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Old 30-01-2003, 06:56 AM   #1
tgx
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Default Advanced rigging suggestions

I would like to go further into rigging my characters and gain a solid MEL education mostly for animation (so I can build my own animation tools to enhance the character setup) on a production level. I want these tools to be easily re-usable.

Basically, I am looking to find my own little niche. Meanwhile, make rigs suitable for film quality animation but also quick setup and easily usable/flexible animation controls.

Anyone here been inspired by a rig setup? animation tool(MEL script)? If so who was it and how did you learn about it?

It was suggested to me that Blue Sky and WETA TD's build amazing character rigs. I personally find experimenting with character setups can be a lot of fun. I feel MEL scripting may be the direction I should turn towards next. Start building my own in-house tools to speed up my workflow and add enhancements. Problem is there is no samples of MEL on the film production level. Yet in-house tools are built and used often in the film industry. If I am not mistaken WETA's Massive was built using MEL.

One idea I have for a rig is creating a power center slider to follow up and down the spine. Make posing tasks easier during blocking stages for animators. Any and all suggestions/tips are welcome to join in this discussion.
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Old 30-01-2003, 07:20 AM   #2
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Massive was not built using MEL. The first question here answers that:

http://www.massivesoftware.com/faq.html

Why not try implementing your idea and see how far you get? Once you have something to show, it might be easier for others to offer suggestions on how to improve it or help you fix problems you encounter along the way.

As for MEL examples, I'm not quite sure what you're looking for. Some of the stuff at Highend3D is actually used in motion picture production. The examples in our book are also heavily inspired by our work in film production, though simplified -- that simplification doesn't serve to water down the examples, though; instead it makes the examples clearer demonstrations of useful design principles.

In rigging, mostly your concern is with expressions that allow your controls to drive many joints at once. Alternatively, you can often do what you need to do with driven keys. MEL scripts can be useful to help build rigs onto a simple skeleton, but that's mostly useful when you have to set up a lot of similar characters at once.

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Old 30-01-2003, 07:41 AM   #3
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I'm still learning the in's and out's of character rigging in Maya (prior rigging experience in 3ds max), but I've found that MEL is really only useful in setting up rigs not animating them. As Mark's already mentioned, expressions and set driven keys are more important in the actual animating of rigs. However, you can use MEL to setup frequently used rigging configurations and scripts.

Two guys I'm currently impressed with are Jason Schleiffer of Weta Digital and John Lally of Insomniac games.

Jason Schleiffer does some amazing rigging work for the Lord of the Rings movies. He has a couple of character rigging DVDs available via the Alias|Wavefront store. I haven't seen them myself, but I have heard nothing but good things about them. He frequents the Character Rigging forum over at cgtalk.com where he contributes some great information and advice in various threads.

Also, the latest issue of Game Developer Magazine (Feb 03) has a great article with John Lally about the character setup pipeline for the Insomniac's PS2 game "Ratchet and Clank". The art team used MEL heavily for automating rigging and setup for about 50+ characters. A couple of neat things they do there is using custom MEL scripts to automatically setup animation controls and generate set driven keys for facial animation. There isn't a lot of details on how they did stuff, but there is just enough of an overview to give you a good idea of what they did and to provide you with some inspiration on your own work.

If you're wiling to share, you should post your rigs in one of the forums here (Animation would be my first choice) to get feedback on it. I know I would like to see how you work, and I'm sure others here, especially some of the newbies, would really appreciate the opportunity to learn from your experience.
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Old 30-01-2003, 07:45 AM   #4
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The Secrets Of The Pros book has a chapter on building an UI for character animation. I have only skimmed through that chapter and it seems to be full of MEL. Can't say anything more about it at this point... just wanted to mention it...
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Old 30-01-2003, 08:47 AM   #5
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Mark - I was just reading about your book over at Amazon. Very impressive.

To all -
The items I am looking to add as enhancements are more gui driven. My first tasks I am attempting to accomplish is to keep animators purely right brained in a manner is speaking. Take out all the technical fuss so they can focus on breathing life into the character.
Posing and blocking controls I feel are the extent of my experimentation abilities for now. The power center control will change weight values. Giving a SENSE of mass while manipulating the character (I hope). Everything I've tried so far is not radical enough for my taste. Afterwards, I want to build a basic structure for facial animation using Kimball method. Click a button and general facial expressions are auto-added to the characters face controls. Just beginner stuff I find useful when animating. I am experienced in programmer (C++, VB, gaming scripts). I'm not very quick with my side projects. I have obligations that need to be met first. The difficult part is I've not tackled MEL other than copy/paste code to automate frequently used tasks.
Where should I turn to get a solid understanding for creating a gui floating window or channel box? Automating the setup of expressions and set-driven keys (controls) to buttons/sliders? A good reference books on MEL commands would be useful. I'm going to go ahead and purchase your book. However, it will need to wait a month (on a tight budget while being layed off).

Dannyngan - Here is a link to the team I work with if you or others are interested www.artemissoftware.com The machinima film is our fun break from the game we are working on.

KBrown - thanks for the tip! I'll have to look over that chapter and see how they do it.
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Old 30-01-2003, 05:02 PM   #6
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For a (reasonably) comprehensive reference on MEL *commands,* I'd definitely recommend the MEL Command Reference that ships with Maya as part of the documentation set. Don't forget that they have the commands grouped by category as well as alphabetically if you click the tab up at the top.

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