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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.
Once we've bound the skin to our skeleton, we need to adjust and fine-tune the weighting of each vertice so that the skin behaves naturally. Now the best way to do this is to create a test animation where we put the character through its paces, and that way we'll see where the extremes are and can adjust our vertex weights accordingly. So let's go ahead and set our time slider to frame 1, and I'm going to make sure that we have Auto key turned on, and I'm going to go ahead and set keyframes for each of these objects here.
So I'm going to go Animate > Set Key. Remember this is the S key. So I'm going to go ahead and set a key here for the left foot, select the right foot, and set a key for that, select the hips, set a key for that, and maybe one for the toe of each foot as well. Now we're going to move forward on the timeline a little bit. Let's go to frame 5 here which is about four frames up, and I'm just going to take the hips and just move them down.
Now you can see when I move those hips down, already we have a little bit of an issue where the character's heels are lifting off the floor. So I'm going to go forward another four frames and bring those hips back to normal. The easiest way to do that is to select the key on frame 1, right-click, Copy, let's go forward to frame 9, right-click, Paste. So now he bends down, stands up. Let's also do the situation where he puts his leg out.
So we want to test the extreme of this hip when the leg is extended out to his left. So again I'm going to go ahead and set a keyframe at frame 9. Let's go forward another four frames here and I'm going to bring that leg up and maybe even rotate that foot so that it's a little bit more realistic. And again just put that up, and you can see here that I am creating some situations that I don't want.
I don't want this dent to happen in his hip. So when I get to actually weighting those vertices, I will have a good example to fix. And again, we can go ahead and take that foot, copy that keyframe, and maybe place it back down by his side. And maybe what we can do at this point is also tap his foot. So I'm going to set a keyframe for his toe, rotate that up, and then bring it back down again.
In fact, we can either bring it back down, but I know that back down is zero, so I'm going to type in 0 there. So now he taps his foot. Now we also need another situation where he is basically bending his foot up. So, for example, if he were running that would be an important one. So again I'm going to set a keyframe here for the left foot at frame 26, move forward a bit, and put that leg into the position I want. Now notice how this joint is flipping, the reason it's doing that is because we have this knee control, and when the knee goes in front of that control it's going to flip.
So all I have to do is just pull that out in front of the character and it should snap into place. So now he puts his leg up, let's go ahead and put his leg back. Let's go to frame say 34, put his leg back maybe even rotate that foot a little bit, so that maybe this is the last step of a run or something like that where he's got that nice extension. And again, we're looking for strange deformations in this upper body here.
And then let's go ahead and just put this back to normal. So we're going to take the keyframe from frame 1, copy it, and then just paste it here towards the end. Again, this is not critical in terms of where you put the keyframes or anything, you just want to make sure that you lock in the default pose, and then return back to that at the end. So now I have a set of conditions for this geometry, and by stepping through all of these conditions I can fine-tune the weighting of this character's skin, and make sure that it behaves naturally.
And we'll be doing that in the next few lessons.
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