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Gecko & Raptor Rig - Meryem Tok

Gecko & Raptor Rig - Meryem Tok

Meryem Tok
by merytok on 1 Jun 2020 for Rookie Awards 2020

Hi! I'm Mery and I just recently graduated PixlVisn | media arts academy, a 15 month education for 3D Animation & Visual Effects. 6 months in I decided to specialize in Rigging. These are two of my Demo Reel projects. I decided to showcase my first and almost last rig. Coincidentally they are both reptiles.

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This was my first Demo Reel project and also non-human rig that I ever did. Which means I had lots of things to figure out and learn with this first project.

I did have to start by figuring out how to do the joint placement, since I've never even rigged a quadruped before. So I was looking at a lot of references, meaning I looked for the anatomy of geckos and watched a lot of videos of geckos running around (this was by far my favorite part). My Instagram and Youtube was filled with geckos. Not only did I need them for the joint placement but I was also using them for the skinning to make it look as good as possible.  I also was in constant communication with the animator, to see if she needed anything specific and to test out the rig and fix any issues. 

This model was done by Larissa Roeb.

I started this rig by doing the joint setup and always testing out the placement by doing a very rough skinning pass, just to see how it would deform. When I was happy with the placement, I started with the skin weight painting. Maya's intial skin weights are often not usable (as seen below). I started out with a very blocky skin weight and then smoothed the skin weights to make them look, how they are supposed to, before I started the control setup. I only followed this workflow for this project, because later on I decided to do the skin weights after the control setup, which I personally found more efficient. For the 'breathing' effect I used a joint setup on a second mesh that I added via blendshapes to the rig. In hindsight it would've been 'prettier' to have sculpted the blendshapes. 

Here is the final rig with the final animation. 

I had lots of ups and down with this project. A very big issue was when I tried to do the smooth skin weights, Maya kept crashing literally ever minute. After days and days of trouble shooting it just ended up being Maya not wanting me to do skin weight painting while I had smooth mesh preview on. 

At the end I'm fairly proud of the work I did for this being my first proper rig.


This was my second to last project I did for my Demo, which means I have acquired a lot more knowledge along the way since the gecko. 

This model was done by Aaron Roller. 

This is the low poly model and not the final high poly model with the displacement, textures and accessoires the raptor was wearing. Because of timing the raptor could not be properly animated, that's why Nina Fischer was kind enough to animate this as a side project for my Rigging Reel.

I, again, started with the joint setup but this time before I skinned the joints to the mesh I did the whole control setup and then started skinning. For me, it's easier to do the smooth skinning with the proper controllers, because you can just see how it's gonna move at the end. 

For this, our instructor taught me a specific way in which I could rig the hind legs. Which I then applied to the rig and it did indeed help to make the animation look better. Below you can see a picture of the two joint chains which I used for the hind legs.

After I was done with the rig, I gave it to the animator (Nina Fischer) to test it out. She then gave me some feedback on what wasn't working properly, or what she would do differently.

She still was animating while I was fixing the issues, but she updated the reference file with the newest rig and in the next video you can see the final raptor animation.

I hope this entry about my two favorite projects in my Demo Reel was insightful.

I am still learning more and more everday about different rigging techniques, and I hope that someday I will be part of a production team that will value my work.

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