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Essential Blender 07 Rigging and Skinning Discussion

Essential Blender 07 Rigging and Skinning Discussion

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Published by Ahmad Musaffa

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Published by: Ahmad Musaffa on Jan 12, 2009
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Chapter 7: Rigging and Skinning: DiscussionBy Ryan DaleImagine how tedious it would be to animate a mesh as complicated as a character by moving each vertex inthe mesh where you want it, frame by frame. You'd never get any animation done! In Blender, using anarmature makes the task of posing a mesh much easier. If you've worked through Chapter 6, you've alreadyseen this in action on the Hank character.The process of constructing an armature is called "rigging," while the process of marrying the armature andmesh is called "skinning."The general workflow for rigging an armature and skinning a mesh is something like this:- Build an armature inside your mesh by extruding and adding bones;- Name the bones appropriately;- Optionally, add constraints to give the rig more functionality, making it easier to use;- Apply an Armature modifier to the mesh; and- Using either Envelopes or Vertex Groups (or both), designate which bones should influence which parts of the mesh.Then you're done! At various points along the way, though, you may have to go back and modify the meshto make it work better with the armature, or even alter your armature's structure for better functionality. It'san iterative process, and may take a couple of tries, especially during skinning.Callout: Armatures are used to deform meshes for complex tasks like character animation.Sidebar: More Than ArmaturesBlender offers ways to deform a mesh beyond the basic armature. Although not covered in this book, thereare a host of other methods at your disposal: hooks, modifiers, curves, lattices and driven keys. Any of thesecan be used to enhance or even completely drive mesh deformation, meaning that they too fall under theheading of "rigging." In the end, armatures are just one (very important) tool in your rigging toolbox.The included disk has several examples of alternative approaches to rigging in the folder "rigs," withexplanations embedded right within the files. You are encouraged to expand your mind a bit and check themout.End sidebar Rigging: Building an ArmatureAdding an ArmatureTo add an armature, use the spacebar toolbox and choose Add->Armature. An armature with a single bonewill be added at the location of the 3D cursor, in Edit Mode. As always, it's a good idea to switch to Objectmode with the Tab-key and use Alt-R to clear any rotation. Armatures and character animation are evenmore sensitive to object level rotations than other kinds of objects, and making sure to always build your armatures with no object level rotations will prevent unexpected behavior and problems later on.Note: If you have solid view turned on, you may not see the bone if it's inside your mesh. You can either usethe Z-key to switch to wireframe so you can see the armature better, or you can turn on the X-Ray option inthe Armature panel of the edit buttons. X-Ray makes the armature visible through any objects that mightotherwise be blocking it.Anatomy of a Bone
The default bone draw type is Octahedron (more on draw types later), where the bone has a thick end and athin end. At each end there's a circle. The circle at the thick end is the root of the bone, and the circle at thethin end is the tip of the bone. The root and tip can be selected separately. You can select the entire boneeither by RMB-clicking the center of it, or by selecting both the root and the tip of the bone.Figure RSD.01,.01a: A single bone, in wireframe and solid views. The tip is selected, and the root isunselected.Armature ModesAn Armature has an Object mode and an Edit mode, just like a mesh. Unlike a mesh, however, you willrarely use the Object mode of an armature. Instead, you'll use Edit mode and Pose mode, one that's uniqueto armatures.Object mode can be used to place an armature in a starting XYZ position within a scene, but after that it isgenerally unused. Object mode is denoted by a solid light pink outline.Edit mode is used for constructing the armature, assigning hierarchical relationships between bones (i.e.,parent/child), and adjusting the armature to better fit a mesh. Edit mode is denoted by magenta (for unselected) and yellow (for selected) outlines.Pose mode is used for assigning constraints to bones and for posing the armature during animation. Posemode is denoted by a blue outline around bones.Switching modes: When you first add an armature, you are in Edit mode, as shown by the yellow and pinkbone outlines. You can use Ctrl-Tab to enter Pose mode, indicated by blue bone outlines. Notice, though,that once Pose mode is activated, the Tab-key switches between Edit and Pose modes - Object mode isskipped. To get back to Object mode, Ctrl-Tab deactivates Pose mode.Figure RSD.02,.03,.04: The same armature in Object, Edit and Pose modes.Callout: Armatures are constructed in Edit mode, but animated in Pose mode.Adding and Moving BonesAdding a bone: To add a bone to an armature, use the spacebar toolbox and choose Add->Bone while inEdit mode. The new bone will be added at the 3D cursor, and will not have a parent.Bones can also be added to an armature by selecting an existing bone and using the Extrude command.The part of the bone from which you extrude determines the behavior and relationship of the newly extrudedbone.Extruding from the tip: RMB select the tip of the bone and use the E-key to extrude. The new bone willautomatically be a child of the bone it was extruded from, and will automatically be connected to that samebone.Extruding from the root: select the root of the bone and use the E-key to extrude. A bone extruded from aroot will not be a child and will not be connected to the bone it was extruded from. It is equivalent to adding anew bone.In addition to using the E-key to extrude, a new bone can be extruded by making a selection and Ctrl-LMBclicking in the 3D view. The tip of the new bone will be set wherever you clicked, while the root will be at thetip of the previously selected bone.Symmetrical extrude: An extremely useful function! Turn on X-Axis Mirror in the Armature panel of the Editbuttons. Activating this feature allows you to use the command Shift-E to symmetrically extrude. If you
symmetrically extrude from the tip of a bone, both new bones will be children of the bone they were extrudedfrom. When you move just one side of a symmetrical pair, the other will move as well, saving lots of timewhen building symmetrical armatures.In addition, the bones are automatically given "_L" and "_R" suffixes. These suffixes are important. If youremove either one, the symmetrical relationship is broken.Adding a bone symmetrically: To add a bone symmetrically, extrude (Shift-E) from the root of any bone. Thiswill create a bone without a parent.If you prefer to work with a single side of an armature at a time, you can always create only, say, the leftside, then Shift-D duplicate your work, scale it along the X-axis (use -1 for a scale factor) and use the W-key"Flip Left-Right Names" function to mirror your armature.Figure RSD.05: The single bone was added normally, with the toolbox Add->Bone command. The two setsof bone chains were added with Symmetrical extrusion.Moving bones: To arrange the armature inside the mesh, you can move entire bones or individual roots andtips. When two bones are connected, you can move just the joint between them. Don't forget the snap menu(Shift-S), which lets you use the 3D cursor as a reference point for bones as it does for objects.Callout:- Bones can be added from the toolbox, or by extruding existing bones with the E-key or Ctrl-LMB clicking.- When "X-Axis Mirror" is enabled in the armatures Edit buttons, changes to one side of the armature alsohappen to the other. Shift-E extrudes symmetrically.Bone Parent/Child and Connected RelationshipsLike other Blender objects, bones can have parent/child relationships. Building these relationships correctlyis essential to a properly functioning rig. If you recall from the introductory animation chapter, a child objectcan move independently of its parent, but will be transformed as a single object with the parent if the parentmoves. This functionality is much the same with armatures and bones.For example, the bones of a human arm are arranged in just such a parent/child relationship. The hand canmove on its own, as can the lower arm. However, if the upper arm moves, both the lower arm and handmust move with it. So, in this example, the hand is the child of the lower arm, which is in turn the child of theupper arm.As we mentioned before, bones that are extruded from the tips of other bones are created as children bydefault. This makes the creation of chains of bones like arms very simple.If you have already existing bones that you wish to create a parent/child relationship for, when one was notcreated by default, it is easy to create one. Just as you create the same relationships with regular objects,first select the child object. Then, Shift-RMB select the parent and press Ctrl-P.There is one major difference, though, between object parenting and bone parenting. With bones,parent/child objects can be either connected or disconnected. A disconnected child bone works exactly likethe parent/child relationship you are used to from Object mode. A connected child object, however, cannottranslate independently of its parent - its root is the parent's tip. It can still rotate freely, but cannot moveaway from the parent bone.So really, in our earlier example of a human arm, it would be more precise to say that the hand is theconnected child of the lower arm, which is the connected child of the upper arm. In fact, there are no actual joint relationships in the human body that can be properly termed disconnected, as the human body doesnot, hopefully, come apart.

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