Character Rigging for FOX Animated Series "Viva Piñata"
My second project at Bardel Entertainment was a TV spin-off of a video game for the XBOX 360. After our initial studio bid was a success, we hit the ground running. We took our test rigs and jumped into our first episode. Since many of these core characters were being tested as we moved along, we had to come up with creative ways to migrate animated scenes onto our more stable and feature rich rigs. Due to having multiple rigs floating around, it was sometimes unsettling to overhear someone say, "Are you on V1 or V2?" (refering to version 1 or version 2 of the rigs). That being said, this would not break the pipipeline, it would only limit that particulat animator for that particular shot. Sometimes (not often) animators prefered using the previous verion of a rig, usually due to having to create a short shot, and them already having a specific technique in mind. Sometimes you've gotta go with what you know.
After the first few episodes, we realized one of the wonderful things about working on an episodic animated TV show... iteration! Each new episode was an opportunity to do things a tiny bit differently, making improvements on the previous episode. We were also able to create more accurate estimates for when new characters and sets were introduced. After 5-6 episodes, we reached a pretty good stride and were able to then bring the quality of our rigs up by introducing a "smushy face" rig, which allowed the animators to quickly sculpt extreme expressions onto the characters, Tex Avery style.
Our rigs also included the ability to change our characters from quadruped to bipeds. Besides the kinematic issues with having a 4 legged character walk like a human, we also encounted difficulties with the textures, as they would stretch dramatically, which looked pretty rough till a solution was developed that allowd us to blend between texture sets. In our case, it lucky was not the end of the world when dog, cats and horse can walk and talk.
The character varied greatly, so although we did have some standard modular pieces of the rig, like the limbs and spine, we still found ourselve having to create new rigs for unique situations, like snake bodies, elephant drunks, wings, etc.
The props often had their own personalities. Squashing, stretching and scaling, while also working with our characters in ways that made sense to animators. We didn't schedule time to hold classes on how to use the rigs, so they had to be intuitive to use. Sometime we would record video demos to give the animators an idea of the potentials.
More details comings soon...