Well I figured I should just go ahead and start displaying what I have been working on in my secret lab the past little while in the hopes that putting it out there will actually make me finish the thing. Also to post a history of my workflow and some tips about things I have learned on the way. What is this “Black Box” you say? At first it was to be my custom modular rigging tool, and now it has become a mini character animation pipeline so to speak. The idea behind the name is to have a tool that plugs into everything so the modules are built in a way that allows changes to be made to the rig after it is deemed “complete” which never happens which is why a feature like this is important. Some features include:
- Modular character rigging
- Template saving and loading
- custom character GUI layout built in
- pose library built in
- other TD tools for common tasks that tie into the rigs
Aside from this I plan to add a facial rigging portion dubbed “Gray Skull” that will allow for a standardized joint based rigging approach for most characters. The final tool I plan to add to this dubbed “Chop Shop” is a modular vehicle/mechanical rigging portion that will be used for..well…vehicles and stuff, it will focus more on dynamics and plugin development.
This is way too much for one to handle! Why are you doing this dummy, it has been done before!? Originally this whole thing was thought up a few years back when buddy of mine and some other friends from school were going to make a short film. I had started a rigging tool and then that dream was abruptly cut short after loosing my job (darn you federal reserve and bailouts that cause layoffs!) so it had to go on hold while I acquired some kind of vocation to support the fam, but enough sob story. I heard more about these ‘modular rigging’ things and found out, hey I need to learn Python since MEL ain’t gonna cut it anymore (although still alive just not useful outside of Maya). Needless to say, the root of this comes from a DVD by Steve Twist that is a doozy for a beginner at Python but I had somewhat of a coding background so it wasn’t too crazy, just time consuming. As of recently I have been slowly coming to the conclusion that the current system in place needs a lot of work although it works for now, much more is to be done. I think I want to convert it to PyMel as I have not yet made that jump, no time better than now right? Basically I want a tool that allows me to be my own little studio if a decent size freelance comes up I can handle it. I’ve even got a Kinect now and plan on adding a mo-cap layer in there somewhere.
So! On to the learning stuff, first stages:
- Think About it sit down and figure out what you are trying to accomplish and make goals
- Make a features list list all the “wish list” items you can think of, even if you have no idea how to do it
- Always Sketch the UI Before Implementation, show it to others before you get started for feedback as well.
Here are my initial sketches part of what it looks like in Maya so far:
One thing to note is all of this is still subject to change. Don’t limit yourself to just one design because it might be more work to redo it. Which brings me to my next point…keep your UI separate from your main code and other modules, this way if there IS a change then it will only affect this one file since the functionality should not be affected by the users interaction with the interface. I think this a good first post, more to come.