I figure that it is time to log in to my website and post what I have been doing since my last update. I am in the final phase of the development of my Jen and Dylan Characters. College only took character rigging so far. Since graduation I have spent a lot of time creating my character's facial rig. Figuring it all out, as school only taught blend shapes for facial expression. In school I started to develop a joint based facial rig, using no blend shapes. Now, my facial rig consists of primary controls which operate the mouth and cheek blend shapes, and a set of secondary controls which are joint based, allowing each individual joint to be tweaked with the blend shape. The brows are a mixture of joint and blend controls. Squint and blink are joint based. The mouth has a primary joint chain of 38 joints controled by secondary joint chain of 16 joint / controls. Separate control joints for laugh lines, cheeks, and nose, along with 2 main blend controls for smile, frown, pucker, and smirk. I have also introduced facial deformers such as squash and stretch to suck and puff the cheeks in and out, and lattices to enhance facial expression such as cheeks and eye squint. And everything is all tied together in an easy access facial rig. Better yet, it all works, with no lag. If there is no lag then that means everything is computing as it should.
I'm teaching my wife Donna to use XGen hair, and she is the artist who is working on Jen's new look. I have just finished Dylan's new XGen hair, complete with animation curves for use with dynamics such as wind and gravity. The XGen system is wonderful to work with for hair design. Dylan's hair and eye brows are XGen created. XGen allows us to create many different hair designs and colours, all of which are switchable. Next we start to learn nCloth and start to create some animated clothes for our 2 characters. The below picture is the new Jen with her old hair. We are designing an formal evening gown as our nCloth experiment. She's gonna look good. I hope to show off Jen's new look soon.
Both Dylan and Jen have gone through a major rebuild. Their poly's have been reconstructed to ensure that proper topology is used throughout. I added some open toe high heels for Jen. She can switch between heels, boots, ankle boots, bare feet, or slippers. All by using blends. Both characters have switchable fK / iK arms and legs; Arm twist, clavicle, dual joint chain spine, and foot roll. The whole body is joint based. I mention this because in school I really loved to animate a rig called " The Mery Rig". I loved the controls and the way everything was put together for animating. Unfortunely that was the rig that kept breaking on me, and led me into my rigging career. Anyway I took Mery apart to see how she was made and was suprised to find out that Mery is 99 percent blend shapes. There are no body joints in that rig, and Mery's body and head are all one peice. I found that an interesting fact to consider when designing, just to see a different way of doing things.
Once my characters are complete, and they pass the animation tests, I will create my demo and start to apply for emplyment in my field. I have to say that I am really happy with the results in my character's rigs. I get smooth mouth movements, hopefully great facial expression ( I won't know until the animation tests), and their hair blows in the wind.
Hello, My name is Michael Golchuk. I am a 3D Character Rigger. In the world of 3D my duties includes Character Design, Soft Modeling, Texturing, Systems Rigging, Skin Weights, Animation, and 3D Production. A Rigger brings the characters to life by creating systems which allow a 3D model to be animated. My goal is to create 3D rigs that don't break when animated. I use a joint based facial rig as my primary facial control, combined with blend shapes as my secondary facial control system. I specilize in facial expression, and body movements to expression. I am in my 4th year of 3D character design. Generally, I would work with the modelers, and the animators, to design and rig a character. But since I am the only one here, I model, design, and animate my characters, and if i am going to go through all that trouble, well, I may as well produce something worth watching to test it all out. A rig has to go through extensive testing before you can bring it to the production floor. So, being an animator really helps if you are going to be a character designer. It's all about how things move.
In school I started out animating. I love animation and animating characters. Problem was, the characters that were given, and rigs that I enjoyed animating, would break or crash while creating an animation sequence. I don't know if you've ever animated in Maya, but the process is compossed of layer upon layer of keyed animation. Time consuming and intense. And when the rig crashes, you loose everything. Frustrating, costly, and a major loss of time. So, I decided to focus on creating the rig, as opposed to animating while in school. Most people I talk to say that Rigs break all the time. I say that Rigs execute mathamatical operations, and if the math is good, then the Rig should function good as well. I could be wrong ... so here I am designing character Rigs.
While I was in college I created 2 characters - Jen and Dylan. They are both featured in my college final demo called "A Girl Like You" shown below. Both of my models evolved from the "Elf Girl" lessons that were taught in school, and Character Design classes, where we had to think of the traits that the characters would have. My models had to have great looking eyes, with eyelashes, great looking hair that would blow in the wind, clothes that moved with body, and moved with wind and gravity. My characters had to be able to speak, and have full facial expression. I wanted no lag in my characters when moved, and the main reason - my characters will not break when animated. I don't know if that if is a possibility yet. Characters break because there is a conflict in the computation. Something was done that conflicts with another task. I believe a good Rigger can figure this out.
The above video is my final graduation demo. Introducing Jen and Dylan, the 2 characters I created in school, and the same two characters that I am working on today. This video project was completed in August of 2018, and that is when I started the render process. I graduated in September 2018. The video didn't finish rendering until December of 2018. As we know, the final product has to be rendered out in Maya. I use Arnold because I like the look of the final product. My video is 1600 frames, 24fps, consisting of 6 scenes. Everything was rendered out on a single Alienware laptop. This one minute long project took 2232 hours (3 months), full time, to render out, which was precalculated in the production schedule, and pretty much bang on.
I think everyone hates their first projects. Anyway, the Jen rig failed during the 5th scene. Her hand collapsed. Dylan also had poly issues. It was pretty much a patch job just to finish the production. It turned out OK, but lots of problems to fix. Since this video, Jen and Dylan have been totally rebuilt from the ground up, fixing all the known problems which occured throughout the production and redoing 90 percent of the mesh on both models. The orginal mesh was created during my first year in school. I've learned a lot since that time. A redo was in order. I really had to pay attention to topology flow, and keeping a low poly count.
For the next little while I will be finishing off my new models by working on the skin weights. I have redone the skin weights countless times, I know the weights off by heart now. I've even conquored the problem areas like eye lashes, cheeks, laugh lines, lips, and ass bend. I know you can save the skin weights as maps, but if you make any changes to the polys then the reload doesn't work. And the only reason that I would be erasing the skin weights in the first place would be to make those changes. So, proper skin weights are essential and are precise when it comes to facial features. Future Riggers should know this.
I will be testing out the characters in a number of animation sequences to see how they perform. I have 12 sequences to create ranging from a jump and twist to a 2 person conversation. I will post the results as they are completed. I'm going to animate without hair or cloth to make sure that everything is working properly before going onto the next steps.
Here is where I am in my Character Design. I have sucessfully created a proper character rig - systems include: joint based face, with secondary blend shapes, dual joint spine, ik/fk arms, ik legs, foot roll, arm twist, wrist/hand assembly, tongue, dual joint lip assembly, eye aim, eye lock, jaw, eye brow, blink and squint systems. I am always working on a better interface, but I am satisfied with what I am currently using to control the facial joints. Both characters move the way they should - proper eye blink, squint, ass bend - my characters can even cross their legs in a yoga stance. Mouth, Jaw, Lips, Tongue all move properly and independantly. Skin Weights look good. UV's are mapped properly. So the rig passes, so far. Next is clothes and hair.
I have a lot of projects running at the same time. Maya's nCloth is one of them. nCloth allows me to create clothes which animate with my character's movements using dynamics. The new Jen and Dylan 3.0 currently stand posed in their underwear; Jen is wearing high heel open toe stilettos, and Dylan is currently in a pair of boots. I have a really nice dress referenced for Jen. Dylan draws a blank when it comes to matching Jen's look. One of the toughest part of character design is deciding what to wear.
Jen and Dylan's current hair was created using XGen and then converted to polys to be Unreal compatible. One of our courses in school was the Unreal Gaming System. I created the Jen and Dylan models to function in the Unreal Environment. I built the character environment and the import was fully successful. I just didn't like the way I had to animate my characters in Unreal. I really liked the realtime environment within Unreal - they have a great engine. Anyway, I kept the XGen hair as it was. Both character's have rigged hair. I plan on creating a switch where I can use either manual controls and/or use dynamics to animate the hair. So the plan is XGen hair with a manual/dynamic switch.
And that's it. I will have created everything in character design that I wanted to accomplish way back on day one in school. Then I start the process all over again. The nice thing about the way that I have my character's setup is that I can dismantle the model at any time, alter and make changes, and put it all back together again, just like taking the car into the shop for a tune up. I am pretty precise when it comes to coding and naming conventions. My models are organized well in the coding department.
2018 Graduate Animation for Game. Film, and Visual Effects Center for the Arts and Technology, Kelowna, BC.
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