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Discover an alternative to the traditional character rigging workflow with the Character Animation Toolkit (CAT) for 3ds Max, which offers preset character rigs as well as custom tools for creating a rig from scratch. Author Joel Bradley demonstrates animation layers; CAT muscles, which you can use to create a skin that deforms and stretches realistically as your character moves; and the forward/inverse kinematics workflow. The final chapter puts all these features into motion, as you apply the tools to a full character rig with secondary bones and perform a stress test animation.
Even if we only have a little experience with rigging inside a 3d application, we will be aware that scenes can get pretty complex in no time at all. With this in mind, a best practice option would be to organize our rigs as we work. I really would strongly recommend getting into the habit of doing this, as it will make our work and the work of others who may need to ultimately use our rig so much easier in the long run. First, let's tackle the issue with actually naming our rig.
Good naming conventions will make selection on manipulation of rig paths far quicker and easier than it would be if we were to just keep all the defaults in place. If we come and select our CATParent object and then move over to the Modify panel, we can see in the CATRig Parameters rollout we have an option for applying a name to the Helper object. Let's give our CATParent the name of OurRig and then press Enter. One important concept we need to understand regarding organization with CAT is that it uses what I like to call a propagation system.
What I mean is that CAT passes certain organizational elements down the chain. So, if we now select any bone in our rig, we can see that it has the prefix name of OurRig. This is true for every aspect of the system. This functionality means we have the ability to give a number of rigs in a scene distinct names that will separate them from one another without having to go and rename every individual bone. If I just select all of my current CATRig and press the W key to enable the Move tool, and holding down Shift, I just copy my rig to the left and then say OK to the Clone options.
If I then bring up the Select from Scene dialog using the H key, you will notice that picking out the names of individual bones will be quite a challenge as the rig prefix and the bone name simply run into one another. Worse still is the fact that the body parts of both rigs are mixed together, so for instance we can see we have OurRigRThigh and OurRigRThigh001. To fix the mixing problem, I'm just going to cancel out of the dialog and select our CATParent Helper.
And I'm going to name this "TheRig". If I press the H key once again to bring back our dialog box, you'll notice that all of our bones are now separated out according to the Helpers. We have all the bones associated with OurRig, and we also have all the bones associated with TheRig all grouped together. Now, to tackle the issue of prefix and bone names running into one another, I generally like to use underscores. For instance, if I just cancel the dialog box and come back over to the name of our CATParent and place an underscore at the end of its name, and then I come back into my Select from Scene dialog box, you will notice that it's just that much easier to read.
I think the underscore at the Parent level means we only need to type it once, and as you can see in this list, it will propagate throughout our entire rig. We can extend this organizational technique even further and change the name of individual hierarchies in our rig and have that name pass down to all of the child bones. Let's select the left collarbone of one of our rigs and give it a more descriptive and easy to read name. I'm going to call it Left underscore Arm and then place an underscore at the end and press Enter.
Now, if we click on any of the children of this bone, we can see that the Rig prefix, the Hierarchy prefix, and the individual bone name carries all the way down to the last bone in the hierarchal chain. This propagation concept also carries over when it comes to creating custom colors for our rig. Artists oftentimes like to use color conventions to help them distinguish certain parts of the rig at a glance. As an animator, you may have a certain color coding system.
With our bone selected--and we can select any bone in the chain, it doesn't really matter-- let's come over to the right of our name dialog box, and let's click this Color Swatch to change the color of our bone. Of course, you can use any color of your choice. For me, because I often use the Biped system in Max, I'm going to use a standard Biped color and set this to an RGB value of 28, 28, and 177, and then just click OK.
As with the naming system, all of the bones in this hierarchy receive this color change. Let's do the same with our Leg, let's select a bone, come over to our Color Swatch, and give it a value of 28, 28, and 177, and again click OK. Now we have the left side of the rig nicely color coded. What, though, if we wanted to have a single bone in the middle of the chain colored differently? In this instance, we would need to select the bone and use the separate 3ds Max object Color Swatch.
Once in here, we can pick a color of our choice and click OK, and you'll notice only that bone receives the color change. This means we have a few extra options when color coding our bones. Hopefully you can see the potential benefits that come from having a well-organized rig. In our next video, we will move on to examining the tools CAT makes available in connection with editing our rigs.
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