Rigging in Blender Philosophy

Hey guys, i’m new to blender (but not new to 3d) ive been doing 3d for the last 10 years (8 years self taught while at high school) and 2 years formal education. And i guess u could say an extra half a year in the industry, contracting and teaching.:confused:

Recently in the last week i decided to transfer all my understandings of 3d from maya (what i trained in) and max (what i self taught in) to blender. So i gave myself a little project to do an entire pipeline as it were, minus concept. So i decided wiht something simple.
I made a hammer…i know its my first time in blender, but i have to start simple object.
So i got through modelling, texturing, lighting, compositing and rendering. I have to say the render buffer and compositing being integrated into the render pipeline is awesome and was my favourite part!!!

So now the next step is rigging and animation, and then later dynamics and particles etc.

And this is were i was really let down :frowning:
I’m hoping that some people will be able to shed light on blenders rigging set up and also maybe direct me to some very useful indepth tutorials.
My two specializations are in “Lighting, Rendering, Compositing” and “Rigging” (MEL script as well). I understand Maya’s rigging and MEL inside out and i know that blender can and has done awesome rigs!
From the little i played with it it seems to be not that intuitive and it seems you have to go a very rounabout way to just get something constrained to something else (also the ability to keep offsets or not keeping offset seems rather odd). Also having to swtich into a sub object level just to manipulate bones seems a little odd rahter then them being seperate they are part of this armature. Im not sure the point of the armature.
I read someones post saying that blenders rigging philosophy is a whole lot different then mayas being more contraint based.
So if anyone could help me out i would love it!! The thing is blenders compositing and just nice renders and shading setup is sweet! and as a freelancer zero dollars blender is a lot more appealing then $$$ maya.
I am really hoping maybe i just have to have a switch of mindset in blenders rigging department.


Could this possibly be why you see alot of architectural, awesome still life shots from blender but little in the way of sweet rigs (relatively speaking, i know there are sweet rigs out there)

I have a rigging reel if anyone is keen to see and a generalist reel

Just so you know im not bagging blender (so no nasty comments please =D) i seriously do want to use this program and in future would love to run a studio on it as well but i need to know that it can handle well in alot of flexibilty this area, and am kinda hoping it will redeem itself lol everything else is awesome! and now that theyve implemented python even more so into it…:D:D

Maybe a good place for you to get an overview of blender rigging is Tob’s foot rig tutorial on youtube.

Demos and then build the rig… Used 2.5 alpha for that, so some things have changed slightly between then and 2.53 beta…


ive been using blender for a long long time now, and honestly one of the hardest things has always been animation and rig setup. it seems at a certain point if you want your rigs to really do some complicated stuff you will probably have to start delving into python.

whats the point of the armature? thats a good point, i Think the point of the armature goes with the design philosophy of blender wherein you have an object that has data inside of it, but thats just a guess. it would be nice to hear from others what they think about this.

i learned alot about human rigging from the mancandy dvd. you can either buy this or maybe find a source online to watch it.

in the end i think maya and max probably have more tools developed for more complicated animation because studios have used them for so long that people have just developed these tools for those programs and not max.

finallly, it would be nice to know what specific features you do not see in blender that you would like to see in the animation department. if we knew the exact things you wanted to do it would be much easier to help you.

lastly, nice hammer :slight_smile:

quick link to mancandy faq, if you do a search in the blender foundation youtube channel you can find most of it there i belivee.

There won’t be many tutorials on rigging, and animation for 2.5x. Not for a while.

Very nice rigging reel by the way, the little blue guy is awesome.

I believe Blender 2.5x’s rigging system is really about constraints, you could do everything you’ve done in your demo reel in Blender using just the constraints, I’m not 100% certain on the variable settings for fingers, perhaps that would involve a little bit of python.

Anyway, I’d grab some of the latest (and best) 2.5 rigs and go through them, see how they are constructed and how they work, that should give you a better understanding then any tutorial.

There is a great site that lists all of the current Blender rigs, for 2.49x and 2.5x, but I cannot seem to find it. When I do I’ll post a link though.

Oh and also, don’t forget to pop over to the durian blog and grab the rigs available from there, they are the rigs used in the Sintel animation and are excellent rigs, again it’ll help you understand the Blender rigging philosophy a little better if you poke around with the files and see the inner workings.

I agree with you about having to go into a sub mode to move the armature, it’s a little annoying sometimes, but since it’s context sensitive you get some very nice tools on the side panel (T key in 3D view), such as the break down and ease in/ out tools, personally I think these three are one of the best new features of the 2.5x series :slight_smile:

wow talk about fastest replies in any forum ive been on! thanks! that does help a bit, puts things in context. And I will def have a look at the durian blog for those rigs. Sintel looks like its coming along nicely =).
I think the best rigs use a bit of scripting anyway at the moment, in any software! so cant get round that.
Daniel, it would be great to get that link if you find it! Also the breakdown, push and relax tools are for animating?? From what i understand do you always animate in pose mode? If you set up controls would you still need to leave your armature in pose mode. I would think you wouldnt if everything is constrained to independent controls (curves, geometry)…am i thinking to maya here =s lol

That mancandy rig is awesome =D and the one joint scaling finger concept is cooool. The ending was rather ineteresting =P not quite sure what to make of that haha

I’ve only used 2.5 onwards so would it be beneficial to look at pre 2.5 rigs in 2.5? Im not sure how much has changed.
Cheers guys!

Oh last thing, planaria, if there was something i think of (not at the moment) that i think may be cool to have in the rigging department. Where do i post ideas/suggestions like that?

hey thanks for the foot rig randy. Still watching it. Looks like it will be a great start into blender rigging

Here you go, http://rigging-repo.blogspot.com/2009/10/official-rigs.html

Its a big list of rigs.

And look out for Waylow, he is a Blenderhead on this forum with a lot of sweet rigs. He has a thread somewhere. Ill edit this when I find it. Welcome to the Blender community. :yes:

Here it is, http://blenderartists.org/forum/showthread.php?t=187051&highlight=Waylow

We Blenderheads are always eager to bring somone back from the Dark Side(commercial). Nah, just kidding. Just make sure to spread the knowledge around. :slight_smile:

From my understanding all animation (99% of the time) will be done in pose mode, when you are using a rig that is, you could attach empties, meshes and/ or curves to bones and animate outside of pose mode, but mainly it’ll be done in pose mode, if you need geometry controllers then you can make a piece of geometry act as the display icon/ symbol for a bone, if that is what you mean. If it is, it’s just a simple case of adding a mesh, and typing in (it’ll show all available objects, so you just need to click on it really) in the custom shape menu under the ‘Bone’ icon while in pose mode.

By the way you can leave your armature in pose mode and select other meshes, or armatures, it’s just a case of selecting another object.

If you want to attach a cube for example to a bone, you leave the armature in pose mode, select the cube, then select the bone in the armature you want to parent it to and then hit ctrl+P and you’ll have a menu pop-up with the menus, to do have it work the other way, bone to mesh you’ll need a constraint, I think anyway, there may be another way of getting it to work, but it’s only one constraint, so it’s not too bad.

The breakdown, push and relax tools are animating, I believe there is a plugging for Maya which does something similar for the breakdown, but the push, and relax tools allow you really fine controls over easing in and out of extremes, sadly it’s not available for animating anything other than armatures, maybe it’ll get looked into though.

I don’t think it would be beneficial to bring older rigs in, the rigging/ animation system has been completely re-written for 2.5x, so looking at pre 2.5x rigs may confuse you a little, it’s sort of similar but there are enough differences to throw you off a little.

If there are suggestions you can start a thread here, just make sure it’s explained in detail with examples to show the developer(s) how it’s useful and how it can be implented, that way the developer can determine if it’s feasible, and if it’s worth the coding time.

Also, if you have any reports on bugs, then click on Help on the top menu and click ‘send bug report’.

Hope this helps :slight_smile:

Btw, I have the bookmark for that rig site on my Windows 7 installation, but I won’t be on there until tomorrow morning, I’ll be sure to post the link then though.

Also, future support issues should be posted in the help & support section, I forgot to mention that in the first reply :slight_smile:


That site also has alot of examples of rigs and information on constraints, mostly 2.49 stuff, but for the most part it works in 2.5. One of the biggest changes from 2.49b to 2.53 is the way drivers are set up. Some 2.49 rigs will appear to have broken drivers in 2.53, actually, they just need to be re-setup. And of course, since the python api has changed from 2.49 to 2.53, any 2.49 rigs that use scripts won’t work in 2.53.

For the most part, scripting isn’t widely used in rigging. Scripting will allow you to integrate rig controls into blender’s UI. So display of fk or ik rig layers can be accessed via the transforms panel, as well as switching between fk/ik. You can also write constraints in python, but it’s not used much.

Once you get your head wrapped around blender’s way of doing stuff, I think it will make sense to you. Pose mode is for posing an armature, edit mode for editing, object mode for dealing with it as an object - as in scaling, rotating and positioning the rig within a scene. Personally, I’ve been thinking about trying out houdini to see how my skills/knowledge work in another package.


Here is a rigging example of mine:


I used a technique based on shrinkwrap. It is closer to the muscle simulation you can see in other 3d packages. It also a lot more resources consuming than you bone based technique, that’s the negative side of it.

Here’s a video explaining how the rig works:


You can download the rig from here if you want:


It’s all Blender 2.49. I’m now working on a Blender 2.5 version of the rig.

Here’s the post of that WIP:


BlenRig is a non-scripted auto-rigging system. It just makes use of all the tools blender delivers. I’ll make some video tutorials soon.

awesome!! thanks everyone! i will be busy reading up on all this. And yeah i agree gotta share the knowledge eh. I will definitely share any interesting things/scripts i learn/create in blender as i go. But gotta first learn the basics! =D
It’s a very strange feeling, like learning to walk again. But luckily doesnt take nearly as long!

I’m surprised no one mentioned Blender Cookie http://www.blendercookie.com/
If you go to Tutorials > Animation you’ll find some great 2.5 related rigging information, here are some of my favorites.

Welcome to Blender. The original rationale behind the armature object was to use as a way to group characters/rigs into entities, much like the character groups in Maya. The idea being that once each character has an armature you can apply animation clips to it as a whole, and even transfer animation from one armature to another. The other nice thing about it is that it makes selection a bit easier – when in pose mode you are only deaing with bones and you’re not acidentally selecting any meshes.

That’s the idea, but in practice it doesn’t always work as nicely as it could. The separation between objects and bones can cause headaches sometimes when you want them to interact, and they have some rather arbitrary differences.

As for good rigs, check out Nathan’s Simple Biped or Pepeland’s Red Nelb rig on Blendernation. Also, Blender 2.5 includes a pretty fantastic auto-rigging system called Rigify which will auto-generate rigs based on the proportions/number of limbs of your character.

Good things about the armatures: Bones have their own namespace, rigs can be easily scaled as long all constraints are set to use pose space.

Downside is, cyclic dependencies happen very quickly. I tend to avoid using anything else than bones when rigging. Things that involve other curves/meshes are a bit of a pain to do and not as simple as in maya/xsi etc.

What you’ll find different between maya and blender is how bones are related to other objects.
In maya a bone(joint) is like an ordinary object in the scene,and it’s related to other objects only in a hierarchical way,so you can contraint,do expression, or node relationship that can do everything but cyclic dependencies.
For example if we name a joint as A,and a locator as B,we can do in Maya:

A=B or B= A but we can’t do A=B AND after B=A,we have a cyclic dependency in this way and gives problem.

In Blender bones are not as ordinary objects,but are subobjects(Armature subobjects),like components in a mesh(like verts or edges or faces)so as rigger you’ll have cyclic dependencies even when they really don’t exist.

If we define with a letter an armature,for example A, bones(as subobjects) become a1,a2,a3,a4 so if we contraint bone a1 with an external object(like it can be an empty,we can name it B)and after we want to constraint this emply with bone a2 we are doing:
which,in Maya should be;
so no problem BUT,in Blender become

because subobjects are seen as the whole armature object,not as individual objects.

so,it’s a cyclic dependency,and gives problems.
To avoid you have to not use external objects or use different armatures

Maybe this is better in 2.5,not tried yet.

Slikdigit (aka the mancandy creator) recently figured out seamless FK/IK switching in 2.5. Don’t think he released the finished version of the script yet but I saw a pre-release version (which I haven’t really messed with too much, damn vector math) a couple weeks ago.

Anyhoo, his production blog – http://tube.freefac.org/ – where it should show up first.

I submitted a patch a while back that adds the Penner easing equations to the f-curves (or whatever the IPO curves are called these days) that hopefully will make it into blender if the feature freeze is ever lifted to ‘help’ with the ease in/out a bit. Well, hopefully help, I like playing with them at least…

Almost all of the 2.4x rigging stuff is identical to the 2.5x stuff so it doesn’t matter too much what version the tutorial (or whatever) is from. The IK solver has been rewritten but the old one is still there if you need ‘bugs’ (like being able to scale bones that are part of an IK chain) to make your rig function properly. The new IK solver is pretty nifty from what I’ve seen playing around with it.

There is a way how to make seamless FK <-> IK switching in Blender 2.5? That would be great because I still cannot find copy visual location/rotation feature that was in Blender 2.49 for this task.
Can you provide us with some details Unlce?

Hey cheers renderdemon, that little explanation helps heaps. You can kinda see why you would stick to bones and try not to use outside objects. Im wondering, from an animators point of view…is that a pain having to always be in pose mode? I guess not that much, seeing most blender animators will be blender generalists as well?
Yeah FK/IK seamless swithcing isnt too bad if your scripting (woo scripting! gotta say i find riggin much easier if you can incorporate a script or expression here and there). Just had a play with the IK…ok…its not as bad once you get a bit used to the pose mode =P. I was thinking if your going one bone/joint chain then IF you can animate on off switch for modifiers it would be relatively simple switching ik on off repositioning your ik snapping the pole vector target to the knee and then turning it back on (you would have to animate all those targets to their new positions over one frame).
Or if you were going the 3 joint chain setup, fk joints,ik and bind bones. Then Fk to IK would be grabbing the rotations of the IK joints and applying them to FK?
IK to FK would be similar as first method grabbing the two targets and moving them to the FK joint positions. (also getting the rotations for the wrist/ankles the same).Just had a look at some of the scripting stuff, i think its “delta_location”? well thats the theory i’ve understood anyway!! man cant wait to get into the scripting side. Ah! so much stuff to learn and not enough time!

Which reminds me, is there a way/place to right script jobs or expressions that run real time? i dont know the name for it cept script jobs, they are like expressions but run when something like an attribute is changed. (so in a sense they are always running in the background, intently watching that lil attribute!)

last quick question, is there a quick way to change between scale, rotate and move while in edit mode on the armature. it seems to keep the transformation tool i had before going into edit mode but once im in using the hot keys opens up menus…

Man thanks for all the links guys, just trying to information overload my brain while i have some free time!!