2017 CGMonks cgmToolbox How-To

Josh Burton at CGMonks has created a new set of  How-to videos covering the updates and use of their cgmToolbox tools.
These are a great set of tools that combine many separate used tools from other TDs and custom written ones from Josh and team.

After install of course the one video to watch if you are an animator or your animator wants to use this (Tds) is the Quick Prop rig with cgmLocinator.

More videos coming with a great timeline quick select bake update as well.

If you want to learn from Josh and get deeper in to coding Meta Data rigs or learn from a Mentored class on the Morphy Rig 2.0 and open source development you can start with our onDemand video course “Introduction to MetaData with CG Monks”.

 

 

Video: Installing cgmToolbox 2017

Download:

https://bitbucket.org/jjburton/cgmtools/downloads/?tab=branches

Video: cgmMarkingMenu – {Installation}

Video: cgmMarkingMenu – {Intro to Raycasting}

Video: cgmLocinator – {Simple prop tracking}

 

Get to know: Gio Coutinho – Rooster Teeth Productions character TD

We have been talking with Gio for a few months after Brad met her at his visit to Rooster Teeth and seeing her first rigging video, where she did an excellent job in quickly and clearly presenting the technique. She has since created a great series of videos for Autodesk Learning that cover a solid groundwork of foundation rigging techniques and tools in Autodesk Maya.

Here we are happy to share her work and some information about her with you all as a character TD you should know.

Gio Coutinho is a rigging artist at Rooster Teeth Productions. She’s done a variety of rigging work for the web series RWBY, RWBY Chibi and Red vs. Blue, and has also shared some of her rigging techniques and helpful tips on multiple Autodesk video tutorials.
Gio first got into rigging while attending the Savannah College of Art and Design for a degree in animation. Her introductory class on the subject gave her a fascination with the combination of technical and aesthetic art.
From the classroom, she moved to online resources (including the Rigging Dojo!) to expand her knowledge, which she put to practice on multiple student films and games produced at SCAD. The experience acquired through these projects led her to Rooster Teeth, where she’s made extensive rigging contributions, some of which she has shared with the public in the form of tutorials.
The tutorials showcase the Ruby rig used in the Rooster Teeth series RWBY to teach rigging tips and techniques in Maya, including information on blendshapes, rivets, skinning and set driven keys. They were all developed and recorded by Gio to share some of the rigging knowledge she has obtained as a rigging artist, and display how she has used that knowledge to make high quality rigs at Rooster Teeth.

 

Videos shared from http://area.autodesk.com/learning/series/rooster-teeth-maya-tutorials

Rooster Teeth Tutorial #1: Using Blend Shape for the ‘Breeze Effect’

Rooster Teeth Tutorial #2: Using Pose Space Deformers and Set Driven Keys for Easier Animation

Rooster Teeth Tutorial #3: Skinning Tips For Better Rigs

Rooster Teeth Tutorial #4: Skin Fingers Evenly in Maya

Rooster Teeth Tutorial #5: Using Rivets To Enhance Rigs

Rooster Teeth Tutorial #6: Corrective Blendshapes

You can find Gio on twitter @giofcoutinho

And subscribe to her YouTube channel here where you can find her first tutorials that first got our attention.

Exporting skin weights in Maya

:Update December 23rd:  A useful update to the core Maya code via Td and awesome tech artist at Epic games Chris Evans

Save/Load SkinWeights 125x Faster

 

DeformerWeights Command, Cloaked Savior?

 

:Updated July 29th: Maya 2017 has once more renamed the menu to remove the “maps” word but haven’t updated the docs to reflect this.

 

Our latest #rigTip covers the Maya save or export weights process and addresses the current confusion over the name of the tools and functionally built in to Maya.

In the past Maya has had terrible export tools for skinned meshes and they were called ” Export Skin Weight Maps ” and this would save a bunch of images and didn’t work well.

Fast forward – Maya included some better export tools in Bonus tools and then moved them in 2014 in to the main software to allow exporting deformer weights to an XML file and worked as expected, replacing lots of the free save weights scripts that were being used.

Maya 2016 though, finds the “Export Deformer Weights” renamed to “Export Weights Maps”  making for a confusing menu name, making people think it is the old terrible image based exporter, but in actuality it is the new XML exporter.

Here is the Maya help file for reference:

Export and import deformer weights

We hope this helps clear this up, happy character skinning!

Exporting weights from your skinned character in Maya 2016, using the CatFu Autodesk asset

 

Guest Post: Working on Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

We have a great guest post for all of you for 3December 2016

In this second part of my blog series where I go over projects that I’ve worked on, with a focus on how I used Python, I’ll be analyzing Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2.
This was my first animated feature film, and my first film at Sony Pictures Imageworks.

Before I continue I’d like to give a little history.
I’d just left Rhythm & Hues as my contract was expiring. Rhythm wanted to extend it, but Sony just had a better deal between a more stable job, much higher pay and the chance to work on the sequel to one of my favorite animated films.

I was hesitant to leave because Rhythm had been a great gig, but the opportunity was too good to pass up. In hindsight, this was a great decision because only a few weeks later, Rhythm fatefully filed for bankruptcy.

So begins my journey as a Pipeline TD, having transitioned from being a layout artist at Rhythm.
Imageworks had taken a chance hiring me, and so far it looks to be one that’s worked out.

Other Posts In The Series

Animation vs Visual Effects Films

Sony Pictures Imageworks is unique in that it’s one of the few studios that works on Animated Features as well as Visual Effects.
Seeing as I was changing from working on a Visual Effects Film to my first Animated feature, there were many differences to take note of.

Pros of Animation

Animated features have a lot going for them, and there’s a reason why many artists try and work on them.

  • It’s so much more relaxing, at a slower pace and less overtime.
  • There is no client, or rather, the client is on the same team as you.
    They understand better the struggles of creating the imagery because they’re in the trenches with you, and there are fewer mad crunch times.
  • Teams are larger. Just the Animation department alone can eclipse the size of an entire visual effects team.
    This means work is more spread out and crunch time is easier to deal with.
  • You can deal with tasks on a sequence level rather than a shot level most of the time.
    This is because entire sequences are cut from one source, whereas in VFX films, each shot is its own beast.
  • You really get to feel like you’re crafting the movie. Even in Pipeline, you can have some influence over the final result, rather than in Visual Effects where you often feel like a cog in the machine.

Cons of Animation

It’s not always peaches and sunshine though. There are some downsides to it as well.

  • You work on the project for much longer. It can get quite boring seeing the same shot on your screen 2 years later.
  • Teams are significantly larger, this means you don’t form as close bonds with your coworkers, and communication can be a real challenge. The show is now a giant lumbering machine, rather than an agile one.
  • As a Pipeline TD, there are fewer chances to do something really cool because the teams are so much larger, that tasks are shared around a lot, and you may have little to do.
  • There’s less of a cool factor. You’re often relegated to working on just a “kids film”. The Visual Effects films are the ones that often get the oohs and ahs.

Similarities

At the end of the day though, it’s not really all that different

  • Our pipeline at Imageworks is largely shared between Visual Effects and Animated movies. This means for the most part, you don’t have to consider them different at all.
  • Often you still have focus tests, marketing etc… on both that require crunch time. It’s not always smooth sailing, and I never go into a project thinking it’s going to be easy.

Python Tools for Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

There were quite a few major tools that I made for this show using Python. I’ll go over them here.

Deep Compositing for Animators

Cloudy 2 had a lot, and I mean a lot,of background characters.
This meant that shots couldn’t just be animated by a single artist and often had to be split up between multiple animators just to get it done in a realistic amount of time.

We have some great crowd tools that let us instance animation around the scene, but for many of these shots we needed unique, hero animation for (in some cases) a 100+ characters in a shot.

To help with this, I came up with a tool that takes our Playblasts (OpenGL captures from the animators scenes) along side a depth output, and then use this inside Nuke to combine them using depth.
This is a bit of a remedial use of deep compositing, but it’s quick, effective and animators can see the combined results of their scenes in under five minutes.

Since playblasts are a natural byproduct of animators working, there was no overhead other than enabling depth write outs for all their playblasts if certain criteria were met.

This can go even further though. Using the same depth compositing, we can bring the data right back into Maya again as an image plane.
Maya’s viewport supports a single depth composited image plane. This means an animator can bring in either a single playblast or a combined output, and put it on an image plane.

From the shot camera, this 2d image is now properly composited into depth and you can move around the objects in the image as if they’re in the scene. It’s really quite cool to see.

Again, this process requires very little extra data, and no new workflows for the animators. It just provides a very natural way to get quick, iterative feedback on their scenes.

Here’s a video that goes over Deep Compositing on Planet of the Apes.
I didn’t work on this but it’s one of the best videos describing it.

This shot is an example of where we used the deep compositing, but also where we use the texture variation tool.
When Chester shows off his giant screens or his candy bars, each one is the same geometry and animators could pick what to show on them.

Texture Variations

Throughout the course of the movie we’d make constant reuse of the same geometry but have varying textures for them.
Traditionally lighting would just choose which texture they wanted, but for Cloudy 2, we wanted Animation to have control over it because they fed into gags in the shots.
Rather than have these be rigged assets or anything complex, we decided to keep it simple.

I built a tool that would show the animators any available textures for their assets, let them select which one they wanted and then let them apply it. They could do this for several objects at once.
Once they chose the textures, it would then be tagged to the geometry as an attribute that would then be picked up by the lighting template so that lighters didn’t have to even give it a second thought.

We used this for a lot of objects, from candybars, to ships to random objects in the scene that needed a little breakup.

Sorting Characters In The Scene

So not all of the tools we build on a show are this complex.

An example of a simpler tool I built that was pretty useful was in regards to a stadium scene in the movie. We had hundreds of characters that we needed to organize into sections.

This was a simple system of:

  • Get a list of all the characters in the scene.
  • Find their x,y,z positions in the world.
  • Sort them into sections based on the seats around them and their position.

Like I said, something really simple but even that can prove to be really useful in production.

Don’t really have an appropriate image for this one. So here’s a gif instead!

This is Pyblish, a similar publishing tool to the one we use in production.
There’s no shared code, but the fundamental design is similar. Developed by Marcus Ottosson.
Check it out here:

https://github.com/pyblish/pyblish-qml

Publishing Frontend

Like most studios, Imageworks has a very well defined publishing system to get data from one department to another.

Unfortunately, while the backend of our system was very well defined, the frontend system that was exposed to the artists was not.

This consists of these few basic ideas:

  • Artists select which assets they want to publish
  • They can configure a few options
  • The tool runs some validation tests
  • It then publishes the scene once all tests have passed

This gives us a reasonable safeguard against bad data making it to the next department, and lets us catch issues early.

Our old framework for this was old, and while the design was good, the implementation made it very unfriendly for artists, but also really hard to maintain and to add new tests. Additionally, a lot of it was in MEL.

So a coworker and I were tasked with coming up with a new framework, built from the ground up in Python.
We’d still use the same backend for publishing on our computer farm, but the frontend would be much more artist friendly and make it much easier for a TD on a show to add tests.

 

We’d built this towards the end of Cloudy 2, and we decided to beta test it on the ill fated test for Popeye

Learn Python

If you’re interested in learning more about Python, why not sign up for my course here?

This course takes you from learning the fundamentals of Python, to creating tools with advanced user interfaces, all while creating projects you can use immediately.
It will teach you many of the skills necessary to create tools like the ones in this article.

With over 700 students in its’ first week, including artists from major studios, it is sure to provide valuable knowledge to everyone.

Python For Maya: Artist Friendly Programming – $70 $90

If you sign up from this link, it will save you $20 off the retail price using the coupon code: DGOVILCOM

Buy the Movie and Artbook
The movie is pretty darn funny, and the art book has some incredibly gorgeous art behind it.


Buy the BluRay

 

Buy the Artbook

The links are affiliate links that will take you to your local Amazon store.

 

Re-posted with permission from Dhruv Govil:

Working on Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

Behind the scenes of our Character Rigging 101 course

During our last run of our Rigging 101 course, we did a week by week post about what we were working on with our students.
It is our best way to show and share with you what makes our course stand out and benifit our students that, over and over again, have told us they have been unable to find in any other learning opportunity.
So enjoy this week by week breakdown of what our Character Rigging 101 and we hope to train with you soon
Josh, Brad and Chad
Rigging Dojo

Week 1 behind the scenes:

Week one is deceptively simple, but it is a test of lots of areas all at once. Can you read and follow directions and communicate well, can you learn to evaluate and prep a model for rigging so it doesn’t cause issues later including looking over topology and starting pose. Get some tools and scripts installed like the mGear rig and get it working or did you give up, get stuck and loose focus.
Online classes are harder in some ways but because we are result focused, working remotely we get an incredible view at how good an employee a student would be, how do they approach asking for help and how resourceful are they in trying to solve their own issues, and lastly, how well do the share and help their classmates with what they figured out?

http://www.miquel-campos.com/…/mgear-10-rigging-framework-f…

mGear 1.0: Rigging Framework for Autodesk Maya. Now available!Download: https://gumroad.com/l/mgear

 

Week 2 behind the scenes:

Focus on really seeing the reference and not just the icon of what you think the anatomy looks like leads to better skeletons, deformations and natural movement once animation starts.
We also hit the tech side of understanding the Maya Joint and skeleton creation process. How to place them, controlling orients and relating this back to deformation quality and rig stability.
Week 2 is a hard week and pushes the students to balance technical with artistic skills.
It is often an undo week, where many students undo or unlearn things they thought they understood and we start the removal of bad habits created from other training sources.

*draw overs are from Paul Waggonner, Check out his site for his previous work http://www.paul-waggonner.com/

Image may contain: outdoor and nature

Week 3 behind the scenes:

Another week and we are now digging in to skinning and deformation, connecting the work from last week on Joint Placement to how it effects our skin weights. We show them how to make using the existing skinning tools work best and explore NGSkinTools to have a foundation to build on later with helper joints, corrective shapes and twist or bendy joint layers…it all has to start with a good base deformation foundation.
Students also start looking at the UI/UX part of rigging and work on understanding how to build controls for animators and why they are built a certain way so they can start laying out controls for their final skeleton.

No automatic alt text available.

Week 4 behind the scenes:

Last week students dug in to learning about character UI and control building, this week started off with a look underneath all the connections and tools and math needed to start driving those controls.
Understanding what Nodes are, connections and the tools to work with them and a look at the 3d math like Matrix and Vectors that helps understand what is happening when you parent or constrain or simply move something around in the viewport. Then they explore constraints and build a foundation to start rigging something in this case -tentacles like Doctor Octopus from Spider man.

https://www.facebook.com/notes/riggingdojo/rigtip-math-links-for-3d-artists/261606393857913

Collecting our links over the past year for all the good math for artists we have found. Here they are in a nice, easy to find place for everyone.

 

Week 5 behind the scenes:

We dive back into deformations this week with a deeper look at advanced workflows and more details on using the Maya skin tools and NGSkinTools. Working smarter not harder with skinning and knowing the tools and how control them for the desired result is key to good workflow.
Then taking the rigging learning from last week it was now time to apply it to setting up helper joints like twist extractors and also understanding their limitations.

Week 6 behind the scenes: Time to rig a character!

There isn’t a perfect rig for every situation
Advanced rigging doesn’t mean complex and fragile
The basic fundamentals of rigging, manipulating pivot points and hierarchical relationships through connections of varying types is what it all comes down to. (AKA zero it, group it, connect it, tweak it, constrain it) whatever you do in your rig, never forget it has to get from pose A to pose B for the animator without exploding
A complex rig, full of layers of controls, at the core, is still just pivots and relationships.
Students this week get to learn about and start exploring rigging the character and seeing similarities between parts of the body like spine and fingers or legs and arms. We look at space switching and start digging in to understanding how to hook up all the controls, twists systems and rig the character to be able to be animated.

Want to work on a rig also? We have our free 101 quadruped rigging series that our good friend from Rigging 101 (the site) Javier “Goosh” let us host and share with you all.


Quadruped Friendly Rigging – Rigging

 

Week 7 behind the scenes: Advanced deformation cleanup:

Rigging is underway and now we look back to deformations and how to improve and fine tune them.
Without a full muscle system (or even with one http://zivadynamics.com/ ) it is still common practice to use blendShapes with some sort of pose space driver to fix and adjust the mesh when skinning and helpers can’t do any better.
There are nice new tools in 2017 of Maya that allow for doing these without external tools and hacks, though there are some limits to how complex the shape system is some TDs have found, it is still a great starting point to keep everything self contained in Maya.

http://www.riggingdojo.com/…/…/maya-2016-5-2017-invertshape/

Morgan shared a tip on how to invert a shape when you want to make a corrective blendshape and have it work on a skinned mesh, right in Autodesk Maya

See more at ZIVADYNAMICS.COM

 

 Week 8 and our final week:

Last week was our final week for our Rigging 101 course and we finish up with students continue to work on their core rigs. While they do this, we move forward to talk about optimizations, basic face rig concept and a starting point and finish critiques and QA along with a discussion on how to continue learning from here. Students keep access to their course area and can continue to work on their projects, share updates with our private community of alumni and industry guests as well as get other perks for being part of our student and alumni community.

Thank you for checking out our course

Apply Here

*Note: First time students there is a 25$ registration fee.
*Rolling start dates based on application numbers and mentor availability.

Have questions like how much does it cost?

Check out our Frequently asked questions page.