Helping Other Teams

Throughout the semester i was trying to get work from other teams to see if i could challenge myself more when it comes to rigging. Luckily some teams were in need of a hand with there own characters. I managed to get work from 3 out of the 5 other teams in the room.

Group 1

The first group to approach me were Katie, Nadine,Shelley and Rachel. They had a biped child that needed to be rigged at relatively short notice. I was given the rig and went about building a simple biped rig as i was instructed that the character didn’t need to do anything extreme when it comes to animation. In the end i went with a simple IK/FK control for the arms and legs, no stretch built in as it was not necessary for the animation. everything else was the same as Kimmy only less developed due to their lesser animation than our own.

Group 2

The second time which i helped out on was the sea house project of Dan, Ryan, Beth and Nathan. This wasn’t much work as the team had already chososen to use a Mixamo rig for there character but due to some issues with weight painting and maintaining volume. I also adjust a lot of controls that were bugging Dan when trying to animate due to their scale.

Above shows the issues before my alterations. Below shows the deformations after my corrections. Sadly i didn’t have enough time to do a complete overhaul on the rig as other deadlines were fast approaching but i managed to get the necessary fixes done to allow for some better hand animation.

Group 3

Another team that asked if i could help them out was the PTSD group of James, Aiden, Daryl and Charlie. At first they needed a train rig to allow handles to swing within their game. I set this up with a master control to allow for all handles to swing at once, this was then put through an expression to offset each handle so they don’t look as stiff and robotic. The next step was to develop a system to allow each handle to move by itself if needed, similar to how i set up the previous rigs finger tweak controls i just hierarchy of joints to develop controls to move each handle independently.

The second rig i was asked to develop was a headless biped male rig to allow the VR user to have a body if they looked down. The rig itself was meant to be very primitive and allow for simple idle animation while the game was running.


Sadly due to time constraints and issues these never made it into their version.





Character Rigging: Extras

For the teams animation we had two main characters and then a few smaller roles that required some more character rigging. The first being a giant monster and the other being a small bird.

The Monster

the monster character was created to be used in the background of episode 1.


model : Hannah Loughridge

This rig was a difficult one even though it was only playing a small part within the animation. The main problems being that that arms needed to be dragged behind the model while walking and the fact that his legs were incredibly short.

The structure of the rig is the same as Kimmys/Alarm clock but has some slight changes to account for his body shape and weight.


His legs provided challenging especially when skinning but due to him being hidden in the scene i decided to not worry about perfecting the weights and instead moved on with the rest of the skin.

The more interesting part of this rig came when getting to the back and rigging the butt. This system was made really just for fun out of a few IK handles and constraints to a allow him to twerk, sadly we ran out of time to animate this scene.


I had to place some joints into the torso of the rig to main weight whenever he bends. This again was to allow for automatic volume preservation in his belly in order to keep weight while being animated.

His arms had to be developed into a different kind of arm rig due to what is required. The arms are built out of a IK spline with clusters attached throughout to control different sections of the arm, similar to a tentacle rig. These clusters were then driven by curves at the top of each limb to provide a nice curve to the arm, tweak controls were then added to allow the animator to move and section of the arm they wanted. This allowed for a better workflow for the animator when striking a pose.

For the pinning control to allow the arm to be locked to the floor but still able to move if needed. i developed a curve and locator system that drove the PIN curves on the arm which had the deformation controls parented underneath. This allowed for the animator to pin the arm in place but still adjust its transform and rotation values without ruining the pin.

Monster Rig in action


The Bird Rig

Compared to my other rigs for the project this was the much simpler. The bird itself will be used to chirp at the start of a episode and also to fly around Kimmys head whenever she is struck on the head.

the rig is made of a very simple joint chain with no fancy solutions.


The main interesting thing the bird has is the ability to bend its wings to give a nice piece of overlapping action if required. The legs of the bird were discussed amongst the team and we thought that being able to bend them backward in a curve rather than with a actual knee would look nicer for the flying section. I developed a system of IK spline being driven by a IK handle leg chain to give the curve effect. The Beak was built through a joint chain and a few simple blend shapes.

Animation by Matt McDyre

For practical reasons this rig was kept simple in order to spend more time on the more complex issues at hand. For example getting the birds to attach to Kimmys head in order to have then fly in a circle on impact.

This was achieved through attaching the birds and creating  there own offset group for each bird to allow for different scale, translation and rotation away from the origin circle if required



Character Rigging: Alarm Clock

Once the Kimmy rig was in the test phase and i was awaiting bugs to appear i worked on rigging the character model that Hannah Turkington modelled.

Link to Hannah Turkingtons Model

The alarm clock proved to be a difficult rig to develop due to the complexity of some of the animations required. Because of the animation required i decided to develop two rigs for the clock in order to make things cleaner. One rig would be developed for the scene where he walks into the shot to hit her with a bat and the other for when he is sitting down and has to get up.

The Standing Rig

I began building the rig the same way i did with Kimmy by developing the IK/FK ribbon setup for the arms and legs. This setup was added to this rig due to the ability to make the arms and legs less angled and more curved if needed to match his wire arms and legs. Most of his rig is similar to Kimmys in structure and design but with a few added tweaks to allow for his unique character to develop.


The character does not have a spine and his bottom jaw is where the legs attach which proved to be a problem when making him talk and walk at the same time. The flexi planes within his arms give the animator the ability to curve the arm in whatever position required to develop the pose.


The Mouth of the rig is controlled at the back of the head, Matt wanted to the bottom jaw to remain still and push the top jaw up to make his speech more believable when he was sitting on the table. The jaw is controlled through a system of joints added to the centre of gravity control which are manipulated through a series of curves.

This rig required little to know real skinning due to the rigidity in the face of the model, the only real weight painting was on the limbs.

The Facial Rig

The face of the alarm clock was setup similar to how Kimmys mouth textures worked only this time i had to take it up a notch in terms of complexity. We wanted the eyes to be able to fade if needed or dim slightly so i had to develop a layered shader that could have different eyes blended over the top through multiply layers. These would turned on and off through set driven keys in order to create a fade that looked similar to a real clock face.


During the early stages of development i wanted the team to play around with my versions of the rig due to this being a type of character i had never rigged before it required a lot of tweaks. A lot of the issues came from the connect between the shoulders and the torso due to the creasing and creating ugly deformations. I managed to fix this issue by creating some influence objects within the shoulder to hold volume.

Animation: Matt McDyre

One of the things myself and Matt talked about was being able to achieve a certain attitude from the clock. I went about rigging him in order acheive the following walk.

The Bat

when rigging the character one of the main features of the standing rig is the ability to allow the character to carry and weird a bat as a weapon. The bat itself is just connected to the arms via a parent constraint to allow it to be held in either hand or both depending on the weight value. Giving the animator the option to place it in whatever pose they require.

The alarm clock is able to hold the bat in either hand or both by manually moving the arm ends to wrap around or using the set driven key function to do it for you similar to Kimmys hand setup.


The bat itself was rigged with a few features in order to allow it to deform as a cartoon style weapon would if required by the animator such as squashing or bending upon impact. This was developed through a series of non-linear deformers and blend shapes to drive the skinned mesh.

The Sitting Rig

The rig for the sitting alarm clock was far more complex in design than the original standing rig. The benefit for having two versions allowed the team to go and test and animate the scenes for the standing section of the animation while i figured out what was needed for this rig.

The rig would have to have a more developed facial rig due to it have to lip sync the words “Wake Up” on loop. It would also need a new level of complexity added to the arm and leg setup in order for them to grow.

This version of the clock requires a few different features that wouldn’t be required in the standing rig such as a head squash for when he gets turned off in the morning.


The Facial Rig

The big problem with is face rig was that the bottom jaw had to stay grounded in order to not clip through the table it was sitting on. This was completely new to me and required a lot of tests in order to achieve what we wanted.

The method i went for involved two IK spline chains attached at either side of the mouth to give a nice stretching effect with some weight being added to the back of the head as it moves. These two chains are driven by a series of joints in the middle of the face to ensure it rotates from the back of the jaw but can also be moved side to side or translated in any direction if needed.

The mouth shapes were done in through a series of blend shapes. They were built specifically to say the required words as building a general lip sync rig would be impractical for a character that only says two words.

Animated version

animation : Hannah Loughridge

Growing arms/Legs

In order to have the legs grow from inside the alarm clock i decided to develop a Offset set driven key which would drive the arm group. This would move the arms in and out, while the arm curves would allow for scaling in X.

The Final Rig


Character Rigging: Kimmy

During the assets modelling stage Matt was able to produce a blocked version of Kimmy in order for me to jump onto rigging at a early stage.

Model: Matt McDyre


This early version of the rig would be use to work out any bugs in terms of structure and see where problems with model deformation might arise. After studying the model and character sheet i thought the most problematic area was going to be the legs due to there shape so i began from there.

I created my node outline for the rig then began. This outline allows for a clean workflow for myself as well as creating a non destructive place to store my work.

screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-13-54-31I began with a simple 3 joint chain for the legs and created a separate chain for the feet. The legs are the typical IK/FK joint setup using blend colours nodes to drive the Bind chain. As thought the knees were a particular area of issue due to the block shape and volume. After creating this chain i decided i should look into implementing my method i had tested previously on the arm by using the Bind chain to drive a flexi planes which in turn would deform the mesh to bend in a more cartoon/stylised way.

The flexi plane itself is created through a curbs surface which is driven by a series of non linear deformers and blend shapes, this then has follicles attached to the surface that drive the joints seen above. A flexi plane would have to be connect to each limb such as thigh then knee in order to get the freedom required for the animator to reproduce the bendy limbs we wanted.


I first saw this method in the Digital tutors video series. This flexi plane system allows for added control of the knee to give a knee which has a free transform ability as pictured above. The legs included a squash and stretch ability on both IK and FK for any cases that might need it, such as falling from a great high or being pulled by her legs.

 This setup was created through a digital tutors tutorial that showed me how to use the node editor to develop a stretch effect on the legs through the IK or FK joints

screen-shot-2017-01-16-at-11-44-55I then allowed the bind chain to follow the scale of the IK or FK joints through a expression.


In the end this is how my leg bind chain ended up looking like within my node editor.


The feet for the rig was developed as a  locator driven foot roll with a built in FK control to allow for additional tweaking if required. This was developed through the hierarchy of Bind joints. This was a decision made by myself to allow the animator as much freedom as when animating and ensure they can easily adjust a pose on the feet if required.


The main issue i had with this setup was the fact that i had inverted the foot roll so that a negative value produced the most used result when animating. This meant i had to do some tweaking with clamp nodes in order to develop a positive value.


After learning some valuable techniques when developing the legs the arms were built almost the same way in order to have the same capabilities as the legs. This included flexi plane bend controls, IK/FK blend and stretching, elbow transform control and due to the fact that flexi planes were the made driver of the skin the counter twist was taken care of for both arms and legs.


The clavicle joints and rig were built as a simple rotation based control to avoid any issues i might have with IKs this seemed to be a more time efficient way than creating a transform based clavicle.


After completing the leg and foot setup i moved onto developing a spine rig that would also for some nice fluid animation. i decided to create a IK spline rig that is controlled by a underlying FK spine which i learnt from the maya learning channel in previous years of study.


Creating the joints in the centre of the spine was made a lot easier due to a script i was able to find on digital tutors and tweak to fit my needs. The script allows me to split the joint into equal sections.


The spine has built in squash and stretch capabilities which i created through the node editor.


Again this was developed to make the animators life easier when working so they did not have to worry about preserving volume in her torso.

Ribbon Arms/Legs

One of the things the team talked about was trying to be able to make Kimmys arms create a wave effect if required. In order to achieve this i found a useful tutorial on youtube where a similar system is created.

From this video i was able to learn how to create a “Ribbon Spine” and implement this system in a characters arms. I created a nurbs surface with a similar system to the flexi plane of follicles and joints which is then skinned to the flexi plane joints. These surfaces are then duplicated and used to create blend shapes that allow for sine waves to be attached to them. This then creates the arm wave without restricting the underlying arm structure of the rig so that the arm can still be animated as normal while waving.


In the end the arms/leg hierarchy is as follows:

IK joints   –   FK joints

Blend Colours 

Bind Joints

Flexi Plane Joints

Ribbon Spine

Final Deformation


Model: Matt McDyre

Model Upgrade

During the time between me having the main structure built and creating the hand rig Matt finished the final model for Kimmy so that is what i moved onto working with.

link to character modelling process by Matt McDyre


For the hand controls there was a good bit of back and forth between myself and Matt McDyre as to what he would like in terms of animation controls. We decided on a triple layered system for the fingers and a FK system for the thumbs. The fingers would have a master controller that controls all fingers through a setup of set driven keys, there is then a setup of single finger controllers that will move through set driven keys. Finally there is a FK setup for each finger joint for fine tuning each pose within the animation. It is important to ensure that each layer of control is able to work in conjunction with on and other when animating to allow for the team to work in a efficient manner.

Below shows the control system is driven through the hierarchy using DRV joints for the set driven keys.


The outcome at the end was something i was very proud of and would work on refining to implement next seamster, i have began developing a script to automate the create of these DRV and bind hierarchy to increase productivity.



During the process of rigging Kimmy it was a constant back and forth between myself and the rest of the team, sending them versions of rigs for them to test out and we could see what needed changed. This allowed us to fix issues before they became a real problem while animating.

early test

Animation: Matt McDyre

final test


Animation : Hannah Loughridge

Animation: Matt McDyre


During the skinning process i managed to get chatting with Greg MaGuire and he told me about the weight painting plugin he uses when skinning a character called NgSkinTools. This came in extremely useful when painting the weights on things such as the fingers and wave weights. The tool uses a better algorithm for smoothing out vertex weights and also allows for non destructive weight mirroring even when the character isn’t in a T-pose.

The ability to have weight layers also proved to be a amazing feature when working on areas such as the clavicles.

During the skinning process we were testing the rig and how it move and a issue popped up due to the shape of Kimmys upper half. This meant Matt had to do some model redesigns and id have to re-skin. Luckily i was able to export the weight maps from one model onto the other with minimal effort required in touching up certain areas.

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Corrective Blendshapes

Due to the shape and proportions of Kimmy i found it challenging to achieve the level of skinning i would of liked, therefore there was a lot more corrective shapes then first thought when finishing the rig. The corrective shapes were built with the aid of the extract delta plugin for maya. These were then mirrorED with another script i learnt how to create through digital tutors.


Above is what the deformations where like before the corrective shapes were applied. Below is the result of the shapes.

Above is a example of the amount of corrective shapes that Kimmy had applied to her target shape and a example of the results. The blend shapes allowed for a nice silhouette on the shoulders and hips allowing for a better flow of lines. This flow would be important when try to replicate how someone might draw a cartoon character.


The Face

For are story we wanted Kimmy to be mute the entire time so in order to portray emotion we needed to have a solid facial rig. After working closely with Matt McDyre and talking about his time animating in BillyGoat we thought the best idea was to use a blend shape driven rig for Kimmy and he preferred to animate on curves that were offset from her face rather than being on the face itself.

After my work on the hands i know how important a tweak rig, such as on the finger joints, can be when trying to strike an important pose therefore i decided to try and implement that within Kimmys Face.

The Design Decision was made to make Kimmys eyes and glasses be almost the same and that her glasses would move rather than her have brows to deform to cause expression. Therefore the glasses and pupils where the focus for my main blend shapes. The glasses had been modelled curved, to get a nicer set of blend shapes i decided to straighten them out then deform then with a lattice later on. This lattice would have to be used to drive the transformation of the pupils swell as then needed to travel across a curved surface.

Above is the final result of the blend shape rig for Kimmys face. It is a setup of several set driven keys and curves in order to create the final deformation on the skinned mesh. the deformations are then put through the lattice as seen above to ensure the nice curved shape.

Once the blend shape side of the facial rig was complete i moved onto added a system of tweak joints to the glasses to allow for more subtle movements if required by the team. Though the node editor and some hierarchy tricks i was able to develop a system of curbs surfaces that control joints on the face. The curbs surfaces follow along with the vertex they are assign to even when a blend shape has deformed the face, the joints on the other hand do not move. The joints one move when the tweak system is interactive with allowing the joints to hold their weight on the glasses while a blend shape is being deformed and then moving the tweak control to fine tune the pose.


Below is a test animation completed with a early version of the facial rig to see when could be achieved.

Animation: Matt McDyre

Once the glasses and eyes were completed i moved onto developing a system for creating a mouth rig for the textures we had. Hannah Turkington had been playing around with the idea of layered shaders and a texture sequence in order to drive a projected mouth on top of Kimmy. I took what Hannah had been working on and added it into the facial rig with some new controls.

Through the texture placement i was also able to transform the mouth position on Kimmy to allow for some different results.

The Final Rig