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What does a rigger do?

Riggers create digital skeletons for 3D computer-generated (CG) characters. These skeletons, or rigs, are like puppets that define the movements of a character or creature, such as how a big cat runs or how a person’s face and mouth move when they sing or how someone raises an eyebrow. They are used by animators as the basis for the movements of their characters.

Riggers start with 3D models in a static pose, created by the modellers. They then create the network of movements for that character. For a singing character, they create rigs for the mouth, tongue, eyes, ears, arms and belly, as well as one for how these parts move together.

Animators test rigs and then give feedback to riggers who complete any requested fixes or improvements. The process will continue until both the riggers and the animators are happy with the rigged models (the 3D puppets).

Riggers usually work with characters, but they can also create rigs for anything that moves in an animation.

They can be freelance or they can be employed by an animation studio.

What's a rigger good at?

  • Knowledge of animation: know the principles of animation, have a thorough understanding of anatomy, physics and the way things move
  • Art: be able to draw, have a good eye for the aesthetic and form
  • Problem-solving: find solutions to animators’ challenges, continuously learn new ways to improve your rigs
  • Collaboration: work with the other members of the 3D animation pipeline, especially the modellers and animators, use each other’s resources and work effectively
  • Knowledge of 3D animation programs: be adept at using relevant programs such as Adobe After Effects, Blender, Cinema 4D, Maya, Motion Builder, RenderMan, XSI, ZBrush and 3ds Max
  • Coding: use programming languages, like Python, to automate the rigging process where possible

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