Rig Referencing For Animation

Maya: ZooTools – Skeleton Builder, Animation And Rigging

In This Class You’ll Access…
Rig Referencing for animation’s super important for riggers and animators alike. Most students miss this step and why it’s a must in the pipeline. All professional studios use referenced rigs in Maya so we’ll want to learn this too.

Referencing is a method of loading the rig without needing to store it into the scene itself. It’s similar to treating the rig like a texture file, a file that’s separate rather than saved in the animation scene itself.

One benefit is the the rig may have a large file size, so we don’t want to save it inside hundreds of iterations of animation. Secondly the rig itself can be changed without destroying the animation. So the rig can be updated easily. And rigs always need to be updated.

We’ll look at rig referencing in an ultra simple scenario. Then we’ll look into how it applies specifically to the Zoo Tools Skeleton Builder rig as per the previous classes.

And we’ll make final adjustments to the skeleton builder rig so that everything in the scene’s clean. We’ll also look at optimising the meshes for animation and learn about how subD smoothing can have a large effect on rig speeds in Maya if is left at defaults.

Running Time: 30 mins
Software: Maya 2016
Instructor: Andrew Silke

Class Time: 30 mins

1. Simple Rig and Animation Referencing Example (10 mins)

1.1 – Simple Rig (1:31 mins)
1.2 – Folder Structure (1:15 mins)
1.3 – Anim Setup (29 sec)
1.4 – Load/Unload (46 sec)
1.5 – Modify Rig (2:07 mins)
1.6 – Anim Update (1:09 mins)
1.7 – Hires File-sizes (2:49 mins)
1.8 – Ref Namespaces (47 sec)

2. Zanzi Production Rig: Basic Clean (2:24 mins)

2.1 – Zanzi Rig Intro (1:05 mins)
2.2 – Outliner Cleanup (1:19 mins)

3. Rig Optimisation With Subdivision Level Options (4:47 mins)

3.1 – Rig Speed Test (1:10 mins)
3.2 – SubD Speed Optimisation (1:01 mins)
3.3 – SubD Multiple Obj (1:09 mins)
3.4 – Open Vs Maya SubDs (1:27 mins)

4. Final Cleaning On The Production Rig (2:37 mins)

4.1 – Delete Anim (21 sec)
4.2 – Del Trig Constraint (1:17 mins)
4.3 – Del Unused Nodes (25 sec)
4.4 – Save Backup Rig (34 sec)

5. Animation Setup With A Referenced Production Rig (6:17 mins)

5.1 – Anim Scene Setup (1:02 mins)
5.2 – Light Setup (1:33 mins)
5.3 – Save Animation File (1:02 mins)
5.4 – Trigger Shadow Off (42 sec)
5.5 – Anim Trigger Setup (1:20 mins)
5.6 – Animate (38 sec)

6. Modifying A Production Rig (3:48 mins)

6.1 – Modify Rig (2:29 mins)
6.2 – Update Animation Files (1:19 mins)
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  1. Richard
    May 14, 2017 at 2:38 am ·

    You mention not wanting to animate on a rig that is not referenced. You also mention not importing/exporting animation as much as possible and how we can get into a lot of trouble if we try to fix rigs that have animation on them. My question is about walk/run cycles. Do you recommend: 1) Building cycles from scratch in each scene? 2) importing anim onto a referenced rig?, 3) animating the rig itself before referencing?, or 4) using ZooTools clip libraries somehow? I’m a newbie at animation trying to get my head around good workflow.


  2. Andrew Silke
    May 14, 2017 at 6:03 pm ·

    Hi Richard, yes best to animate the cycles with a referenced rig. So the rig is referenced first and then animated.

    If you need to transfer the animation onto other files then yes just copy the animation, you can do that easiest with the Zoo Tools Clip Library but you can also use ATOM which is Maya’s export tool. The problem is when you don’t have a referenced rig and need to upgrade then you’ll export the animation and then import onto a rig that’s changed. An animation is hard enough to export correctly without having a new rig with potentially new/changed controls to mess everything up.

    Most of rig/animation issues happen while wanting to update the rig. Rig updates are common, you’ll start animating and realise you’ve missed something in the rig, I always do. So just open the rig and fix it and reload the scene. If it’s not a big change or you’re adding new features it’s rare to have problems.

    Always backup rigs in case of issues, if you change the rig too much it can break the animation, without a backup there’s no going backward. Try not to change control names and the hierarchy too on anything that already has keyframes on it.

  3. Richard
    May 15, 2017 at 2:08 am ·

    So, if you’re using a rig in multiple scenes, you create the Clips Library in the rig file, then reference the rig and Clip Library into the multiple scenes?

  4. Andrew Silke
    May 15, 2017 at 10:29 am ·

    Yes that’s mostly right. If you’re using multiple scenes you simply reference the rig into each scene before you start animating. If you download Zanzi and Croc you’ll see the animationStart file, that’s a rig referenced into a blank scene with no animation ready to go. I’ll always open that file then save it into an animation directory the name of the cycle or shot I’m working on. That way you do the setup once.

    If you’re working in games you can have one big scene of all your cycles in one file. That may be easier depending.

    The Clip Library is a tool that simply copies animation, it doesn’t live in the scene. So it’s like saying “create the copy in your word document before you begin”, well that doesn’t make much sense. Just use the Anim Clip Library (or Maya’s ATOM) to copy animation from scene to scene after you’ve created the animation.

    So if you had a shot that needed a walk and a run cycle, you’d open the cycle files and save their anim clips. Then open the new scene and import them at different frame numbers so they don’t replace each other. Walks and runs need to repeat so inside the scene you’d copy and paste the cycles many times until you get the results you need.

  5. Richard
    May 15, 2017 at 10:48 am ·

    Terrific. Thank you!

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