Sunday, February 5, 2012

Over-acheiving: Rigging and Skinning Link from the Zelda Series

Yesterday, I decided that I wanted to learn how to rig and skin a character in Blender. I have several books on Blender, as I've described in other posts, but none of them were very helpful. I decided to look to my best friend for solving Blender problems: YouTube. I found a video by a guy who was a bit of a spaz, but who did a sufficient job of explaining how to skin a character. (The video can be found here.)

After watching that video a few times, I was able to skin an elongated box. Being satisfied with this small achievement, I decided to read the description of the video I had found. I followed a link in the description, then found myself in a crappy-sculpter's paradise. On the site, there were enough models from the Zelda: Twilight Princess game to kill a small elephant with.  (The site can be found here.)

After recovering consciousness, I downloaded the Link model and set to work. Since the model was small, I had to scale it up so that the Weight Paint tool in Blender would be more effective. I then set about to rigging Link's hat, which looked like the easy part to start with. After a few hours, I had finished with hat and had animated it like it was flapping in a breeze. I have posted the end result of animating his hat here.

After I started rendering the animation for Link's hat, I discovered something else about the model I had downloaded: it was all ready textured and shaded. I didn't notice this, at first, because I had just opened the file in the 'Solid' view.

This afternoon, I decided that I was going to finish rigging Link and skin him. I wanted to do a complicated rig so that I could work with it for a while, even after I advanced past the beginner stage. So my rig includes bones for the head, hat, back, arms, hands, fingers, legs, and strands of hair. Even though there are a lot of bones in my rig, it wasn't too hard to set up. The hard part was using the 'Weight Paint' tool to skin Link. It seems like, no matter how I angle the tool, there are certain parts of the meshes that I cannot highlight. Corners have been especially problematic for me. The face has been the hardest part, so far, even though I just wanted to attach it to the head bone so that it would rotate with the rest of the head. After beating myself against that wall for a while, I just moved on to the arms and shoulders.

Now, about four hours later, I have a rigged and partially skinned Link. I will probably finish skinning him in one of my free evenings. I am eager to start animating Link, and I'm sure my sculpture (my little sister) is looking forward to using it, too.