Deformation Complete Rigging

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Creating a Full Character Turnaround Deformation Rig

Creating and rigging a Full Character Turnaround is a complex process, but it can easily be achieved by following the step-by-step process:

This tips and tricks is divided as follow:

  • Preparing the Character
  • Enabling the Posed Deformer Preference
  • Renaming the Drawings
  • Rigging the Parts
  • Linking Extra Drawings to a Single Rig
  • Assembling the Parts
  • Setting Up the Pivots
  • Optimizing the Skeleton

Preparing the Character

You need to prepare your character before building a puppet’s deformation skeleton. The best way to proceed is to have the limbs on separate drawing layers, this is similar to a standard cut-out puppet preparation, but uses less pieces. Since this is a more advanced type of puppet you should keep the character’s head, hands, feet and facial features on a separate layer from the body, arms and legs. This will avoid the extremities from being distorted if the limbs are stretched during an action. It will also let you use the drawing substitution to swap hands, feet, eyes and mouth poses during animation.

There are many ways to break down a cut-out puppet. The example described in this chapter uses these pieces:

Body Left Ear Right Ear
Head Left Eye Right Eye
Mouth Left Eyebrow Right Eyebrow
Nose Left Arm Right Arm
Left Hand Right Hand
Left Leg Right Leg
Left Foot Right Foot

Refer to the following topics in the chapter Building a Character in the Harmony User Guide to learn how to breakdown your character:

  • Importing a Model
  • Relative Sizes
  • Studying the Model
  • Setting the Default Separate Position Preference
  • Breaking Down
  • Adding the Main Extra Drawings

Refer to the chapter Animating Your Puppets > Swapping Images in the Harmony User Guide to learn more about drawing substitution.

Enabling the Posed Deformer Preference

The first thing you should do when rigging your character turnaround is to make sure to enable the Create Posed Deformer in Create Deformation Above/Under preference. This preference is located in the Preferences panel, under the Deformation tab and is enabled by default.

When rigging with this preference enabled, you will notice that the structure of the deformation inside the Deformation Group is slightly different than it is when executing a basic rig with the preference disabled.

Each pose you rig within the same element is part of a separate subgroup all of which are gathered together by a Deformation-Composite module, each subgroup is called by its drawing number or name. These subgroups cannot be renamed once the rig is complete, as the name of the group and drawing is the link between them. If you kept the default drawing numbering 1, 2, 3, etc., your groups will be called 1, 2, 3, and so on. For this reason, you might want to rename your drawing before you start rigging so that the names correspond to the poses, for example: front, side, quarter, etc.

Renaming the Drawings

Although renaming your drawings is not mandatory, it can prove useful in maintaining a clear project Network structure. If you leave your drawing as is and do not rename it, your deformation subgroups will be automatically named according to the drawing numbering. However, you should consider renaming, especially if you have several drawings using the same rig within an element.

To rename drawings to link them to the same chain:

  1. In the Xsheet view, locate the column corresponding to the element which includes several drawings that will use the same chain, for example a character that has several costumes which you plan to swap by using drawing substitution. In this case, the rabbit’s feet, which will all use the same deformation curve.
    You must strictly adhere to this rule, if you want the extra drawings to be linked to the deformation chain of the main drawing.
  2. In the Xsheet view, select the first drawing of the column. This is the one that will be rigged.
  3. Select Drawing > Rename Drawing. You can also use the default keyboard shortcut [Ctrl]+[D] (Windows/Linux) or [z]+[D] (Mac OS X).
  4. In the Rename Drawing dialog box, type a relevant new name for the drawing and click OK to validate.
  5. In the Xsheet view, select the next drawing in the column and select Rename > Rename Drawing.
  6. In the Rename Drawing dialog box, type the same name that you gave the first drawing of the column, exactly as it was written and add a plus sign and any number. For example, if the first drawing is named front, the subsequent drawings will need to be named: front+1, front+2, front+3, etc...
  7. Repeat Step 5 and Step 6 for each subsequent drawing that needs to be linked to the same deformation chain.

Rigging the Parts

You can start your deformation rig by creating the Bones or Curves on the character’s arms and legs. The style of animation you plan on producing, will influence the style of rig you will use. (Bones and Articulations or Curves)

To rig the arms and legs of the character turnaround:

  1. In the Timeline view, make sure that the time marker is set to the frame displaying your first drawing.
  2. In the Network view, select your character’s arm or leg.
  3. In the Deformation toolbar, select the Rigging tool.
  4. In the Rigging Tool Properties, set the mode to Automatic.
  5. To create a Bones and Articulations structure:
    • Click on the extremity corresponding to the shoulder or hip of the limb and release to create the first rotation point.
    • Click again in the middle of the limb where the elbow or knee is located to create the first articulation.
    • Click one last time at the end of the limb, where the wrist or ankle rests to create the second bone.
  1. To create a Curve structure:
    • Click on the extremity corresponding to the shoulder or hip of the limb and drag the cursor to extend the first control handle.
    • Click at the end of the limb, where the wrist or ankle rests and drag the cursor to extend the second control handle.
  1. In the Timeline view, move the time marker to display the frame with the next pose of that drawing element.
  2. Repeat Step 1 to Step 7 until all of the element‘s different poses are rigged, then begin the whole process again for each limb. Although it is recommended to keep consistency in your rigging of different poses in the same element, you can choose a different type of rig for each pose if necessary.

You can also set the Rigging Tool Properties mode to Curve or Bone . This will prevent gesture mistakes leading to the creation of the wrong type of deformer.

Once you create a chain, you can modify it’s position and orientation using the Setup Mode and Transform tool. Refer to the topic Optimizing the Skeleton to learn how.

When you have several drawings that will use exactly the same rig there is a special naming rule you need to follow so that the same rig is linked to these different drawings. This can happen when you have drawing substitution in this layer.

You should rename your extra drawings BEFORE rigging the main drawing of your element. If you do not do this an unnecessary subgroup will be created for each extra drawing.

Once your drawings are correctly named, you can start the rigging process.

To link extra drawings to a single rig:

  1. In the Timeline view, make sure that the time marker is on the first frame, or the frame displaying the main drawing.
  2. In the Network view, select your element's module.
  3. In the Deformation toolbar, select the Rigging tool.
  4. In the Camera view, build your Curve or Bone deformation chain.
  5. Use the keyboard shortcut [G] to switch to the next drawing. You will notice that the subsequent drawings that are part of the link already have a deformation chain. This is the same as you just created for the main drawing.
    If you look in the Deformation Group of your element in the Network view, you will notice there are no subgroups created for the extra drawings, they are all automatically linked to the main drawing's deformation chain.

Assembling the Parts

After you have created all the deformation chains for your character you will need to assemble these separate body parts into a puppet.

To avoid problems such as having the head stretched by the neck deformers or a hand modified by the neck and body deformers, it is recommended to put them on a separate layer. When they are on a separate layer, rig them using a Kinematic output coming directly from your Deformation Group, instead of the normal hierarchy connection between modules. This will let you connect a part directly to it, so it will only be influenced by the position of its parent and will not undergo any deformation. This is recommended as a method of optimizing the functionality of the puppet and also as a way of avoiding any unwanted distortion effects for any assembled parts.

To assemble the puppet's parts:

  1. In the Network view, locate the puppet's head. You can also select the head in the Camera view using the Transform tool and then use the default keyboard shortcut [O] in the Network view to use the Centre on Selection feature.
  2. If you did not add a deformation effect to this module, you can connect all the facial feature modules as it's children, just as you would normally do with a typical cut-out character rig.
  3. In the Network view, locate the body of your puppet. Select the Deformation Group linked to the character's body module.
  4. In the Deformation toolbar, click on the Create Kinematic Output button.
    This will add a Deformation-Composite module inside your Deformation Group. This is setup to create a special output which you can use to connect your modules and create the puppet's hierarchy. It also automatically creates the necessary connections, so that every pose is part of the setup. The deformation will not influence the modules that are connected to this output.
    By default, the last deformer module of each deformation chain is connected to this new Deformation-Composite. The extremity of this deformer is where the child element will be attached. In this case, the last bone is the neck.
    If your network becomes tangled, select the lower module of the tree and click on the Order Network Up button. Leave the settings to default and click OK.
  5. As there are going to be several parts connected to this body Deformation Group we recommend that you rename the new Composite Module with a relevant name, Click on the module's square yellow button to display the Deformation-Composite module's Layer Properties.
  6. Rename the module using the Name field and click on Close to validate it.
  7. In the Network view, exit the Deformation Group and go back to Top level.
  8. Connect the new bottom port of the body Deformation Group module into the top port of the head module.
  9. In the Network view, select the body Deformation Group module again and click on the Create Kinematic Output button to create another kinematic output.
  10. Enter the Deformation Group and rename the newly created Deformation-Composite Module. In this example: body-shoulder.
  11. By default, the last deformer of each subgroup is linked to this new Deformation-Composite module. In this case, this Composite will act as the shoulder attachment for the two arms. If the connections are left as is, the arms will follow the movements of the neck and the head. For this reason, it is important to select the correct Bone or Articulation.
  12. In the Network view, enter the first deformation subgroup.
    If you pause the cursor over the top of a node on the Multi-Port-Out module, a tool tip window will pop up, displaying information about the module and port number it is connected to.
  13. Inside the first subgroup, locate the connection you have to break.
    In this example, we need to break the connection to the Body-shoulder module. Click on the node and pull out the cable to disconnect it.
    You will notice that the disconnected node will still be visible on the Multi-Port-Out module, this is because a cable is still connected to the output port outside of the subgroup. This will be removed at a later step.
  14. Locate the Bone, Articulation or Curve which you want to connect the arms to and find it's module in the deformation chain. In this example, the arms should be connected to the previous bone in the chain. They should not be connected to the articulation in between, because the arms would follow the rotation of the articulation instead of following the steady position of the shoulders.
  15. Click on the desired deformer module bottom node and drag the cable to the Multi-Port-Out module to create a connection.
  16. Exit the subgroup and go back to the body Deformation Group.
  17. Disconnect the current unused connection between your first subgroup and the shoulder Deformation-Composite module. This will also remove the empty node on the Multi-Port-Out module inside your subgroup.
  18. Connect the remaining bottom node of your subgroup to the shoulder Deformation-Composite module.
  19. Repeat Step 9 to Step 15 for each subgroup contained in your body Deformation Group.
  20. In the Network view, go back to the Top level.
  21. Connect the two arms to the available bottom node of the body Deformation Group.
  22. Repeat Step 7 to Step 18 for the legs and any other parts that needs to be assembled. Remember to link the deformer modules used for the hips to the Kinematic output.
    When you have completed this process the body Deformation Group should look similar to this.
    And the final network should look similar to this.

Setting Up the Pivots

When building a cut-out puppet with deformation effects each part controlled by a deformation chain will automatically rotate from the Deformation-Root point, which acts like a pivot. Because it is unlikely that every piece of your character will be rigged with a deformation chain, you must set pivot points.

Refer to the chapter Building a Character > Setting the Pivots in the Toon Boom Harmony User Guide to learn how to set pivot points.

Optimizing the Skeleton

Once your character is rigged and assembled, you can modify the deformation chain's position and shape in the Camera view by using the Setup Mode to optimize it. You can modify the chains as you create each of them, this step and it can be done at any time.

The Setup Mode lets you set the resting position of the deformers to make sure it is at the optimal position.

You can also modify the area which will be influenced by the deformer by setting up the zones of influence. Refer to the chapter Deformation in the Toon Boom Harmony User Guide to learn more.

To setup a bone and articulation deformation chain:

  1. In the Network view, select the Deformation Group you want to setup.
  2. In the Deformation toolbar, click on the Show Selected Deformers and Hide All Others button to display the deformer controls in the Camera view. This also hides all the deformer controls that were displayed.
  3. In the Deformation toolbar, enable the Setup Mode .
    The chain will turn from light green to red. If the chain is displayed in green, it means the Setup Mode is disabled, click on the button once more to enabled it.
  4. In the Tools toolbar, select the Transform tool .
  5. In the Camera view, setup the deformation chain.
  • Use the Pivot rotation handle to change the angle of the chain.
  • Use the Pivot centre control point to reposition the entire chain.
  • Use the Articulation control point, the square at the bottom, to reposition the articulation. This will elongate, shorten or change the direction of the first bone.
  • Use the Articulation, top diamond-shaped, control point to change the size of the articulation. For quality purposes it is recommended to have an articulation which fits the diameter of the part it controls.
  • In the Deformation Toolbar, disable the Show Simplified Manipulators option to display all the manipulators. You will notice two extra square control points appearing in the middle of the articulation circle. Drag these up and down to modify the steepness (bias) of the articulation.
  1. Repeat until all the articulations and bones of the chain are correctly aligned to the element it is linked to.
  2. With the Deformation Group still selected, click on the Copy Resting Position to Current button . This will make sure to set the current resting position as the current frame one.
  3. In the Deformation toolbar, disable the Setup Mode and test your modifications using the Transform tool.
    You can also set up the resting position of the deformers by typing values directly into the Layer Properties of the deformation effect modules. Refer to the Deformation chapter in the Harmony User Guide to learn more.

To setup a curve deformation chain:

  1. In the Network view, select the Deformation Group you want to setup.
  2. In the Deformation toolbar, click on the Show Selected Deformers and Hide All Others button to display the deformer's controls in the Camera view.
  3. In the Deformation toolbar, enable the Setup Mode .
    You will notice the chain turning from light green to red. If the chain is displayed in green, it means the Setup Mode is disabled, click on the button once more to enabled it.
  4. In the Tools toolbar, select the Transform tool.
  5. In the Camera view, setup the deformation chain.
  • Use the Pivot rotation handle to change the angle of the chain.
  • Use the Pivot centre control point to reposition the entire chain.
  • Use the curve handles to modify the shape of the curve.
  • Use the curve's square control points to resize and reposition each segment of the curve chain.
  • Repeat until all the curves of the chain are correctly aligned to the element it is linked to.
  • With the Deformation Group still selected, click on the Copy Resting Position to Current button . This will make sure to set the current resting position as the current frame one.
  • In the Deformation toolbar, disable Setup Mode and test your modifications using the Transform tool.
    You can also set up the resting position of the deformers by typing values directly into the Layer Properties of the deformation effect modules. Refer to the Deformation chapter in the Toon Boom Harmony User Guide to learn more.