Adventures in the Land of FK/IK Rigging

It just occurred to me that despite having been animating for the past 6 months, I’ve never updated anyone about what I’ve actually been doing. Realizing this, I have elected to try my best in documenting a little bit of what I do each week (or every couple of days). This probably will not only help inform others on my adventures and endeavors, but it’ll also provide a type of log for me to look back upon in future years. Additionally, by attempting to record my thoughts, I also help organize my ideas in a more tactile form, which, consequently, should also help improve my work.

skeleton-mage-conceptThe project of interest today is my first attempt at rigging BitGem‘s Low Poly Skeleton Mage’s model. BitGem provided the model/textures/bone structure with this model, and boy, is it a pretty model. I’ve been searching for a model/rig where I could practice/animate a floating figure gathering/shooting energy. The given model, however, did not come with the ‘animator’s dream’ with CV curves and FK/IK handles to manipulate the character; the default rig is animate-able via its bones, specifically, and only provides Forward Kinematics. In the long run, this limitation isn’t too much of a detriment, as a floating mage who doesn’t contact the ground has barely any need for Inverse Kinematics. Despite this, I was still super interested in learning how to fully rig the character with controls (and optionally, FK/IK switching/monitoring) for the added flexibility. My interest was also heavily spurred by the fact that I am completely in love with this precious model and hope to use it in further animations in the future if opportunities arise. Props to the artists who conceived the character. Just look at the awesome concept art! I have to figure out how to get the flaming effects there. xD

Thus, I have begun applying new knowledge in creating custom curves with colours, parenting/parent constraining, orient constraining, and applying hierarchical systems to understand how the rig should work (both inversely and forward….ly). The current progress can be seen below.


Curves have not yet been parented with the actual bone joints and slight further edits to the spine curves to conform to his robe a little bit more. The largest issue I’ve encountered during this process was working around the large volume of the robe. Many joints provided in the rig are hidden under the robes and has proven to operate differently from many normal animation rigs that usually end up being super skinny characters, or characters who are simply garbed, allowing for easy access to physical joints. The difficulty in question for the Skeleton Mage for me was the shoulder and neck joints. With the huge collar wrapping around the shoulders and neck, very little real estate is provided for close proximity with the actual neck and shoulder joints. Thus, I have located some ‘shoulder’ controls on the character’s back, but actually end up floating closer to the “arm” joint as opposed to the “shoulder” joint.

The next step is to research methods of FK/IK rigging and the process of planning for both and allowing for easy flexibility to switch between the two. Once we get past that point, he’ll be ready to animate (not that he isn’t already, xD). Outside of this, I’m currently working on a couple creature shots, and a wushu shot that’s way too complicated for my own good.

Until next time!

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  • mamayush says:

    somehow i didn’t see this, even though i did see the violoncelle post! this is great work, really on par with what i think the students at my old school were accomplishing by the middle/end of their first year as well. keep it up!! let me know if you want me to connect you with the instructors there, even if it’s just to take a look at your portfolio and give feedback. i’m sure they’d be happy to do it as a favor to me 🙂

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