As part of the release of the "Lego Dimensions - Teen Titans Go!" expansion pack, Studio Liddell were tasked by TT Games with producing an 8 minute long CG animation piece showcasing the new characters and locations accessible to the player. My role on the project was rigging and technical animation support. I had to deliver all the main rigs used by the hero and secondary characters, as well as numerous vehicles, props and a large creature (see below).
The following video is the result of all the hard work from a relatively small team. Read on for more details.
Part of the rigging requirements was to design and implement a facial animation system that could be used across all characters. In the video below you can see the results of my initial tests. I had a little over 2 weeks to deliver the main rig archetypes, as well as facial setup and base face assets to be used as a template for all other characters faces.
Studio Liddell's Lead Animator did a sync test against an early dialog recording and below is the result. This used my "generic male" face shapes and is not in character, but was enough to convince everyone the solution was going to work.
The following video shows the first complete character, complete with my fully functional rig and face setup, animated by the projects Lead Animator and rendered by the Lead Lighting Artist.
Below are some screen grabs of the various rigs I created for the project in Maya. Note some of the characters also had accessories like capes that had to be rigged on a case by case. The vehicles were rigged to be able to wheelie, tilt from side to side and steer (but were pretty basic in general).
The following vehicle rig had to be able to be "assembled" as part of an animation sequence so had additional controls for the various construction parts. The same parts also had to be able to fall off the vehicle when damaged in a later sequence. I had to write an automated tool to switch the component parts into world space to simplify the animators process in breaking them off as the buggy moved through the shot.
The following character was the biggest rig I had to create and was completely unique. Its limbs are all basic ball and socket joints which conveniently simplified its range of motion.
Here's a line-up of a number of the character assets rigged for the piece. This is missing the Teen TItans as well as all the generic characters but it gives a good idea of the task involved and all the unique character by character work that had to be done.
Here's some of the base generic male face shapes I created to direct the other character assets.
Early on in the project cycle I also got to do some rendering and lighting look-dev, below are the results.
Part of my remit to the interactive team is to find ways of pulling content into the real-time space. I did a quick test to export animation from one of the shots into Unity. Below is a still from the sequence with an early lighting and surfacing pass. I still need to find a way to get the facial animation data into Unity - which will most likely be a custom data file, but the facial setup in Unity will be relatively straight forward.
As a technical person, and experienced pipeline developer, I also spent time working on various workflow improvements along the way. We experienced a major bug with VRay which forced us to use Maya's native triplanar projection node during the early rendering phase. This was subsequently fixed in a later build so I wrote a python script to parse through shader graphs and replace the native nodes with the fixed VRay Triplanar version. Since each character was composed of at least 7 or 8 materials and each material contained many instances of the triplanar project node, it would have taken a few days to manually fix our 50+ character assets. This script took about 2 hours to write and validate. Here's a snapshot of my May dev setup.