The Smart Way to Auto Rig Soft, Rigid, & Mixed Armor Pieces
José Antonio Tijerín
José Tijerín is a digital illustrator, 3D sculptor, and creator of video games such as “Dear Althea” available on Steam. His content pack “We’re Besties” and “We’re Homies” are currently for sale in the Reallusion content store.
CC4 with AccuRIG: a gateway to new possibilities
AccuRIG in Character Creator 4 is the most important tool we’ll be using for this tutorial. This tool is designed to rig characters quickly and easily and lets us skip a lot of manual processing in 3D programs like Maya. To create this tutorial, I have divided the character into three categories: rigid armor, mixed structure, and rigid system. This makes it easy to understand and analyze the common mistakes for each category.
Type I: The rigid armor
Let’s explore several ways to correctly integrate different parts to make a suit of armor. For this tutorial, I’ll be working with the “Polish Hussar Armor” that can be found on the Tijerin Art Studio Sketchfab page. Let’s start with the simple minor parts of the armor, such as the tassets and vambraces.
First go to the Create to access the Accessories menu and import these armor parts. Since the armor is divided into parts, we will have to select them one by one to convert them into accessories using the namesake button. Now, we have to go to the lower part of the Modify window to find the Attach section and link the armor parts with their corresponding bones.
This method is the most optimal for attaching rigid parts to the character, but it is not always recommended. I suggest individually importing the armor parts so that each part can be given the necessary attention and independent problems can be corrected as they arise.
Thanks to the improvements in Character Creator, we can check for problems while the character moves without having to leave the program. There will be times when the armor pieces intersect with other models and in those instances you will need to edit the geometries right away so it doesn’t continue to happen.
Rigid elements, like the ones applied here, are widely used to complement cloth and leather clothing and give a striking touch of variety to our character. Let’s talk about the armor elements that are more complicated, so much so that they require rigging such as the helmet for this particular character.
1. Helmet armor
Helmets are usually composed of one or two pieces, but this particular helmet has several pieces at the back. This is an opportunity to take advantage of because the lower part collides with the armor that we have not yet placed. We can handle this problem by rigging this part in a third party 3D application. This time, we are going to import it not as an accessory but as a 3D prop so that we can introduce the bone system without a hitch.
The rest of the process is the same as those used for previous armor parts. As you can see, we now have full control over the helmet and can prevent it from intercepting other armor pieces. We are going to further develop this solution for the animation phase so that it goes beyond just fixing problems and takes us a step further in the animation of the character.
2. Chest armor
Now is the time to place the chest armor, which presents a delicate challenge. In this case, we have a one-piece breastplate that will be placed in the same fashion as the first amor parts. This type of armor is very constrictive on the body, so we must refrain from animating the bones of the upper spine and raise the arms more than 180 degrees. The most popular method, due to its versatility, is to separate an upper part to protect the thorax and a lower part for the stomach.
3. Shoulder armor
For the shoulder pads, I attached the lower part of the arm in the same way I did the first parts of the armor. For the upper part, I added a couple of bones like I did for the helmet. The mobile parts of a traditional armor are usually joined together with leather straps, and normally, they are covered by metal. This armor, however, features straps that are visible and I’ll need to be careful to confine the flexible areas to the shoulders.
It’s worth mentioning that futuristic armor found in video games often contain rigid parts that are sewn onto flexible parts. This type of design can save on polygons and eliminate many of the problems mentioned before, but we will explore this later.
By attaching the bones to the armor, we get several possibilities for animation. We can correct the position of the shoulder pads as was done for the helmet. In addition, we can have those pieces jump while he is riding on his mount. It should be obvious by now that adding bones to the armor requires some forethought, especially about the character’s range of motions and how the armor will react in kind.
4. Scabbard of the sword and accessories
Let’s now examine the scabbard, which is usually a prop for decoration, but we can do more with it by rigging it to make it functional. To accomplish this, I add bones along the length of the leather scabbard to have it curve with the sword. Once set up, the sword, despite its curvature, can smoothly slide in and out of the sheath.
In the act of sheathing a sword, one hand holds the scabbard and the other hand inserts the sword. So we should consider adding a bone to attach with the hand. If we want to get fancy, we can export the props in FBX format along with its animation into Character Creator. On top of this, we can also add a spring effect so that the soldier can sway while he walks and have that momentum transfer to the sword while it is sheathed. Once completed, I continue to make some corrections and add the rest of the armor, accessories, and textures to make it ready for animation in iClone.
Now that we have seen what this system can do for us, I’ll explore two more techniques that mix rigid with soft elements in the second part of this tutorial series. Do visit the YouTube channel to continue watching and please subscribe for more great tutorials.
Read on ‘How to Auto Rig Cyborgs with Character Creator AccuRIG – Part 2‘
Learn more :
• Tijerín Art (José Antonio Tijerín) https://www.artstation.com/tijerinart
• Tijerín Art Studio on Steam (video games) https://store.steampowered.com/app/2058230/The_Evil_Furry/
• Character Creator https://www.reallusion.com/character-creator/download.html
• iClone https://www.reallusion.com/iclone/download.html
• Reallusion https://www.reallusion.com/