This was one of my favourite jobs at Framestore.
The model assets were densely chaotic; before starting on any technical work I made a series of drawings to settle on underlying articulation and musculature.
To manage the sheer number of rig permutations, I wrote up a whole new pipeline built around PyMEL and pervasive Python class inheritance and overrides. This worked a little bit like ‘render layers’, but for automation.
To create limbs that could slide across the body and work in all orientations, I turned to Maya’s oft-neglected ‘underworld curves’. Various other types of NURBS attachments enabled WYSIWYG keyframing on top of complex procedural deformer effects.
The project was interesting because it reversed the conventional sequence of model > rig > animate. The animators made a lot of calls on the character’s configuration on a shot-by-shot basis. To accommodate this I scripted up some dynamic proxy geometry generation. This allowed us to throw character variants together, and start to animate, before changes could ripple back to the modelling asset.
The commercial would not have been possible without the fantastic Houdini team of Ahmed Gharraph and Rafael Camacho, who provided the rich layer of astonishing physical simulations. I tip my hat to them!