Secret Weapons: Fast Rigging with Mixamo

Forum for ARTS/COGS/CSCI 4540 Game Development II, Spring 2017

Secret Weapons: Fast Rigging with Mixamo

Postby BenChang » Mon Feb 27, 2017 5:28 pm

Since I've had to postpone the game animation lecture, I wanted to share one of the most useful parts: a fast way to rig your characters using Mixamo.

Rigging is a ton of fun, and nothing beats a perfectly crafted custom rig. And from a career perspective, solid rigging skills are in high demand.

However, sometimes you just need to get a rig made quickly, which is where auto-rig solutions come in. These are scripts and plugins that try to automate the process as much as possible. They won't work for all situations, of course, but if you have a character that will work for one of these systems it can save you a lot of time. There are always tradeoffs - for example, if you recall last semester I showed Maya's HumanIK / AutoRig functionality, which creates ok rigs BUT can create major problems for animators because, as a full-body IK solution, it actually removes easy control over important parts of your pose and curves.

Mixamo is another autorigging system. It has several components:

this is a cloud service that sets up a skeleton and does a first pass of weight painting. You upload your mesh, drop points onto a few major landmarks to define the body proportions, and it makes a basic biped skeleton and binds it. You can download the result as an FBX.

Autorigger Control Scripts

The "rigs" that the autorigger makes are only half-done: they give you skeletons and skin binding, but no controls, so they're pretty much useless for animating. You can use them at this stage with pre-made animations, such as the ones that come with Unity or which you can get from the Unity Asset Store, because of Unity's animation retargeting system. (UE4 has the same capability). So the idea with these is that you buy a bunch of mocap files or other animation packs, and use those rather than animate by hand. But where is the fun in that? At the very least, you will want to tweak animations to make them your own, fit the personality of your character and match the feel of your game. This is where the Control Rig script comes in. It's a Maya python script that will set up the control curves, including niceties like IK/FK switch on the arms.

Follow the installation instructions carefully, if you haven't installed custom Maya scripts and shelf items before the process will seem pretty unintuitive, but once you've done it it's very easy to use. You basically just select your character and click the button to create a control rig, and you're all set.

this is a parametric character creation tool, like Makehuman, Poser, or DAZ.
It's a standalone application that's now part of Adobe Creative Cloud, so you need an Adobe ID to download it. I haven't used it since before Mixamo was bought by Adobe so it may be better now, but my impression at the time was that it wasn't basically much different from Makehuman. You don't need it to be able to use the other tools, so I would suggest ignoring it.

Mixamo is in an interesting stage right now; apparently they were recently purchased by Adobe and are part of Creative Cloud, but what's nice is that for the moment a bunch of things that they used to charge for are now free. So, enjoy it until Adobe figures out how to monetize it :)
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