Kitbashing, putting something unique together from a kit or parts, has been around in various forms in movies and television for a long time. The current, digital version of kitbashing includes free and commercial kits of parts that look like something out of a Popular Mechanics magazine, or an industrial warehouse or garage. This depends on the type of kit you are looking for, but general science fiction-based kits are clamps, frames, pulleys, hydraulic cylinders, and similar industrial-style parts.
Some people can just look at a pile of parts and see a robotic character or tool. This type of asset creation is usually done with apps like Blender, 3DS Max, Maya, and Cinema 4D but it can also be kitbashed together in Character Creator and then rigged for animation in iClone.
BREAKING OUT THE KITBASH PARTS
A video tutorial that explains this written overview in detail is located at the bottom of this article. It is broken down into several parts with timestamps available in the description. There is also a 4X speed clip of the kitbashing process towards the end of the video.
One of the biggest problems facing a new kitbasher is the fact that a lot of these assets come placed in one FBX or OBJ file and at times one combined object. Some must be broken out at the vertex level while others, as in this case, just have to be detached to be used. They are also usually high poly and that is the case with the kit I’ll be using in today’s example of kitbashing a simple robot together. We’ll lower that count in CC4 later in the tutorial so as to not make the body-building segment any longer than it needs to be.
Kitbashing might be a very misunderstood approach by those new to the nuts and bolts of character creation. In this example I build an entire robot body and rig it, also showing how to mask unused bones, but most of you will catch on quickly. There is also a 4X clip of the body build towards the end of the animation for those who just want to see the process.
I try not to create video tutorials over twenty minutes which is about five minutes longer than my attention span when I’m looking for tutorials, but I shaped it in such a way that you don’t have to watch all of it. Once you see a few body parts put together you can skip around or view the 4X Speed Clip to get an idea of what is going on. If the concept baffles don’t be worried, you are not alone.
The tutorial is broken down into the following parts:
Part 1 – Kitbashing the Body
Part 2 – Optimizing the Body Parts
Part 3 – Rigging with Character Creator 4
Part 4 – Optional – 4X Speed Clip of Body Build
I will drag and drop the kitbash assets, FBX in this case, into the CC4 workspace. Next will be to detach the actual meshes from the dummies and delete them to clean things up a bit. After that, I’ll jump right and start with the leg and how to alter it a bit if it does not fit your needs.
ALTERING MESH AT VERTEX LEVEL
With the Mesh tool, we can alter one particular piece to make it the lower leg. At the vertex level, I will grab all the mesh I can get sticking out from the flat surface of what we will use as a lower leg and foot. I push the pogo stick-looking bottom piece up into the “foot” mesh and scale it back, so it won’t poke through the outer mesh.
After this, still at the vertex level, I will carefully grab what looks like the front of the lower foot and stretch it out to resemble a foot. Character Creator 4 gives us a good Mesh tool so let’s not just relegate it to minor shaping and flaw fixing.
For this character, we won’t be altering any more mesh, but this demonstrates what can be done with the Mesh tool when needed. You control the scene assets, don’t let the scene assets control you or your vision of what you are producing unless it just can’t be helped otherwise.
BUILDING THE LEG(S) AND PELVIS
As you can see, I’m starting with one leg, mainly because I could easily visualize that leg from the pile of parts. I built the leg up with a “knee” and an “upper leg” attached the Upper Leg and Knee to the Lower leg, then scaled them to suit my needs.
From there I added a simple, one-piece pelvis and scaled it. I then duplicated the “leg” and moved it into place. Later, when we optimize, I’ll delete that duplicated leg and an arm, so we don’t have to optimize them twice. I then will duplicate the optimized leg and arm and move it into position just as I did when I was building the body.
This is where you will notice that when you duplicate the leg, the dial on the ankle will be on the same side of both legs. You might be able to push the dial into the mesh and scale it back with the mesh tool at the vertex level if you want to hide it but I just left it like it was.
The LOWER, UPPER TORSO & ARMS
The lower torso and upper torso are one-piece objects each making that a quick and easy attachment that only needed to be tweaked in scale to your personal preference.
The arms were built out and duplicated then moved into place just as the legs were. They were attached to each other as one unit just like the legs.
CENTERING AND SCALING UP
This was a ZBrush-based kit, as many are, so it was at a much smaller scale than we work at in Character Creator or iClone. With this in mind, I built the body first and scaled up later when needed. You may choose to scale up the parts to start but I found this to be a simpler method as I can just scale the kitbashed body to match an iClone character which you can add to the scene then delete after scaling up.
AccuRIG – THE EASIEST PART
Since we will be using AccuRIG to skin the robot body, I decided to experiment a bit and try not to change any markers from their initial placement by the plug-in unless I had to. In the video, you will notice that I had to lower the top of the leg markers as they had settled on the pelvis which would make the pelvis twist with movement. I lowered these markers to just below the pelvis on the top of each leg. Everything else stayed in its original location.
I then set the rig up for zero fingers and let it create the skeleton. After this I let Character Creator 4 AccuRIG do the skinning and had a very usable kitbashed animated robot body.
WHY JUST THE BODY?
To give you as the user an opportunity to finish out the character with a head and hands that you can make, kitbash, or get from SketchFab. A quick search for “robot head” and “robot hands” will yield some nice results. Take the finished character into AccuRIG again to rig the new parts.
We can also rig partial robot characters like a walking set of legs or a functional upper body complete with a head. You could then link and unlink those characters for some unusual results. The same should hold true for a “Headless Horseman” type character.
Now I want to stop working on this article and make a Headless Horseman but that is just how a good piece of software can creatively inspire you so I will push on to finish this up.
There was a lot to pack into this tutorial, but kitbashing is something almost anyone should be able to do. At this level, it is not advanced by any means. The body could have been rigged better or shaped better in the shoulders for a more squared-off result, but the tutorial was already going to run long so I just moved on. Besides, that can be tweaked with Character Creator 4’s Proportion or Pose Offset tools.
Kitbashing is like gluing together a model in your bedroom as a kid like some of us did back in the old pre-digital days. Except without the screaming, cursing, and general throwing of tantrums when things didn’t fit or look as good as the box did! For the rest of you who have no clue what “gluing together a model is” then you might consider kitbashing to be the equivalent for your generation.
And of course, I would never suggest, over a 3D model, that any of us would scream, curse, or throw a tantrum today…
…unless… maybe… we knew no one was around.
Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you next time!
Kitbash Kit used in this tutorial:
Hard Surface Kitbash Demo Kit:
MD McCallum – WarLord
Digital Artist MD “Mike” McCallum, aka WarLord, is a longtime iClone user. Having authored free tutorials for iClone in its early years and selected to write the iClone Beginners Guide from Packt Publishing in 2011, he was fortunate enough to meet and exchange tricks and tips with users from all over the world and loves to share this information with other users. He has authored hundreds of articles on iClone and digital art in general while reviewing some of the most popular software and hardware in the world. He has been published in many of the leading 3D online and print magazines while staying true to his biggest passion, 3D animation. For more information click here.