You can turn your smartphone into a 3D holographic video viewer with this simple DIY project presented by Youtuber Mrwhosetheboss. When paired with a special “hologram-ready” video, this device will create the illusion that you’re observing a floating 3D image!
Southeast Michigan based artist Brian Spolans has a keen interest in the complex relationships between individuals and their societies and ecosystems. There is a narrative to be found in the way we interact with our surroundings. Titled “Dimensional”, his latest series of dimensional mixed media illustrations portrays mountainous fictional worlds bustling with small creatures. The series is an exploration of materials ranging from print making, acrylic, pen and ink, and pencil drawings that sit on custom made shelves.
In the wonderful world of 3D, if we want good animation, we first need a good rig. It needs to deform and bend the model to whatever pose will be needed during animation. There are also technical constraints and the rig needs to be comfortable to use. Here’s a rough overview how it’s done.
When Thibault creates an excellent model to blow minds away with the photorealistic visage, we soon realize it won’t move by itself. The computer is dumb, it doesn’t see a spaceman, it only sees points and lines and planes. It falls on the highly-trained computer operator say what is an arm, what is a leg, what a tentacle.
At the start we create the hierarchy of bones that will deform the mesh, i.e. deform bones. In game engines, these are the bones that count towards the 64-something bones limitation per mesh. In Blender, they are nothing more than regular bones with their deform trait disabled. This is highly useful down the pipeline, when assigning automatic vertex weights or exporting to the game engine, only the bones that are needed get taken into account. Once the skeleton is built and vertex weights assigned for nice deformation, this part of the job is done.
But the rig is far from finished, we can’t use such a simple setup for proper animation. In fact, the deform bones aren’t used to animate at all. They are driven by other bones around them, built into whatever elaborate controls animators need. Since the control bones don’t get exported to the game engine, we can go wild and do any number and combination of bones. For example, the player character rig currently has 102 bones, while only 39 of them are used in the game. How the controls are built is a huge topic in itself and I won’t go deeper here. For further insight, you can check the tutorial DVD mentioned at the end, or other various tutorials on the topic.
So in parallel to a hierarchy of deform bones, there is a hierarchy of control bones. In Blender, Copy Transform constraint is used to drive one bone with another, since we wish to avoid any hierarchical relationship between the two skeletons. This approach makes for a nice and clean rig, where if need be, we can change the controls later without affecting deform bones.
Now that the controls are set up, we get a a visual cacophony - the bones have a simple shape and they all look the same. How do we know which one to select and what it will do? By giving them custom shapes, of course. In Blender, any mesh or curve can be used to create all sorts of custom shapes for the bones. This way the bones become almost like widgets in a user interface, using visual language for an elegant and readable rig. Also, colours.
Animating is manipulating three main properties of a bone – location, rotation and scale. But not all bones need all three, the head for example, needs only rotation. Thus we can lock the other two properties so they won’t be keyframed and the animator is happy with less balls to juggle. Of course, it always depends on the rig specifics, some heads might indeed move or scale, e.g. with cartoony animation.
At the end and even during rigging, we can move bones into separate layers based on various criteria. Body, arm IK controls, arm FK controls, deform bones, helper bones, etc. It’s another layer of organization of the bones. During animation it limits visible bones to what’s actually needed. The rest and all non-control bones are hidden to not get in the way.
Hopefully this explains the general idea of rigging. For further reading, I highly recommend Humane Rigging DVD for Blender. It’s what gave me much needed fundamentals to do good rigging. If you’re interested to learn more, that’s one place to do it. Until next time!