Rigging Dojo Interview : Rigging The Amazing Spider-Man with Character TD Tim Coleman

Go behind the scenes of The Amazing Spider-Man through the eyes of a rigging master.


Rigging Dojo Interview:

Rigging The Amazing Spider-Man with Character TD Tim Coleman


If you haven’t seen The Amazing Spider-Man yet, yous should! Here you can check out a short clip of some of the great deformation work and outstanding animation that pushed the rig to the limits while holding true to the iconic poses from the comic books.

We are lucky enough to have one of the main Tds on Spider-Man , Tim Coleman, here to talk about his career and recent work.

Tim is currently at Sony Pictures Imageworks and has taken time to do an amazing interview with us.


Tim, can you tell us and our readers about you and your computer graphics and rigging journey? It seems a long way from your degree in Landscape Architecture.

Originally I wanted to be an architect because it required a unique blend of artistic and technical skills and an understanding of 3D space. I fell into Landscape Architecture along the way because it also added elements of nature like working with plants, trees, water and terrain.?At the time there was a move in the design industry from hand drawing to drawing with the computer. The last two years of college I started using the computer for 2D and 3D graphics

in Landscape Architecture. My final thesis was a design project where I actually built a 3D model of the Ferry Building in San Francisco using a Mac with a program called “Infini-D”. I was also doing a lot of work compositing proposed 3D rendered designs into photographs using Photoshop. However, when I graduated college, there weren’t any Landscape Architecture firms doing much work with computer graphics at the time. I had no concept of character rigging at that time (this was the early 90’s, so there wasn’t a lot of character rigging going on, unless you were working at ILM or PDI).

When I graduated from college I moved to San Francisco. The economy was in a slump?and I had a real hard time finding a job in my field of study. I ended up getting a job as a Photoshop artist in an art department for a multimedia company. I was spending my free?time doing my own 3D projects and continuing to learn. I lucked out and landed a job with a small computer reseller of Silicon Graphics hardware that needed someone to demo software like Alias PowerAnimator and SoftImage (which I didn’t know how to use when I started!). I’d travel all over the country with a salesman demoing 3D software to a wide range of customers/ studios. Although this demo job didn’t pay much, it was a valuable experience in learning new techniques and workflows as well as communicating with people. At this point I was still more of a 3D “generalist” but was starting to spend more time animating and rigging.

After a few years as a “demo guy”, I was yearning to get some real production experience. Although I was competent in the software, I didn’t have a 3D “demo reel” of work to show what I could do. So, in the evenings, I began working on an animated short with a good friend of mine, Oliver Wolfson, called “Bowlin’ Fer Souls” , featuring an Ed “BIg Daddy” Roth inspired 3D devil collecting souls in purgatory while driving his souped up ‘59 Cadillac.

Watch “Bowlin’ Fer Souls”

We both didn’t have a demo reel and thought if we could do our own short animation it could serve as our demo reel to land a job. Oliver is a great modeler and texture guy and I was starting to get better at rigging and animation. We created a 2:30 minute animation in 3 months working out of my living room. We were able to get our animation into Spike and Mike’s Festival of Animation as well as some other online film festivals. This short animation got me my first job in the film industry at Tippett Studio.

That is a great back story and one that seems harder and harder to replicate with the amount of talent and work showing up these days. I had a book with the making of “Bowlin’ Fer Souls” when I was looking for rigging tutorials, that short was really was inspiring when I was a new to rigging in Maya.
I would love to hear more about Tippett Studios and the experience of that first big job, breaking in to the industry compared with your work now.

Tippett was a great place for me to start my character rigging career in film. With Phil? Tippett being an animator himself, the studio is a very “animation centric” place, where animating realistic characters/creatures is paramount. It’s where I quickly realized as a rigger, your “customers” are the animators using your rigs. It was less about making a fancy rig with all the bells and whistles than it was about creating a rig that the animators can animate easily and quickly. I also learned a lot about working with studio standards (ie., file naming conventions, 3d naming conventions, scripting etc). It was a real rigging “boot camp” for me.

Who was your main mentor or who helped guide you while you were at Tippet?

Well, another well known name in the rigging world helped me out, Aaron Holly, who was working at Tippett at the time. As well as the rig supe on Cats and Dogs, Sandy Kao. They really helped me when it came to learning the studio standards and workflows for producing ?a rig for the animators.

Were there any surprises or problems you hit starting out that you had to unlearn once you were on the project or tips on “customer” service for other Tds.

I think the biggest thing I had to “unlearn” was trying not to “over think” the rig, don’t make it too complicated to use for the animator. Also, staying within the studio standards. I’d look at a lot of other Tippett rigs and make sure I was staying within the boundaries. Now don’t get me wrong, you could throw out new ideas to solve a problem by putting a file together and get it in front of other riggers and animators. However, you wouldn’t want to throw anything “experimental” into a production rig until the new idea was proven to work.

At Rigging Dojo one topic that keeps coming up is mechanical rigging. Clearly Transformers has had a lot to do with this interest. Your work at ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) on Optimus Prime was outstanding and I wanted to know how you go from creatures at Tippet to becoming THE robot rigging guy on Matrix and Transformers?

Well, my first majorly complex “robot” rig was definitely the APU for the Matrix sequels at?ESC Entertainment. ESC had just opened up to do the Matrix sequels and already had a rigging team for their digital humans (Neo, Agent Smith etc). They were looking to expand the rigging department to handle the additional character rigging needs of the sequels, namely,?the Sentinels, APUs and Digger mechanical robots. They hired 3 riggers and assigned each?of those characters to each of us. It so happened I was assigned the APU. I remember opening the Maya file of the model the first time and my jaw just dropped, there must have been thousands of model parts, springs, nuts, bolts, cables etc. I had no idea how it was supposed to all work! I just dove in and did a lot of experimenting while working with modelers and animators along the way. It was all about trying something out, showing it and getting feedback. With that much geometry and the model changing all the time, I had to be organized and create a lot of utility scripts to help along the way.

When I ended up at ILM years later,?the Character Supe for Transformers had seen the APU on my reel and thought I’d be a good fit for the Transformers rigging team. I was happily surprised when I was assigned to work on Optimus Prime and Ratchet! But again, when I saw those models it was pretty daunting at first, especially knowing that these robots would need to move like martial artists!!! The rigging team on Transformers was incredible to work with, and together we shared ideas on how to approach such complex characters.

Check out some of the behind the scenes on Transformers from ILM and 3dWorld

ILM – Bringing the Transformers to Life

The making of Transformers (3d World)

Any tips or tricks for the TDs reading this on how you manage a file with so many moving parts. And a follow up, how do you keep animation controls from overwhelming the animators with so many parts.

What really helps is working from general to specific. Don’t start by rigging a tiny bolt or hinge. Start by just getting the geometry to follow the basic body rig. Think of a complex rig as one?rig that contains many mini-rigs. The big thing for me with the APU and Optimus Prime was being able to handle many model changes quickly. So I had scripts I wrote that would “record” things in my current version of the rig that I could reapply on a new version. For instance, I had a script that would go through all the rigged geometry and “record” the parent node for each part and write that to a file. Then when I was working with the new model file, I’d run my parent script to parent the new geometry and determine what had changed. Basically, I didn’t have to start from scratch each time I got a new model file.

That is great advice and a cool idea to record the parents for all the geometry ?nodes. For files like Prime, one question we get asked a lot is how big are those files , any estimates on ram use or how long it took to open the final files to just get started working? Talking about mini rigs, did you rig the smaller chunks separately and then bring the final rig together or did you stay in one master file?

The hires rig files did get into the 100’s of megabytes. However, we provided the animators with an animation resolution version of the rig, which was procedurally generated from the hires, that was under 50 megabytes. Since we were using Maya referencing on Linux boxes stuffed with?a lot of RAM, the rig swapping and scene size wasn’t too bad for the average scene. I did work from one master rig file where I did most of my rigging on top of the standard bipedal rig. I did use a scripted rig build up to a point, but mostly to swap in and rerig the newest Prime model model (there were LOTS of model changes!!!).

For such complex characters, animation controls were handled like “layers”, from very general to specific. The main bipedal body controls were used for most of the primary animation. Then as needed, animators could turn on the animation controls for very specific sub-parts of the characters to animate. Optimus, for instance is a standard bipedal rig with hundreds of mini-rigs riding on top of it.

I had read an article that talked about the animators being able to adjust or move the rig around to get the transformation to look right. I am fascinated how much was on the animator to keep the rig “on model” and create the final car or mech shape, or did the rig have the two states all ready set and then the animators could control what moved between the two shapes?

We never actually had ONE character rig that could transform between robot and car “modes”. In fact, for a car transforming into a robot, the animator would start by loading a separate car and robot rig, then pose the robot rig “inside” of the car rig. The animator could then animate the “peeling away” of the car parts to reveal the robot rig inside. We developed rigging tools that allowed the animator to create their own mini-rigs on any geometry in the rig. They could select a few geometry parts, add the mini-rig, define pivot positions and then be able to animate those parts moving into position. This tool would allow them to save out these setups to reuse in other shots.

During your time building the character rigging department at Imagemovers, did you find it difficult to find enough character rigging artists? Being involved at the start of a studio like that, what are your thoughts on finding good TDs to hire, what were you looking for among the reels?

I’d have to say finding the right mix of riggers to staff the rigging department was one of the biggest challenges for me when I started at Imagemovers. IMD had a “startup” quality to it,?we were starting from scratch, an open slate. Not only did we have to rig characters, we had?to also create the tools and pipeline to rig those characters in the first place. We also had to develop new technologies such as the facial motion capture pipeline. From past experience working in various rigging departments, I knew we’d need riggers with a diverse mix of abilities/ skills. You can’t have a team of 10 C++ programmers writing cool plugins and no one to rig the characters! I went through countless resumes and interviews before I found the right people. I really had luck with riggers who had one real strength (coding, deformations, problem solving etc.) but had other skills as well, like modeling, animating or simulatio work. I’d always look for something on a reel that stood out from the rest, like a unique rig or script/tool. In the interview process I focused on their personality and communication skills. Were they willing to learn new things or did they come across as a “know it all”? The rigging team at Imagemovers ended up being one of the best I’ve ever worked with.

One of the reasons we started Rigging Dojo was because it was so hard to find the right mix of talent and personality in new hires. We have found that because our students are remote, it doesn’t take long for a mentor to get a clear picture about the work quality and how well they can communicate and stay on task, something that is hard to judge from a demo reel or interview alone. It makes it easy for us to recommend our students for jobs or to HR because we know if they can work remotely for our course work, they can handle a job with equal professionalism.

I think it’s fantastic that Rigging Dojo not only provides a learning “resource” for rigging, but also a rigging “community”. This can only help with collaboration and communication skills for someone learning rigging.

I was asked this during a panel discussion and really liked the question. What Thoughts or advice would you give to yourself then, knowing what you know now having been through the experience?

Well I learned that starting a rigging department from scratch is very difficult! Surrounding yourself with the right people makes a huge difference in how difficult it can be. Delegating tasks and putting trust in people to get the job done is a true art. At times I’d want to do everything. But, you quickly learn that’s just not possible. This is where I learned to be

a “conduit” for the riggers in the department, to help guide them over the course of a production.

I always believe in trying to lead by example too. Even though I may be “supervising”, I like to work in the trenches with the other riggers to truly understand the work at hand. My fear as a supervisor is to just be sitting at a desk signing timecards and approving time off requests! I have to be doing what got me here, which is rigging characters.

“The Amazing Spider-Man” and Starting At Imageworks

Starting at at a new job that also happens to be a giant project and a loved and well known character like Spider-Man, How long did you have to get used to the tools and rigging pipeline at SPI before you started work on Rigging the new Amazing Spider- Man and Peter Parker characters?

I had about 2-3 weeks of training in the Imageworks pipeline before I was crewed onto Spider-Man. Although I was hired to be a rigging supervisor, it was agreed by all that it would be best for me to start by rigging on a project first. Luckily, the rigging lead on Spider-Man, Frank Mueller, has been at SPI for many years and was there to answer all my questions and guide me along my way. I learned the most by inspecting other rigs and asking a lot of questions.

Looking through rigs as examples and asking lots of questions is how we like our students to learn, the more questions the better because we know they are really trying to understand what is going on.
Tim, I am wondering how difficult you found it to adapt to the rigging process there vs. doing something your own way, was there openings for you to try your own ideas or did you have to follow existing rigging methods used at Imageworks?

No matter where I’ve worked, it’s taken some time to adapt to the standards, tools and workflows of that particular studio. Most of the time, after you’ve done a few rigs, made some mistakes and fixed those mistakes, you’re off and running.

Although there are standard workflows and tools at studios that should be followed, there are times where you may have to use them in new ways. I know the mantra in our rigging department at Imageworks is to “ask” before going ahead and developing your own rigging workflow or tools. Chances are someone else has ran into the same problems to solve. So before just “jumping in” and developing something new, I try to talk to not only other riggers about it, but also the folks in other departments like modeling, animation, pipeline, cloth and hair. You need to ask, “What are the implications if I rig this in a new way?”

We talk a lot about model topology and the default pose to rig from and from sound of it, you and the modeling team had lots of back and forth to get the characters looking and working just right on “The Amazing Spider-Man”.
Can you talk about some of the changes or fixes that had to happen for better deformation. Also how do you deal with the re-rigging process when models are being changed and tweaked so much early on in production?

My work involved the Spider-Man and Peter Parker digital double rigs (animation and deformation rigs). A large part of the initial work was working with modeling to get the models as close a match to actor Andrew Garfield. We’d work with tons of photographic reference and camera matchmoves to generate side by sides of our CG models next to the actor. Almost on a daily basis, I’d have to quickly re-rig the latest model and pose it to match the photo reference where it would be scrutinized, rendered and critiqued by the CG and VFX supes. This is also where the model topology changed a lot, mostly for rendering purposes but also for deformation purposes.

One challenge we ran into early on was with the new Spider-Man “suit”. It was pretty different from the previous suit in that it had more “relief” and texture. There were some requirements for the topology and mesh density for displacement mapping the web detail of the suit. Also, because of the new suit’s materials, It tended to “wrinkle” all over the various parts of the body as the actor moved around. So it wasn’t going to be simply a guy in a smooth lycra outfit!

All of our attention focused on how we would pull this off, would we do this with animated displacement mapping, cloth simulation or shape work? Displacements would be challenging in that they would have to be “layered” somehow over the existing displacements of the web lines and other built in suit relief. We’d only be able to really see it after a full render as well. Cloth simulation would be expensive, every shot with Spider-Man would have to be simulated, adding hours of additional artist and CPU time. Also, the sim team had their hands full with sims that needed to be done for the Lizard skin simulation. We knew if we were to do the wrinkles with shapes on the geometry, we would need a lot of mesh resolution to create realistic wrinkles which would slow the rig down a lot. We came up with the approach of doing all of our body and muscle shape rigging on a hires mesh that would then drive a subdivided mesh (4 x the resolution of the rigged hires mesh) that would have the animated wrinkle shapes. This mesh could be toggled on and off by the animators to keep the rig as fast as possible. Some of the wrinkles would be automatically driven based on psd poses while others could be animated on/off by the animator. The other bonus was that we could see the wrinkles in the animator playblasts and get approval earlier on.

Skinning and deformations always are time consuming to get just right and I am guessing that Spider-Man wasn’t an easy model to skin. Can you talk about your approach to bone placement and skinning vs. what you do with corrective shapes or helper bones.

Like I mentioned, we had a lot of photographic and video of our actors. I spent a lot of?time getting the shoulder joint placement correct. I’d iterate on this by repositioning joints, reapplying the deformers and then importing a range of motion animation file I had animated to the matchmoved reference video. I’d compare the rig to the reference and determine if more adjustments were needed.

We talk about using reference with our students and how important not just stills are?but having video or moving reference is to actually understanding the joint placement or deformatoin requirements, it sounds like having that reference was crucial to getting the quality level needed for the movie. Animators aren’t the only ones that need to study video huh?

Absolutely, motion reference is very valuable, especially for joint placement and deformations! I also like to work with animators who can “draw” the shapes they’re expecting to get out of the rig, especially on an animated show. On Hotel Transylvania this was essential since the character animation was so exaggerated.

As far as deformations, I used a “layered” approach that allows me to add detail as I go. The base body deformations, to get the body mesh to follow the base skeleton, were done with a custom SPI deformer that maintains volume of the mesh really well (none of the candy-wrapping you get with smooth skinning!). Then a layer of additional helper joints for basic muscle mass movement like pecs, traps and butt. This was then followed by a muscle/corrective shape layer, some driven by PSDs and others manually. Then a costume “wrinkling” deformation layer on top of that which also had some wrinkles driven by PSD and others manually.

Muscle systems and fancier deformation techniques always get the wow factor but seem to be slow or require a separate simulation pass that is disconnected from animation. Can you talk about the approach on this Spider-Man and did you compare or look over the past Imageworks Spider-Man rigs from the past set of films?

Unfortunately the original Spider-Man rigs were not available to look at, I would have loved to check them out!

Yes, muscle systems definitely have the wow factor. In reality, however, they take a long time to put together to work correctly. Plus no one mentions the amount of mesh cleanup that’s necessary as well. I’ve found in the past that muscle simulation rigs are way too expensive?to create and very difficult to control/art direct. Muscle shapes, especially with Mudbox and ZBrush, are very easy to implement/update on a rig. The creation of the shapes can also be split up between modelers and riggers. The process is much more direct and easy to control.

On Spider-Man, we took the direct approach of joint driven PSD shapes and manually controlled muscle shapes for the animator, no simulation necessary. There were also specific shapes added to the rig for particular shots, especially close ups where Spider-Man had to look just right. This turned out to be a very effective approach. Given the “dialable” muscle shape controls, the animators could really tweak the shape of the character and see it almost instantly. On top of that, there were a set of tools to further enhance/correct the shape of the character if necessary.

Since modeling skills and working with the modeling department to get fix shapes and muscle sclupts working, what is your workflow with that department and what could someone do that was wanting to have a better modeling and rigging team workflow do to make it go smoothly?

Having a set of model “standards” is essential for this type of work. You want an agreed upon naming convention for files and shapes. You also want to make sure there’s some versioning of your shapes as well. Many times you’re showing your shapes in progress and you need to keep track of what’s “old” vs. “new”.

In addition, when working with a modeler, my favorite workflow is to give the modeler a “posed” version of the model for them to sculpt. In other words, for a bicep flex, pose the lower arm on the rig into the flexed position (record that pose so you can get back to it later if necessary), then copy the mesh and give that to the modeler to sculpt. This makes the sculpting process more intuitive for the modeler. Later on I can “cancel out” or “invert” the posed deformation to get just the sculpted shape the modeler created.

How many TDs were working on the project and what kind?

There were 3 riggers on The Amazing Spider-Man, two for bodies and one for face rigging.

What would you say the average time spent on the skinning stages are? I know this varies but it is always insightful to compare time spent to finished asset.

Just the base deformation of the body (to get the character following the skeleton) should probably take 2-3 days. Additional costume parts add more time. The most time consuming aspect are the secondary deformations from helper joints, psds and muscle shapes, which can take weeks. An essential tool for this process was having an animated “range of motion” that I could load onto the character rig and adjust deformations as needed.

? Did you find any patterns or certain things that kept getting broken during production?

Character anatomy/shape was a continuous process of adjustment and refinement. This was especially challenging given the range of motion and screen time a character like Spider-Man has.

Is there a validation process before a rig fix or update gets pushed out, basically I am wondering if things change when you get the rig “done” and go in to maintenance mode once animation starts.

Yes, that’s where the animated “range of motion” file comes in. The range of motion animation served as a solid visual validation step in the rig deformation process. I could update the model and deformations, then playblast that version of the rig with the range of motion animation from different angles for the next daily review. With that, I could get feedback from the supes that was easy to follow, for example, “At frame 1048, his lats need to be more pronounced with the arms up” or “When he squats at frame 1320, his butt loses volume.” Then I could go back, address those notes and playblast another version with the same range of motion. Once the deformations were pretty solid, I’d then release that rig for use by the animators.

Does Sony Pictures Imageworks have a standard auto rigging system? What would you say is the balance of languages i.e. X percentage Python vs. X percentage Mel or pyMel?

Yes, Imageworks has a standard auto rigging system that allows a rigger to build a standardized rig very quickly. This “animation rig” can then be integrated into a custom scripted build for a character. The rigging department at Imageworks has moved to Python over the last few shows but we’re still using a lot of our original MEL code. When you’ve been around for as long as Imageworks, it’s not an easy task to just switch over to another language. It continues to be a gradual process for us.

Where there any surprises or unanticipated challenges that pushed you and the team on this film?

Originally the digital Spider-Man was only going to appear in the mid/background. Low and behold, along the way, things change and before you know it there are shots where Spider-Man is close up and full screen! At one point I was seeing shots that I thought were the costumed actor but were actually the digital Spider-Man I was blown away by the work of the animators, texture painters and lighters! The Lizard’s rig and skin simulations were a big challenge as well and turned out great. I think another wrench that seems to get thrown into every film project I’ve worked on is the amount of work put into “trailer” shots. A lot of times the trailer shots require some of the “money shots” to get the audiences excited to go see the movie. However, there’s a lot of work and short deadlines to get these trailer shots together.

Was Alembic or some other caching system used when animation published for the rest of the pipeline? Is there a fix ups or shot sculpts pass done on the caches to fix deformation problems or were they addressed in the rig as corrective shapes?

Yes, Alembic serves as our caching system here at SPI. Fixes and shot sculpts are mostly done on the rigged character with a suite of tools designed to do just that. The tools allow for a rigger or animator to open a shot and apply as many fixes as needed to get the shot through.

Now that you are on Hotel Transylvania ,what are the differences between rigging for a hyperreal superhero like Spider-Man and a more stylized project with cartoony characters and creatures for a animated feature?

A VFX show like The Amazing Spider-Man has the challenge of creating a photoreal character. There’s?a lot of subtle detail necessary to make the character indistinguishable from its real world counterpart. On Hotel Transylvania, it all about exaggeration. The character rigs should allow the animators to go well beyond the limits of the real world into the cartoony world. I really like working on both types of projects as they’re very different.

What is your approach the R&D at the start of a project (animator input, film reference, modeling adjustments, etc )? Has it changed for you personally or does it vary between projects and studios?

Identifying and prioritizing the challenges on a project is where I like to start. Going over the story reels/storyboards and character designs early on can give you a lot of insight on what’s going to be difficult to do on a project. Focusing on getting the model topology and resolution ready for rigging is always a high priority early on as well.

Do you use any publicly available scripts or tools when rigging?

For my own work at home I use publicly available scripts all the time. If something is available that does what I need that means I don’t have to try and write it myself.

How much stock Maya vs. tools you had to write yourself are you running??

At work the majority of the tools we use are custom along with some of my own utility scripts. At home I use more stock Maya with some of my own scripts. It depends on what I might be trying to do.

Anything you wish would get fixed or changed in the software to improve production work and make it easier?

More tools that allow the user to work with the UV coordinates of meshes as an alternative to World Space coordinates. Transferring information between meshes in their UV space is a very powerful way to work. For instance, a blendshape between two meshes based on UV space instead of their point order would be a nice alternative.

I still think there’s a lot of work needed in being able to transfer rig information. For instance, importing, exporting, copying, mirroring, transferring deformer information is still a pain in most 3D software without writing your own scripts/plugins.

Do you see any major advancement in rigging for characters in the near future or are the techniques mostly standardized now?

It seems like most of the major advancements have happened in modeling (ie., Mudbox/ZBrush) and FX (fluid, elastics, destruction). I don’t see any real major advancements for rigging perse other than the overall machine speed improvements that allow us to rig even more complex characters.

Something that I noticed looking at your work history was the variety of character types you had to rig. Did you learn all on your own or did you take extra training and continued education or find a Mentor?

I’d say a majority of my learning has come from inspecting rigs and talking to other riggers. It’s amazing how much you can learn by just opening up a rig and ripping it apart until you “figure it out”. I’ve also done some teaching that has in itself taught me more about rigging. Trying to explain or describe rigging techniques really makes you ask why you’re doing things in a certain way.

I agree with both those things, though knowing what to use and what not to use is important. Many of our mentors find that teaching the technique is a great way to learn or reexamine and improve on existing workflows, teaching is one of the best ways to learn in many areas of life.
What have you found , training wise to have been the most helpful to you growing as a character TD? ?

I have taken some Python classes that have really helped, both in the classroom and online. General Python classes are great, but I get the most out of how it applies to 3D and the software I use. I have also taken some classes in 3D math and that was really eye opening. I still remember writing a parent constraint as an expression using matrix math and having a serious “AHA!” moment!

Any last tips or advice you can give to someone that wants to improve their skills as a TD?

Take a basic 3D math class. Ideally, try and apply that 3D math in Maya or some other 3D software. Visualizing as you’re learning can be really enlightening.

Math skills are always a good way to improve, we have a good set of links for people wanting to self study on our facebook page #rigTip Math links for 3d artists though one question I know many artists starting out ask us is why would they learn how to do a parent constraint by hand vs. just using the constraints? It isn’t always easy to answer, so I figured it was a good one to ask you.

Well, a simple analogy could be simply knowing how to drive a car compared to knowing how the engine works under the hood. Most anyone can select nodes and push the right buttons in the software. Taking the time to learn even some of the most basic 3D math concepts will enlighten any rigger about what’s happening under the hood in a 3D program. I remember when I wrote out the equivalent of a parent constraint by hand, it opened my mind to other aspects of rigging, like space switching, FK/IK switching, local/parent/world space etc. On top of it all, these math concepts translate into almost any 3D software. The links you provided on the Rigging Dojo Facebook page are an awesome way to start that process of understanding

What do you feel is missing in current TD skills or reels?

I see a lot of reels of where a rigger is “twiddling” all the standard controls on a biped character rig for a minute or two. That’s boring these days because so many people have done it. There’s a lack of showing the TD’s problem solving skills. Now if you’re twiddling controls on an interesting rig with some innovative rigging, that’s different!

I also see reels where they may be something interesting but it’s not explained or presented very well. I think title images and annotations are great ways to inform the viewer about what they’re watching. Definitely show some sort of scripting skills and present it in a clear way.

Last question – what book are you reading right now or last finished?

“Endless Highway”, the autobiography of late actor David Carradine. A very strange, flawed yet interesting man.

Thank you so much for taking time to talk with us and share your views and experiences on some amazing projects, I know many people that this will help as they start out in the industry and move up to bigger projects.


To find out more about Tim check him out online @

timcoleman3d.com (more of a brain dump site than some nice presentation site!)


IMDB credits

About Rigging Dojo:

Rigging Dojo Logo
Teaching the Art and Science of Character Rigging

Youtube Twitter facebook Vimeo

Rigging Dojo is an online training
center providing personal customized training for character rigging
and technical art.

Watch our #rigtips videos and also the fantastic free Maya Python course (10 hours of content) Building Maya Interfaces With Python – Jeremy Ernst

If you enjoyed this interview and want to let us know, please do! We love feedback, good and bad though prefer good!


Carey, Brad Clark, Chad Moore


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *