To edit animations and create realistic events, movements, or interactions, character riggers have to rely on forward-thinking programs. They must also leverage a lot of knowledge in the field of science, especially physics and anatomy, and design.
When creators decide to become character riggers, they are opting in for an extremely challenging job. Due to the complexity and repetitiveness of the tasks at hand, it is not surprising that many creators crown them as the hardest working artists. Fortunately, with the invention of modern programs that help navigate the process, rigging is slowly becoming more focused on creativity and talent than it is on hard work.
Character Rigger Responsibilities
Character riggers manipulate characters by placing bones that facilitate movement, according to Animation Career Review. Consider, for example, an animation in which a dog lays down. To create something so simple, riggers will probably have to utilize half-dozen bones and make countless edits. First, they might place a bone on each of their hind legs and use it to bend each of the legs naturally. Afterward, they will place a bone on their front legs, back, hips, head, and practically every other part of the body. Whenever the animated dog sits down, the rest of the body will follow accordingly. Hence why these professionals also need to have a firm grasp of physics and anatomy.
Depending on the style of the animation, character riggers will have the freedom to select one of the few very reliable programs. The reason why they cannot use the same one for all of their ventures is due to the visual differences that may exist. An animation that is created in a two-dimensional sphere will be completely different than its three-dimensional counterpart, after all. Nonetheless, the list of programs that are critically acclaimed and widely used is quite short If you want to improve your skills before you enter the industry, consider learning how to navigate the following.
- Maya – Maya remains an undisputed leader in the market of animation. It is also extremely popular amongst other digital creators, especially when it comes to lighting, color key, and design specialists because it includes tools to do much more than just rigging. One can rely on Maya to practically build an entire project from scratch as it has extremely versatile features. Due to the extensive abilities and popularity, Maya is amongst the more expensive options with an annual fee of $1,545. Fortunately, you could learn the basics by simply downloading a one-month free trial. As per AutoDesk, some of the most advanced characteristics include:
- Bifrost for procedural effects
- Completely interactive hair grooming
- Pre-built graphs that can be used instantly
- Geodesic voxel binding
- Color, flow, audio, and time management
- Milkshape 3D – Milkshape 3D is a modeling program that also lets creators perform character and tool rigging. It employs a low-polygon that mostly helps when it comes to projects in the gaming industry. If you are looking to work as a developer of video games, learning how to use this program is advised. Milkshape 3D is one of the older tools that came around in 1996 when Mete Ciragan invented in. Nonetheless, it is still quite powerful and has gone through several updates and modernizations since the 90s. Its $35 price tag is quite spectacular when compared to Maya.
- Blender – In terms of the program layout and design, Blender is similar to Milkshape 3D. The tools that it offers are perfect for modeling and rigging. It is completely free for anyone who wants to download it. This program was developed by other artists, not large companies which makes it very unique. Thousands of creators from all over the world helped bring it to its current state. Unfortunately, it does not support any two-dimensional work, like most other programs, and it only accepts three-dimensional models and editing.
- Toon Boom’s Harmony 17 – With a 25-year-long track record that is characterized by successful projects and high praise, Toon Boom’s Harmony 17 is an animation software that can handle TV projects, video games, and even web content. With borderline limitless abilities, it is a very close second to Maya when considering market share, popularity, and customer satisfaction. Model number 17 also brought some innovative additions like the renovated drawing ruler, improved stylus responsiveness that reacts to angle, pressure, and tilt, and advanced master controller. Regardless of its capabilities, however, it is quite affordable as you can obtain the “Essentials” version for just $16 per month. Since the goal is to simply learn how to use the program, purchasing “Advanced” or “Premium” Harmony may not be necessary.
Even though the aforementioned list is not exhaustive, it presents a good summary of the programs; some alternatives are fairly cheap or free while others have a price going from the mid-range up to extreme premiums. Luckily, if you just want to improve your skills, you will be able to do so in a relatively short period that you can get via free trials. Once you go through a few different alternatives, you will find a platform that complements your character rigging abilities and sticking with it would be the best course of action.