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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.
In this chapter we're going to take a look at how to build skeletons for our character and before we actually start fitting a skeleton to an existing character, let's go ahead and just take a look at some of the basic tools that will need. And the main one that we're going to look at is the Joint tool. So we can find the Joint tool under the Animation menu set, in fact, this is where we're going to find most of our rigging tools, and it's under Skeleton > Joint Tool. Now you can also find it on the shelf under Animation and it's this little icon here.
Now let's take a look at some of the options that we have for our Joint tool before we actually start building anything. So I'm going to go ahead here and click on this little box and we'll get some of these options. Now most of these options were going to leave at default, but let's just go through this so we understand what they are. We have degrees of freedom, which is how -- around which axis the joint can bend. If you have a joint that's an elbow, it's not going to bend quite in as many degrees of freedom as say, a shoulder or something like that.
How do we want to orient the joint, again, we're going to leave that at default. This little option here is pretty handy, it's called Create IK handle. Now we're not going to use this right now, but later when we are creating IK handles, you'll see how this can be very handy and these are the options for that IK handle. I am going to turn that off. And the final one is Bone Radius Settings. Now this can actually be very important if your bones are showing up a little too big or little too small for your character.
The bones have kind of a fixed display size in Maya, and if this doesn't quite fit your character, then you can go ahead and just adjust these up or down, so that they do fit. So I'm going to go ahead and close this and let's go ahead and actually start drawing a joint. Now before we do that I want to get to get into an orthographic viewport. We typically draw skeletons in orthographic viewports, because it allows more control, it's kind of like drawing a curve.
You want to draw it in 2D first and then if you need it to be in 3D, you can go ahead and move it in a second step. So I need to go into a side view. In order to do that all I have to do is go to a quad view, place my mouse over the side view and hit the spacebar, and I'm in the side view. In order to draw a skeleton, all you have to do is go Skeleton > Joint Tool, we're going to leave it at default, and notice how the cursor becomes a crosshair. This is where we will lay down our joints.
All I have to do is left-click, and you get a little circle and it tells you that we've drawn a joint. Now the joints themselves are represented by circles, so if I draw a second one, you'll see I get this second circle, and again, it's highlighted in green, draw another one and another one. And so you can keep sketching out the skeleton that you need. When you're done you can either hit the Select tool or hit Enter, and that will highlight the skeleton. So let's take a look at the skeleton and how it's constructed.
I'm going to go into my Outliner window, so I'm going to go into Window > Outliner, and this will bring up my outliner and it'll show me that these joints are actually sketched as a hierarchy. So the first one, Joint 1 is this one at the top, Joint 2 is this one, Joint 3 and Joint 4. Now again, I want to point out that the joints are the intersection, so it's not the shin that we're drawing it's the knee that connects the shin to the thigh.
For example, if this was a knee joint, then we would have this be the shin and above it be the thigh. So the joints are circles and the triangular portions connecting the joints really are just Maya's way of telling you how the hierarchy is constructed. Now some people call these bones, but they're really just kind of helpers to show you how the whole thing is put together. Now if I want to select a joint, I can select either the joint itself or anywhere below it on the bone, so if I wanted to select this knee, for example, I could select right on the knee or anywhere on the shin we'll select that joint too.
Now if I want to, I can extend my joints just by using the Joint tool. So if were to just click on the Joint tool, activate that, I could draw more joints. If I get my cursor close to an existing joint, it will extend the joint chain that I've created. So when I put my cursor down here near Joint 4, it allowed me to draw Joint 5 and Joint 6. Now another way to extend or to modify a joint chain is under the Skeleton tools, we have an Insert Joint Tool, so if I wanted to, I could insert a joint.
All you have to do is click on the joint and drag, and you can see how I can drag out a division into that existing joint. Similarly, I can also remove a joint, and that will basically just get rid of that. Now because joint chains are hierarchies, we can also affect the way things are constructed just by rearranging the hierarchies. So in this case if I selected Joint 4, and then middle click and drag that above Joint 1, you'll see how this bone connecting these two goes away, and that is because now these are two separate joint chains.
So if I were to drag, for example, this one down at the bottom of Joint 3, it would connect them back up again. Or let's go ahead and put that back the way it was. Let's go ahead and do this the opposite way. So if I wanted to, I could take Joint 1, middle click, drag it over Joint 6, and you can see I can rearrange it that way. So those are other ways to rearrange and reorganize the hierarchy. Now one more thing I want to show you is how to actually rearrange joints or how to shape them.
So all we have to do is use the Move tool. So I'm going to go ahead and select my Move tool, and I can just go ahead and move my joints around to fit it to whatever I'm working with. Now typically you don't want to rotate or scale joints while you're fitting them to an object. You typically want to use just the Move tool. So those are some of the basics on how to draw and create joints. Now remember, joints are just a hierarchy and you can rearrange joints later, so sometimes if you can't draw it the way that you want it, draw it as separate chains and connect them up later.
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