Tuesday, 7 May 2013


So yesterday, I gave my presentation and... that's it! 4th year all wrapped up! Madness.

I'm hoping my presentation and the work I handed in do me justice. I really am terrible at documenting my learning, it all goes in my head and blogging/sketchbooking after a hard day of Maya isn't something I often remember to do. I wish we had interviews along with our hand ins, but alas. It's hard to see the effort that goes into learning the technical side of things. I think my presentation went pretty well, I can never tell. I rambled a lot, but I always do when I'm giving a presentation! I'm actually rambling now, haha.

I really have worked myself dead this year, here's hoping it pays off. I know I've let myself down with the lack of drawing I've managed this year, but I really did just get caught up in the 3D world. Working in Maya is draining! My technical skills have benefited though, and over the summer I will re-acquaint myself with the good old pencil and paper!

This week, I'll be tying up the loose ends, and compiling a showreel that I can hopefully include in the Degree Show. Then it's onwards and upwards! Got a couple of classmates keen to keep working with me, so hopefully something'll come of that. The last 4 years were great, but the degree was just the beginning. I've wanted to be an animator since I was about 5, and I'm not stopping here!

Dundee, I hardly knew ye!

Sunday, 5 May 2013


This year, my sub-specialism has been "Character Animation". I was able to do some animation for Stupid Kow at the start of the year (I animated the Farmer character). Towards the end of the year, however, with the way things have gone for myself and for a lot of the films I have worked on, my hands have been full with other things taking priority due to time constraints. Fortunately though, over the last few weeks I have been able to get back into animation, and work on a couple of new projects- mine and Rob's project "iR" and Dan's film "Wet Paint".

For Stupid Kow, I did the full animation of the Farmer, which consisted of a walk cycle, an arm gesture, and some lip-sync. I worked closely with director Jamie Buchanan to get what he wanted from the shots, and I am pretty happy with how it turned out. It was nice to be on the other side of my own rig as well! 

For Wet Paint, I was given the character shaking his can, spray-painting a little, then walking towards the camera and doing some expressions and arm gestures once he was there. I'm happy with my effort, except for the walk. It took me a while to get to grips with a 3d walk cycle, and being pressed for time it did end up a bit rushed. As I was trying to do a cautious walk, I was falling into the trap of making his upper body look too stiff. At this point, the walk is still pretty stiff, but I am going to continue to work on it in my own time, just for my own learning's sake really. Although I'm disappointed, I'm taking it as a learning curve- I know I can do better, and I will!

Some reason Blogger wont let me stick that video in here, so here's a link- WP

For iR, I animated the first 15 seconds. I really enjoyed animating such a simple character, and the style was one that I really love. Without giving too much away, here's a test or 2!

EDIT: I forgot to mention that I did some "animation" for Fearg na Mara. After their animator had posed the kelpie, it was sent back to me with "weight paint problems", which I was happy to fix... turned out the problems were due to the rig being used incorrectly. After a talk with the director, we sat and re-posed the kelpie ourselves, sorting out the deformations and generally improving the original poses. Here are a few examples, I worked on 10 in total.revieved reference/pose-

my improvements-




Rigging Summary

Over the last couple of days, I have created some "summary blogs" so that a basic idea of the rigs are easy to find.

This year, I have really developed a passion for rigging. My classmates have produced some beautiful models, and bringing them to life has been very enjoyable.

I have found that amongst students, rigging is often considered a very technical specialism which doesn't allow for much creativity, but my experience has been opposite to this.

Of course, there is a lot of technical learning involved- I have watched countless tutorials and read various books over the course of the year to aid my learning. The creative side of rigging comes from what you do with your learning.
Tutorials are brilliant resources, but you have to remember that often the way things are done in step-by-step tutorials isn't the ONLY way. There are many exceptions to this, and often there will be cases where the way you are taught is the correct way, and there's no point messing with it, and that's fine. But, there is no harm in trying things out.
Mixing things you have learned from all over the place, trying to think of new, better, quicker ways that things might work. This is what I have been striving to do with my rigs, and I have come up with various creative solutions to little problems that popped up. I look forward to continuing my learning after graduation, and hope that my rigs until now have been everything the animators needed them to be!

At this point, I am very comfortable with the basics of rigging, and I have begun to branch out into more advanced learning. I am confident with joint placement/set up, I am familiar with the use of IK and FK functionality, and becoming confident using splines. I am confident creating and linking controls. I am confident in animator-proofing controls. I am confident in my skills with weight painting, and look forward to moving on to explore Maya's features for creating advanced muscle deformations. I know a good handful of mel, and am continuing to learn about scripting. I have also used expressions successfully.

I have a good knowledge in biped rigs, including foot rolls, forearm twists, the functionality of shoulders, clavicle bones and various spine set-ups. I am also confident rigging hands and faces.

I have a basic knowledge of rigging quads, which I am continuing to develop. I have become very familiar with various aspects on animal anatomy, and this knowledge has been and will continue to be invaluable.

Although my interest lies with character rigging, I will be looking into other aspects of rigging, including props and environments.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

iR rig

The iR rig was a lot of fun- nice an simple!

As he has no limbs, rigging his body took minutes- the controls are basically only there to make sure no one touches the geometry. The character can be rotated and dragged all over the place very easily, the only thing I really had to work with was where each object's pivot should be, and whether anything should be parented to anything else.

His hands were good fun. He has a sort of thumb/1 big finger thing going on, and these are made up of geometric shapes. Myself and Rob decided the individual sections of his finger should bend a little, although he's a robot, as this added a humanistic quality, and gave him a bit more life.

His eye was where I had the fun! I created a control pad so that it could be moved around, morphed and blinked easily. It's very simple, but I'm really happy with it, and more happy that I was able to whip it up so quickly! The way the eye/mesh around his eye moves has the same "humanistic" quality that we went for with the fingers. Although he's a robot, there is something lifelike and relate-able, and we felt this added a lot to the character's performance.

Krokodi Rig

I was pretty excited to have been asked to create a rig for the Kroc Dee character in the Krokodi project. As the character is a sort of biped/quad hybrid, I was able to take a creative approach to mixing the things I had learned previously about rigging different kinds of characters. 

Here is the rig- 


  • Foot controls with Foot Roll
  • IK legs with knee aim control
  • hip control
  • COG control
  • spine controls
  • head control
  • movable jaw
  • rigged head
  • moveable eyes
  • closeable eyelids
  • rigged tongue
  • rigged tail
I was able to implement some smaller "control pads" into this rig for the animators as well. The eyes and eyelids have additional curves, to make moving both sides simultaneously a bit easier. The tail also has a hide-able control pad, allowing the animator to quickly curl the tail. 

Friday, 3 May 2013

Fearg Na Mara Rigs

For Fearg Na Mara, I created 2 rigs- the Kelpie rig, and a Murdo rig. The kelpie would be posed for stills, and the Murdo rig would be used with the 3d water/boat scene, and finally drawn over.

The Kelpie was my only Quadraped rig, and I was happy to have the chance to try rigging quads. I learned a lot about horse anatomy too, haha!

Here is the kelpie rig-


  • Foot controls (with foot roll)
  • IK legs with aim knees
  • shoulder controls
  • COG control
  • hips control
  • torso controls
  • chest control (with attribute for moving neck)
  • neck controls
  • head control
  • moving jaw 
  • moving eyes
  • closing eyelids
  • ear controls
His spine uses a spline IK, which was very tricky to get working, but makes such a difference in the movement of the spine.

I had a few problems with topology on the Kelpie model, most notable around his front legs. This was a bit of a pain, as the modeller was convinced it could be fixed with weightpaints... but eventually, it was changed and all was well!


Murdo was a simple rig. The director just wanted a dummy which could be posed and drawn over, so I whipped this up


Stupid Kow Rigs

For Stupid Kow, I created 2 facial rig setups. 

The rigs changed several times as my skills progressed, below are demonstrations of the final rigs. 

The faces are controlled by joints, which are made controllable to the animator through the selection of various nurbs curves. The animator has the choice of using the curves directly on the character's face, or using the "control pad" I have created, which appears to the side of the character's head (control pad can be hidden to avoid a messy scene). In a bid to make the interface as user-friendly as possible, the control pads for these rigs are set out to resemble each character's face. The animator simply translates the curve which resembles the part of the face they've like to move, and the change can be seen on the model in real-time.

The farmer

  • head control
  • Jaw control
  • "puffable" cheeks
  • rigged mouth
  • moving eyes
  • eyebrows
  • closeable eyelids

  • head control
  • ear controls
  • moving eyes
  • eyelids
  • blendshape-based mouth
  • movable teeth
  • additional teeth off/on ctrl
  • "chest" ctrl

For the Kow, I had to adapt my original plan for his mouth. As the topology wasn't ideal for rigging his mouth, and the modeller wouldn't adjust it, I had to think of an alternative way. After speaking with the director, we decided to use blendshapes.

The blendshapes worked fine, but there were some issues. Firstly, the a few of the blendshapes would clash with the body mesh when in use- something that rigging and good weight-painting avoids. To work around this, I created additional weighted controls for parts of the body- the chest in particular- which meant they could be pulled in when a clash was visable.

Another thing I was unhappy with, was that the animator was having to use the blendshape menu for animating the face. I decided to build an additional control panel, which would activate the blendshapes instead. Using these controls, I could also link-up the controls I had added to fix clashes, so that the clean transformations could be achieved using only 1 control. I was also able to link the "additional teeth" so that they would automatically show with the correct blendshapes.

Overall I am very happy with these rigs- they were an opportunity to try something different, and to problem solve. No one had any trouble animating with them either, which was great! 

Wee Monsters Rigs

For the Wee Monsters project, I created 4 rigs- 3 of which I finished, one I am still working on in hopes of including it in my showreel by the Degree Show.

The Boy (Sam)
The Girl (Ellie)
Monster 1 (Grumbles)
Monster 2 (Waddles) unfinished
Sam and Ellie's rigs are almost identical, with the exception of Ellie's hair being movable. These were the first rigs I created, and while they took a big effort and a long time at the start of the year, they are my simplest most straight-forward rigs.

They use a typical joint set-up, and have fully rigged faces. The animator is able to pose them using nurbs curves controllers, and the faces have the option of a "control panel", and additional interface I have created to make facial-animation more straight forward.


  • Foot ctrl with foot roll
  • IK legs with knee aim control
  • hip control (with additional attributes)
  • Center of Gravity Control
  • Spine controls
  • Chest Control
  • Shoulder controls
  • IK arms with elbow aim control
  • hand control (with "fist" and "spread" attributes)
  • individual finger controls
  • Neck control
  • head control
  • move-able jaw
  • rigged mouth
  • rigged eyebrows
  • moveable eyes
  • closseable eyelids
  • Facial Control Pad

A feature I am particularly happy with on these rigs in their spine- it is a typical FK spine, but one of the controls gives the animator a few attributes which make moving the spine quick and easy. 

Monster 1 (Grumbles)

Monster 1 has been rigged several times as my skills have progressed, below is a demonstration of his final set-up.

  • Foot controls
  • Toe controls
  • IK leg controls with aim knee control
  • hip control
  • COG control
  • spine controls
  • FK arm controls with elbow aim control
  • "flex" controls
  • hand controls
  • "forearm twist" expression.
  • finger controls
  • neck ctrl
  • head ctrl
  • fully rigged face 
  • eyebrow controls
  • moving eyes
  • closing eyelids
  • moving jaw
  • mouth controls

Grumbles was particularly tricky, because of the fact he has 6 arms, and the  way in which these are laid out. Each arm has an additional upper-arm section, which meant I had to adapt the usual methods used on a typical arm. 

After struggling for a while I got an IK set-up working, but in order to have the arm move correctly, it had to be animated using 1 particular procedure- start at the top of the arm and work down. This was because unlike a typical arm, I was using 2 IK handles, basically treating the additional section as an extra shoulder. Although it worked, I was unhappy with its "animator-friendliness", so I ditched the idea and set up FK arms- which actually gave way to much easier animation. 

Another point of note on his arms is his bicep muscles. I had initially resigned to the fact I would have no time to learn how to create realistic muscle deformations, learning Maya Muscle etc, but after a brainstorm I decided to try something out. 
I added an extra joint in the middle of his bicep (on it's own, not part of a chain) and make it influence the top of his bicep. After adding a control to this joint, the animator was able to pull the bicep upwards, creating a "bulge". When I was happy with how this worked, I then linked this control to the elbow, so that when his elbow bent in, the bulge would move out, creating a flexing muscle. I am very happy with the results! 

The rest of his body is pretty typical. Rather than using a foot-roll, his feet have an additional control for positioning the toes- just something I wanted to try out, and it worked fine.

Below is a video of myself painting his skin weights.