Join George Maestri for an in-depth discussion in this video Overview of character topology, part of Maya 8.5 Character Rigging.
Okay, so now we know a little bit about how the character is put together. Now let's talk a little bit more about the topology of the character or actually how the character is modeled or built. So we're going to open up that same file, and let's just take a look at it further. So one of the things about this character that you can notice is that it's actually fairly low resolution. There is not a ton of detail. In fact, with most character models you want just enough detail to convey what you need to convey without adding any extra because every additional vertex, piece of geometry, something you have to deal with when you're rigging, when you're skinning, and the more vertices the more hassle.
And so if you can keep it as simple as possible then your rigging is going to go a lot more simply as well. Okay, if you look at the arm of this character, really there is not a lot of detail, there's maybe only eight radial sections or so. So when you're dealing with like a very critical area such as under the arm, you have got one, maybe two, or three rows of vertices that you need to deal with rather than six or eight, and it makes it much easier to keep things going in the right direction and in the right place. If you look at the hands there's just enough detail for the hands.
So, for example, each joint only has three, one, two, three edge loops and then maybe one other at the end to create kind of like a shape for fingernail. Same with the legs. There's really not a lot of detail in the thigh area but there's a little bit around the knee just so that the character's knee will bend properly, and a little bit of detail around the legs because it kind of has these little bell-bottom flared cut so we need some detail to create that, okay. Same with the arms just enough detail around the joint and then enough detail to make a cuff for his shirt.
And again, we just have a couple of rows of vertices here. Now the thing is is that, when this character is actually animated we're going to be using something called Smooth Proxy. Now let me just show you that very briefly. We make sure we go into the Polygons Menu, we go into Proxy > Subdiv Proxy. What that does is it creates a smooth version of our character--okay--that is smoothed down. In fact, you probably see a little bit better on the head here.
Select that head, Proxy > Subdiv Proxy. Now you can see how, especially up here, how it smooths out the head. And so what it does it actually creates a piece of geometry that has a lot more detail than our original piece of geometry. We can actually dial up the amount of geometry that we have to get whatever resolution we want. So let's take one look at the head. Now the head again is low-res modeled. It's modeled with just enough resolution to give you the detail you need so that when it's smoothed it looks fine.
And again, the reason we do this is we don't want anymore detail than we need to animate the character. We can get very good animation with just as much detail. So with the face one of the things you need to look at is how the detail is constructed that's surrounding the eyes and the mouth, and the mouth is probably a little bit easier to look at. You can see that we have got these rings of edges, or edge loops, right there, another one right here, and another one right here. And that's because the muscles around the mouth surround the mouth radially, and the mouth can also be pulled out basically almost like puppet strings, there is a muscle that goes from here all the way up to just about the ear that pulls that way, there is one that goes up along the nose to make it sneer, another one along the lower lip to pull it out this way.
And so what you want is you want enough detail along the sides of the lip to be able to pull it up in all these different directions, and so that kind of indicates that you need this kind of radial structure. The same with the eyes, we have rings around the eyes to make sure that they can blink, open, and go wide. Okay, now in this character we have eyebrows that are essentially separate objects that we put into the Mesh using the combined function, so Mesh > Combine, so essentially these are just boxes that were reshaped, and then we combine it in with the main Mesh.
Now some people may actually separate out the eyebrows, and for a more realistic character you would properly have the eyebrows kind of built into the surface of the face rather than these separate cartoony eyebrows. It's just a matter of style and how you want to build the character. But even the most realistic character will still have the same structure around its mouth and around its eyes, okay. So that's essentially what you need in terms of character and character model. You want to model that looks good, that's easy to deform, and that's as simple as possible, okay.
Now this is not to say that you want to make a thing that's so simple that doesn't look like anything. Just enough detail to make it look exactly the way you want it when it's smoothed out. Okay, so let's move on to a few other things.
- Understanding the uses of rigging
- Creating skeletons
- Making inverse kinematics and constraints
- Rigging characters
- Binding and editing skin
- Creating a skeleton and skin for a head
- Finalizing a rig