A Research Report on Modelling and Rigging

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Modelling and Rigging by Jake Ashmore

While working on the ANIM3002 brief for RJDM Studios, this research report will look into how 3D artists create their work, using correct edge flow, as well as good modelling practice to create their high quality work. Alongside that, it shall explore into various rigging techniques that were used, and how they were implemented, explaining how these helped with the character. Some of the artists who have been looked at are Ryan Kittleson, whose work was useful in creating the initial edge flow for the characters, as well as Brian Tindall, who has done extensive work into creating 3D work with good articulation. The final artist whose work was examined was Andrew Hickinbottom, whose work heavily inspired this group’s artistic styling designs of the characters.

Outside of these artists, work from Pixar, Disney, and DreamWorks has been looked into, especially that of Cloud with a chance of Meatballs.

Through this research, it shall then go on to explain how the work was created, using which techniques, as well as how the research benefitted the project.


The purpose of this research report is to outline the research used for creating to initial creation of the characters, and environment in the project running alongside this piece of work.

With that in mind this has been created with the purpose of focussing on the modelling techniques borrowed and used in the creation of the accompanying work, and then followed by the rigging techniques that were used in this project.

Within this report we shall look at the selected and experimented techniques used, in which we tried to create the best results with the constraints set in place for the project, such as polygon count, and animation length etcetera. This meant looking at various artists in our field who have come up with various approaches and stylistic choices to each of their project that we could look at and adapt to our own work.

While looking at this, this report will also explore the various other ventures in trying to make the project easier for the group, and how they either succeeded, albeit with a price, or how they failed to speed up the process.


The initial research conducted for this project was broken down into different sections for each group member, allowing them the freedom to research what they believed was necessary for the overall outcome of the project. This research report in particular focuses on the work of Jake Ashmore, exploring what he looked into, and how it benefitted his work.

The first piece of research conducted was to look into correct modelling techniques, and ways to create the best edge flow for the exaggerated animation needed for the project. To do this Jake looked into various artists, exploring their modelling practices and examining how he could implement them into his own work. In particular he looked at the breakdown of their character meshes, and identified different areas on the characters that would be best used for deforming and manipulating the characters. With this done he was then able to begin work on the characters, adapting tutorials by Ryan Kittleson on edge flow to his own character.

Once the character was finished being modelled and handed off to this next person for them to do their work, Jake could then begin on looking into various rigging techniques done by the artists he has looked at before, while also expanding who he was looking at, and exploring different programs that could help with the rigging, such as auto-riggers, and other plugin’s designed to speed up the rigging process. This meant watching tutorials on YouTube of well-known 3D artists, and using their techniques and applying it to their own characters, such as Poly-Face’s facial rigging tutorials, and Animation-Studios Advanced Skeleton auto-rigger.

With this research done on these various sections it was just a case of applying the techniques learned to the project and making sure the provided the best possible outcome.


To begin the essay it needs to start where the creation of the characters 3D build began, the modelling. The research for this, due to it being an animation focussed project, was focussed on artists who have good knowledge of edge-flow, deformation, and articulation. With this in mind Jake began by looking at three artists, Ryan Kittleson who shall be spoken about first, then will be followed up by Brian Tindall, and finally Andrew Hickinbottom. The reason for using these three as choices is their expertise in their respective fields.

Ryan Kittleson

The first person who was research for the sake of modelling the initial edge-flow and character base was Ryan Kittleson. He was first found while looking for tutorials on how to build basic edge-flow for the initial start of a character, and his tutorial provided an in depth look into how to start, and get to a point where you could begin adding detail without having to worry about have to shape the flow of the edges later.

After finding and watching this tutorial Jake then took it further and began looking into more aspects of Ryan Kittleson, and the various other works he had produced to see if they were helpful, this involved looking more into Ryan Kittleson himself and seeing what jobs he had held, what work he had done, and what other tutorials may be useful.

Ryan Kittleson lives in America and got his BFA in Illustration from Easy Carolina University, he then moved to Orlando Florida, in which he 3D modelling and digital sculpting at Full Sail University, which focusses on the world of entertainment and media, and now lives in New York City as a CG artist. He has a wide amount of hobbies and interests, such as snorkelling, quantum, and cosmic physics, as well as, in his own words “randomly stumbling upon weird things”. This personality of his reflects in his work, which is in depth and interesting, but also fun and enjoyable to follow, even after multiple viewings of his tutorials, they don’t tend to become monotonous.

Another reason as to why Jake used Ryan Kittleson as research was due to the experience his has in the animation, and games industry, he has worked for quite a few different companies such as Random Games, as well as freelance, On top of that he has also been awarded, or very nearly won several competitions and film festivals, such as winning the “Award of Excellence” in graphic design in 2005, and coming 2nd place for his short animation at the Juried Emerald Eye Film Festival in 2003.

While finding him initially on YouTube, Ryan Kittleson also does many tutorials on varying 3D subjects on lynda.com such as his “Modelling a Character in Maya” tutorials which was used alongside his “3D modelling tutorial for the torso” which was used to create the initial edge-flow for both the Doug character, and the Bluck character.

Ryan Kittleson’s work was especially useful for creating the character of Bluck, as it allowed Jake to create a double-shouldered character, which then allowed for Bluck to be animated properly thanks to the proper edge-flow used.

With using these tutorials Jake was able to successfully the base shapes needed for Doug and Bluck, especially since his tutorial on creating the torso is very thorough with explaining the reasons behind needing correct edge-flow, the importance of good image-plains, and how best to move on to creating more detail without messing up the edge-flow.

This then moves us on to our next person who helped with creating the more detail edge-flow needed, for the articulation while animating, Brian Tindall.

Brian Tindall

The next person who was researched for creating the edge-flow, and more detail for the characters was Brian Tindall, he was chosen after finding his website http://www.hippydrome.com/ and after reading through the website, buying his book “The Art of Moving Points”.

Although his work was not directly for use with the Autodesk Maya software, the reason it was useful is because it explained how proper edge-flow, and building with articulation in mind was needed for creating a fully animatable character, and since the focus on the groups chosen brief was to focus on that very thing, building with that in mind was a must.

Much like with Ryan Kittleson, the research done into Brian Tindall was relatively in depth, as while trying to find more work he had done started out initially challenging due to having found http://www.hippydrome.com/ first and having difficulty learning his name. Once his name had been found out though it turned out he played quite a big role in some of the films we were using for reference, specifically with the fact he worked for Pixar, one of the main companies the group was drawing inspiration from.

Brian Tindall started off studying a bachelor’s degree industrial design at Western Michigan University, after which he graduated, and managed to get a job at Pixar, where he worked for 12 years. While working for Pixar as a Character Technical Director he won some awards, such as the VES Award for Best Animated Character in an animated motion picture, which he got for “Up” in 2010.

He left Pixar in 2013 and started working for Laika Studios as a CG Modeller, and is currently working on the 3D stop-motion/CGI hybrid film Boxtrolls. He is a firm believer in 3D Printing and believes that it will have many uses in the future, such as using it to create replacement parts at home for stuff that breaks.

He is also working on his book which I mentioned before, which he said he created so the professionals and students alike can use it to improve their character and animations, which is why it was quite a bit part of the groups project.

While using the book it explains how best to separate characters into parts, allowing for realistic deformation to occur, using his method Jake was able to split the character into segments, so that when he was rigging the character, he could put the bones into the right places, to create the required deformations. This was especially useful when it came to creating the characters knees, elbows, and shoulder, which would have high amounts of deformation.

Alongside building for articulation, and deformation, he also gives hints and tips of rigging your character, for example he shows where best to create a system to limit movement in certain directions, for example with the knee, only allowing it to majorly bend so far forward, compared to the backwards where it gets a lot more movement.

While building the characters, only looking how to build them with the ideas in mind of deformation and articulation wasn’t going to work, which is why I looked at the next artist for my stylistic help with building the characters.

Andrew Hickinbottom

The final person who was researched in order to begin finishing off the characters was Andrew Hickinbottom. The reasoning behind choosing him is that his style is very visually appealing, and rather unique. Many of his characters are rather risqué as he goes for a much more pin-up style of design. Although most of his work is generally focussed upon the pin-up style, he is very well rounded in that he doesn’t just do that, and has many visually appealing characters.

Andrew Hickinbottom is from the United Kingdom, and lives in London, where he works as a freelance artist, and his area of expertise is character modelling, cartoon character design, pinup illustration, and fetish illustration. He regularly appears at Comic-Con, in which our group member Steve got the privilege to meet him, having a print of his we could use for reference. His work as appeared in several magazines, and books, such as 3D Artist magazine, 3D Creative magazine, and a few of the Digital Art Masters books

With this in mind, it allowed Jakes group to create their own characters in a similar style, which showed at the end with Doug’s textures, and rather square features, inspired by Andrew Hickinbottom’s work.

While there was much more available on his previous work, as well as jobs and awards he had done/received, there wasn’t much to be found in regards to progress work of his, this meant that when modelling while using his characters as inspiration, all that was available were his character sculpts, and a few wireframes, but they did the trick in the end.


Moving on from talking about the research done for the modelling, this report shall now talk about what was done for the rigging of both characters. In this section it shall talk about the different steps taken to decide on the final process to start and finish both the body rigging, and the facial rigging, which were both done separately.

To do the rigging, we used a mixture of an auto-rigger we found called Advanced-Skeleton, and manual rigging which was created following the tutorials created by Poly Face, using the systems already implemented into Autodesk Maya.

The first thing to be spoken about shall be Advanced-Skeleton, followed up by Poly Face.


Advanced-Skeleton is an auto-rigger created for Autodesk Maya, by the people from http://www.animationstudios.com.au/ and is continually updated to make better improvements to its system, as they believe it can only get better, while also having to keep up with Autodesk’s continuing updates for Maya. The system as they describe was put in place to try and simplify rigging, and comes with varying built in skeletons for you to use, such as basic human skeleton, to highly advanced skeleton with Driven Keys already set up for the hands and other parts, and also to more complex skeletons such as birds, and quadrupeds.

The group initially found out about Advanced-Skeleton through a course mate which prompted them to look into it, and after being impressed by the tutorials shown on their YouTube channel decided to rely on the program to try and make the rigging section of the project shorter, allowing them to get on with animating, the main focus of their brief.

Watching the tutorials provided showed the groups different ways the tool could be used, and giving information on the rigging process, such as using a reference character for the rigging, this meant that the character be both textured and rigging at the same time.

Looking into Advanced-Skeleton allowed Jake to be able to experiment with the different rigging techniques that were available with the program, such as various skinning techniques, in which the group finally settled on the Skin-Cage option, which built a proxy character to be shaped around the character, and then bound the skeleton to match the area the Skin-Cage covered. Other things discovered were ways to making the clothing of their character Doug, which was separate to the rest of him, were to use a SubWrap, which effectively wrapped the clothing around the character, and constrained it to follow.

Advanced-Skeleton seemed to be the answer to their rigging problem, and it was up until the facial rigging, which due to unforeseen errors which they couldn’t work around forced them to abandon the program, and do the facial rigging manually.

Poly Face

After having to abandon Advanced-Skeleton due to the facial rigging not working, Jake was told about Poly Face by his teammates, as they had used this in the past. This was a welcome opportunity as the only previous facial rigging Jake had done was Blend Shapes, which in their brief wouldn’t have been adequate.

What Poly Face is, is a large collection of CG Artists, who all share their experience and create tutorials for newcomers to learn the software all for free, many of whom work in the industry.

Poly Faces tutorial was initially a full in-depth rigging build of a character from the base up, explaining various techniques and tools to be used while creating the rig, but all that was needed from this was the last video on the creation of facial rigging and controls.

The tutorial focussed on giving the viewer the basic tools and skillset needed for facial rigging, and after a few watches of the video Jake was able to use to create the facial controls for both Bluck and Doug as for both characters they were created in the same way.

At the beginning of the tutorial it explains about creating lots of unconnected joints and attaching them to the vertexes in the areas you want to manipulate, once you have the joint placed where you want it, you then go and create a control for it, he used nurbs surfaces, which in turn was also used by the group, but also curves as used for the rest of the body would of worked just as well.

After the control is created, it explained to then constrain it by normal to the face, so that it follows the edge-flow on the face better, thus allowing for more realistic control. With this done, you then constrain the joint to the control, so that the joint follows the control, thus also following the edge-flow you have created, and then proceed to add the joint as an influence object. After this has been explained, it is the same as normal weight painting anywhere else; you just paint where you want the joint to influence. With that done you just repeat until you have all the facial rigging done. The ones the tutorials showed were for the eyebrows, which I replicated, but the tutorial also went on to explain where else you should put them, such as the lips, cheeks, eyelids, and nose.


From this research the group was able to create two fully finished characters, one which was a basic human, and another more advanced one in the form of a chicken. If it were not for the help and information provided by these the outcome of the project may not have been up to standard, and thus not of been as high quality as we were expected to produce.

Ryan Kittleson’s tutorial on creating the torso has proved to infinitely valuable, and will more than likely be referred back to in later project, much the same with Poly-Face, as if it weren’t for his easy to understand tutorial, the facial rigging for the characters would of taken a lot longer than they did.

Other conclusions that have come up seem to be not to rely on auto-riggers and the like, due to their chances of failing, which more than likely would not of happened while doing the rigging yourself, although the speed and accuracy that happens when it does work can’t be denied.

One thing I would change about Brian Tindall’s work is that maybe it might be worth explaining how to create good articulation with a lower polygon character, due to sometimes not having the poly-count to allowing for such detail.

All in all though, there is no denying that it is thanks to these peoples work that the group’s project was a success and was able to be finished in the standard of quality that was achieved.