August 2013

One From The Archives

Malana1Back in 2007, I was trying to figure out what to do as a follow-up to my Mary-Anne model. I was only just starting to develop stories for Mary, and I hadn’t yet run into any problems with the character, but I needed something to switch off to in the meantime.

At some point, my coworkers convinced me that I should create a video tutorial on creating 3D pinup girls, and maybe sell it to Digital Tutors. At the time, DT didn’t have anything like that, and what they did have used models that lacked appeal. That settled it – I was going to make a tutorial series!

…I was also hilariously in over my head, but I wouldn’t realize that until later.

I don’t remember spending much time on planning or design. What would the character be? French maid? Sexy nurse? Naughty Librarian? No, it should be something different… How about a hula-girl? Sure, why not, voice in my head!

I quickly settled on a design inspired by Chris Sanders’ work, drew up a model sheet, and started modeling, making sure to record video of the entire process. I had to be careful though – often I’ll zone out while I’m working, so for this project I had to stay alert and remind myself to at least mutter some vocal notes into the microphone. The actual instruction would be dubbed in later.

…or it would have, if my microphone had been working more than half the time. Once I was done modeling, I decided to review and attempt to edit the footage. Only half of it had any of my mumbled notes. The rest was dead-silent, and I know longer remembered what thought process was, or what points I intended to make. Unfortunately, this would not be the only time this happened.

Rigging is where the whole thing started to fall apart. I didn’t know nearly as much about rigging as I do now. I barely knew anything. What I did know was learned from other tutorial DVDs, which I was now regurgitating. A tutorial video doesn’t exactly work if half-way through you need to refer your viewers to someone else’s video. The only technique I could truly say was mine, was the character’s breast rig.

Also fairly late in the project, I realized I had no idea what to do about the character’s hair. Realistic hair wasn’t much of an option – Maya’s nHair either didn’t exist yet, or I didn’t have access to it; Shave And A Haircut is a plugin that not everyone would have, and isn’t/wasn’t good at long hair, so why waste time covering it? Solid, sculpted hair didn’t appeal to me. Textured strips are still a technique I haven’t figured out.

So, between the rigging and the hair, I ended up abandoning the project. honestly, if I wasn’t yet at a point where I could figure those things out on my own, then who the hell was I to teach anything to anyone else?

Malana2Looking at the character now, I’m thinking it might be time for me to clean her up and finally finish her, if only so I have a new portfolio piece. Maybe I could even turn around and sell the model online, since I don’t have any other plans for her. I also think it’d be funny to make another attempt at a tutorial video, but only for the breast rig. People would buy it. Or maybe one would buy it, and everyone else would pirate it. :p

limbTools Update

For years now, I’ve been trying to automate as much of the rigging process as possible, particularly the limbs. Two problem that’s dogged me the whole time was a lack of customization, and code that was needlessly complex and difficult to maintain. My latest tool at least comes closer to solving both issues – rather than attempting to set up a full rig with single click, I’ve opted to set up each portion of the rig separately, while also including a one-click option.

For a quick, basic rig, the all I need to do is enter in the start, middle, and end joints, check ‘Use Default Settings’, and hit the Auto-Rig button. For a more customized rig, ‘Use Default Settings’ can be left unchecked… though I’ve yet to document which options can be set.


In the FK section, either a new chain can be created based on the input joints, or an existing chain can be specified. By default these joints will be parented to controls, but there’s an option to apply control shapes directly to the joints instead. Gimbal controls can also be created, for an extra layer of rotation. The results are then output to the their respective lists, making it easier to select and keep track of each component.

Like with FK, the IK section can also prepare a new chain, but has the added option of an orient control. This is mostly useful if, say, I want the IK chain to have a different default pose than the FK. Without any other options checked, the “Apply IK” button will build a no-frills IK setup – an IK handle, a pole vector, and nothing else. Stretching can be set up with either an expression or utilities, and as a bonus, can also be applied to the FK joints. “Apply Stretching to Selection” will do just that – if an IK handle is selected, stretching will be added to its joints.



Blending is fairly straight-forward – enter a control, specify a blending attribute (either a new name or an existing one), then hit the setup button. If there are no twist joints, the original input joints will be used. Otherwise, a new chain will be created.



The twisting section – if there are twist joints – is where the rig really comes together. Hitting the detect button will fill out the upper and lower joint lists. Three types of twisting are offered – simple, spline, and ribbon – although only simple and spline are currently implemented. Simple and spline both use spline-IK, the only difference is that simple uses 2-point linear curves.


Since spline uses cubic curves, it allows for rubber-hose effects even with the minimum amount of controls.



One thing I haven’t quite figured out yet, is how to easily rename all the nodes. Currently generic names are used, which is hardly ideal. Reverse-foot rigging is also something I need to implement, but for now the script is at least functional.