The Bee was a fairly simple model and rig, and mainly comprised of small textured spheres – with wings and legs attached by locators and IK controls to allow them to articulate easily.
The Hawk Rig originally functioned well enough, but it had some scaling issues that made some of the wing flex animation appear wonky, and the controls weren’t exactly clear in their purpose.
So I rerigged it to fix the scaling problem and then created a more clear layout for the controls, as well as adding some stretch capability to the wings so that they could enhance the silhouette.
The Rig is mostly fairly self-explanatory, with basic wing controls to allow the different parts to bend and twist, as the Hawk only appears briefly in the film and is mostly moving in dives or glides, he didn’t need excessively complex components.
This tutorial by Mike Hermes formed the basis for what I chose to do, though I simplified it immensely.
Constructing the Chimera, both as a model and rig was obviously simple, it merely requires dismantling the other characters and rigs, restitching and then repainting the weights together.
Painting the Weights took the longest, and the addition of whole new sets of required joints meant that rebuilding the rig hierarchy was fairly tedious.
The main purpose of the character and rig was to be able to strike dynamic and clear poses, with a well defined silhouette – therefore the tail and wings had to be enlarged dramatically.
The Rig itself still features fairly simple components – with a basic quadrupedal IK system for the legs that was established in the rabbits. Though, like the wolf, it’s locomotion is different due to leg shape.
This will be the shortest of these Rigging Revised Posts, as the Wolf didn’t require much revision beyond the addition of more controls, and improved paintweights, as can be seen in the film.
Like the Rabbit, the Wolf suffered some stretching issues that were fixed with an additional two ‘anchor’ joints, which were driven by controls in the legs to help fix unsavory deformation.
As you can see this early snake rig was fairly basic, lacking alot of features and smoothness it needed. It was generally difficult to animate with and had many skin weighting issues.
To clean this up, I produced a couple different set ups, some that automated coiling for one scene, another that allowed each piece to be moved independently, and eventually combining these into a single Rig.
This was the Rig we’d eventually use, with all features combined – which you can see in action both in the final film and in this clip below.
The Rig had some issues, it’s bending wasn’t as smooth as I’d like, and it didn’t have as tight a coil as I’d have hoped for, but it functioned well in the situation.
The Rig suffered some weighting problems due to the thorns, which threw off the initial weight spread and had to be manually painted to the rig.
This didn’t prove to be an enormous issue – though I would like to have redesigned the rig to not include the thorns, though at this point, the blendshapes had been made and for the amount of impact it would have had – redoing them was not worth the effort.
This tutorial form the basis for the above Rig, although the exact interpretation of this lead to some issues, namely that it couldn’t form the shapes we needed it to – hence the more complex adaptation in the film.
This Rig was the replicated version of the one above – I had simplified the body which meant it needed reskinning – however during testing, it didn’t move quite the way it would need to, so we decided to simply fix minor issues and adjust the original instead.
Having completed the project, I can now reflect on the Rabbits Rig, what I learned, achieved and would improve if I were to create it again today.
Initially the Rig had alot of problems, and some of them still persist at completion.
Primarily the Rabbit can’t stand up on it’s hind legs without some major deformation issues – however research showed that the only solution to this was to have two seperate rabbit models and rigs, one built for bipedal motion and another for quadrupedal.
Seeing as the rabbit had only two scenes where he needed to stand up, this felt like an excessive diversion at the time.
Paint Weights and IK issues also appeared prevalent, and fortunately Alec was able to help correct many of those, which I could then apply to the Fat Rabbit in turn.
One of the interesting parts and adjustments made to the rabbits Rig was the functionality for chest and joint swell, which was useful for shots like the one above, where his head had to crane back and lift, which would normally cause excessive deformation and texture drag.
This was fixed with a combination of a driven joint and a blendshape that would pull in parts of the lower belly and push out the neck and chest to make it look like his body was correctly shaped from odd angles.
Constructing the Fat Rabbit rig mostly involved the transferring of attributes between the Main Character Rabbit and the Additional Rabbits.
This was fairly simply done after uncovering a couple helpful tutorials.
Transferring UV’s made painting the skin weights much easier, and meant that we could also transfer the skin weights on the Rabbit itself to it’s chubby sibling, making cleanup more effiecent.
This video was less useful but clued me on to the actual transfer of the rig to a new model and came in useful when I would add a feature to one rabbit that I wanted to replicate on the other, saving a lot of set up time and leaving only the bug fixing to do.
Autodesks own tutorial on Corrective Blendshapes was more than sufficient for the small amount we needed to do. Mostly consisting of wrist and belly inflation to compensate for the stretch and allowing the rabbit to move with a bit more weight.
Over the past few months I’ve followed alot of tutorials, below is a rather extensive list of the ones I followed.
I used this tutorial primarily to get a stronger understanding of how to skin the joints of the character, and to try and find a solution to the ‘floating eyes’ problem I encountered.
Floating Eyes: The Eye, Teeth and Tongue Geometry of the Snake frequently detached itself from the rig and moved through space parallel to the rig.
When Modelling the Rabbit and Snake, and early attempts at the wolf – I would create their general shape in Maya then port over to Zbrush for fine detailing – I hadn’t touched Zbrush for some time and so I used this tutorial and the one below to refresh my memory on how to use it.
This Tutorial and the two below are fairly obvious, Mainly trying to find different ways of modelling the eyes to make them look realistic – Anna was fairly strong in her view that the eyes needed to be realistic to make the characters feel alive, and so I wanted a range of options.
This particular tutorial was quite handing for working out how to get eye-reflection, however it didn’t work as well in Arnold as it did in the early test renders on maya software.
The mouth cavity tutorials were mostly to just get an eye for the topology and working out how the blend-shapes would deform.
This particular tutorial was mostly to try and get an idea for how I wanted the mouth to deform with teeth and still appear threatening, though I ended up going for the more realistic approach with the teeth and have them contained within the mouth instead of protruding out.
I love the look of this rig and some of the more interesting components of it, though it was more complex than what we needed for the short.
This tutorial was particular useful for grasping how the leg set up should work, with the full body crouching and hierarchy structure of the controls.
This and the tutorial below, primarily served to get a sense of how the legs of the wolf and chimera should bend – initially the chimera was a completely different creature from the wolf, exhibiting similarities and features, but eventually it became easier to simply adapt the wolf itself for narrative reasons.
Though we had no human characters, these were mostly to help get a sense of IK set-ups and refresh my memory of some of the tools available to me while rigging.
Similarly, this tutorial was to help me quickly grasp joint hierarchy and remind myself of the different settings and options available when setting up skin weights.
Whilst this tutorial was helpful, the features it showed from DM were never used, as I couldn’t actually source a free functional version of it for 2018, though the 2017 version was interesting to play around with, if a bit clumsy looking.
Initially, the facial animation was going to be done with controls, however blendshapes were a stronger and more flexible choice for what we wanted.
This whole section was part of me trying to work out why I couldn’t get my IK’s working the way I wanted them too. It eventually took a tutorial Alec sent me from Lynda.com for me to figure out the solution.
This tutorial was less about the IK and more about the arrangement for getting the wolf leg motion exactly how we wanted.
Quadrupeds are tough and make an interesting challenge.
This first foray into Paint Effects seemed to convoluted for me to want to use, however I would later come back to it when looking at how to craft the grass for our scenes.
I loved working with XGEN and MASH grass, however it proved too scene intensive, eventually preventing my laptop from opening any scenes at all – as such, the environments had to be rebuilt and a less strenuous method found.
This was used to help guide me on how I was going to create the busier stream section, and while this tutorial builds a much more complex environment – we wanted to keep ours simpler to help maintain focus on the characters.
These tutorials were just research into different options for creating grass I had, and hopefully in creating fur on the characters – though that would eventually get scrapped for myriad reasons.
Like I mentioned earlier, I initially looked at attaching fur to the Rabbits and Wolf, however similar to with the grass overloading my environments – this made animating and fixing rigging issues very difficult, and it became more hassle than it was worth to actually graft the fur to the characters.
Most of these videos highlight the things I either got stuck on or needed to refresh myself on how to go about enacting. They were mostly helpful, with a few duds here and there depending on many different factors at the time.
The Hawk Rig was incredibly simple, as it simply needed 3 sets of joints and basic controls for the wings. Weighting similarly didn’t need too much done, and the gaps in the model would be compensated for using image planes to block out the shadow and give it a more defined edge.
This was the easiest rig, as I had already actually rigged the Rabbit, I simply had to move the existing rig across and adjust it to fit the larger mesh.
Like the other rigs, Paint Weights still haven’t been done.
To take some of the load off Anna and I, Kerry McCormick offered to sculpt the wolf for us, so that I only had to Re-Top and rig it at the end. After a short back and forth, I got the final version of her Sculpt.
I then retopologised this into a version that could be unwrapped and rigged.
Having retopologised it, I then had to move on and rig the wolf, following a similar pattern as to how I rigged the rabbit, the convenience of them both being quadrupeds.