Rigging in XSI
This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality.
By Dominic Laflamme From Softimage
Rigging Your Character - The Easy Way
Anatomy of the Valve Character Rig
The first thing you need to know is how a HL2 character is setup in XSI.
Characters in Half-Life 2 are enveloped (skinned) to a skeletal rig. The skeletal rig is then animated to deform the envelope. These animations are then stored in the XSI Mixer and later exported to individual SMD file.
- Start XSI Mod Tool
- Select File->Open
- Select the Source SDK sample scene called urban_reference.scn (\sourcesdk_content\cstrike\modelsrc\urban\xsi\urban_reference.scn)
Once loaded, you should see the character in what we will call the reference pose (neutral pose). The colored spheres and boxes are animation controllers (implicit geometry). They are simple helpers attached to the underlying skeletal rig (which is currently hidden). They make it simple to animate a complex rig without seeing the entire skeleton on screen.
Next, open up the XSI Scene Explorer by either selecting it from the Application menu (Application->Views->Explorer) or hitting the 8 key.
The explorer is a powerful tool to manage your scene. With the explorer, you can navigate through the hierarchy of the scene, re-parent stuff, call up properties, etc.
The rig is located under the model called urban_mdl. This model is simply a "container" object. The actual IK rig is located under the node called Bip01. At the bottom of the model, you see three groups. Groups are also a container object that points to a bunch of other object in the scene. They are handy for grouping similar object together.
Envelope Deformers is a group that contains are the objects (bones) that actually deform the mesh. That is, that have influence on at least 1 vertex in the mesh.
hidden_distractions simply contains all objects that are not immediately useful to the animator and that should be hidden (like parent nulls, IK chain roots and effectors. etc.)
Plotted is a group that contains all bones that should be considered when creating an animation clip. You will learn more about this group in chapter 3.
Understanding XSI Envelopes and Weights
When you expand the urban_mesh polygonal mesh object, you can see that it contains a property called "Polygonal Mesh". This is were you will find all operators that affect the mesh in any way. On the image above, you can see that this mesh has an Envelope Operator under it's animation set. A little lower, you can see a list of clusters containing two clusters. One is the WeightMap, the other is the UV coordinates. XSI uses clusters when it needs to store per-vertex attributes. For the weight map cluster, these are the weights for each vertex to the bones that are deforming it. And for the Texture_Coordinate_AUTO, well, it contains UV coordinates for each vertex.
The cluster that is interesting us for now is the WeightMap. Basically, we want to transfer this WeightMap onto our new character instead of re-enveloping the character manually. This automatic assignment of weights will literally save you hours of tedious mesh weighting.
Included in the Valve Source Addon for XSI is a nifty little export plugin called WeightMap Export. See below:
To use it, follow these steps:
- First select the mesh that has the weight map you want to export. In our case, select the urban_mesh object
- From the ValveSource menu, select WeightMap Export
- Give it a filename and save the map.
Importing Your Custom Mesh
The XSI Mod Tool comes built in with several importers available under the File->Import menu.
- dotXSI - Softimage Open File Format
- .3ds - Autodesk legacy format
- .obj - Alias Scene(non Functional at this time)
- .x - Microsoft DirectX file.
Of course, you can always create your character from scratch directly in Mod Tool using it's powerful modeling toolset. Here is a small list of modeling tutorials for XSI.
http://www.xsibase.com/tutorials/modeling.php http://www.mindspring.com/%7Ebblakesley/Tutorial1/main.html http://www.chnl1.tv/tutorial_1.htm http://www.chnl1.tv/tutorial_2.htm http://www.anikoleez.com/tuto/tuto02.htm http://www.onionboy.co.uk/tutorials_eye.html http://www.joncrow.com/tutorials/xsi_tuts/rotoscope_technique/rotoscoping_technique.htm http://www.joncrow.com/tutorials/xsi_tuts/Symmetrical%20Shape%20Anim/sym_shape_anim_compressed.avi http://www.thejaco.com/tutorials/3_tire.avi http://www.anotherhell.com/tutorials.htm
The next step involves moving and scaling the character (and possibly moving some points as well) and try to match the position of the original mesh. Is it not mandatory that the mesh fits perfectly on top on the original mesh, but the better the fit, the better will be the resulting envelope. However, it is important that the joints (like elbows, knees, ankles, etc.) be at the same position. If they aren't, the arms and legs will bend in the wrong position.
Once you have place your character on top of the other one, you need to delete the old mesh. Do this by branch-selecting the urban_mesh object and hitting the delete key. Branch-selection means that it will select the mesh and everything under it as well. You branch-select something by middle-clicking on it. Or by selecting it and using the Select->Branch from the Select menu.
Next, we will re-import the saved weight map to transfer the weights onto our new mesh. To do this, do the following steps:
- Select the mesh on which you want the weights to be applied.
- Use the ValveSource->WeightMap Import menu.
- Select the weightmap file you have saved earlier and click OK.
The WeightMap Import plugin will transfer the WeightMap by averaging the weights according to vertex positions. The results are not perfect, but again, it will save you hours of envelope tweaking. The following image shows the results after the weights have been imported.
Test your WeightMap by moving the rig around. As you can see from the image below, some weights might need some tweaking. Here's a tutorial on Enveloping in XSI: http://www.softimage.com/education/Xsi/SelfPacedLearning/Tutorials/webTutorials/XSI_3_0/Char_Setup_env/XSI30_Tutorial07.pdf
Rigging Your Character - From Scratch
The Biped Guide
In chapter one we saw how to automatically envelope a character using the weightmap of an existing character. While this method saves time, it might not be suitable for every character in your game. If you character have very different topology for instance a child character and a adult male, the method described in chapter one is less than ideal.
The solution is use the Valve Biped Guide.
First import your character mesh. I will re-use the Ninja mesh used in chapter one, but this time, his arms are not in a neutral pose, they are closer to the the so-called Da Vinci pose. This would have been impossible to envelope with the method describe in chapter one.
The Biped Guide, is a dummy rig that is used to guide the creation of a real functional rig. You use this guide by positionning the cube at each end of each chain to the position in which your character is.
This is what the scene looks like before the guide is positioned in the mesh.
Use the guide to position your bones in the mesh. Here is the result. Note that before I started positionning cubes inside the mesh, I turned off the "selectability" property of the Ninja mesh so that I don't accidently select it when I want to select a cube. You do this by un-checking the "Selectability" property under the mesh's Visibility Property Page.
Creating Rig From Guide
Once you have positionned the guide in the proper place, it's time to create a fully functional Valve Biped rig out of it. Select the menu Create Rig From Guide from the ValveSource menu.
During the creation of the rig, you might get a warning message saying that a cycle has been created. You may click OK and ignore these warnings.
Now that you have your rig, you can safely delete the Biped Guide by branch selecting it from the Explorer and hitting 'delete' since we have no more use for it. This will also un-clutter the scene a bit.
Next we want to envelope our mesh to the rig. If you remember from chapter one, the rig was setup with a group called Envelope_Deformers. These are all the objects that deform the mesh, these are the object which we will use to create our envelope.
To create an envelope in XSI, first
- Select the mesh
- Hit '2' to switch to the Animate Toolbar
- Select Envelope->Set Envelope from the Animation->Deform toolbar
- Hit '8' to open up an explorer (or select one from the Application->Views menu)
- Expand the ValveBiped model and select the Envelope_Deformer group
- Finally right click anyway to end the pick-session
Your mesh should now be enveloped to the rig. Note that this automatic assignment of weight that XSI does is not perfect. It does a pretty good job, but you still need to clean up certain areas of the weightmap such as under the arms and legs. You can use all the weightmap tools (like smoothing, etc.) to properly envelope the mesh.
This tutorial will not teach you how to cleanup weight maps in XSI, but here's a tutorial on XSI envelopes that should be helpful.