Captain Blender: The Rig is Done & On to Shape Keys

Ever have one of those months where your life just goes berserk and takes over all your free time as well as your un-free time? Welcome to my life. Lately, well at least the last month, has been very hectic to say the least. One thing after another happens or needs my attention, as I watch in dismay while my projects slowly grind to a halt.

Oh well, enough whining, things have finally slowed down and I can get back to my projects.


Okay, before my time got co-opted by life, I was busy rigging up Captain Blender, and actually got the rig not only finished but also managed to attach the rig to the Captain Blender model.

So having finished the rigging segment, lets talk a little about rigging. For me this was a huge learning experience, parts of it were a struggle, as I have never used constraints or attempted a rig this complex before.

There were definitely times when I was severely tempted to scrap the rig and just continue on with the model and rig Tony supplied with the book, but I persevered and it is done and ready for the next stage.

This rig has A LOT of bones, and I mean A LOT. Having a table like Tony supplied is a great help in keeping track of everything. Plus the use of bone layers helps clear up the clutter allowing you to only see what parts you need when animating. Although it messed me up a little, having the bones split between three layers while I was trying to attach the rig, set the envelopes and eventually the weight painting as well.

It was only after I fought with it that I realized that I had weight painted bones that weren’t supposed to be painted at all. Boy that kind of sucked, but I ended up getting a lot of experience using the weight paint options. So it all evened out in the end.

When working on your own rigs I highly encourage everyone to check, double check and even triple check how all your bones are connected, to make sure they are set up right. Make sure you also test all bones and constraints. It is far easier to fix a problem as it happens than after the rig is all finished.

You have no idea what a nightmare it can become trying to track down why your rig has developed a mind of it’s own. For example, I spent 2 days tracking down what I did wrong on the arms. LOL, one worked just fine, the other acted like it was possessed. I kept switching back and forth between my blend file and Tony’s. I re-read the rigging section half a dozen times. I even sat with the table of bones open on my lap and literally checked every single bone and what it connected to before I finally found it.

Shape keys

And why was it again that I decided not to learn about this fun and versatile tool until now? I remember when shape keys were first implemented in Blender and all the hype that followed it. I remember reading the release notes and thinking, boy that looks confusing and only moderately useful.

Boy howdy, did I misjudge that one or what!

It took a few tries to get the hang of it, in fact I did the first exercise four or five times before I got it to work right. Amazing how I can screw up a simple set of instructions, but I finally prevailed and Captain Blender can now open and close his eyes. Plus I can see (now, of course) a lot of cool uses for this nifty little tool.

One feature of shape keys that really excited me, was being able to use vertex groups to reuse just a part of a shape key. This is a huge time saver. You create one shape key, say for closing the eyes, then by assigning vertex groups you can then create right and left blinks. Or if you have my odd sense of humor, you could create a vertex group of just one upper eyelid, there by creating a key to use for twitches or eye ticks.

Don’t look at me like that, you know it occurred to you too.

Well I need to go finish up making shape keys for his facial expressions and for the upcoming lip syncing.

I’ll post some images when I get all the keys set. But don’t expect nice conservative expressions, I have a reputation as an artistic oddball to live up to after all!


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