that stuff that I’ve been learning over the last 4 years….you lucky bastards…you’re welcome. ;)

But this system isn’t limited to just characters and or rigs which is why I think it’s incredibly powerful. Using the same objects(Component Tag and Character Object) I can create lots of custom presets. For instance I can easily set it up so I have buildings for components, so I can quickly make a city, or trees, or pipe systems. Check out this Pipeworks example video. Note the custom icons to make it look real professional ;)

With the Component Tag having python it just opens possibilities. I could script an entire rig so it doesnt have anything in the template file except the code. I don’t even have to use multiple components, I could do a 1 click rig button that will make the whole rig both sides(did I mention it does all the mirroring for me?)

I just see so many possibilities with this system, not just as an autorigger which it does a damn fine job of, but also as a method for creating preset rigs and elements for other developers. For instance, Nick Campbell could port his HDR Light Kit over to use this system, I could make a library of Trees, that you can pick the ones you want. I just see this versatile thing being like an open canvas that I’ve already begun exploring ways to create more things like the pipeworks example.

This is my favorite feature of R13, and there’s A LOT for me to love in it. You’ll find out more in other posts I’m sure, but I just wanted to share about this, because I’ve been working on it for a couple of years now, and because something I created with this system comes with the new release, I’m like a proud papa. Expect some tutorials covering those two objects once R13 is out on Cineversity.

For an excellent list of some of the new smaller features that might go under the radar, I suggest checking out Sebastien Florand’s blog:

For some Video demos of the new tools check out Siggraph rewind videos below. The ones pertaining to what I’m talking about are Sebastien Florand, Chris Broeska, and Chris Korn. Click the Videos tab to the left of where it says Chat:

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I have been feeling like I am in a bit of a creative funk lately. I do a lot of diving back and forth between technical things like rigging and scripting, and artistic things like drawing, painting, and animating. I was expressing these feelings to a coworker and we decided to start a daily sketch blog which is located here:

It’s pretty silly themes so far(Koala Herder, Narwhale Mentalist, etc.) but it’s been good for various reasons:

  1. I haven’t been drawing steadily for over 3 years when I was in college
  2. It’s allowing me to get more used to a WACOM which is still very greek to me
  3. It’s bringing me back to my comic strip days of having to come up with an idea/gag every day which is awesome. Being able to come up with ideas quickly is good!

So I hope to do this for at the very least all of July. I have this thing with giving myself month-long challenges. If I could come up with some demerit system to penalize me for not succeeding, I’d do them more regularly, but alas I don’t :/. But this should be interesting, as we’re already only 5 days into the month and I’ve found myself trying to challenge myself with different styles of drawing/rendering. The key question is will this keep up or will it become a chore and I just want to try and get the damn thing out the door?

In other news, I finally sort of have a spot to paint again. After visiting my family for the 4th of July, I managed to grab all of my painting supplies. So now I have the possibility of being able to paint on our balcony(and hoping and praying I don’t make a mess or my fiance will kill me). I have not painted anything since probably last….year? Last June, July, or August I want to say. I painted a black and white portrait of my fiance and I. Before that, I stopped painting to focus on Animation Mentor. So now the thought of getting back into painting, coupled with sketching regularly, suddenly I feel the arts flowing through my veins MWAAHAHAHHAA.

Unfortunately, I do still have other duties that have to come first. Things that have been on hold for far too long. This first month at the new place has been interesting, but also hindering my freelance workflow, so I need to now get back into the swing of things and focusing on my tasks at hand.

..but when I have some free time I’m going to paint the SHIT out of something.


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