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Character TD | Rigging Track

Take control of the rigging process with this in-depth boot camp for character work in the film and video game industries

Courses start on Jul 11, 2020

Estimated tuition

$2K to $4.4K

Prices may vary on elective courses taken


9 months


Basic understanding of rigging, modeling, animation and scripting

Estimated Salary

$47K to $135K

Based on US job data

Foundations & Design Program overview

Program Overview

Understand the role of a Character TD

Think of the rigging department as the "special forces" of the CG pipeline, diligently working their magic behind the scenes using a deep knowledge of 3D tools, anatomy, coding, math and physics. Throw in the fact that strong communication skills are essential in order to be able to bridge the Modeling and Animation Departments--taking the models built by the former and turning them into something that can be efficiently used by the latter--and this is a hugely demanding but uniquely rewarding role. Our in-depth Character TD | Rigging Track takes students step-by-step through the tools and techniques used by animation, visual effects, and video game studios. Working through a series of classes with a strong emphasis on practical work, they will learn how to build rigs for a wide variety of model and character types using the latest industry-standard methods. Advanced techniques for facial work, cloth, simulations, scripting and tool development are all covered, putting those who successfully complete the courses in an ideal position to develop their careers in this highly desirable field.

Enrolling into a CGMA Program is a simple and painless affair. Once you've decided on which program you want to complete, simply register and start taking the classes outlined in your program's block list. That's it!  On average, we recommend 1-to-2 courses per term. Additionally, you only pay for the course(s) you take in a given term (so no need to pay for an entire program upfront). And, after completing all the block-courses in a given program, you will be awarded a Program Certificate of Completion. For our tracks you will only be able to recive the individual course certificates of completion. 

Rigging artists--also known as rigging technical directors or character TDs--are tasked with building the inter-related series of joints and controllers (the skeleton) that binds to a model and enables it to move, deform, and generally behave in a believable or desired way for the animation team. In addition to body rigging for character models, there may also be facial animation to consider, along with additional rigs or simulation systems for elements such as muscle and skin deformation, cloth, and hair.

Prerequisites Basic understanding of rigging, modeling, animation and scripting

Modeling & Texturing

Modeling & Texturing

Utilizing a through a multi-stage process encompassing sculpting, modeling, UV mapping and further shader work, it’s the job of the modeler and texture/shader artists to give form to the concepts and designs sketched out during the pre-production phase. This is an art in itself, as the transition from 2D rendition to 3D model inevitably requires some degree of interpretation, along with an appreciation for the new opportunities and also limitations that extra dimension brings. While concept art features carefully chosen angles, perspective, and lighting to show the best version of a design, the 3D model has nowhere to hide. What’s more, it also needs to be designed with the many needs of the rigging and animation departments in mind.


The next key stage in the pipeline is where the fully modeled, surfaced, and optimized model is turned from a lifeless statue into a fully pose-able character. Working closely with the animation team to determine the performance requirements of the model in question, the rigging artist’s job is to construct and bind (or skin) a workable skeleton that fulfills these needs in a way that is both efficient and easily controllable. This will usually involve a mix of constraints, deformers, weight painting, driven keys and blend shapes, along with forward and/or inverse kinematics setups to help define the hierarchical chain. When it comes to character work, the facial rigging is often a major undertaking in itself, which on many film and some video game projects will often be handled by one or more specialist riggers. Additionally, the role of the rigging artist often involves a degree of after-support, tweaking rigs, or coding additional scripts if animation issues or additional rigging needs crop up during production.


Having already worked closely with the rigging team to communicate the performance requirements for each character, the animators then take the fully rigged models and begin creating the performances that will finally bring the project alive. Even with a well-designed rig it can take weeks to finesse a performance lasting just a few seconds--even more if there is a lot of facial animation (including lip-syncing) involved. For video game development, the interactive requirements of the medium change the nature of the animator's role, with the emphasis instead placed on the use of animation cycles and body dynamics.

Foundations & Design CURRICULUM


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