What has two thumbs and despises rigging CGI characters? THIS guy! You couldn't see it, but I pointed my two thumbs at myself when I said that. For those of you not in the know (if there are still any of you around in this wonderful age of DVD bonus features) rigging is something that has to be done before the animation of a CGI character can take place. You've got to create some sort of skeleton to which the model can be parented, and then you can move the skeleton in order to animate your model.
I've been working on the Woodman model since day one in late 2007, really. Because it's one of those things I could do from home. You can see my earliest attempts in the previz gallery back on the main site. Pretty ugly modeling and texturing, if I'm being honest. But I've been reworking him on and off for the past three years as the project has demanded it (the project is an ass). A few weeks ago I reached a point where all the parties concerned were ready to call it finished.
So, I don't recall if it's ever been specified, but the oft-mentioned "concept scene" upon which our entire production hinges, is the scene in which Dorothy and Scarecrow encounter the Tin Woodman. This was chosen partly because it was a good show for us as far as writing/directing/acting/tone/and all other artsy considerations, and also because the Woodman never freaking moves.
Because the rain has frozen his joints up. He CAN'T move. He's incapable of moving. That's a PLOT point. From the TEXT. So I posed up ol' Nick in a sort of mid-chop kind of a thing, and supplied VFX supervisor Drew More with that model, and for most shots in this scene he can just drop that model into the motion-tracked environment, light it, and render it.
But the end of the scene is a montage of Dorothy and Scarecrow oiling, lathering, caressing, twisting, and rubbing Woodman in order to enable him to move again. So for the last two shots, I wanted to have him take a big ol' step forward in order to give a bit of visual interest, and to end on a cliffhanger. Leave everybody (especially people with more money than sense) wanting more. Like one hundred and seventeen minutes more.
And that's required me to rig. Last week I spent a few hours setting up a rig for the Woodman, and then animating three clumsy steps forward. But there were some rigging errors, such as his right hip box not parenting to the bone, which led to some animation errors, which led to director dissatisfaction. Plus, I sent that file to Drew just as a conversion test, and there were a few additional errors on that end, once he'd crunched up all the 0's and 1's to get the animation from my software to his software (we're like the Capulets and the Montagues, if both were owned by Autodesk and one were significantly older than the other).
So that's what I'm doing right now, rigging and animating our once-shiny hero so that he may prance gayly forward in the Avatar-like-state-of-the-art CGI manner to which you've all become accustomed. Well... that's what I WAS doing. Then I started to procrastinate by writing this inane journal entry. Because I HATE rigging. And have two thumbs, apparently...