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Character Rigging in Maya provides a basic introduction to rigging theory, and delves into the details of how to create professional, realistic 3D characters. Instructor and animation veteran George Maestri shows how to combine Maya's skeleton, inverse kinematics (IK), and constraint tools to create a basic rig for a character, and how to attach the character mesh to the skeleton using Maya's skinning tools. The course also explores advanced rigging controls such as IK switches and facial animation and how to create a control panel to manipulate the character's expressions. Exercise files accompany the tutorials.
Now that we have the eyes fully rigged, let's go ahead and rig the rest of the face. So let's go ahead and set up the animation for the rest of face. We're going to create a more complex facial rig later, but I want to introduce you to the concept of blend shapes and these are very important for character animation. They allow you to do very precise control of shape animation. Now you may already be familiar with them, but let's do a quick refresh of blend shapes with this character's head as the subject.
So we can see how it applies to facial animation. So let me just show you the basics of blend shapes. Basically, how it works is you take two models that have the same basic geometry and you reshape one of them, and then what you do is use blend shape to actually move between those two shapes. Now, with blend shapes we can actually do that between multiple shapes. So I can actually have blend shapes for say, a character's eye blink, or a smile, or a frown, and each one of those can control just part of a character's face and then when you mix them all together, you get a list of blend shapes that you can use to create your character's facial animation.
So the way you create a blend shape is you start with a basic model. In this case, I'm going to start with the character's head. I'm going to go ahead and turn off my skeleton and my rig, so we can just see the geometry of this character. I have the character's head selected and I'm going to go ahead and duplicate that model. So now I have Head and Head1, and I'm going to go ahead and move Head1 off to the side here. Now the most basic blend shape would be basically just taking this and manipulating it.
I'm just going to do a very quick manipulation here. I'm going to select some vertices. Let's just go ahead and select the character's lower jaw here, and I'm actually going to go into Soft Select, go ahead and just select the character's lower jaw. So let's go ahead and zoom- in and just pull it down. So I can have almost like an open mouth here. Basically, I'm just opening this character's mouth very, very crudely.
Once I've done that, I can now use that as the basis for a blend shape. I can select my blend shape or blend shapes and then Shift+Select my object, and then the last object selected is the one that gets the blend shape applied. So then all I have to do is Create Deformers > Blend Shape, and I've created it. Now, you can see blend shapes by going into the Blend Shape editor. It's under Window > Animation Editors > Blend Shape.
When I've created this one, now I can just dial in that shape. All you have to do is basically be a little bit more precise with your modeling, and create a model for each face shape that you want. I'm going to go ahead and delete this blend shape here and I'm also going to delete this model. Now, I've done all of the work for you. So we don't have to go through all this process. I have a layer here called BlendShapes.
Make that visible and you'll see I have a couple of dozen heads here, and each one of those is a blend shape. So let's take a look at some of the blend shapes that we have. Now, we have blend shapes for facial expression. So I have a right and a left smile, right and left frown, sneer, which is basically those muscles along the nose, I believe they're called the risorius and then these ones here, which are your corrugator muscles.
So basically each one of these is kind of like a puppet string to the mouth. In addition to that I have some ones for phonemes. So specific shapes for dialog. I also have jaw positions left and right, and so on. Then for the upper face I have things such as eyebrows. So I have eyebrow down, angry eyebrow left and right, and I also have blinks. I have lower lid blinks and upper lid blinks.
All of those together can be used as blend shapes. When you create your model, you want to make sure that you have a manipulatable face, and then you're going to spend probably a couple of hours minimum creating a bunch of blend shapes that you can use for your character. Let's go ahead and just put these into place. I'm going to go ahead and just rubber band select all of these blend shapes and then Shift+Select my character's head. I want to make sure that this is selected last, and then we're just going to go into Create Deformers > Blend Shape, let it go, and we should be there.
Just go into Window > Animation Editors > Blend Shape, and here we are. So I'm going to hide these blend shapes here, so we can see this a little bit better. In this window here we can either do it horizontally or vertically. So I'm going to go ahead in Orientation and change it from vertical to horizontal, so we can see it little bit better. Each one of these heads that I created had a name applied to it, and that name shows up here.
So one of the things I did was I created a M for mouth, E for eye, B for brow. So each one has kind of a prefix to it. We can say smile right, smile left. In fact, let's go ahead and turn on subdivision surfaces so we could see this a little bit better. We can do the ooh sound; we can do the jaw open, so on and so forth. I also want to take a look and make sure that my lids work, my lower lid comes up.
Okay, so that's covering the eye. So I position my eyes properly. My upper lids. Now what we can do is we can start to combine these. We can actually change these however we want. Now when creating your blend shapes make sure that you create your blend shapes along the direction of the muscles of the face. Basically, think of it as how you want the puppet strings to move the mouth, you also want to make sure that you have the lids and the eyebrows working properly as well.
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