A rigger's journey

Today I was thinking about how I have shifted my focus as my career moves forward and I realized that I’m not that special, actually a bunch of friends have been following the same pattern on their careers.

So, why not write about it?

First steps

Exciting times ahead!

Everything is new and each successful setup is a victory, I remember myself learning new things every night before going to sleep and feeling like a boss. At this stage you should be learning the basics, nothing fancy, but it’s like when you learn a magic trick, you can’t stop showing/talking about it.

This is the time to decide if you really want to be a rigger or simply hate it as does the rest of humanity.

Rigger monkey

Yep, as you move forward and watch every rigging reel on the planet, it seems natural try to copy the cool stuff out there, I remember when I did a ribbon setup for the first time, oh boy, I felt so clever.

Sometimes you don’t even understand why things work the way they do, but who cares? It’s working!

Non-flipping madness

It’s time to pursuit those 360ΒΊ and reinvent the wheel, it doesn’t matter if your animators don’t need to twist that much (or whatever you’re trying to implement), the point is that you begin to be able to find solutions to problems while learning about ‘weird things’ like quaternions or transformation matrices… Animation requirements? I don’t need those, I can fly! πŸ˜ƒ

Meeting scripting

Do you remember the first steps? Well, this is similar, scripting opens a whole new world of possibilities and you finally are able to implement those crazy setups in the real world via automation (and also discover the KISS meaning).

But even better, here’s is when you learn how things work under the hood and how handy were those math classes about linear algebra, trigonometry and so on.

Here is also when you reimplement all your rigging tools… Reinventing the wheel over and over again.

‘Serious’ programming

At this point you probably know a bit about programming, but I bet you can’t ’live’ outside your DCC.

It’s time to learn more about programming languages (the language itself), design patterns and realize that programming is not just about automation but resource management and fata transformation.

Modular auto-rigger? Animation tools? Perhaps some standalone application? Has anyone seen this before?

Back to the basics

I’m at this point now, I’ve coded a lot and I love it, but I’m not sure I always remember why I’m doing it (e.g. I often find myself working on pipeline-ish stuff).

Now, when I face a new character, I try to focus just on deformation, I don’t care too much about rigging behavior or fancy animation features, just joint placement and references (a lot of them) until it looks OK and met the animation requirements (or time’s up πŸ˜ƒ)… Then I go and add the fancy stuff (which is probably automated at this point).

This sort of inverted workflow helps me to quickly iterate on the deformation side without much overhead and facilitates try new things.

Iteration is key! don’t fool yourself into thinking you have it right on the first try, nobody does.

What about you?

That has been my journey so far, but what about yours?

Was it too different for you? What stage are you in now? What’s next?

Tell me what you think,