Rig it Right – November update

Trucking along and only four chapters to go. Then a final tech check before I turn the manuscript in.  Chapter 14 is all about eyes, blinks and smiles. There weren’t too many surprises in this chapter—until I tried to use the shape editor.


Low and behold the shape editor does not like anything but direct vertex manipulation on its blendshapes. Well, my technique uses anything: deformers, lattices, etc. Those don’t work with the shape editor workflow.  Perhaps in the newer version of Maya (2018); we’ll see during the final tech check pass.

Chapter 15 is the completion of the bird rig. We create a main control that scales the rig and take a look at where to place the FK and IK controls so that they work properly.


We cover how to connect scale constraints to non skinned geometry such as the eyes and clean up the outliner.


The cover has been put into production and we should start to see that up for approvals in December.  All in all – coming along.

I was sweating this month’s deadlines, with the holiday and we have had such neat things going on at work like Gaming Fest at the beginning of the month (http://www.scad.edu/scadfilm/festivals). Even after the quarter was over—we have cool stuff. Last night we hosted a private screening of “Wind River” at SCADshow (the Atlanta campus theater) followed by a Q&A with Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner, moderated by Chris Evans. To top it off, the evening was introduced by Robert Downey Jr.  You know, the Avengers. What a night. Go see this film. It is powerful.

Today we had Reese Witherspoon giving a talk. Who can write with all of this going on? Yet, I write and have met my internal deadline. Whew.



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Companion Data & Hardback?

Couple of brief updates concerning the first edition of Rig it Right:

  1. I received a message that the chapter material for the first edition was no longer downloadable from the publisher’s website. Here is a backup copy: https://employeepages.scad.edu/~tohailey/RigItRight_CD1/Chapter_Material_1stEd.zip   Focal has tested it and is working on a fix. It stems from outside the US access. Those in the US can access the data fine.
  2. Don’t be duped: Apparently a hardcover version of Rig it Right was released in August 2017. That is still the FIRST edition, even though the publication date is listed as 2017 – the actual publication date is 2013. The second edition will be updated to Maya 2017 & 18 and release summer 2018. Focal is working to fix the publication date with Amazon.https://www.amazon.com/Right-Maya-Animation-Rigging-Concepts/dp/1138428604/ref=mt_hardcover?_encoding=UTF8&me=


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Rig it Right – Progress in October!

I managed to stay ahead in October. Excellent progress.  In fact, I lost track of how many chapters I wrote. Let’s see – 9, 10, 11, 12. Though I finished 12 tonight on Novel November 1st, and started chapter 13. I’ll still count it. The months are blurring.

Chapter 9  Always have a cha-cha (adding the upper body and lower body root skeleton joints)  In this chapter we create a skeleton that allows for the upper body and lower body to be adjusted separately allowing for a good shift of weight.


Lower body control for cha-cha ability

As you can tell we’ve not dealt with the eyeballs – which most hilariously stay put when we move the rig. We’re also utilizing a script I wrote to automate creating offset garbage nodes for our controls. This lets us have controls with rotational axis that match up with the joints which might be offset from global XYZ. This way we get a better controller that can be brought back to a neutral state.


Upper body control for the bird

Chapter 10 Feet and Knees


Group based foot setup with attention to pivot points

In this chapter we go over different methods of creating feed control systems. I prefer a group based method and we also go over the reverse shoe (made from joints).  Just to make sure everyone is on the same page we look at the similarities between rigs for a generic bird and human boot.



Reverse foot setup using joints













This chapter is quite a lot of fun even though nothing much has changed in the newer versions of Maya here. I think I just like rigging the different types of spines. Of course our bird has this big huge neck to deal with as well. So we compare the bird neck to human neck setups. I use clusters in this setup pictured below to get a nice smooth curve out of the model. We also cover FK spines.


Using clusters to create a spline setup in the neck

We explore more of the node editor and it does take a minute to get used to finding what you need in that window. Certainly you need to only add the controls and joints you are working with in order to keep the window clean and uncluttered. I know what I’m looking for in there and it takes a sec – go carefully in this and the following chapters.


Using the Node Editor to connect a controller to follow a joint


I thought this would take longer than it did – however the IK setups are the same as when they were invented. Some additional steps came into Maya around version 7, and it’s still mostly the same now.

We work on creating an FK and IK setup for the arm and focus on clean math. This chapter is where most have to re-do their character a couple of times to get it right. Missing a step or letting bad math creep into your rig creates jiggly arms.Fig12-5.jpg

We create an iconic IK/FK switch and use set driven key to switch from one to the other. What we do not do in this book is create a script that matches the positions. That’s advanced – and quite a bit of fun to create.  Baby steps first.  In class, I find just understanding what an FK/IK switch does and why to use it is tough enough to convey.  Those that really dig it can pick up the next bits in advanced rigging.

Fig12-11.jpgI’ve focused a lot on adjusting the images for this book to make them more legible. The first version I tried to show every step. Now I show the highlights and my hope is to go back and add AR capability that shows the menu steps.  Should be more useful that way.

I almost finished chapter 13 tonight. 2 more images to create.  I’m sitting along side a colleague who is participating in Novel November—so I will match word quota with her and perhaps get this project done this month – wish me luck.  I cheer anyone on that’s participating in NaNoWriMo  https://nanowrimo.org/  (National Novel Writing Month). My goal is 1-2 hours a night each weekday night. More if  a group of us sit together at an establishment and write together as was the case tonight. 🙂 Remember to recharge every so often. (your laptop and you.)

Hope you had a great Halloween yesterday! My favorite holiday of the year.


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Rig it Right – ahead of schedule in September


How did that happen? I was behind in August so that my monthly quota spilled over into September and this month I caught up with a few days to spare. Yipee!!!  Starting to enjoy the book more now. I suppose that helps. The bird rig is still very solid even in the new versions of Maya – that helps too.


Using references in Maya for a parallel workflow.

In chapter seven I cover skeletons and rotational axis as well as referencing in models and rigs for a good animation workflow that allows parallel process to happen. We cover good joint placement that allows for proper movement for the animator.  All in all not a whole lot changed in chapter seven. Joints still behave the same in these later versions of Maya.


Proper joint placement for movement – not necessarily anatomically correct!

Chapter eight covers skinning and here is where things got interesting. I was able to write “Well, that worked.” and delete three pages of working around skinning methods that left a lot of finagling to be done.  Let me tell you how much I am adoring geodesic voxel skinning. Even with a low resolution and a higher (.77) fall off range I was able to get pretty good skinning on the bird with the first pass. That’s with lots of feather joints in the skeleton system as well.  Well now. I had to then rewrite the chapter and go straight into skinning, skipping the interactive skinning method I had adopted to help get the students close to a good pass.  LOVIN’ the voxels.  If you haven’t checked out that binding method which came out in 16 – I highly recommend it.


Geodesic Voxel binding method for skinning – nice! (Eyeballs not included)

The last bit of chapter eight I cover an autorig tool which I only use to create proxy geometry. I’m so happy to say even after all of these years zooToolBox still works. (Available here: http://www.macaronikazoo.com/)  So lovely when a code base is so solid that it is maintainable.  He has many tools. Including some you might notice have become part of Maya.  I’ve only utilized zooSurgeon (sounds gross, huh?) to create the low res proxy geometry for the animator’s rig. That was easy.


zooToolBox’s zooSurgeon to create proxy geometry

Home from work today and taking naps trying to get over the crudz. Perhaps I’ll get a moment to begin next month’s chapters ahead of October. Keeps me focused on something other than the crudz. Be well out there in rigging land. – tina


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Rig it Right – August update…in September.


Chapter five and six completed–including images. Rewriting the chapters slowed a bit as I explored the newer blendshape methods and tested skinning.
Chapter five covers joints and utilizes a puppet character to cover interactive skinning. The rule covered:  #6. Happy math—controls and joints should be zeroed out.

Fig5-9.jpgChapter six covers blendshapes and set driven keys.  We utilize an octopus character and a medusa type character to discover multiple methods of hooking up controllers to blendshapes depending on animator preference. Fig6-1.jpgThat completes the intro portion of the book. The rest of the book covers a biped creation from beginning to end then we get into some advanced notions. I’m feeling like I need to step up and do more than two chapters a month just in case a month somewhere does a noes dive and I lose time.  I prefer to have a month or so for “the unknown factor” that will tank my timeline.  Best get to that then.

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Rig it Right – July update

Fig3-8On vacation this week and finishing up this month’s quota from the front porch today. The writing went much better this month. Two chapters (and images) complete. I finally conquered a workflow issue I had in Maya that was frustrating me. Trying to explain the outliner vs node editor gets me (and the reader) down into the weeds a little too quickly. So, I pulled in the hypergraph hierarchy window and kept use of the connection editor and that helped out a bit.  In chapter three we go over connecting user created controls; up until now we’ve been rigging 1990’s style where the animator has to dig about in the outliner.

Rules covered in chapters three and four:
Rule #4: Keep geometry (GEO), controls (CNTRL), and skeletons (SKEL) in separate groups in the outliner
Rule #5: Make controls that make sense to the animator
Rule #6: Happy math—controls and joints should be zeroed out


In chapter 4 we go over adding custom attributes and my favorite: the utility node. In this chapter we go straight to and stay in the node editor.  Here is where the wobbly riggers will need to re-read a little bit and work to become comfortable in the node editor until it looks more familiar and less like a bunch of spaghetti connections.

Moving along now.  A weekend and then to the August page quota.



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Rig it Right – June update.


Introduction: basics and the node editor

Intro, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2 complete: text and updated pictures.  I’m loving the node editor (which came out just after the first edition was published.)  Looking forward to putting that in all the upcoming chapters.   The chapters are coming along nicely as there isn’t very much drastically changed in Maya so far. New node editor. Some menu names changed. Other then that—the functionality is the same. With the newer versions of Maya you can get away with using the first edition of the book and most things will work.


Chapter one: freezing transformations. Brrrrr.

Thanks for the facebook messages, emails, and linked in messages from everyone giving feedback and telling me how things are behaving in the newer versions of Maya. I appreciate it very much.


To be brutally honest though, I am procrastinating more than ever with this rewrite. Still hitting my quotas, cause I am driven by time and finishing things, but it is hilarious to watch the amount of angst I go through. I know it is because there is nothing new here for me—I’ve made this map before and now I’m just double checking it is ok, improving it. Once I complete a subject I kinda don’t like to revisit it, I’d rather find something new to conquer. Yet, quotas will drive me and I’ll push through.  I’ll bet when I get into the more complicated chapters it will be a bit more entertaining.  Don’t get me wrong, I love it—but find I have to talk myself into sitting still more than not.

I traveled to Dallas last week for the school and wrote. I do like to make use of the travel time and that makes me happy: writing in planes. No email, no internet, no phone. Just me and the keyboard.  Love it. And the perks of having coffee brought to me. I’m pretty darn simple to please. That’s decadence to me. 🙂

I’ll take the weekend off then begin again next week on chapters three and four for July.  Have a happy fourth of July, y’all.   – tina


Chapter Two: Super Toothbrush with deformers

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