Joel Mongeon | Portfolio 2014


This is a presentation I gave at Microsoft Studios concerning my experiences as a character rigger both before and after joining Microsoft. It describes the unique challenges faced on a publishing team with several offsite rigging projects and how I overcame them.

Evolution of a robust rigging toolset

Creating better characters faster

  • My background and experience with rigging
  • Automatic solutions vs. manual rigging
  • How to get the best of both worlds
  • Projects that prompted my new toolset
  • Looking forward
Philosophy on Character Art:

A well-designed and implemented rig can have as much impact as a great sculpt or a beautiful concept drawing.

Everything is Interconnected:

Rigging Rigging Rigging Rigging

  • Design
  • Anatomy
  • Kinesiology
  • Topology
  • Deformation
  • Sculpture
Making a Rig into a Character:
  • Gather input from Art Directors, Concept Artists and Animators
  • Design the rig for acting and emotion, not just motion
  • Test!
Must easily hit the characteristic poses of the design for the shot, cut scene, or game animation

Good Character rigs:
  • Are based on real life anatomy
  • Are designed to emote
  • Have layers of control
  • Are fast
  • Are FUN!

A fun rig is:
  • Inspiring
  • Encouraging of experimentation
  • Easy to use
Previous experience:

Rigging Rigging
rigger on commercials and television series

Created rigs by hand
  • Customized to shot/job
  • Takes long time
  • Prone to user error
  • Requires a very experienced rigger
  • Inconsistent for animators
Scripted automatic rigs
  • Very fast to create
  • Typically limited to one type of character
  • Eliminates user error
  • Anyone can use it
  • Consistent
Microsoft Games Studios (MGS) Projects:

  • How do I help a studio choose between a manual or off-the-shelf rigging pipeline?
  • How do I deal with the constraints of a short production deadline?
  • How can I lend my experience to an off-site staff?
Case Study: "Animals" Rigs

Problems with one of our partner's quadruped rigs:
  • Their first foreleg attempt:
    Can't create a complete gesture from a single control

  • Their second foreleg attempt:
    Used biped, which is not built for animal locomotion

  • Their face rig:
    No rig heirarchy and no pose library

"Animals" Research:

Anatomy of a quadruped


  • Scapula slides over ribs
  • Walks on Toes
  • No clavicles
  • Forearms twist
  • Flexible body
  • Can walk in crouch
"Animals" Solutions:

Write scripts to rig quadruped components:
  • Proper animal leg set up:
    Gesture is complete from scapula to toes

  • Fun!
    Acts like a cat with few controls, encouraging play and experimentation

  • Layered facial controls:
    Elastic influences allow for natural stretching and motion

"Animals" Take-away:
  • Needed the advantages of a manual rig because biped was not built to handle this specific situation
  • I do not have enough time and resources to rig and support characters for multiple projects at the same time
I have to create a rigging toolset!

Case Study: "Alan Wake" Rigs

Dog Rig
  • Reuse a lot of the "Animals" rig scripts

Raven Rig
  • Not a quadruped rig, still reused some scripts

"Alan Wake" Take-aways:
  • Anatomy between a dog and cat is similar and could have used a similar rig
  • Anatomy between a raven and a dog is dissimilar, but I still reused some scripts from Animals
My toolset should be modular!


Flexible enough to be manual or automatic

  • One maxscript that contains all functions used to rig a character
  • One macroscript that contains a rigging UI and macro recorder

To generate a rig macro:
  • Using the provided UI, create rig components manually
  • As you use the UI, macro commands are created in the UI macro window that can be edited
  • Save the rig macro for future use

    In this example, I create a simple finger rig, recording as it is created.
    Then, I duplicate the recorded macro for the other fingers of the same hand.
    I am then able to duplicate and mirror the entire hand to the opposite side.

To create a new rig from an existing macro:
  • Load it
  • Run it!

    In this example, I load a rig template and a rig macro.
    I run the macro, which creates the character rig.
    I can then undo the rig creation and edit the template to fit a new character.
    The rig macro rebuilds the rig to the new proportions.
    At the very end, I show a dog rig example using the same toolset.

  • Custom rig macros for a specific job/studio can be reused, edited or built upon later
  • New rig components can be easily created through the macro recorder, no scripting required
  • Rig templates can also be created, recorded and saved using this toolset
  • Avoids reliance on external plugins or specific software versions
  • Easily used by riggers of any skill level
  • Allows for quick iteration and experimentation
How do I help a studio choose between a manual or automatic rigging pipeline?
  • Why choose? One toolset can support both pipelines.

Rigging Rigging

How do I deal with the constraints of a short production deadline?
  • I can easily and quickly combine existing rig components into a new customized rig


How can I lend my experience to an off-site staff?
  • I can provide rig macros that they can apply to their cast of characters without my further involvement
Future updates:
  • More rig template and rig macro files
  • Facial rig functions available through the UI
  • Documentation and videos

This presentation is (c) of Microsoft Studios

Created for:

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All artwork is (c) the artist unless otherwise stated.