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Complete Human Character Rig In 3D Studio Max, Part 1

We recently published an extensive complete character rigging tutorial series for Maya, and today we’re happy to announce we're kicking off a new one focused on creating a complete character rig inside 3D Studio Max. So if your a Max user who's been looking to learn how to construct a fully realized character rig using Max's proprietary toolset, you're in luck!

Author Soni Kumari will walk you through the entire process from start to finish and give you a series of in-depth lessons, working towards building a intuitive, animation friendly character rig from the ground up.

In the 1st part of the tutorial, we will learn how to setup a basic interface according to the requirements of the human body rig and how to create Bones inside the body mesh. Let’s start 3ds max 2012 and open the Character mesh.max file supplied with the tutorial.

In this step we will customize Layers to keep the objects categorically. It will help you to select, hide or unhide the objects easily. So, first click on the Layer Manager in the main toolbar to open the layer editor.

In the Layer Manager settings box, you can only see the default layer inside. To create a new layer, click on the Create New Layer button.

Continue clicking on the Create New Layer button to create 4 new layers.

Now, rename all newly created layers. So double click or Right click on the layer and rename it.

Rename all layers as Bones, Character Mesh, Curve Controls, and Other Hidden Objects.

Now, let’s add the Character Mesh to the "Character Mesh layer". With the Character Mesh selected in the viewport, go to the Character Mesh layer, then Right Click and choose Add Selected Objects.

Now, the selected Character Mesh is added inside the Character Mesh layer and is now also showing a + sign as shown in the image below. If you click on the + sign, it will open the Character Mesh layer and show all the objects added inside that layer.

Now select the Character mesh, Right Click and choose Object Properties... to open the object properties window.

In the Object Properties window, under Display properties, check on the See-through option and then press the OK button.

Now, you can see that the character has become semi-transparent. This will help us when creating the bones because we can see through the body and then place the bones in the  correct position. Now we need to freeze the character also. So with the Character mesh selected in the viewport, click on the Freeze button (star shaped) in the Layer Manager settings box, as shown in the image below.

Now, before closing the Layer manager, check on the 0 (Default) layer and then close the Layer Manager.

Now, we will start creating joints for the entire body, but we'll start with the legs first. So jump into either the Left or Right view and then click on the Animation menu and  select Bone Tools.

Now the Bone Tools window opens. Click on the Create Bones button under Bone Tools and you will see the Bone parameters on the left side.

Now, with the bone tool selected, start creating bones continuously from the Hip (1) to the tip of the foot (5) as shown in the following image. After making the bone for tip of the foot, simply right click to finish the bone creation process.

Again turn off the ‘Create Bones’ button in the Bone Tools window to stop the bone creation process totally. Also minimize the Bone Tools window.

Now, jump into the Front view and you will find the chain of created joints positioned between both legs. So we now have to set it according to the legs position.

Now, first select the upper joint of the bone chain and drag it in the X direction to place it inside the thigh.

Next select the 2nd bone and also drag it in the X direction to place it at the knee position.

Just like this, place all the other joints inside the mesh one by one.

Now we need to rename all the created joints for easy selection. So first select the upper bone and rename it as "Bn_L_thigh 01" and press the Enter key.

Select the next bone and rename it as "Bn_L_Knee 01".

Now, rename the next bone as "Bn_L_Ankle 01".

Select the next bone and rename it as "Bn_L_Toe 01".

Finally select the last bone and rename it as "Be_L_ToeTip 01."

Now, maximize the Bone Tools window and select all the left sided bones we have created and press the Mirror button in the Bone Tools window.

Clicking on Mirror tab opens the Bone Mirror options box. Select the X axis and keep the applicable offset value. In my case the offset value is -8.5. Then press the OK button to close the Bone Mirror options box. This action makes a copy of the entire leg bone system in the opposite direction and hence we don’t need to create the bone system again for the other leg.

Rename the Right side bones as Bn_R_thigh 01, Bn_R_Knee 01, Bn_R_Ankle 01, Bn_R_Toe 01 and Be_R_ToeTip 01.

It will be good if we could assign different colors to the bones on the left and right side. This will help us when skinning. So select all the left leg bones, and under the Gradient Coloring group, select Start color.

It opens the Color Selector window. Select a Red color or something else as per your choice and then click on the OK button to close the color selector. Always select a high intensity color for the Start Color.

Now, click on the End Color box and this time choose a light red color (tends to be pink) and then click on the OK button to close the Color Selector window. Always select the lighter version of the Start color for the End color option.

Now, finally press the Apply Gradient button to apply the colors to the selected bones.

Now using the same process, apply a different color gradient to the leg bones on the opposite side.

Now, we will create the Spine bones. So jump into the Side view and maximize the Bone Tools option box.

Now turn on the Create Bones button in the Bone Tools option box and start creating bones from the Hip to the Head, and finally Right click to finish creating joints. We have created 6 joints here.

If you want to re-adjust the bone’s position, click on Bone Edit mode in Bone Tools option box.

In this mode you can adjust the bone joints individually. After adjusting the joints as per the desired position, don’t forget to turn off the Bone Edit Mode.

Now rename all the created upper body bones in sequence as BRoot_Spine01, Bn_Spine02, Bn_Spine03 Bn_chest01, Bn_Neck 01, Bn_Head 01 and Be_HeadEnd 01.

Now open the Bone Tools options box again and click on the Bone Edit Mode button, and then select the BRoot_Spine01 bone.

With the BRoot_Spine01 bone selected, press Alt + A and also left mouse click on Bn_L_thigh 01 bone. This opens the Align Selection options box and you will see the BRoot_Spine01 is now aligned to the left Thigh joint (Bn_L_thigh 01).

In the Align Selected options box, turn off X position and then click on the OK button to apply the alignment to the Y and Z positions only. This process does a very important thing and will be very useful at the time of skinning. Be sure that you draw the Spine rig on the grid with the X axis value as 0.

Now, turn off the active Bone Edit Mode. Then with all the Spinal bones selected, apply a gradient color as per desire to identify these bones easily.

Do same for the Head and Neck bones with different color gradients.

Now we have to create the Hip bone. So jump into the side view, turn on Create Bones mode, and then create a joint as shown in the image below.

Pick the newly created Hip bone, press Alt+A and then click on the Bn_spine 02. You will see the Hip bone is now aligned to the Bn_spine 02 bone. Click on OK to close the Align Selection window.

Rename the newly created bone as "Bn_Hip01" and also change the color as we did in the previous steps.

Now, first select the Bn_Hip01 bone, and then click on the Select and Link icon and drag the Left mouse button onto the BRoot_Spine01. Now the Hip bone (child) will link with the BRoot Spine01 (parent).

Now, we will create Hand bones. So first jump into the Front view, and then create the bones for the Left clavicle. Rename them as "Bn_L_Clavicle01" and "Be_L_ClavicleEnd01".

If the Clavicle bone is not at the center of the Clavicle mesh part, then place it as shown in the image below.

Jump into the Top view and with Create Bones mode activated, start creating the Arm, Elbow and Hand bones from the Clavicle to the Hand.

Again jump into the Perspective view, you’ll see the new created bones are lying down on the grid. It happens several times. So we need to align these with the Clavicle bone.

First select the root joint of the newly created Hand bone, press Alt+A and then click with the Left mouse button on the Be_L_ClavicleEnd 01.

You will notice the Arm bones are now aligned with the Clavicle position now. And also click on the OK button to close the Align options box.

First activate Bone Edit Mode and then carefully move and place the bones at the deformation joints of the mesh.

After adjusting the bones, deactivate Bone Edit Mode and then rename these bones as Bn_L_Arm01, Bn_L_Elbow01, Bn_L_Hand01 and Be_L_HandEnd01.

Now select Bn_L_Arm01, click on the Select and Link button and then drag the Left mouse button to Bn_L_Clavicle01. This sets the Clavicle bone as the Parent of the Arm bone chain.

Again select the Bn_L_Clavicle01 bone and Link it to Bn_chest01, follow the same process as in the previous steps for linking.

Now, we’ll start creating the Finger bones. So jump into the Top view and zoom in on the left hand. Click on the Create Bones button and enter a value of 0.5 in both the Width and Height fields, under the Bone Parameters.

Now, start creating bones for the Thumb as shown in the image given below. We need to make four bones for Thumb.

Continue creating bones for all five fingers as shown.

Now, Jump into the Perspective view to align and reposition the newly created bones of the Fingers. So with all the finger bones selected, drag them in the Z axis and place them inside the Finger mesh.

Here you will notice that all the new bones are not fitting properly inside the mesh, because the Fingers have been modeled in a curved shape, while the bones themselves are straight. So we will adjust the bones accordingly.

Select the Thumb bone’s root and then with the Rotate tool selected, go to the ‘Reference Coordinate System’ pull-down and select Local mode.

Here Rotate the root joint in the Y direction, and always keep it inside the Thumb mesh.

With the Move tool selected, and Bone Edit Mode activated in the Bone Tool options box. Select the tip bone and drag it outside of the thumb mesh.

Here you can see the result after editing the bone. Always keep the tip bone out of the mesh.

Just like this, edit the bones for Index finger also.

After editing the bones for all fingers, the result should be like the image shown below. And also don’t forget to switch off the Bone Edit Mode button in the Bone Tools options box.

Now, select all the root bones of the fingers as shown in the image, and also select the Link tool. Then create their link to the Bn_L_Hand01.

Now rename all bones as Thumb (Bn_L_Thumb01, Bn_L_Thumb02, Bn_L_Thumb03 and Be_L_ThumbEnd01), Index (Bn_L_Index01, Bn_L_Index02, Bn_L_Index03 and Be_L_IndexEnd01), Middle (Bn_L_Middle01, Bn_L_Middle02, Bn_L_Middle03 and Be_L_MiddleEnd01), Ring (Bn_L_Ring01, Bn_L_Ring02, Bn_L_Ring03 and Be_L_RingEnd01) and Pinky (Bn_L_Pinky01, Bn_L_Pinky02, Bn_L_Pinky03 and Be_L_PinkyEnd01).

Now select all the Left side Hand joints by double clicking on the Bn_L_Clavicle01 bone.

In the Bone Tools options box, click on the Mirror Button. It opens the Bone Mirror options box. In the Bone Mirror options box, enter a value of -2.0 inside the Offset box and then click on the OK button. This mirrors the left side Hand bones to the Right side. You can always play with the Offset value for perfect shifting.

And also rename all Mirrored bones for the Right side as (Bn_R_Clavicle01, Be_R_ClavicleEnd01, Bn_R_Arm01, Bn_R_Elbow01, Bn_R_Hand01 and Be_R_HandEnd01), for Fingers Thumb (Bn_R_Thumb01, Bn_R_Thumb02, Bn_R_Thumb03 and Be_R_ThumbEnd01), Index (Bn_R_Index01, Bn_R_Index02, Bn_R_Index03 and Be_R_IndexEnd01), Middle (Bn_R_Middle01, Bn_R_Middle02, Bn_R_Middle03 and Be_R_MiddleEnd01), Ring (Bn_R_Ring01, Bn_R_Ring02, Bn_R_Ring03 and Be_R_RingEnd01) and Pinky (Bn_R_Pinky01, Bn_R_Pinky02, Bn_R_Pinky03 and Be_R_PinkyEnd01).

Now do a colorize of the bones with the color used for the Right side leg bones. Always maintain the color scheme of the bones for the Left and Right sides. Here I have used a Red color for the Left side,  and a Green color for the Right side.

Now, here we'll add Fins to each bone for proper Skinning of the bones with the mesh. It will give us better performance at the time of adjusting influence values for skinning. So in the Perspective view, select Bn_L_thigh 01 and turn on all Side Fins, Front Fins and Back Fins options, in the Bone Tools option box.

If re-shaping is required according to the Thigh mesh, you can adjust it  by playing with the Size, Start Taper and End Taper values.

Do the same for the Calf bone also (follow steps 74 and 75 always for editing bones fins).

After creating and adjusting Fins, the bone structure should be looking like image shown below.

Now, let’s add all the bones into the Bones layer. First open the Layer Manager, Right-click on the Bones layer and select the Add Selected Objects option in the fly-out menu. This appends all the bones to the Bones layer.

Now, save the file as Character Bones.max. In the next part we will learn how to setup IK and Controls.



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