December 15, 2012 - Comments Off on Introduction to Rigging

Introduction to Rigging


It’s been three months since I updated my blog; I was very busy with my first term at (and with my full-time job!)... I wrote this article to summarize the assignments that I did within this term at AnimSchool.

First, I was extremely lucky in this term to be one of Sabine Heller students; I had wonderful days having Introduction to Rigging with her. And before I start showing my term assignments, I would like to talk a little bit about Sabine.

Who’s Sabine Heller?


Sabine Heller is a senior character technical director working at Blue Sky Studios in Greenwich, CT. She worked on main characters in Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012) and Rio (2011). If I want to describe Sabine, she is a wonderful person, very smart, creative, talented, enthusiastic, energetic, hard-working and amazing problem solver, her technical skills are excellent and so are her artistic skills. She has a good eye and always interested in finding new solutions. Sabine is one of the great rigging instructors I ever met; she knows how to brighten a room when she walks in. She simplify everything, her way of teaching rigging is to simplify things in small projects. I liked her constructive critiques of student’s works, as well as discussing options and methods in which students can expand upon areas within their work. She sees the best aspects of each student's abilities and trouble-shoots the weakest points. I definitely learned from her a lot of rigging tricks and I got very good critiques that improved my work and pushed it to the next level.

“Eyad was a student in my class 'Introduction to Rigging' at AnimSchool. He contacted me before he enrolled in my class to show me some of his work. His work turned out to be extremely impressive and far beyond a beginner's level. Even though I told him that he was most certainly too advanced for the introduction class, he told me that he would like to take it to not miss anything and learn everything from the start. As I had already expected Eyad excelled in my class. He exceeded all my expectations for every assignment I gave him. Since most of the assignments were to easy for his level of experience, he created his own challenges and added many more features to his rigs than were requested for an intro class. Eyad has not only the technical skills which are without a doubt necessary for a Character Technical Director, but he also has a fantastic eye and great artistic skills which are equally important. His motivation to learn more, his ability to improve and advance his knowledge constantly, and his passion for 3D animation combined with his open-minded personality make him a great person to work with. I will keep a close eye on his career, hoping that we'll stay in contact and that our paths will cross in the future.”
January 2, 2013
Sabine Heller, Senior Character Technical Director at Blue Sky Studios

Introduction to Rigging Class

This class was very interesting, we have learned about hierarchies, types of nodes, constrains, joints, skinning methods, blend shapes, connections and math nodes, everything you need to move to the intermediate level of rigging... For me, it was not an introduction, because I’m already a rigger! BUT, it was a full knowledge refreshing, knowing new rigging methods, learning new working tricks, and taking constructive critiques from a very experienced instructor.


We worked on five small assignments, which you will get all the basic information to start working on the final assignment; rigging a full character. These small projects were so exiting; I enjoyed working on them so much. They were various, from joints placing to creating facial blend shapes for a worm, making connections, math nodes and using Maya hypershade and connection editors.


The Final Assignment

The final assignment of this class is to rig a full character. It’s a combination of all assignments in one big project; I would like to talk about the process that we used to reach to the final rig.


Look Modification
Sabine provided us with a character called Glib! It’s a very simple character with low-res polygon. First thing I did, I made a modification to the character to make him a girl! I changed the character proportions and I kept the topology the same, then I split the body parts to create the cloth and I modeled the hair.


Joints Placement
Knowing where to put the joints pivots is not easy at all, and it comes with experience. I started by creating the joints, and do some quick tests by rotating them and changing locations.


Character Skinning
Skinning is the part that we connect the character skin with the skeleton, so the joints start to move and deform the mesh. It’s a hard step if you don’t know how to skin well. Sabine showed us the inside to outside method to skin the character; it’s the easiest and efficient method to skin the character.


Control Rig
After we done from skinning, we start building the controls, which the animators will use to pose and animate the character. I like to use simple shapes to build them as circles, all of them are NURBS curves, so they can be easily select and hide (and of course they do not appear in the final render).


Corrective Shapes
When we think about the deformation rig, our main goal is to make the skin look nice when posing the character; here the corrective blend shapes play their roles. This is my favorite part in rigging; I enjoy sculpting corrective shapes and connecting them to the main skeleton. The corrective blend shapes are not a part of the Introduction to Rigging class, I made them extra in my rig, and I’ve got very good critiques from Sabine. I look forward to the Intermediate Rigging class; it will focus on building the corrective blend shapes for the characters.
Below are some images for the models that I’ve corrected, and two “before and after” samples for the elbow and the leg.


Facial Rig
The facial expressions for this character were very simple, I just created the smile, eye blink and the brows. All of these expressions are made by blend shapes expect the eyes, they are made by joints and set driven keys. I also created the teeth, tongue and hair controls.


Special Thanks

To Sabine Heller for her amazing support
My classmates, Abdallah, Laura, Dameron, Eduardo, Alexander, Ralph, Jonathan, Mbuotidem and Marcus
Nemer Al-Dabbeek and Ahmad Suhwail my co-workers at Rubicon for helping me with the light-setup
AnimSchool Family - Dave, Isaac and Diane


If you have any questions, feedback, or you would like to test the rig to do some animations, please don’t hesitate to contact me at


Feel free to download the wallpapers below, more are coming soon!
You can suggest me a pose by sending me a reference image, and I will do it for you ;)

Wallpaper 01 - Full HD 1080 - File Size 166K

Wallpaper 02 - Full HD 1080 - File Size 210K


Sabine Heller:

Published by: eyadtv in Articles

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