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Using the Character object for building and applying rigs

From: CINEMA 4D Essentials 8: Character Rigging and Xpresso

Video: Using the Character object for building and applying rigs

In the previous releases of CINEMA 4D, MAXON introduced something called the Character Object, which is an amazing tool set for building and applying rigs. The Character Object has a set of rigs that are premade into it that can be applied to a wide variety of models. This greatly simplifies the process of making a rig. Now I've got a simple character here, and he's a bipedal character, and it's a combination of a single mesh and some other additional meshes that are all merged together into one polygon object. And if we zoom in on there you can see that he's got a little bit of gap between his shoulders and the top of his torso, and he doesn't have a neck, and that's really by design.

Using the Character object for building and applying rigs

In the previous releases of CINEMA 4D, MAXON introduced something called the Character Object, which is an amazing tool set for building and applying rigs. The Character Object has a set of rigs that are premade into it that can be applied to a wide variety of models. This greatly simplifies the process of making a rig. Now I've got a simple character here, and he's a bipedal character, and it's a combination of a single mesh and some other additional meshes that are all merged together into one polygon object. And if we zoom in on there you can see that he's got a little bit of gap between his shoulders and the top of his torso, and he doesn't have a neck, and that's really by design.

You don't have to design your models this way. They can have necks and shoulders and that sort of thing. I just liked to way this looks and so that's how I did it. Now if want to be able to make this guy walk across the floor I need to create a rig for it. And normally this would be a long, drawn-out process, but the Character object really simplifies that. So let's start off by adding a character object to the scene, and the Character object has Object Properties and Display Properties. We're going to focus on the Object Properties for now. The coordinates we're going to leave at the center of the world right underneath our character, and then when we click on the Object Properties there's four tabs: Build, Adjust, Binding and Animate.

These are roughly the order that you're going to be creating your rig in. So now we're in the Build mode, and we need to start building our rig. And if you look under the Templates pull-down there's a whole bunch of templates here, and there's a variety of them. I'm going to be using Advanced Biped. And the Biped Rig has a few additional issues with it that make it unsuitable for a lot of situations. The Advanced Biped Rig is much better made. The thing to keep on mind about all of these presets, these templates, is that they were made by artists, and really what the Character tool is, is a method for creating rigs.

The programmers at MAXON spent a lot of time pre-building these rigs for you so that you wouldn't have to. And so the controls that make up these rigs are easily accessible from the Character tool, but the Character tool simplifies the process of applying them. So I'm going to leave Advanced Biped selected and then down under Components is Root. Anytime you hear the word Root in terms of character rigging it means the top most part of the skeleton hierarchy. So let's click on Root and add it to the scene. You see it's childed to the Character Object, and then on the Root Object we've got a new component here and it says Spine (IK/FK Blend) and it's asking us, "Do you want to add a Spine (IK/FK Blend)?" We say yes, we do, we click that, and we're going to get a Spine.

Now when the Character tool creates the Advanced Biped rig, it's basing it on approximately six-feet tall. So your character is approximately six-feet tall. I've built this guy approximately six- feet tall, it's 182 centimeters roughly, and that translates out to about 5.9 feet. Now you can make your characters any size you want, the important thing is you'll have to resize the rig afterwards. So we're creating the rig now and then we'll resize it later, and that's in the adjust phase. So now what we want to do is we want to start adding things. We don't need eyes for this character, we do need arms though.

And if I click and hold on that, I've got two choices: IK/FK Bendy and IK/FK Only. I'm not going to do a Bendy rig right now. Bendy allows for very flexible stretchy arms and we're not going to need that for this character. I'm just going to do IK/FK Only. And when I add that I get an Arm Object. That's created a left arm. Now what I need to do is create a right arm. So to do that I'll go back to the spine object and then do Arm (IK/FK Only). Now the object already knows that it has a left arm, so it created a right arm for me.

Now you can see that the controls in the scene are getting much more complex, we're building on top of this rig one step at a time. Now we want to add legs. So let's go back to the Spine Object, and we're going to build the legs off this. Now I could do the legs one at a time like I did before but I'm going to hold down the Control key and go to Leg (IK/FK Only), and when I let go I'm going to end up with two legs right in position. Now that's a much faster way to do it. So that's all the pieces of the Character Control that I'm going to need.

You can see I've got a lot of different Control Objects, but none of them are in the right place. Now I can move to the next phase, which is Adjust. Let's click on the Adjust button, and you can see that our objects have all changed. Now we've got these little handles here. We want to make sure and leave Symmetry turned on. Now if your character is asymmetrical, like it's a Hunchback of Notre Dame or something like that and it's lopsided, then you can uncheck Symmetry and move things around by hand. But my character is perfectly symmetrical, so I'll leave that turned on. Now we can start to move these parts. So let's start with the legs, and I'm going to switch to a four-way view.

Now what I'll be doing is zooming in on things. And I'm going to select them in the Perspective View and then do some movement in the Orthographic Views. So now I can take that and drag it down. So I've selected this left leg component. And I'm going to move it down. You can see the whole leg group moves. Now what I want to do is to put that left leg object right into the character's hip, and then once I've got that, I'm going to now switch and select the left leg at his knee, and then I'm going to use the Axis Band for that and move it into the position on the knee.

You can see that it stretches out, and that's actually stretching the rig out. Let's zoom in on that area. I'm going to put that right on his knee, right there. And now we can grab the next one, which is this left leg, and that's his actual ankle, and I can move this down. You can see that takes all the foot controls with it. Let's bring that down and put that right about even with the floor, approximately. Then I could take this little controller, which is for his heel, and let's push that in and tuck it in right there. Now what I want to do is to get them lined up along the X-axis. If I switch to the Perspective View you can see that the joints are outside of his knee mesh, and we want to get those in position over here.

So let's just click on one, and then in the Front View this time, we'll back out a little bit and go down to his legs and then just move that over. Let's take the hips and move them in just a bit, switch to the Move tool and then just drag that in down a little bit. There we go. We might need to make some adjustments here on the knee. Let's grab that one and move it up here. I'm using the Axis Band to move that. Pretty good. Now that we've got his legs positioned we can focus on the spine. Let's switch back to the Perspective View and orbit up here just a bit. And we're going to start off by grabbing his hips.

We can move those up into position, about there. Then we can grab his chest and move that. And you see when we move that, the arms go with it. And I'm going to move up right about here, put that right about in the middle of his chest, and then we can grab his neck and put that down. You notice I'm using the Access Bands when I move that, I'm going to put that right there. Everything is still lined up because I'm using those Axis Bands. Now I can focus on his actual shoulders and arms. So this arm, this top one, this collar, I'm going to move up on Y right into position here. Then I can take the shoulder object and move that up so it's even with this arm.

Let's do this in the four-way view so we can really see what's going on. Zoom in that way, and let's drag that up so it's right in the center roughly, and then in the top view let's zoom way in. There we go. And then I'm going to grab the Axis Band for that and drag it right across. That's looking pretty good. Now his elbow should come back just a little bit, and then his wrist should go forward to about where his wrist would be, which is right about there. Not bad.

So you can see that we've got that all lined up on all the axes. Now we can focus on his neck. So if we go forward here, his neck's going to come up just a bit right, to the base of his skull. And I think the tip is pretty good. So those are the adjustments that we're going to need. And let' back out, hit H on the keyboard. And now we can move on to the next phase, which is Binding. And in the Binding phase I'm going to click on the word Binding, and it's asking for an object here. And the object it's asking for is the mesh, What mesh do you want to bind this rig to? And so I'll take the SPACEDUDE mesh and drag it right on into that field, and when I do that it automatically generates a Skin object along with a Weight Expression.

And you saw in the last movie, the Weight Expression controls how the joints in all of these chains are bound to the actual mesh. Now I've created this character so that I knew it would be easy to bind up. And I think we've got a pretty decent bind, and so we can move on to Animate. When I move to Animate, this is where we can check to see how the bind is doing. Let's get in here and move things around. Before we start to move things around though, I want to simplify the display. Let's zoom in here. You can see that we can actually see all of the joints and splines and all the little things that make up that.

We really only want to see the controllers. And so we go to the Display Options, and we're going to go to the Viewport > Visible and change it to show us only the controllers. And now it hides everything except for the actual controller objects. So now I can click on his arm and then move it around. You can see I have a great looking bind. Those are the basis of using the Character object. Keep in mind that the Character object is really a system for building rigs. If you're an experienced character rig builder then you can create and build your own custom rigs with the Character object. You don't have to rely on these presets.

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CINEMA 4D Essentials 8: Character Rigging and Xpresso

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Rob Garrott
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