Using Captain Blender as a rig basis...?

Hello, all. I’m getting closer to the point where I’ll be rigging my female warrior model (see sig below), and I’m planning on following Tony Mullen’s rigging process for Captain Blender. The issue is that my model is intended to be as close to Spirits Within/Beowulf -realistic as I can make it, while the good Captain is more of a 'toon style character. As for use: I intend to use her as a CG element in a live-action film, so she needs to move like a human woman…although, rather than trying to cross the “Uncanny Valley,” I’m going to be playing within it, so it won’t be necessary or desirable to make her truly photorealistic. Also, I’m using this first character as a means to learn all of the steps in character creation, start to finish, so I’m creating everything from scratch. For the other charcters, I’ll probably use jbouza’s Blenrig and makehuman models as a basis, but for now, I need to understand the process, and I’m not on a timeline.

So, for those who’ve had more experience with this sort of process:

  1. Is the Captain Blender rig flexible enough to act as a good basis for a near-realistic character? It certainly seems like it is, but I’d rather not learn that it isn’t after I’ve built the whole rig, weight-painted, yadda yadda. (I’m aware that there will be a number of adjustments, like muscle deformations and the oft-cited shoulder issues with realistic models - for those sorts of issues, I have plenty of threads to follow and other rigs to look at.)
  2. Have there been recent changes to Blender that make some of the steps either unecessary or easier? (Bone heat comes to mind, but I’m talking about things that are more specific to Mr. Mullen’s methods that might not be obvious, like “Oh, you don’t need to make an Action and driver for the foot rig anymore, that’s done with the new x-feature.”)
  3. Are there things that have become “broken,” ala ManCandy, with the revisions to 2.46? Are there any pitfalls that have come to light since the book was released and 2.46 has been released that might not be obvious to a newcomer to rigging?

Thanks for any advice you can lend.

then start rigging a stickpuppet/gingerbreadman first, and try to add some layers of detail on top of it. And add more detail on top of that. again and again. That way, you will get some feel for the possibilities and decide for yourself what technique/rig to use.

Captain blender has a basic rig, not toony, not realistic, just basic.
It’s not gonna cut what you want to do, and by the time you figure out a bit more of rigging to get you closer to the results you want, you’re better off (and faster off) to just build one yourself from scratch.
You might end up wanting to use a basic skeleton and have that drive a number of deformation bones (like muscles), or/and use meshdeform. On top of that, you would put the controls.

And stay away from shapekeys for as long as you can, they’re very tricky and less flexible than just plain bones.

Hi Eku. For your first question i can say CB model is good enough for a realistic human character but it missed some features like Knee Target , individual chest and stomach area control , FK/IK switch , and lattice base deformataion correction and some more , you can add it yourself.:yes:
For the second one , as i know the new tools in 2.46 is improvment of managment and grouping the bones , bone colors etc. the best improvments in rigging is the heat bone weighting and script constrain. so main part of rigging is as the same.

FreakyDude: Thanks for the reply. I think I misrepresented myself…I’ve actually done a fair amount of playing around with rigging already (yes, I did my Gus a few years back) and I’ve gone through a number of tut’s and such; I’ve never posted anything, except an animated spider, and frankly, that wasn’t very complex, just difficult to sync up. Point being: I’m ready to take on the Mullen book’s direction to build the rig, and since it creates a good, well-thought-out rig from the ground up, I figured I’d use the info to rig my human female - not append the rig from the CD, mind you, but just following the chapters to create my own. On the other hand, it sounds like your saying that I’d be better off just learning enough about advanced rigging independently of the realistic human model, and then applying that knowledge to the creation of a rig from the ground up - do I read you right?
MaJu: thanks, that’s good, very specific info.

I’d be better off just learning enough about advanced rigging independently of the realistic human model
I’m not sure if that is FreakyDude’s intent, and I don’t speak for him obviously, but I don’t think he means that … I believe (and I personally think this) what he means is that you should just start rigging your mesh directly instead of trying to use the CB set up as the basis and fit it into your mesh …

Just adding the minimal mesh deforming bones and skinning with your mesh will show you all the problems you will need to solve … most likely you will first try and lock the rotational transforms so joints bend properly with the right amount of degree of freedom … then you can start adding constraints (IK on the legs is almost a must) … But even before that you will see all the deformation issues … That’s the key problem to trying to rig realistic humans, not what controls what - controls will cone to you as you need it, or then you should refer to the likes of the CB rig to find them …

I took a look at your mesh … and it looks like you have decent topology … But you made the classic “production pipeline” mistake by making a detailed mesh for animation without regard to rigging issues … And it is my policy to generally not comment in the “Artwork” section of the forum, but of the works you cited, IMHO, the rigging part is almost always bit awkward because those nice meshes tend to confuse geometric topology with human anatomical topology (along side a profound lack of biomechanical knowledge - but then again the entire industry suffers from this) …

Start simple with the minimal number of bones needed . Then refine …

Thanks for the clarifications. OK, I think I see where I need to go with this…rig the mesh I’ve got to deform, tweak to make it work right, use CB’s rigging method as a way to learn how to better create general controls, and then refine, refine, refine.

Argghhhh! Here I thought I was trying to pay attention to rigging issues all along (like with the shoulder topo I cribbed from toloban’s images). Well, the heck with it, I’ll just have to learn by making mistakes like everyone else, eh?:slight_smile:

That’s what I meant, yeah.
Also, the CB rig isn’t really that much more complex than Gus/Hank (whatever his name is) It uses all the same techniques, with the exception of using custom objects as bone shapes, and action constraints for things like curling fingers. It’s a small layer of complexity added on top of the Gus rig. The CB rig doesn’t really use a much more detailed rig than Gus/Hank uses.

What I mean is, once you have done the Gus rig, there is little you can learn rigging wise from the introduction to character animation’s rigging part. (there’s also some animation stuff in the book, which covers a few things like basic jumping, running and walking animations though) It goes into more detail about creating facial shapes, and using shapekeys to “correct” deformation issues (which don’t really work that well, most certainly not if you’re going for a more realistic character rig.)
And a few other things, but 90% of that you also find in the Gus/Hank tutorials, so if you’ve done that, you should know enough to start experimenting and picking apart other people’s rigs. You should come up with a good setup that works good for you.

The CB rig does use a few action constraints. You won’t find that in Gus. It doesn’t hurt to see how it works, but there are far better ways to do that these days.
One thing that is mentioned in the book, and I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere, is HOW TO MIRROR SHAPEKEYS! you basically make the left and right shapekeys in one shapekey, then copy it and seperate the left and right area by using vertex groups. If you copy a shapekey that is influenced by a shapekey, you are left with a new “baked” shapekey, that only alters the shape of the part that was affected by the vertex group.
But stay away from shapekeys if you can, they are really tricky to setup right.

If you’ve done the Gus rig and know the basics, you should just pick apart other people’s rigs, and ask them questions if you can’t figure out how a certain thing works.

Here’s a list of good rigs, search the forums:
yagapayanata’s 2,4,6 leg rigs
Calvin’s rigs
donkey rig (

EDIT: and I’m sorry for misunderstanding you, I kinda overread the Uncanny and makehuman meshes for the other characters part, which already suggests you done some research beforehand. My apologies.

Thank you thank you for that excellent info-pack-in-a-post! You’ve really put things in perspective for me. OK, looks like I’ve got a bit more research to do to get where I want to be, but from what you folks are saying, it looks like the basics of setting up the armature in the first place are to be fairly universal - the rest is added on as you go (controls, various constraints, IK/FK switches, custom bone shapes, etc, and finally, after all’s good, the shape keys - or not, if Blenrig is any guide). Again, thanks.