6 reasons why a 3D animator cannot do without a Rigger
Computer graphics comes one step before animation in the case of 3D animation. This is the phase where a modeller creates a character which looks somewhat like a marble sculpture. But this structure is static and in order to add mobility to this 3D character one must find a system of joints and control handles so that the animators can pose the model. The people who create these movement joints on a digital sculpture are usually know as technical directors or riggers. And this process of taking a static 3D mesh and making it ready for animation is known as rigging. The job role of a rigging artist is as important as that of a 3D animator. So if your animation course also teaches you rigging it is actually beneficial for you.
The rigging of any character is a broad umbrella that involves various procedures which are as follows:
To its core, a character’s rig is basically a digital skeleton bound to a 3D mesh. Similar to an actual skeleton, a rig is made up of joints and bones, each of which acts as a “handle” that animators can use to bend the character into the desired pose. A rig that is required for short and simple movements usually takes a few hours. But rigs for movie characters from Disney or Pixar movies may take days or even weeks.
Placing the Skeleton
After creating the rigged skeleton it is time to place the skeleton on top of the character’s sculpture. This is one of the easiest parts of the rigging process. The main thing to keep in mind in this step is that whether the movable joints are placed exactly where a real-life skeleton has. When setting up a character’s skeleton, the first joint you place is called the root joint. Every subsequent joint will be connected to the root either directly, or indirectly through another joint. Forward kinematics (FK) is one of two basic ways to calculate the joint movement of a fully rigged character. If you are using FK for rigging then any given joint can only affect parts of the skeleton that falls below it. In real life, the movement of our shoulders cause movement in our elbows, wrist and hand, but for FK rigging one has to maintain the hierarchy archy of movement oot → spine → shoulder → elbow → etc.
Inverse Kinematics (IK) is the exact opposite of FK and used by rigging artists for the movement of hands and legs. With an IK rig, the animator directly places the terminating rig and joints above it are automatically interpolated by the software, following the hierarchy. Inverse Kinematics is very useful when a terminating joint needs to be placed in a character for a precise movement, like climbing a ladder. Because while climbing a ladder we already know that the characters hands and legs will be in contact with the ladder.
Degrees of Freedom/Constraints
A rigging artist must always remember that joints like the elbows and knees are limited to a single degree of freedom in the real world, there is only one axis around which these joints can move. Also, a human’s neck cannot move 360 degrees. This is why the artist should add some restrictions to the movement of the character’s joints so that while animating the character moves in a realistic way.
Squash and Stretch
For cartoons and fictional animated characters, some sort of exaggerated realism is required even in their movements. So, the rig for these characters must have the ability to squash and stretch according to the requirement. Although for realistic filming or VFX thee movements have no use.
Facial rigging of a character is an absolute separate process and has no connection to the rest of the body. It is near impossible to create a proper facial rig with the traditional bone structure. This is why blending shapes or morph targets are used for facial rigging.
Most animation institutes that provide 3D animation courses have rigging as a part of their curriculum but if you are willing to become a rigger then you need to find an institute that provides specialization courses on rigging. Arena Animation Ameerpet and Arena Animation Mehdipatnam, both have a term that focusses on the art of rigging, so you know which institute to go for if you are specific about your interests in the animation industry.