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I have a question about rigging and referencing in Blender. Since now a build support alembic file, it matches our production system. For a vfx project, we need to produce 8 minutes of fooatges and we want to try Blender in this production to remove Maya from our pipeline (too manies bugs and support is bad).

So my questions are :

  • How many times is need to build a rig like Victor from Cosmo Laundromat ?
  • Does it need a big knowledge in Blender python API ?
  • Is it possible to found ressources for build it (dvd, artists) ?
  • is it possible like maya to reference the model with his rig and skin into an other scene to be animated and still keeping the link between the two scene if an update is made on the rig ?

The target for the project is a motion picture quality vfx (rendering will be done in our production engine Guerilla render). The goal is to remove maya from our pipeline !!! At this time, on the current movie we're doing, it's the main source of problems, like we spend all our times and money to solve problems that we not have in others solutions, like Houdini (our main VFX platform) or me in Blender for modeling and few basic setup like smoke and fire.

Also Blender have a great python API, an easy way to make plugins, and crash less than maya (it's not a joke... we tried).

Thanks in advenced for your answers, A++

Matt

PS : we're based at Luxembourg, our main group is "On entertainment" and we're OnyxLux 3D.

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  • $\begingroup$ I am not much into animation or rigging myself, but I'd say you can do most of those things. Anyway just wanted to comment that the Cosmos Laundromat assets are open licensed and you can access them for study and learning through the Blender cloud subscription program. You'll have access to tutorials and assets and you'd be helping the Blender Foundation. It's payed subscription but it's probably worth the money. $\endgroup$ – Duarte Farrajota Ramos Jun 20 '16 at 10:04
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    $\begingroup$ Hi, Oki, I'll get an acces to the cloud to look inside and help Blender foundation too. $\endgroup$ – Matthieu Barbié Jun 20 '16 at 13:21
  • $\begingroup$ Just some more info, in case you are interested it seems to be 10€/month, all items are downloadable and commons licensed for you to keep afterwards cloud.blender.org $\endgroup$ – Duarte Farrajota Ramos Jun 20 '16 at 16:47
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If you have or are willing to get a cloud sub, one option for rigging is to use https://cloud.blender.org/p/blenrig/

Once you know what you are doing with it, it should be fairly straightforward to setup and includes utilities to speed up skinning (lattices, mesh deform cage, helper bones to drive corrective shapes). It takes a little bit of time to get familiar with but the end results are pretty good. I can't say exactly how long it should take though.

If you want to build your own, Nathan Vegdahl's Humane Rigging course is probably the best starting point, and goes over most of the features that were included in the rigify rig. You should be able to build all this with just drivers and constraints, not python required (although python scripts could be used to dramatically speed up your workflow).

If you want to build rigs other than human, the rigify addon is actually designed to be a modular system with components that can be mixed and matched (e.g. Arms, legs, spine etc). New components can be defined in python for it. Unfortunately, there isn't much documentation available (at least that I've seen).

You can indeed link assests from one file to another in blender using the link option in the file menu. To do this you will first want to group all elements of your rig and link that group. Then once the group is linked you need to create a proxy of the linked rig to animate. Unfortunately physics simulation do not get linked across to the new scene, so you if you want to simulate something after animating, you will need to duplicate it in your scene. More information can be found at https://www.blender.org/manual/data_system/linked_libraries.html.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hi thank you very much for yours answers. I'll check all this solutions. This production start near February 2017, we have time to test and produce multiple test rigs. Thanks you again $\endgroup$ – Matthieu Barbié Jun 21 '16 at 7:29
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How much times is needed to build a rig like Victor from Cosmo Laundromat?

About a week or two of one_man_hours for such a rig. Depends on how good that artist is and how much he has automated with scripts.

Does it need a big knowledge in Blender python API ?

Yes, every technical artist building rigs needs to know the API of the software, Blender or not Blender. A lot of functionality that you take as granted from Maya is not present in Blender and has to be scripted. Scripts also speed the workflow, so in production environment they are a must. The API is well documented here: https://www.blender.org/api/blender_python_api_current/

It takes about 2 months of full work time for a new technical person to become proficient in production blender rigging without prior knowledge of python, 1 month with python knowledge and slight prior experience with rigging and couple of weeks for a technical artist that transits between applications.

Is it possible to found ressources for build it (dvd, artists)?

All resources for Blender are here: Resources for Blender

I would cheery pick as most useful the Blender Cloud (for Victor rig), Blender Cookie (good rigging tutorials), and Rigify addon (for reverse-engineering).

Also is good to know that Blender community is mainly composed of hobbyist, that don't have that much experience, and everyone is making tutorials these days. So with Blender there is a lot of free tutorials that will show you the wrong way to do things.

An example how not to do rigging is here: http://blog.digitaltutors.com/how-to-create-your-first-character-rig-in-blender-part-1/

Also Blender develops constantly - so many tutorials are now out-of-date.

Is it possible like Maya to reference the model with his rig and skin into an other scene to be animated and still keeping the link between the two scene if an update is made on the rig?

Yes, this is possible but has limitations. When you link a character, you need to create a proxy of the rig, that can be edited.

When you make changes to the rig in the linked file, you have to re-create the proxy rig, and re-link it's animations. It won't happen automatically. Also the edit of the rig can easily break the animations, as everything in Blender is referenced only by names - so careful with renaming.

Also this limits the number of linked instances you can use in a scene to 1.

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I suggest you to check the free CookieFlexRig, and the free advanced rig course by Nathan Vegdahl https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3J-XN38EnhQ&list=PLE211C8C41F1AFBAB.

With the flexrig infos you'll discover also how to link characters between files: essentially you model the character, build (or copy from flexi rig, or generate with the rigify addon) the rig, then create a group and save the file. In a new production file you can use the Link function (in the file menu of the info window) to import the group, then create a Proxy (object menu of the 3d window) of the rig and start to animate the proxy:

every update made on the model file will update the production file also.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answers, I'll look that courses. Thank you again for your quick answers. $\endgroup$ – Matthieu Barbié Jun 21 '16 at 7:31
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if you are trying to achieve vfx quality, the most rig addons (like rigify) will probably not prowide enough quality for you.

But Blender does support all constraints that are also available in Maya. This means your rigging team should be able to adapt their workflow fairly easy. but be aware that currently (as i know a solution is on its way) all animation constraints are calculated after the ik constraints. if you are planing an extremely complex rigg, you are most like going to face frame lagging/glitching in the viewport. This problem gets solved when rendering so that the final image is not affected by this "bug". but i dont know if the alembic exportet will export the glitches or exports the mesh correctly. BUT if you are planning a rigg like victor you mostlike will not face those problems because it is simple enough (but i am just mentioning it if you are planing even more complex riggs).

further more blender can simulate maya's muscle system.

the bullet egnine (physic engine) calculates cloth pretty good. but dont expect realtime simulation.

you can use shape keys and corrective shape keys.

to export hair simulation you will face some problems because if you want to export it with alembic you need to convert the hair into real mesh. this could crash your system. but if you are implementing hair in your inhouse engine and not in blender, this should be no problem

blenders keyframe system (consisting of the dope sheet, graph editor and time line) is very powerfull and streamlined for fast animation.

the actual rigg creation system is superior to maya. it does not puts your bone hierarchy as loose parts in your outliner. instead it packs every rigg as one object. inside this object you have 2 modes. first edit mode. where you can build, arange and change your mesh. even if your mesh already is skinned to the rigg. in this mode your mesh will not get deformed if you have to adjust your rigg. second pose mode. here you can not change your bone hierachy. this is only for posing your mesh so the animator can not break the rigg by excident.

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    $\begingroup$ I wouldn't call the edit/pose rigging system an advantage. It is disadvantage. It is badly designed. Constraints are in pose, bone parenting in edit, some settings in pose others in edit. Scripting and switching between pose and edit is not very well thought through, every time you switch the bones are deleted from memory and the other ones are generated - not the best way to do it. Rigging is nicely designed in Modo. I would argue that lack of convenient IK and IK splines makes Blender rigging inferior to Maya. Maya's system is based upon joints rather than bones which I see as advantage. $\endgroup$ – Jaroslav Jerryno Novotny Jun 21 '16 at 9:40

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