Character Rigger Version 3.6

I just finished updating the character rigger tool. I just recently had an arm twist problem with a new character that didn’t occur before and also shouldn’t have occured. But there was no logical reason behind why it wasn’t working and so I decided to redesign the twist setup for the arms and legs. The previous setup wasn’t perfect anyway and had some minor glitches in some cases but never that strange. By the time it was implemented we were in some production hasstle that I just went with it and planned to deal with it later – well, now that I had no other chance :-)

The previous setup was based on Jason Schleifer’s “Animator Friendly Rigging”-DVD, which by the way is pretty cool, and the twist setup he introduces has some really nice aspects to it. But there are also some situations when some weird twisting happens that is hard to get under control. So I searched for an alternative way and came across the idea I had some time ago to make it work with an aim constraint. The setup is fairly simple once you know that to do with it and it seems to be a little more reliable than the previous setup. Even though it still has some issues with the shoulder but I guess that’s alright since the movement of the upper arm can be quite extreme due to the amount of motion it can get through. If the arm is lifted too high or is too low some flipping occurs because of the setup with the aim constraint. But at least it’s controllable with a separate control that can help to get the twisting back to where it’s supposed to be. Of course this means that there is another control the animator has to care about but it also doesn’t need to be used all the time. I would imagine that one goes through the animation until satisfied and then looks for the parts where a flipping issue might have occured and fixes it. That would keep the necessary time to deal with the control at a minimum. I also implemented two switches to turn off the twist feature for the upper and lower arm/leg so that any flipping doesn’t disturb the animation workflow. Until now I have just tested the twisting in the rigging process and I am curious how it actually works during animation. Anyway it looks like a good improvement so far.

The other things I have changed are, that now the finger poses are not stored on their separate control anymore. The idea was good but during animation it meant that while having a particular pose the attribute would be set but all finger channels were down to zero and that was sometimes a little confusing especially when all attributes were mixed together. Now the pose gets stored as a file like before but is now accessible through the marking menu that is also used to store the finger poses. Reading a pose back in now sets the finger attributes directly and thus is a much more straight forward procedure and easier to work with.

The attributes for the fingers are not stored in a separate main (secondary) character set anymore but are rather a subcharacter set of the main character set along all other subcharacter sets. The previous version seemed to be a good thought at first, but it happend very often that the animator would forget to switch the character set when setting keys to the fingers and that meant that many times finger poses weren’t keyed at all. Now everything runs through the main character set and is much easier to handle.

The last thing I improved is the squash/stretch behaviour for the spine. Now the root joint scales a little in order to maintain some volume as well as the stretching now also occurs at the first spine joint that I left out in previous versions.

I am very excited to finally have the new version running and I am very curious to test it in it’s first animation …. and figure out what improvements I have to work on in the next version… though there is already a next item on the list. Finally fixing the pose mirroring… but not today :-)

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