I’ve spent a lot of time over the past couple of months going over rigging again and again, building a few different types of characters and rigging them to try and get it drilled into my head exactly how Blender deals with the subject, and I think I’m pretty much there with it now. As I’ve said before I’m still working with Blender 2.49, things may be a little easier to work with in Blender 2.5, but from what I’ve seen most of the things learned in 2.49 will still apply to 2.5, it’s just that things are implemented much more efficiently and easier to find in the interface.
All these characters are four-limbed humanoid types, but on closer inspection they have quite different body types. This really boils down to the rigs being pretty much the same setup, but the big difference is how the armatures are weighted to the mesh. The female character is a pretty usual setup, but the alien character has his body and head as all one shape with no neck, so it took a bit of work with the weight painting brush to get some nice smooth transition of movement down his body. Also he has no shoulders or hips, so his upper arms are still a little tricky to animate without cutting into his body. I may be able to fix this with a segmented bone (curvy bone), but I’ll have to play around with this to see how well it works. I also learned how to do a switchable IK/FK setup with this guy to, the FK really helps with his arms swinging. His face is also fully rigged now too, so at some stage soon I will post up some lip sync with him.
The robot character is an old design I’ve had in my head for many years, and only now have I got around to bringing him to life. His weighting is pretty straight forward, I used vertex groups for him instead of vertex painting, so that the solid shapes were absolutely weighted to each bone. I may try using segmented bones on his arms and legs as well, just to try to loosen his movements up a little, he feels a little TOO stiff at the minute. But again I’ll have to experiment with that a bit. He still needs an FK setup too, but the biggest difference with him is how I dealt with his eyes. The eyelids and eyeball are actually built as spheres within the main mesh and set as vertex groups, then each eye is distorted with a lattice object which is parented to the head. These eyeball and eyelid vertex groups are weighted to an eye bone and blink bone, and these bones rotate the vertices before the lattice modifier is applied in the mod stack. It sounds a little complicated and takes a little bit of work to get it set up but works really well. I’ll try and create a little tutorial at some stage to explain how I did it.
If you’ve any questions about any of this, just leave a comment below and I’ll see if I can answer.