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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.
So now that we have a test animation in place, let's go ahead and start adjusting our character's weights and this is going to be a multi-step process. Now before I do this, let's just take a look at our test animation and I added in one little thing here. I actually added him leaning back at the spine right here, and forward, because that is also a problem area that I discovered. Smooth skinning in Maya works on the concept of weights. So each vertex in the geometry is weighted to the joints in the skeleton.
So the easiest way to do this is to take one vertex in the geometry and take a look at it, and we can look at it in an interface called the Component Editor. So I am going to go ahead and zoom in here and then select my geometry, right-click, and let's go into Vertex mode here. And I'm just going to select the vertex right here at the front corner of that right foot. And let's go into Window > General Editors > Component Editor. Now this will have a number of different tabs.
It has Springs, Particles, Rigid Skins, Blend Shapes. The one we're looking for here is Smooth Skins. Now I have selected this one vertex here, vertex number 352. In this interface you can see that it's assigned to three different joints. Now this is on the right foot. And so it has a weight of .449, which is assigned to Foot_Tip_R; .516 which is Toe_R, which is this one.
But also if you notice we have Foot_Tip_L, which is this joint and that's assigned at a small weight, .035. Basically, we have three separate joints that are affecting this one vertex and this one simple case actually flows through the entire model. So every single vertex in this model has up to three bones assigned. And the reason it only has up to three bones assigned is when we skinned it, we reduced the maximum number of joints to three.
We can start affecting these either in the Component Editor, but probably the better first step is to use a tool called Prune Small Weights. Now when we start editing skin weights, we can get to all of those tools under Edit Smooth Skin, and we can do all sorts of things. We can add in the additional joints, we can go into the interactive mode such as Interactive Skin Bind or Paint Skin. We can also do things to existing skin weights, such as mirror them, copy them, smooth them.
The one we are looking for here is called Prune Small Weights. Basically, what that does is it gets rid of those little tiny errors that we find such as this foot. So when this foot moves you can see how that vertex we selected moves with that foot, and that's really not what we want. So what we want to do is prune everything below a certain weight. In this case I remember that weight with .035, but let's go ahead and make this a little bit more broad, and we will prune anything below .1 will just be set to 0.
So let's go ahead and hit Prune. And once we do that, it should get rid of that small weight. So now that vertex does not move with that foot. So remember every vertex in your geometry has a weight and usually the first step you should do is to prune small weights so that way everything is a little bit more cohesive when you go to use the other Weight tools.
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