Hunger: Girl Character Rig

Once the character sculpt had gotten far enough along i began the rigging process using my proxy rig, which had be previously developed for pre-vis, to create my final character rig for the little girl character. Myself and Hannah Loughtridge had alot of back and forth during this early stage trying to get her shape to move and flow nice in 3D, the most problematic area was the lower jaw and chin area.

Above: shows  the basic setup of the character rig structure


The character’s torso did not require a lot of  special treatment as it would be a simple biped IK/FK rig with a triple layer system for the hands. One interesting area i was able to develop through my research into a few different spine rigging methods such as a divine spine as the ability to make the FK controls follow the IK spine without applying double transforms, as this was a previous annoyance for some of the animation team when moving a IK control the IK stayed unaffected.

the head and neck were developed the same why i had worked for my early tests allow for both rotation space switching of the entire head from the torso and also rotation switching from the neck and head to allow the head to be pulled forward and side to side will remaining level.


As mentioned before the hands have a triple layer setup, master finger control > single finger control > single joint FK control. This was implemented after the success i had with it last semester due to its practicality when animating. It is a easy and quick way to block out animations and add fine tweaks


For the global of the rig i decided to create a hierarchy of three controls to allow for maximum freedom for the animator. For example in the animation phase Hannah Loughridge was able to attach the top layer of the global to a curve to have the character follow along a motion path, she is then able to move the second or third layer of control in order to offset the character from the path while it still follows the direction. This effect is useful to have the character walk over bumps or adjust the height.

Above: the global layer system allowing for the character global to be shifted to rotate from the top or bottom or anywhere desired by the animator. Also allowing for motion path ability or parenting


As previously thought the main issue would be in developing solutions to issues brought about by her clothes and school bag.

For the bag i developed a system of joints driven by control curves. These joints and curves were placed into a specific hierarchy to allow for the bag to move and appear as if it had something inside it giving it weight. The main issue with the bag was getting it to follow the spine when twisting but then raise up the back, how a real bag shoulder, when she is bending over.

I came up with a solution to the above issue by developing a IK spline which is driven by a series of joints that are rotated around the spine. this information is then fed into the Spline rig to allow for a nice twist while still maintaining the curve of the spine bend.Girl014

Above: the bag and some of the prop rigging involved within the character

For the bag the props that were attached along with it also needed to be rigged to allow for convincing movement. The gun is a simple constraint rig allowing for a mechanical movement whereas the key rig is a IK spline Fk hybrid rig to give the animators complete freedom.  For the gun a dual control had to be made to allow for the gun to be parented to the girls hand which a child control, which actually is the master of the gun geo, to allow for a offset to the girls hand if necessary.

One area i did not anticipate being a issue was the wellie boots. Due to the lose fit around the shin they would twist with the ankle and not have any counter twist like the leg itself. Although they still have to follow the shin bone when rotated in Y and Z so that it does not clip through the mesh. In order to achieve this i have to develop a system of IK handles and constraints in order to get the shoe to move as expected. As a lucky benefit i was able to turn this into a additional controller to allow for the offset of the top of the wellie and in turn allow for a wobble when making contact with the ground.

Above: Examples of the foot/shoe rig

This technique was then developed in order to allow for some overlapping action on the poncho collar. As well as having the offset control for the rim i also added a roll and pull joint around the edge to give more freedom to the animators as well as more believable results.


Above; Example of the poncho collar roll  

In addition to the collar rig i have also created a dynamic joint rig for the bottom of the poncho which can be turned on and off. This allows the animators to turn the rig into manual and animate in full FK mode to achieve cloth motion or they can have it automated.

A late addition to the character which i had to deal with was the earphones. These were to be used in the credit scene and needed to follow the characters head during animation. This was attached to the character by using a wire deformer skinned to joints that are controlled by the rotation of the head. The joints also have offset controls in order to allow for any corrections required due to the automated rig following but also allow for some movement to be added. I had looked into creating a dynamic joint chain for this setup but it wasn’t practically due to the shape of the head and how it looked while moving.

Facial Rig

my main area of development with this character was in the face. My main problem with previous films made on our course is that characters with more realistic humanoid style there faces are always very lifeless and uncanny valley like.

Due to my research into facial rigging and its impact on the viewer from my dissertation i spent a long time working on developing a system for the eye and brow control as they play a huge part in portraying life in the character.

For most of the facial expression the mesh is deformed by joints which are placed along motion paths these joints are then controlled by a tweak control to allow for small facial twitches and movements for the animation team.


Above: Showing the position of the facial curves which are used to attach the bind joints to

The motion path curves themselves are blend shaped to create a different range of expressions, these blend shapes are then driven through a expression.

Above: Example of the script used to drive the blend shapes seen on the right

Once the curve blend shapes are created i then create some corrective shapes in order to achieve a higher standard of deformation, these blend shapes also include combo shapes to fix weird shapes from appearing when a series of shapes are fired off together. The mouth shapes are entirely created through blend shapes and combo shapes.

Above: Example of combo shapes in action showing a smile and then a smile/open shape firing at the same time with a corrective Combo shape to fix unwanted deformations.

This section of the rig was made incredibly quick and easy due to my implementation of SHAPES plugin for Maya. This allows for a quick workflow when developing facial rigs and splitting the shape to left and right sides as well as creating combo shapes, sequence shapes and inbetweens. The plugin also allowed me to easily transfer blend shape nodes from model to model as well as transferring sculpts between software such as Zbrush.

Above: Right are examples of the facial shapes before Combos/Correctives. Left is after new shapes have been applied

For the jaw itself it has a double joint setup for both upper jaw and lower jaw to allow for a character to rest there chin and still rotate the head up from the base is required. Additional blend shapes were used to create a squash when the jaw is rotated upward and create nice deformations when the mouth is opened.


Above: SHAPES plugin user intereface showing my driver shapes and combo shapes.


The eyes and eyelids of the rig were a small issue that required a interesting work around. Due to the scale of eyes and there interesting shape i had to develop a system to allow for full control but have the lids slide over the eyeball rather than clip through.

Essentially i had to create a center in the center of the eye ball geo, i then created my joints on the each of the selected vertices. these are than aim constraint to a locator placed on the joint position. this allows for the joints to follow the position of the locator without moving from the eyeball.

From here i draw a curve matching the eye lid shape follow the joint position. this curve is then attached to the locators through a PointOnCurveInfo node to allow for any changed in the curve to affect the locator and in turn the joints follow. This curve is then what is used to create the smart blink. Through a series of blend shapes and wire deformer i was able to develop a nice effect.

I found a tutorial online which taught me some scripts to speed up the process by automating the joint setup and curve PointOnCurveInfoNode.

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As previously stated in the presentations in class i wanted to bring a certain level of realism into the character rigs the pupils needed to have some life and not be so dead pan. This would also allow for some stylized animation. This was created through two blend shapes driven by a attribute on the control curves. the Blend shapes were created using edge slide tool in Maya maintaining the circumference of the sphere at all times.

Face Rig Overview

The final touches to the facial rig were elements such as lip rolls and puckers as well as adding a tongue and tooth rig to create more expression. The lids were also hooked up to the network controlling the ye aim to allow for a realistic lid movement upon eye rotation. These subtle elements are key in bringing life into the character especially during some of are idle animations.


throughout the project i have working on developing my python and Mel skills. a lot of the elements i have been working on are use for the rig itself in terms of controlling objects or creating specific setups. Most of the tools i have created which are used outside of the rig itself have been to speed up my own workflow in ways such as creating IK/FK switches and blends automatically or create things such as curves and have them orientated and in the same position as a selected object.

Although one tool i have created for the team is and IK/FK matching tool to allow for space matching between both functions of the arm. The reason i worked on developing this is to allow the animation team to be able to have an IK pose switch to FK without and popping or time consuming pose match up. This sped up scenes and allowed the animation to work a little easier.


Example of a section of the script


luckily there has been a rig in motion from quite early on within the project so any hiccups in my pipeline had been ironed out well before i got to the finalization point. The rig has been completed but my service on it has not ended as i have been on constant call to aid any issues regarding its performance. I have also been working on adding specific things that the animator requires through out there scenes.



Hunger: Stranger Character Rig

For the character rig of the stranger there was a lot of changes along the way. As a team we decided around week 8 to revamp our story and in doing so the role of the stranger character changed as he was no longer going to have as much animation as previously thought. therefore by the time it got to week 8 there was a lot of unneeded rig work done but it was used as RnD for working on the facial rig and also to test new ideas and theories. Although the facial setups were done after each other the torso rigs were completeled sim


For the stranger i ensured his rig was built identical to the girl. The reason for this was if we were going to use the animation library as discussed previously we would be able to build a library of poses which could be linked to either rig for example hand and finger poses.

For the male character his body movements after the story change are very minimum but as i was already so far along when the change came about i thought it would be beneficial to complete the rig, it is better to have and not need.

Just like the girl has a hybrid Divine spine setup that i created as well as the usual IK/FK controls and my triple layer finger system. The main issue with the stranger rig was creating convincing shoulder and neck shapes for his close up shot with the gun.

the shoulders were solved using a series of blend shapes to correct the issue as well as a few helper joints connected to move when specific values are triggered. I also applied this method to the elbows and use shape inbetweens in order to acheive a nice flow when bending the elbow.

For the neck it was a mixer of layered skin weights through NgSkinTools and some corrective shapes in order to achieve a nice shape when he moves.

The stranger also has the same ability to change position and rotation space when needed to allow for a more animator friendly environment to work in.

The stranger and every other rig i created this semester were weight painted by using NgSkinTools in order to have a nicer pipeline of work. The tool allows for layer shading and a lot of extra features the default Maya tools dont provide.

Above shows the layered shading in action.

i ensured for this entire semester that if i was weight painting a character i would do an initial block out of the skin weights so the team were not disrupted in terms of animation progress and as long as the rig was referenced the skinning would be complete without me having to rush it out.


The stranger was the first of the two characters to be available to start my RnD for my facial setup. With the early pre-vis of the strangers head i had a good understanding how i was going to create the underlying structure of the rig but creating  more polished finish would require more work.

Above shows a early version of the facial setup using curves along with no blend shapes attached.

After creating my first setup i got the high res head and moved onto automating creating my joint curves. This allowed my to spend less time on the technical and more time on the artistry of developing good deformations. Some of my design process had to be altered for the final rig to speed up production, as there was no longer any dialog in the film lip sync was no longer required so instead i focused on making exaggerated expressions of panic and sadness.

Once i had the curves in place similar to how the girls were created using my automated script. i moved onto the same process of using SHAPES to create blend shapes to clean up any deformations and add in combo shapes.


With the stranger i had a addtional level of concern which i had forgot about. The beard on his face is made from Geo and would also need to be skinned and follow the same steps that the underplaying face mesh went through.


Through the plugin i was able to bake my blend shapes into separate mesh and use them as my guide for developing the beard blend shapes.

The beard was a lot more tricky due to its odd shape but also the fact i had to try and keep it the same distance from the lips and nostrils to maintain continuity. Another issue was clipping, due to the shape of the face compared to beard i had to ensure the beard or face didn’t clip into each-other.

Hunger: Research and Development

Throughout the entire project my focus was on developing the character rigs into a higher standard of rig for my team to use. This focus lead me into hours of rig testing and development, constantly creating new quick rigs to test theories and techniques which could be applied to my character rigs.

During the year i also attended talks such as Skype calls from Mario Furmanczyk, a Walt Disney animator, were he talks about the production pipeline for animation. This was not directed at me sue to its heavy focus on animation but it was defiantly beneficial due to it adding to my understanding on what makes a good animation and how animators actually work within a pipeline.


For trees in the scene we were planning on using Xgen to distrubtute them around the scene randomly. the idea came up about making aniamtion into the geometery so the trees would sway and move in the enviroment. I had developed too systems, A IK/FK control rig for the branches.


Or a dynamic joint curve when could be anaimated through CV controlers for additonal control.

Divine Spine

For the character spine i had discussed with Dan before the project how annoying it cna be when the FK spine doesn’t follow when you translate the IK controls which can lead to them being lost. I asked if he wanted a solution.

I found the Divine Spine online which a tutorial included in the PDF. through this i made my own version when i then was able to take pieces of in order to create the character spines that we use in the animation. The FK follows the IK without any double transformation.

The divine spine uses a triple layer setup, IK spline, IK handles and a third joint layer for control. It allows for complete freedom of rotation and twist.

The above setup was then tweaked into my own workflow and used to create the following results.

Face Tests

For Hunger i wanted to create the best facial rigs possible to allow the animation team to create the best representation of life.

to begin with i created a series of tests to bring the eye environment to life using a fleshy eye system.

This system uses expressions to control the eyelid movement through the eye rotation.

I also worked on developing a system for sticky lips to allow for a sense of moisture on the characters lips when creating expressions or speaking. This was wanted by myself to just add that extra level of polish to the animation.

This was also time to test the joint setup for the face to create expressions.

These setups were then pushed further and refined to create my facial setup for both characters.

Dynamic Joint Chains

Another key area i looked into while researching was dynamic joint chains for things such as her poncho. This would be useful for the animator to run automatically but they could also tweak the simulation by adding there own animation on top.

This system was later implemented into the base of the poncho and the her earphones.

Elbow Pinning

A piece of development that was later scrapped due to no longer being required was the ability to pin the elbow in place to allow the torso to move without the elbow breaking contact with the pin.

This was created through a series of nodes with the ability to switch it on and off.



Another section of reserahc was into rigging the props and the back of the girl.


I completed a series of tests and eventually the image seen above became what we have now shown below.


References used this Semester–cg-14575

Maya Python Quadruped Autorig Tutorial,topicNumber=d28e663528




Presentation 2: Update

For this section section of the semester i have been focusing on some of the smaller prop rigs and enviromental pieces i need to create. The first thing i began testing was working out how the trees would move within Maya, this would either be aniamtied and simualted.

i began by looking at exteranl software that could be used to develop some complex tree sims, as we are using Xgen to populate are scene the trees would need to have the animation cached then be scattered throughout the scene that way.


the main pieces of software i looked into was SpeedTree.


This software seemed promising but due to the complexatity of obtaining a licence it became unpratical for us as a team but still reamins as a plan B option.

The follow up method i developed was within maya itself, i began by creating a IK spline rig to drive the tree branches manually. This animation could then be baked into the Geo and scattered through Xgen usinga  script to drive the direction of fake wind. The second in Maya method i created was to use Nhair curves as solvers for my IK spline handels which control my joints. This method allowed for a complete simulated aniatmion which could then have belend shapes attatched ontop to allow for secondary control over the simulation. The benefits of this method is that it plays back in real time with no proformance issues.

Character Proformance

My major focus for this presentation was on the main aspects of our characters proformance, the hands and face. Thanks to some interesting articles and videos i found along with the help from my chriopractor friend i was able to devleop a nice neck and head setup that allos for a interesting orientation space switching to achieve some realistic results.


Aswell as developing a new system for space switching and movement i worked on developing a counter jaw setup to allow the upper jaw to open as if the character would be resting his chin on the floor of their hands. although not anotomically correct this allows for additonal control for the animators to work with.

These early images are of a low poly early stage model that Matt created and i used to help develop a my facial rigging skills.

For the hands it was of an importance that the rig be nimble enough to be able to create whatever complex shapes required for a converstation through sign language.

Once i had this early version completed to a certain stage i moved onto the higher poly verison of the girl character that Hannah Loughridge created. Myself and Hannah have been in constant communication in order to achieve the best result possible. I will be rigging the character thne go back to Hannah to discuss anyway to make deformations or shapes have a better silloute.

Above shows the current progress as of today. The lower poly head will be what drives the higher version, these will be swapped when it comes to final renders.


Presentation 1: Animatic




The past week or so I’ve been busy modelling assists to be placed around the scene both exterior and interior of the jeep. The modelling style was based on the concept art created by Matt shown in the previous presentation. This style meant that curves had to be met with a sharper edge to give a more comic book/ illustrated feel to the environment.

The models were developed from real world reference and study, with the style considered when creating to create a more blocky version of the real world item.


The main focus of my work and research this week and throughout the project will be based around my technical work such as character and environment setups.

This week i have been focused on developing silhouette style rigs to allow are animator Dan to create some poses or animations with the character shape. This would allow me to see where issues might arise or areas that needs fixing when it comes to the final rig.

These rigs allowed me to develop scripts in order to streamline my own pipeline in developing things such as IK/FK blend arms and legs in order to complete a rig in less than a day.

These rigs also gave us a chance to test out the pipeline for using the animation library across the team. Dan created a few animations and poses and i tried to load them from my computer.

Screen Shot 2017-02-24 at 14.53.48.png

Another area i have been working on is coming up with a solution for the cloth on each of the characters. The main area of concern was the little girls poncho. After looking through some tutorials and articles i worked on creating some joint/sim hybrids for the cloth in order to allow for a wide range of control but realistic results.

Screen Shot 2017-02-24 at 14.53.52.png


Body machines and Joint movement

I have been consulting daily with a friend of mine which i train with every night. His name is Dr Nicholas Mancuso. he works as a chiropractor and has been helping me to understand to capabilities and structure of things such as the spine and scapula in order for me to transfer this knowledge into my rigs to develop realistic movement in the characters.

Cloth Sim

This was a area of concern for me from the start as i have a limited knowledge of sims and the little girls poncho would require some if not a lot of simulation to get it the way we want it.

marvellous designer – I found a piece of software thanks to Hannah in my team. This would allow us to animate the character in maya, cache the animation then import the model and create the cloth within Marvellous Designer to simulate the cloth. This would the be cached then transferred back to Maya

Greg Maguire – During a one to one talk within the other module Greg and i were able to chat about this project, i told him about my issues with cloth and luckily he has had plenty of experience. He recommended some techniques i could use in order to achieve the results such as using blender to sculpt the geo when required to stop penetration.

Blender ShapeKeys

Cloth Tutorial

Costume Tutorial

Creating life like eyes

We know are characters will need to portray a lot of emotion through the facial expressions so eyes that are believable and alive are important. I have used a simple system of blend shapes and texture rigs to develop a dilate system.


Python Fundamentals tutorial

Python Beyond Basics

Procedural rigging Python

Character Python Rigging

Challenges and Future Research Areas

Bird Rigging – Rigging Wings – I have already asked Blain Fox if he would be interested in developing this with me as i could use the extra set of hands due to the amount of rigging required in this project but also due to his knowledge within the area. From his i know i will have to be spending a lot of time researching and studying the anatomy and structure of a crow along with its body mechanics and movement.

Jiggle System – I know that things such as the bag will require to have a jiggle and bounce on movement, This future issue will hopefully be solved easy enough through some research and tutorials.

Foot to Ash Contact – Dust Impact – Creating a system to allow for a slight impact when he girl steps onto thew ash (This might be easier to develop in a post effects software)






Project Pitch



the story put short and simple is a young deaf girl and her dad travelling through a world that has been driven to the edge. The girl stops to go to the toilet in the near by forest while traveling along a road. Upon her return to her dad she comes across a strange red jeep stopped in the middle of the forest. Curiosity gets the best of her and she approaches to find a man inside. The man appears welcoming at first but things art as they appear, after realising the man is killing people the girl quickly shows that she is not all that innocent her shelf and kills the man before retiring to her father.

Concept art by Matt McDyre

Style and Render Research

Artist – Eran Hillel

Eran has worked on a lot of shorts i have admired and love his style of 3D to 2D  rendering. This render style of  flat images with illustrated textures is something we would like to recreate.


Similar to the work of Eran Hillel this style of rendering is something we would like to achieve.

Book of Eli

researched for its opening scene, how it portrays a apocalyptic environment with ash.

The boy who learned to fly

great use of colour and shading in a 3D piece.



True Grit

Area of Research for the Project and Potential

The team has been divided up into specific areas in which we are in charge of, my main area of interest is creating the rigs for the project. This will be my main area of research and development throughout the year, specifically working on developing a facial rig which can create realism as i feel in the past projects throughout the class the character always appears lifeless within the face.

The more technical research i will be undertaking will be about developing tools though Python in order to help the production pipeline. This will be done through online courses aswell as meeting with a software engineer in order to have one to one talks about how to better my coding ability. The reason this will be an area of research for myself is due to issues with previous work being held back by certain time wasting issues. I am working to develop or source tools for animation to allow Dan to streamline his workflow in order to spend more time on what he wants to do and less on tedious tasks that he would have to repeat.

I have been looking into FACs (facial action coding system) and thanks to my dissertation i have a good foundation of research material into the how humans respond to facial movements, the areas of research that i used previously will carry over into my practical work. Looking into how the brain reacts to a certain facial queue or expression will be a main area of focus throughout this semester for myself as well as how stylisation of a character plays into this.

I am also working towards getting technical artists within the industry to help critique my work and improve my results. As a team we are also looking into getting meetings with people with experience in sign language in order for us to create realistic movements within are animation.

Challenges and Problems

Due to the girl within the story being deaf i wanted to develop a facial rig to allow Dan (animator lead) to develop stable facial movements to portray emotion and create a conversation with the stranger without her actually speaking. Have been talking with Matt the director of the project and discussing where issues might arise with the rigging process.

1- Having the girls backpack have weight and be able to be lifted onto her shoulder

2-Facial emotion and conversation without speaking (girl)

3- Environmental rigging and details (tree sway and foot prints)

4-Detailed hand animation for sign language

I have currently been reading Stop Staring by Jason Osipa aswell as other outside sources to push my rigs further. Researching how to create systems such as fleshy eyes to bring that area to life and sticky lips to allow for create phoneme shapes for speaking. This has also brought up a interesting point of testing, whether to use a joint based system for the face or a blend shape as the main level of control.

Current Research Sources

Facial Rigging-

FACs Manual -PDF – this source is useful in developing a base for my characters facial movements and how those movements relate to emotion.

stop staring maya rigging – facial rigging guide to develop some more advanced techniques such as sub jaws and sticky lips for lip sync and general facial movement.

Character Rigging-

Different ways of developing spine rigs – New technique to what I’m used to, this way seems to provide a nicer workflow for the animators which in turn will help production

Adding jiggle and realism to movement – allows me to add more realistic movement to a character for movement, could be useful in order to portray realism and weight.

Elbow Pinning – researched for specific reason in are production to allow the Stranger to move while being locked on his elbow

Hand Rigging – For the sign language

Finger and thumb rigging – Sign language

Character skinning with collision

Backpack Rigging-

Ribbon Spine

Backpack Rigging example (series)

Python Training For Toolset creation –              (Greg recommended)

working with outside software engineer (Chris Gill – kainos)

Early Testing and Future ambitions

Some early issues that have arose are IK/FK matching to allow for a seamless blend and a animation library so that Dan can create character poses for the face, body or hands etc and save out poses for the entire team to use or for himself to use in the future. While characters and other things were still getting fleshed out i began working on testing some elements that i thought could become a problem in the next few weeks.

Above is a screenshot from my own test rig. The tooltip is called studio library and allows for the saving of poses and animations. This open source script was then tweaked in python to allow the entire team to access the library from a online sever such as google drive or dropbox. This also demonstrates a early test of a joint based rig that would allow for a lot of animation tweaking and fine tuning. I would like to refine this tool with a facial setup that allows for a mix of different poses and blending between them.

Above is an example of the library in action.

Above shows a early test of how i could develop an eye rig in order to create more realism within a characters facial animation. This movement allows for a better sense of emotion when moving the eyes in certain directions and creating certain poses. This will be refined in the future to allow for a joint based setup to control the lid shape, rotation and position as well as a cornea bump bump into it to simulate a real eye.

Above shows an early test into developing a sticky lips system as shown in “Stop Staring”. This system allows for greater sense of reality when producing mouth shapes in a character and allow for Dan to have even more control over the defomations around the mouth while animating to develop character. This system will be further developed to allow for smoother results and more fluid blending.

Above shows an example of a tool i have created for perfect IK/FK matching to allow for a more productive animation pipeline for Dan so he doesn’t have to work on matching the blend up by hand himself he can just hit a button and it will snap in place for him. This will become useful when working on animating the Stranger character in the production due to him having to move a lot while having weight on his arms.