Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Evaluation of learning and development.

For this unit I have been using Maya because it is the program I have been using the most since I started the course and it made sense to stick with it. I initially decided I was going to develop lighting and rigging skills, but after speaking to Dan we came to the conclusion that I should focus on rigging as it would benefit me the most and I was already somewhat comfortable with lighting.
With that I decided that if I learnt enough to do with rigging and if my skills were decent enough I could potentially be used as a back up rigger for the group if a problem with Clym arose. So I thought that the models I rig should be similar to the style of the film, hence I started of with the squirrel. I chose the squirrel because of the fact it is short and blocky and quite similar to the characteristics of the child and penguin (ex penguin) in our short film. I started off with the squirrel because I felt it would be a simple enough model to rig whilst learning the basics and brushing up on skills. For the squirrel I intended to create a fully functional rig, with IK controls, blendshapes and proper skinning. Looking back in hindsight that may have been a bit over ambitious because it was my first proper rig and I was bound to run into trouble. This most certainly was the case as I ended up having major problems with the weighting and skeleton issues, which thus meant I could not create set driven keys for the hands (the hand joints had removed themselves from the joint hierarchy when I added bend to the arm IKs). The blendshapes were a success, and I found them thoroughly enjoyable. Creating blendshapes have to be my favourite part of the process. Although I had my fair share of problems I definitely learnt a lot throughout this process, the squirrel got me familiar once again with the basics of rigging, skinning, creating IK handles and the component editor.
The next model I attempted to rig was 'Joe'. I chose this model because of the simple geometry and I thought it would be perfect to attempt to create stretchy limbs and a slightly more exaggerated control scheme. I ended up using a tutorial from youtube to create the stretchy limbs as it really simplified the process, it became like second nature after I did it a few times. I also added a reverse footlock for this rig and got all the limbs bending and stretching properly. The area where I got stuck was once again the weights. I was having the same issue I had with the squirrel rig, in that I would paint weights, and influence would get randomly placed across the rig, as well as influence removing itself once I deselected the joint I had been working on. The problem got so severe the model was almost tearing itself apart when I would move the controllers. This made me very angry and resulted in me completing a whole new rig just to problem solve the weights issue. In the end I did resolve the problem I had been having which was to do with choosing an option for adding weights that apparently was very buggy, thus the influence problem. (I painted the weights using a new method involving the component editor and adding values of 1 to the selected joints for the various solo meshes). Even though I had resolved the biggest hurdle facing me, more problems still kept arising and the rig become too much hassle so I decided to call it finished. I made up for the lack of set driven keys by creating a separate hand skeleton and giving that some basic set driven key functions. He has problems with his torso controls but this is down to me messing with a few things in the torso and trying to add stretch aswell as twist.
My final rig used my own finished model of the eel for the short film. I made this rig purely as a test for painting weights and sorting out all the weighting issues I had been having. I decided to use this model because I felt I was ready to attempt it and the model was simple enough for the weighting test. I had alot of fun and made the rig relatively quickly. As mentioned before I did eventually solve the weight problem, it all happened whilst watching a video on youtube on painting weights. The guy had said not to select a certain option, and then it dawned on me that it had been causing me all the problems I had been having all term. I learnt how to use the sine deformer, and created clusters using an IK spline handle. Aswell as that I feel confident with painting weights now, the component editor and parenting handles together. I also made a master controller which works fine and moves the mesh as needed.
Looking back at it all I do feel confident with the basics and some more intermediate aspects of rigging. If you asked me to create a rig I think I could do a decent job, there are still problems I need to solve and areas I need to perfect, but as with anything that comes with practice. I have basically created a usable eel rig, which incase Clym did not finish his eel rig, mine could be used instead as a backup. I have learnt lots and there is more I would like to learn, I did briefly start learning maya muscle, and that is something I will definitely look more into as I want to rig the models I make in my own time, which are quite hi res, detailed and realistic.

Just to clarify -
Squirrel has - no finger/foot controls
Joe - no finger controls, torso has twist problems and head has no controls.
Eel - fully complete and functional

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Analysis of rig

I have decided to leave the Joe rig and call it finished. This is mainly because there are numerous problems that are too much hassle, I could have just started a new rig instead. Even with all these problems I feel the rig has been somewhat successful because it has the key features I initially was after; reverse footlock and stretchy limbs. I also ended up finally understanding why I was have problems with painting weights, it was the reason I ended up rigging the entire eel. The stretchy limbs work well and look awesome, I just wish I could have sorted out the torso and added set driven keys for the hands. I made up for the latter by making a separate hand rig to demonstrate I know how to create set driven keys well. I was never sure what caused the fingers on Joe to bend incorrectly but I am guessing it could be the weights, that is not a definite answer though.
Below are some shots of the rig posed, these are not the best or most interesting poses but they show the rig in action.

Problem with fingers/ new test hand

So I attempted to create some set driven keys for the hands for Joe, but when it came down to rotating joints, they seemed to be rotating incorrectly, almost as if they were separate pieces from each other. I then added the eyes to the head joint, but found the head rotates incorrectly when the body controls are moved. I have thus decided to leave the Joe rig as it is because it has far too many problems that I am unable to fix. To show I can create set driven keys I made a quick test hand and made some quick actions. I create a spread between the fingers, a tilt movement and a fist.

Back and on track!

Seeing as I got the eel rig finished without any problems and finally overcoming the problems I was having with weights I decided it was time to go back to the Joe rig and sort him out. As documented before, there was horrible tearing in the mesh whenever I moved any handles because of horrible weights, thats not the case anymore however.
I was on skype last night, talking to Clym about all the things I did for the eel and that I was going to go back and fix Joe, and he told me because the joe rig is basically a collection of individual pieces I should just 'paint weights' using the component editor as that would be much more straightforward. To my shock it is incredibly fast and well suited to that kind of model, so I ended up using the method for the whole rig. It took minutes instead of hours..Truly awesome. I thank Clym for that recommendation.
Next up is to create some set driven keys n get those fingers moving, add some foot bend controls and sort out those eyes. Then I will be more or less done aside from that torso problem.

Eel poses

Here are shots of the final Eel posed up. I forgot to hide deformers, so you can see the cluster signs everywhere..LOL

Vids of eel

A couple of videos demonstrating some of the controls for the head and body. I feel that in the hands of a skilled animator the rig has potential for some nice animation.
video

video

Monday, 3 January 2011

Sail fins in action

Here is a playblast of the sail fins in action. You can see the sine deformer is perfect for getting the desired wavy effect. (If the video does not replay you may need to refresh the page).
video

Eel rig completed! Analysis of Rig.

Well that went surprisingly fast, the rig is now complete. I spent less than two days creating this rig, that is probably down to the simple shape and lack of complexity, although this model was always about problem solving and learning to paint weights properly. With that in mind I would say it has been very successful and I have learnt a few things too.
The biggest hurdle I have been having all term has finally been solved and I can now paint weights. It turns out it was all down to using the buggy/wrong option for painting the weights, I am satisfied atlast because it was something I had been wanting to do properly since the start of term.
I also learnt some new things such as using the sine deformer effectively, it is a great tool and added that little bit of awesome ness to the rig. Using an IK spline handle and creating clusters has been fun too as I remember doing something along those lines last year but never utilised the tools properly until now. I also learnt a neat trick from Clym, which was that I could paint weights using the component editor. I did that on the squirrel rig a little but I now see its actually very very useful. I will post up some pictures of the rig posed and some videos too perhaps.

Sail fin - Sine deformer

To achieve the wavy effect of the sail fins I have used the sine deformer. I added the sine deformer to the selected vertices, then created a set driven key between the deformer and a nurbs circle to allow the handle to control the movement. I have to say its very very effective and looks great. I have to thank Clym for the recommendation of the sine deformer, as I originally used the wave deformer but the results were not as good, it turned out I was keying the wrong attribute and the wave deformer is just not as awesome as sine!

Eel progress

Nearly done with painting the weights and I have to say its going very well. All the weights I paint are staying in place and I am ironing out all the creases. I should not have a problem with painting weights ever again now I know the correct method. I just feel that I should have perhaps tried to learn what was wrong faster, that way I could have fixed the squirrel. Although I guess this is a learning process, and you can only learn by making mistakes and then attempting to improve upon the next time.

Eureka! Painting weights solved

I have finally found out why I have been having such epic problems with painting weights. The solution or should I say correct method was revealed to me while watching this video on painting weights.

Basically the guy in the video just runs through painting weights and discusses the key facts. He then spoke about the correct settings for adding weights to the joints. It is best to always use 'Add' and never to use 'Replace' because apparently when using 'Replace', influence is added to random parts of the mesh and screws everything up. As soon as he said that I knew it was the root of all the problems I have been having. So I went straight into maya and did a test, using Add is definitely the correct way and using replace does indeed cause the problems. So this has been the issue on my squirrel rig and the mother of all problems on my joe rig. I will now use this knowledge and paint effective weights onto the eel.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Clusters on spine

I was browsing through tutorials and came across one on creating a spine setup using clusters. I figured it maybe exactly what I need and gave it a try. The rough test I did was quite effective and I liked the movement it gave me so I have decided it will be part of the final rig. Below in the picture you can see the 5 clusters I have created using the spans on the spline curve. This was made really simply, using an IK spline handle, from which I select the spline curve and create clusters. I created about 5 as I felt that would be more than enough for the fluid movement I was after.

The tutorial link is HERE . It is by Javier Solsona. I used one of his tutorials on reverse footlock on the Joe rig I am working on.

Base skeleton in place

I have the basic skeleton in place now. As per usual I have been strict with the naming so no confusion occurs during the rest of the rigging process. I am not sure what kind of method I will be using for the body yet but I remember using an IK spline for a test rig I did way back in second year which was very good for achieving a fluid, soft movement for this sort of shaped model, something with no limbs. So I will possibly think about using that.

What next?

I have decided to put the Joe rig on hold for the moment as I need something simpler to work on while testing weights and so forth. So what I plan to do is basically create a simple rig for the eel character I made for 'The Deep'. I originally planned to do this ages ago, but it never worked out that way so better late than never. This rig will be all about making sure I nail the weights and get the skin bound correctly.

Still having issues with weights

Yes...I am still having issues with weights. The worst part is now the rig at the moment has gone into meltdown. After attempting to paint the weights and hold them in place the other day, the rig now has some major problems. If I move the controllers for the torso or arm the model almost tears itself apart as parts are being pulled away. I feel quite annoyed by this because obviously the problem lies with the weights and for some reason I just have not solved the issue yet. I have a strange feeling that perhaps my version of maya is just a little buggy with the weights but I cannot say if that is definitely the case. I will ask others to see if they have similar problems and then decide what to do.

Reverse footlock tutorial

To learn how to create the reverse footlock I used a tutorial I found on the internet by Javier ' Goosh' Solsona. I found the tutorial to be very straight forward and effective as I only needed to go through it twice to pick up the method. The link is here : REVERSE FOOTLOCK LINK

He also has a bunch of other tutorials up on how to create elastic feet, FK/IK switching. I have skimmed through a few and may use a few more in the future to learn a few things.