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Using the Character object for building and applying rigs

From: CINEMA 4D R13 New Features

Video: Using the Character object for building and applying rigs

Creating the controls to make a character move is known as rigging, and it used to be one of the most laborious and intense processes in all 3D animation. The new Character object in R13 makes this process almost too easy. This is a very simple character; it's just a single mesh inside of a hyper NURB, creating the smoothing for the geometry. Let's zoom in on him real quick here. And you can see that he's got a head that is separated from his shoulders and body, and that's not necessary for the rig, that's just simply a style choice that I made for this character. Now I want to make a note about the size of the character, that's very important here.

Using the Character object for building and applying rigs

Creating the controls to make a character move is known as rigging, and it used to be one of the most laborious and intense processes in all 3D animation. The new Character object in R13 makes this process almost too easy. This is a very simple character; it's just a single mesh inside of a hyper NURB, creating the smoothing for the geometry. Let's zoom in on him real quick here. And you can see that he's got a head that is separated from his shoulders and body, and that's not necessary for the rig, that's just simply a style choice that I made for this character. Now I want to make a note about the size of the character, that's very important here.

The Character object produces rigs that are based on an approximately 6 foot high character. Now they can be scaled and resized to any shape at all, but I've sized my character to about 6 feet in order to make this process much easier. Now what I want to do is to create a set of controls that will allow this character to move, it's not flexible at all right now, it's simply a piece of geometry, and the character controls are going to allow this character to bend and move just like a real person. So the first step in that process is to add something to the scene called a Character object, so I will go to the Character menu, and add in the Character object.

And the Character object is the heart of the new character rigging system and it's got an Object Property that has the modes across here, and these modes correspond to the process that you will go through when building a rig and binding it to a character and then animating that rig. So you can see you have got a Build, Adjust, Binding and Animate, and those are the steps in the process. So the first thing I want to do is select a template and there's a bunch of different templates here that ship with CINEMA 4D, also I wouldn't be at all surprised if at some point very soon you'll see templates springing up for download and purchase all across the Internet.

The Character object is really a set of tools for building these kinds of templates. And those templates are what make it easy for regular people to use. So I am going to select the Advanced Biped rig. Now I could choose any of these guys for my character, but you want to choose one that corresponds to the structure of your character, and this is the bipedal character, he has got two arms and two legs. So I wouldn't really want to choose the Fish or the Insect. Now the regular Biped rig is a little bit half-baked and some of these guys are not quite finished or have different issues with them. So I am going to choose the Advanced Biped rig because I know that this one works great.

Select that, and the first step in the process is to add something called a Root, and that's the base of your characters. When I click this, you are going to see -- let's back out just a little bit here so we can see what's going to happen here in the window. When I click this, I am going to get a set of controls at the very bottom of the character, and these are the root controls that allow me to move the entire character around. Now they're not bound to the character yet, that's going to happen later on in the process. The next step in the process is that I want to add a Spine, and the Spine, when I click that, adds all the controls for the spinal column of the character. Now they are not lined up of the character yet, I am going to do that next as well.

Now the legs I am going to add by clicking on this, and I have two different choices, and you'll see there is a pulldown for the arms and legs, and I can choose either a Bendy arm, which allows the arm to bend and flex like it's made out of rubber, or I can choose an IK/FK Only arm. Now I am going to keep it simple this time and choose IK/FK Only for the arm, and when I do that, it adds in the arm, now you notice that the arm doesn't line up with the character either, and once again, we are going to adjust that in just a moment. Now I am not going to worry about hands for the simple examples, we will skip that step. Now to get the next arm, I want to go back to the spine and then select arm IK/FK Only again.

I can just click on it this time, and it knows automatically to add the right arm. Now if I go back to the Spine object, I want to add the legs. Now if I add the legs one at a time like I did the arms, that's cool, but there is a really great shortcut, I am going to select an IK/FK Only leg, when I hold down the Ctrl key and I release on that, it's going to add both legs at the same time, and that's really a much better way to do it, rather than clicking back and forth between these objects. So that's pretty much all the components that I am going to need for this character rig, I have got two arms, two legs and a spine, and some head joints as well.

Now what I need to do is to adjust it, so I am going to click on the Adjust button and watch all of this stuff change. Now I'm seeing a simplified version of the rig with all of these control points, and these control points can be moved around and there is a very important button here, Symmetry. You want to make sure this is on, especially when you're moving the arms and legs. What that's going to do is move the objects on either side of the axis, and you can see when I highlight one, it highlights the other on the other side of the axis. So let's start off by moving the legs into position. And I'm going to middle mouse click to get to a four-way view, and middle mouse click in the right-hand view to get to the right-hand view.

I am going to select the legs and move those guys up into position, put it right about where his hip should be, right about there. Then I can grab a knee joint and use the axis band, and put it right there about where his knee is going to go. Now I can grab the foot and put it right down into position, I will put it right about there. Now I can also take this left leg and move it, I am going to tuck it right down here at the back of his foot where it needs to go. And now what I want to do is switch to four-way and show you that it has in fact adjusted all of those points.

Now in the Perspective view, you'll see that the knees don't line up with the knees of the characters. So what I am going to do is select the knee joint, and then use the X handle and slide it over into position in front of the knee, and you see that it takes the feet right along with it. I can't tell you how hard this process used to be before this tool was created, it is amazingly easy to adjust these rigs now. So now what we want to do is to work on the spine, and we are going to work our way up from the base. So I will grab the Spine object right here, and I'm going to grab the Axis band for that, and move it up into position right about there.

Then I'll grab this guy right here, which is labeled as the hips, and the hips are going to take part of the spine with it. And I am going to put those right up into position, right about there. Then I can grab the middle of the Spine object, which is the chest, and move that in the position, that's going to take the arms and legs with it. This guy right here is the controller for that, and I moved that a little bit out of position, that's one of the dangers of working in the Perspective view, and I accidentally moved that too far, so I am going to put that right back down there into his torso. Now I am ready to move these arm parts up, and before I do that I am going to grab the base of the spine and neck and use the -- once again the Axis band to move it right up into position.

Now I can grab the collars and use this Axis band and move them up in the position, put them right at the base, and then I'll grab the shoulder and move that up and that takes the entire hand with it. Now what I want to do is move it so that it's closer in to where the actual shoulder on the character will be. And you know there is no right or wrong answer for this, it really depends entirely on how your character is built and shaped. Now what I want to do is grab the elbow, and let's use this Axis band right here, and I'm going to drag that in position.

Now it might be a good idea to look at this from the top view, and as you can see, I don't have things quite lined up, and so I am going to switchback to a four-way view, and I'm going to grab them one at a time, and then move them in the top view. So I will start off with the collar here, and I'm going to grab that collar and in the top view, I will switch to the Move tool and I will move it right into position with the shoulder. Let's move it over toward the center just a bit. Now what I'm going to do is grab the Shoulder object, and move that one into position as well and that one I am going to move forward just a bit, there we go, so now I can see that in the top view, it lines up nicely, that arrow is going right down the arm.

Now I can go back and deselect that and grab just the arm. Now you notice, I'm accidentally selecting the character, so let's go back in the Perspective view and grab it here, and I can move that back into position for the elbow, now that's too far, and that's why you want to do it in the top view, there we go. Now I can grab the hand, and put that right at the base of the hand where the wrist would go, grab this last controller and put it in, and that's the beauty of the Symmetry selection that we had turned on, is that now all of that work is done for us on both sides the object.

Now, I have do to little bit of height adjustment here, so let's switch to the front view, zoom in here and I can take this and just raise the whole thing up, you can see that takes the entire rig along with it, take this one and move it up into position and take this one and move it down into position, there we go. And that's pretty much it, I want to double-check my head, and so let's go into the side view, and you can see that that's not too bad actually, I will grab that one and I'm going to move it right to the base where the neck would connect with the head, and that one is good to go there, the jaw I'm going to move right down about here, right where the jaw would go for the actual character.

And that's pretty much it for the adjustments. Now what I want to do is move to the next step which is binding, and so if I click on Binding, there is an Objects field here, and the Objects field is asking for what mesh should I bind this character object to, and when I drag the SPACEDUDE mesh into the binding field, it automatically creates a skin object. The other thing that it does is it adds a skin weight tag, and the weight tag and the Skin object are what bind the skeleton to the character. Now I can switch to the Animate mode and double-check my work, and this is where the magic starts to happen.

I can now switch into Animate mode and I can move these rig pieces around. Now there's a really handy display function here, I don't need to be able to see the joints, all I really want to see are the Control objects, so I go to the Display option and I can go in the viewport, only show me the Controllers, and that hides all of the components, the joints and things like that, only shows you the Controllers, that makes it a much more simplified view, because I don't want to ever accidentally select a joint. So now I can click on this hand and move it around, and I can see that I've great rig here, and my arm moves around just fine, I'll undo that, Command+Z or Ctrl+Z. Now I can grab the foot and double-check that, I accidentally grabbed the mesh there, I want to grab the foot controller, and I can grab that guy and move it around, you can see that we've got some great action there on his butt and his feet.

And so that's working just fine. And there may be times, depending on your character mesh, that you'll need to modify the weighting for that, and you can do that using the Skin Weight tag, double-clicking in that takes you right into the Weight tool and allows you to start painting on the weights, the weights are what control how the joints are bound to the mesh, and what joints influence what parts of the mesh. I have got a pretty good weight here, so I am going to believe leave these weights alone. To get out of the Joint tool, I can simply switchback to the move, hit E on the keyboard, and I can grab my Character object again, and I'm good to go. So that's really how simple it is to use the Character object, but there are limitations.

For example, it doesn't do facial rigs, in that situation there really is no substitute for true character rigging specialist, but this exciting new feature will get your creations moving in no time at all.

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CINEMA 4D R13 New Features

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