During their second year at The Game Assembly, the artists are tasked to do 3 APPs(Advanced Production Project). Magnus Quach, a very talented artist, asked me to create a rig for his mech character that he made for his first APP. I felt it would be a great challenge for me since I know that Magnus add a lot of details to his models and it would be interesting to see what kind of rig I could do for him. Below is the model that I worked on, made by Magnus Quach.
Before I started working on the rig, me and Magnus talked about what kind of functionality he wanted. This was especially important for me since there were a lot of separate meshes that Magnus wanted to move independently from each other and to control directly, instead of having one control controlling several joints.
I then began examining the model to figure out where I needed joints and which joint/s would control which model part. Since Magnus had to pose the model for his first APP he’d set up locators which I then used as a reference for how to build my skeleton. As I was setting up the skeleton I thought a lot about how the controls would look and where I should place them to make them as uncluttered as I could. This proved to be a bit of a challenge since the order was for as much individual control as possible. The final skeleton count ended at 10 separate skeletons; IK/FK chains for each arm/leg, a “slave” skeleton, and finally a bind skeleton. Below is the final bind skeleton setup.
After I’d set up the different skeletons I went to work on the controls. It quickly became clear to me that the requested setup was not the most efficient for animations, in my opinion, since some controls could have been made less cluttered. The order was for as many separate, visible controls as possible, which did make the rig fairly cluttered and if I had to do it again with more freedom to optimize I would have changed a few things.
Looking at the final setup, with all the controllers, there are some obvious areas that could be optimized. Take the knee sections for example; right now there are 11(!) separate controls for each knee. One way to optimize the knees would be to merge the controls on the sides of the knee, 8 in total, into 1 single control on which you create custom attributes that can control the individual sections of the mesh on the knee. You can even take it one step further and merge all 11 controls into a single control, with custom attributes for controlling the mesh. This would cut down the amount of work I’d have to do, and would make it easier to visualize what’s going on with the animations since you don’t have the numerous controls in the way.
There are some other areas of the rig that I’d change as well, the foot controls could be optimized into one singular control instead of 4 separate controls. The same thing goes for the fingers. Each finger has separate controls for the joints and knuckle armor, except for the thumb which has no knuckle armor. For ease of use, each finger could have had a single control with custom attributes(again) to control each joint as well as the knuckle armor.
Finally, there are a few other areas that could have made the rig look less cluttered and as I wrote earlier, if I had been able to do it with no more input than “I want the mech to be able to do this and this, etc”, I would have done quite a few things differently. In the end, this rig was an order job from someone who knew what he wanted and I accommodated his needs and preferences as much as I could.