Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Rigging a Monkey for Panda Puppet

One of the features that Blender's Ketsji game engine is noticeably lacking is the ability to use shape-keys. In case you're not familiar with them, shape-keys (sometimes called "blend shapes" or "morph targets" in other 3D software packages) allows you to save and store different shapes of your character. In animation this is very useful for doing things like lip sync and creating facial expression.

Working on Panda Puppet I was stuck for quite awhile trying to figure out a work around for this problem until I stumbled across an article on bone based facial animation. I won't bore you with all the details (if you really want them, click the link) but essentially the idea is to stick a bunch of bones in a character's head and have each one control a different area of the character's face.

Here's how I am currently rigging using the default monkey head in Blender:

The bones work as follows:

B/C - Ears
D/E - Brow
F - Nose
G - Snout
H - Jaw

Here is a side view, in which the "A" bone (the primary head bone) is visible.

I am working with a low-poly head, made up of about 500 polygons. The poly count could be higher (more polys = smoother shape), but I am keeping it simple for now. Hopefully this "bone-based approach" will work. I need a more or less functional monkey head by March 15th to meet the deadline I am working with. The next week and a half is going to be very, very busy!

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