June 6th, 2007

A simple to use skeleton builder and autorigger that builds a fast, animator friendly, bipedal rig.  Some of the features include:

  • Entirely node based.
  • Fully scaleable.
  • Stretchy IK/FK legs and arms.
  • Combo IK/FK spine with up to 18 joints (and true IK as of version 1.9).
  • Knee and elbow snap to pole vector control.
  • Standard foot controls including footRoll, footBreak, toeRoll, toeTwist, ballTwist.
  • Space switching on all major control curves (including a tool to copy control positions across space switches).
  • Support for upleg, upArm, and foreArm split joints (up to two each).
  • FK/IK head controls.
  • FK/IK fingers.
  • FK/IK and IK/FK matching on the legs and arms.
  • Auto align on relevant FK controls.
  • A tool to create a skeleton for your character.
  • A tool for quick and easy control curve mirroring and modification (includes lots of prebuilt control curves).
  • A tool for easy rig removal and update.
  • A tool for easy creation of a scaleable, stretchy IK spline joint chain (complete with FK controllers) from a curve.
  • The ability to change the rotation order of control curves across an animation and retain your poses.

I wrote this script with the intention of using it to rig my own characters for my Animation Mentor short.  Unfortunately, it took long enough to write that I didn't have time to build and use it with my own characters.  

What I'm trying to say is that it hasn't been properly put it through its paces.  It might break horribly, it might not.  Ok, it probably won't break horribly, but I can't imagine there isn't something that I've overlooked.  Please let me know if you do find any bugs or have any problems at all with it.  If it works great for you, I'd love to hear about that too.

And as always, suggestions are appreciated.

How to Use

The script needs to be sourced before it will run.  Once you've copied the files to the appropriate directories, you can start it like this:

source abAutoRig.mel;abAutoRig;

And the UI should appear.  Note that you'll want to move through the tabs from left to right to gain all the functionality of the rig.

Begin by entering your character name in the field and click the "Create a Skeleton" button.  The abSkeletonMaker window will pop up.  This and the abWireReplace can also be accessed under the Tools menu that appears at the top of the abAutoRig window.

Build the Skeleton

In the abSkeletonMaker window, click the "Make Proxy Skeleton" button.  You can modify the proxy by moving any of the curves or locators in the proxy.  The red curves indicate grouped hierarchies, and moving or scaling them will modify their child transforms.  The entire proxy can be scaled by scaling the red locator at the world origin.

If you plan on using the snap to pv controller for the knee and elbow joints, you'll want to make sure that the first three leg and arm joints share the same x and y values respectively.  Otherwise you'll have no luck getting it to work.

If your character has fewer than five fingers, don't worry.  You can leave them on the proxy and delete the joints once you've created your skeleton.  The same goes with the neck, head and eye joints.

Once you've got the proxy where you want it you can set the number of Upleg, Uparm, and foreArm split joints that you want using the sliders.  Click "Build Skeleton" and close the abSkeletonMaker UI when you're done.

Rig the Spine

Select the number of joints you want to use in your spine, the spine root joint (which will be just above the hip), and the hip joint.  Click "Create Spine Rig".

You'll want to bind your character to the newly created visible spine joints and not your low, mid, or high spine joints.  You'll know them by the way they turn magenta when you select the hip joint.  Note that in recent versions of the script, the weightSpine joints can be found in the weightSpine_grp, which is located in your yourCharName_Skeleton_grp.  If you rerig your character spine with the same number of joints, your existing weightSpine joints will be reused, so you won't have to worry about re-weighting your spine.

The octagonal control curve next to the spine (the Spine/Split control) can be used to change the influence of the hip, low, mid, and high spine control curves on each of the ik spine joints y rotation.  Just make sure that the four values under each spine joint add up to one, or else your rotations will be out of whack.  (Note that this control will also contain the rotation ratios for all of the split joints on the rig, as well.)  The visibility for this curve can be adjusted on the root control.  

The curve just below the top spine control is the spine shaper.  It's useful to shape the spine when you're translating spine control curves.  Its visibility attribute is located on the cog control.

As of version 1.9 you'll find the "useRootSpace" attribute on the high, mid, and hip control curves.  You can enable this for each curve individually to use it as a true IK control.  The low spine control curve will remain parented to the COG with only the rotation attributes available.

Note that I've changed the spine in version 2.7 to be much less flippy than before.  The spine setup will still create all of the same control curves at the same locations, so if you've referenced your character it will animate in the same way.  The only discernable difference (aside from less flipping) is that there are no longer spine rotation attributes on the Spine/Split control.  You still need this control though, because it's used by the leg, arm and hand setups to hold some important attributes, so don't delete it.  If you're unable to update to the new spine for some reason you can alleviate some of the flipping by following these instructions:

  • Locate the yourCharName_weightSpine_rig_grp in your spine_rig_grp.
  • Delete the existing parent constraint ("yourCharName_weightSpineTargetGrp_parCons")
  • ParentConstrain yourCharName_weightSpine_rig_grp to the COG ctrl curve, ensuring that maintain offset is checked in the parentConstraint option box.

Head and Neck

Specify the neck, head and optionally one of the eye joints to rig this part of the skeleton.

The head control has an optional control to translate the head that's hidden by default.  Enable the "ikCtrlVis" attribute to see it.  You can unparent the head from the rig and put it into rootSpace by enabling "useRootSpace" on the head translate curve.

The Legs

Select the number of upLeg split joints in your leg hierarchy and an Upleg joint.  Click the "Create Heel Locator" button and place it in the position where the foot should pivot about the heel (it might not need to be moved at all).  Once you're happy with its placement, click "Create Leg Rig".  Note that unlike the other rigging functions, the leg rig doesn't undo cleanly.  Use the rig removal tool to get rid of it.

The leg ik control curve is located behind the ankle.  Most of the attributes should be self explanatory.  FootBreak is the amount of positive footRoll after which the toe will roll instead of the ball.  MaxStretch is the maximum length in terms of initial length that the leg will stretch before it can't stretch no more.  Setting this to 1 will disable stretchy ik.  Fk stretch along with ik and fk leg visibility can be accessed by selecting the square control curve under the foot.

The pv control contains the standard translate and space switching attributes as well as snapKnee.  If you've kept your upLeg, knee and ankle joints in the same xy plane then adjusting this value to one should snap the knee joint to your pv control.

You can rig the other leg by selecting its upLeg joint and corresponding heel locator and again clicking "Create Leg Rig".  If you're using version 1.7 or greater, the other leg will be automatically rigged at the same time as the first.  Select Options > Auto Mirror to disable this feature.

Eight Arms to Hold You

How about two.  Because that's what this script will do, two.  By now it should be pretty clear how to use this thing.  Specify the number of split joints and an upArm (shoulder) joint.  The arms are basically the same as the legs with the addition of an fk shoulder.

Once you've finished rigging at least one arm or leg, you'll see new button appear in your current shelf.  You can click this button to access the FK/IK snapping UI for your character.  It should be pretty self explanatory.  Don't forget to change the namespace drop down if you're using your character as a reference.

The Hands

So here we are at the hands.  The only special thing about the hands is the way you can specify joints in the UI.  You can select them in the order they're listed in the Hands tab, click "Hand Quick Select", and they'll be selected in the UI.

Also, all but the "Hand Ctrl", "Thumb", and "Index" fields are optional.

Version 1.7 introduces a few new hand attributes.  MasterSpread spreads all of the fingers based on the individual finger values located on the Spine/Split control (under the Left and Right Spread attributes).  MidCurlAmt and tipCurlAmt determine how much the masterFist and fingerCurl values will rotate the mid and tip joints relative to the baseJoint.

Fix Those Ugly Wires

If you want to change any of the wire controls (which you probably do), you'll want to use abWireReplace, which can be found under the tools menu.  With it you can select a control curve and double click your desired curve type in the scroll list (or click "Replace Selected") to replace it.  The radio buttons below determine the axis that the newly created curve will face.

Use "Copy From To" to replace a curve with your own.  Position your curve exactly where you want it, select it, select the control curve you want to replace and then click the button.

"Mirror Selected" will mirror the selected curve to any curves that lie on the mirror side of the xy plane.  Select the curve you want to mirror and click the button.

The "Wire Scale" floatField has been added as of version 1.7.  This value determines the default size of replaced controls.  If a curve shape is highlighted in the UI, control-LMB, MMB, or RMB dragging over the field will interactively scale the selected curve.

Easy Space Switching

All of the controls that support space switching (including the spine and head curves with the "useRootSpace" attribute) can be used with Tools > Space Switch Matcher.

To use it, just select the curves with positions that you wish to copy and press "Copy Position" in the tool UI.  Now move to a frame before or after a space switch on those same curves and click the "Paste Position" button.  The curves will snap to the same position they occupied on the copied frame.

Remove and Update the Rig

As of version 1.6 I've included a tool to easily remove parts or all of the rig.  It will only work on rigs made with version 1.6 of the script or greater.  Rigs made with earlier versions won't be recognized.  Sorry, you'll have to strip them manually and re-rig.  Also, be aware that the script won't open unless it finds at least one rigged (by 1.6 or greater) character.

To begin click Tools > Rig Remover in the main UI.  You'll be greeted with the abRigRemover window.  Select the rig you wish to modify from the option menu.  Next, hilite in the textScrollList any and all parts of the rig that you wish to remove from the skeleton.  Click "Remove Selected" and it shall be done.

If you're updating the rig and you've modified your character's control curves, you'll probably want to save them before deleting the rig.  Select the character's rootCtrl and click Tools > Save Wires To Shelf.  A new button with your character's name should appear on the current shelf.  Once you've updated the rig, your curves can be restored by selecting the rootCtrl and clicking the shelfButton.

Make a Stretchy Spline

As of version 1.8 of the script you can use the nimbly named abMakeStretchySpline tool to quickly make a stretchy spline rig from a curve.

To use it you first need to create a curve with knots placed where you want the FK controls.  Note that the control curves will taper from the beginning to end, based on the direction of the curve.

Once you've got your curve, click Tools > Stretchy Spline from Curve to open the script UI.  Select the curve you just made and click "Select Curve".  Once you've specified the number of joints you want in your spine and a unique naming prefix, you can click "Create Stretchy Spline".  And there you go.

Note that the root control has a few extra attributes compared to the others.  "Stretchy" enables and disables the stretching of the joints with the curve.  "Rig Scale" will scale the rig up and down.  And the "Squash Driver" and "Stretch Driver" attributes are intended to drive squash and stretch blendShapes, the manner in which those blendShapes are driven can be adjusted with the falloff and scalar attributes.

Release the Hounds

A few things on my to do list for this script are:

  • Add head scaling.
  • Include UI for attaching a proxy and controlling overall mesh visibility and resolution.

That's pretty much it, except for a few notes for the skimmers.

A Few Notes (for the skimmers)

Auto Rigging

The script will do strange things if your working units are in anything but centimeters.  You can switch back to your preferred working units once the rig has been created.

Be aware that autoFill (in version 1.6 and greater) fills mirrorable object fields (upArm, upLeg, the hand fields, etc.) with objects on the left side of the rig (+x) by default.

Currently the script doesn't create a standard reverse foot rig.  Instead of the toes pointing at the foot control when moved beyond the leg's maximum stretch, they'll stay in the position they are posed in.  I prefer it this way; others might not.

The leg rig doesn't undo correctly.  It can be undone, but you'll be left with some control curves and a toe rig joint (which ends up jumping into your skeleton hierarchy) that you'll have to delete manually.  Use the rig removal tool to delete it (unless you're dealing with a rig created with version 1.5 or below of the script, in which case you have to do it manually).

Heel locs should be properly aligned.  If not just rotate them until they are.

If you slide the IK/FK blend attribute on the legs and arms when the IK and FK limbs are in the same position, they'll rotate the long way around.  This shouldn't be a problem when animating.

If your skeleton has split joints and you want to change the x rotation of the hip or wrist, remember that you can adjust those values on the Spine/Split control (the octagonal wire next to the spine).  Keep in mind that the values for each category must add up to 1.

The "Char Name" attribute needs to match the character you're working on.  If it doesn't, some stuff will probably break (most notably, the rigRemover).

The shelf button created along with a rig (used to access the FK/IK snapping functions) won't work unless the script has been sourced first.  It also won't work if you rename your control curves.  In version 1.9 (only), it won't work if you move the rig_grp folder either.  It's easily fixed, though.  See the updates below.

Which reminds me, don't rename your control curves.  Actually, don't rename anything in the rig_grp.

Skeleton Maker

You can delete a proxy skeleton by deleting "skeleton_proxy_grpLoc".  All the associated nodes will be removed from the scene as well.

When building a skeleton, the first three joints of the leg (upLeg, knee, ankle) and arm (upArm, elbow, wrist) must lie in the same x and y planes respectively for the snap to pv function to work correctly.

The default skeleton is slightly misshapen and out of proportion.  If you come up with a more useful default skeleton, please send it to me.  I'd be more than happy to replace the current default.

Wire Replacer

Some of the curves created by the Wire Replacer are currently less than spectacular and maybe even slightly useless.  I'll fix them at some point.

The rig should be in the default position for the mirror curves function to work.

For Those New To This

Save your rigged character in its own file and reference it into your scene.  That way if you need to make changes to or update your rig your animation won't be lost (as long as your control curves names stay the same).

If you're using corrective blendShapes on your rig, make sure that they're not driven by your control curves.  It easier to update your rig that way.

More Learnin'

Thanks to Olivier Ladeuix for making these:

abAutorig Part I Pyro Tutorial
abAutorig Part II and III, Pyro Tutorial

On Vimeo:

Part I
Part II
Part IIIa
Part IIIb


Update/Bug Fix
June 7th, 2007 Heel locs axes, and therefore foot Ik control curves, are now properly aligned.
Update/Bug Fix
June 8th, 2007 Went back to my previous way of doing stretch on arms and legs that I think is more flexible.  FK stretch is no longer limited by the IK maxStretch attribute.  Exposed stretch amount on arms and legs.
Update/Bug Fix
August 1st, 2007 Split joints now work properly.  Master control can be rotated without any problems.  Added split joint rotation ratios to spineSplit ctrl (the visibility of which is now located on the root ctrl).
Update/Bug Fix
June 9th, 2007 Exposed stretch value for spine on cog ctrl.
Update/Bug Fix
June 15th, 2007 Fixed a problem with the arm and leg creation failing on 8.5 in osx.
Update/Bug Fix
June 14th, 2011 Shelf will be now enabled if off.  Adjusted UI sizes for 2011 and up.  Added "Mirror From To" to Wire Replace UI (select a source curve then a destination curve and click).
Update/Bug Fix
June 19th, 2007 FK to IK snap now fully implemented on legs.  Stretch value now displays the correct value when used on an arm or leg with split joints.
Update/Bug Fix
June 21st, 2007 Added optional ik fingers to hand rig.  Space switching on mirrored controls now works properly (leg and arm IK, hand).  PV controls will now follow their ik curves when their space is set as such.  Updated Fk to Ik snap to work when a character's rig group has been regrouped or moved in the scene hierarchy.  Fk/ik snap also now supports references via the namespace optionMenu and works with previously built characters.
Update/Bug Fix
August 1st, 2007 Split joints now work properly.  Master control can be rotated without any problems.  Added split joint rotation ratios to spineSplit ctrl (the visibility of which is now located on the root ctrl).  Fixed the way scale is determined so pv control wires will now mirror properly.  Added popup to select target object when wire mirroring encounters multiple mirror objects.
Update/Bug Fix
August 3rd, 2007 Made a small change to the way finger IK ctrls are scaled.
Update/Bug Fix
August 10th, 2007 Weight spine joints now rotate correctly with rootCon rotations.  Thanks to Josh Yoder for finding this.
Update/Bug Fix
September 27th, 2007 Under "Tools" menu added "Save Wires to Shelf" (with its own icon) and "Rig Remover", both of which should make for easier updates.  IK and PV controls are now aligned along the world axes.  Improved default rotation order on control curves.  Script will now attempt to repopulate UI fields (hidden and non) automatically, which, among other things, means that parts of the rig can be added after the UI has been closed and opened again without a problem.  Added scale slider and four new shapes (tweaked others) to abWireReplace UI.  Improved error handling (the script now checks for an existing rig upon creation).  Slight improvements to the default skeleton.  Killed a few bugs.
Update/Bug Fix
October 3rd, 2007 Fixed the hand IK rotation problem by adding "Align Hand IK to World Axes" checkbox to the Arm tab.  Leaving the checkbox blank will align the IK control to the wrist joint and allow it to rotate the hand.  Enabling it will freeze the control's transforms and lock and hide the rotation channels.  Modified default LRA alignment on arm, wrist and hand joints to make the IK control a bit more intuitive.  IK finger rig now blends properly between FK and IK.  Added curl attributes for each finger as well as midCurlAmt and tipCurlAmt, which determine how much the respective joints will rotate relative to the base joint when using masterFist and fingerCurl attributes.  Added masterSpread to hands and individual finger spreadAmount attributes to spineCtrlCrv to specify the amount each finger is affected by masterSpread.  Wire replacer should now work more reliably overall.  Adjusted the object centers of curves which should eliminate drifting when replacing wires.  Replaced wire scale slider with a float field, which can be control-LMB MMB or RMB dragged on to interactively scale the selected wire.  Creating wires along the -z axis now works as expected.  UI field auto fill is now more comprehensive (be aware that it fills mirrorable object fields (upArm, upLeg, the hand fields etc) with the left objects by default).  Added the ability to rig mirror limbs at the same time (The options menu finally has a child).  Lot's of other small stuff.
Update/Bug Fix
December 21st, 2007 Added ability to select hand joint rotation axes under Options > Hand Options.  Added "Stretchy Spline From Curve" to tools menu to make quick and dirty IK spline joint chains.  The knees once again stretch as they should (oops).  UI field auto fill now includes the number of split joints.
Update/Bug Fix
January 4th, 2008 Added individual up and low limb stretch attributes to legs and arms (works with limbStretch on foot and wrist controls).
Update/Bug Fix
January 10th, 2008 Added the ability to scale the stretchy spine.
Update/Bug Fix
February 8th, 2008 Less flipping when sliding IK/FK blend on leg and arm joints.  They'll still flip occassionally when the root ctrl has lots of rotations, but only when the IK and FK limbs are in matching positions and the ikFkBlend is between 0 and 1.
Update/Bug Fix
February 21st, 2008 Rig is now scaleable.  Added true IK to spine controls (enable "useRootSpace" attribute on the control curve).  Added translate control to the head, which can also be used in IK mode (enable "ikCtrlVis" on head ctrl to see the control).  Added utility to match ctrl positions across space switches ("Space Switch Matcher" in tools menu).  Added snapIKtoFK and hugely improved SnapFKtoIk (both can be found in the character shelf button).  Unfortunately, older snapFKtoIK buttons won't work anymore, which is not a huge problem because it wasn't really working that well anyway.  FK controls with align attribute now auto align with the root ctrl (<- this is awesome for those of us who love the align att).  Rig Remover will now work with multiple characters in a scene.  Improved stretchy splines (made with "makeStretchySpline") scaling.  Removed World space from space switch options as it was pointless.  Disabling all of the spaces does the same thing.  Fixed spine stretch value.
Update/Bug Fix
February 25th, 2008 Very small fix.  IK/FK snap button now works when rig_grp position has changed in the rig hierarchy (placed in a new group).

To fix a button made with 1.9, just copy the button command into a text editor and replace all instances of ">|" with ">" and all "&|" with "&".  Replace your current command (of the IK/FK snapping shelf button) with the modified version and you should be good to go.

Update/Bug Fix
April 22nd, 2008 Weight Spine joints are now created in the skeleton grp.  They aren't deleted when you remove the rig, so you don't have to reattach and weight them when you update the rig.  Added "Reset Character to Default Pose" (which can be also be called with "abRTResetCharPose(1)") and "Reset Selected Control Curves to Default" (call with "abRTResetCharPose(0)") to Tools menu.  Added ability to lock proxy controls to prevent troublesome translations and rotations.  Added a warning when building the skeleton about snap to PV not working under certain conditions.
Update/Bug Fix
April 23rd, 2008 The script now supports feet that have been rotated out of the YZ plane.  When building your skeleton, match the foot locators (ankle, ball, and toe) to your mesh by moving them in their local YZ planes (no X) and rotating the "lf_foot_grpLoc" in Y.  If you want to use an existing skeleton you'll have to orient the ankle and ball joints first.  To do so, select left and right ankle and ball joints and run "joint -e -orientJoint xyz -sao ydown;" in the command line.
Update/Bug Fix
April 28th, 2008 Skeletons on layers can now be rigged.  IK and FK joints won't be colored, though, so you're better off keeping it off of a layer until the rig has been created.  Added a spine_end group control to the proxy skeleton.
Update/Bug Fix
May 7th, 2008 The skeleton created by skeleton builder is now mirrored in behavior instead of orientation (except for the eyes and, optionally, the legs).  I had to update hand rigging (among other things) to accomodate the change, so I've added a new a menu item (Options > Hand Options > Reverse Right Curl) which should be enabled when rigging skeletons created with earlier (pre 2.0) versions of the script.  Added "Mirror Leg Behavior" menu item to the skeletonMaker UI (enabled by default).  Disable it to mirror the leg joints by orientation.  Changed the way "Align Hand IK to World Axes" works -- rotations are now allowed.
Update/Bug Fix
May 8th, 2008 The UI autofill feature was missing some important hidden fields which kept certain spaces (like handCtrl for finger IK controls) from being created.  Now that it's fixed, the finger IK curves travel with the hand as they should (they're constrained to handCtrl space by default).  I also added the option to skeletonMaker to specify the number of fingers on the proxy.  Note that if you recall a saved skeleton from a shelf button, it will respect the current finger num value if the skeletonMaker UI is open.  Neck and head joints are now aligned so their control curves rotate the same way as the spine curves.
Update/Bug Fix
May 9th, 2008 Proxies saved to the shelf now have local transforms preserved (including scale on the rootLoc).  Feet rotated out of Z should now rig correctly when there are Y rotations on the leg_grpLoc.
Update/Bug Fix
May 12th, 2008 Fixed a bug with weightSpineGrp that prevented multiple character spines from being created in the same scene.
Update/Bug Fix
May 13th, 2008 Added Joint Orient Rotation Tool to Tools menu.
Update/Bug Fix
May 16th, 2008 Improved skeletonBuilder's orientation of joints in legs and feet when the limb has been rotated in Z.
Update/Bug Fix
May 29th, 2008 Added tool to add weight joints to a skeleton (useful for the lower leg), Tools > Add Weight Joint Tool.  Removed snap to PV warning for legs (they work when rotated -- the arms still don't).
Update/Bug Fix
June 7th, 2008 Leg split joints now rotate properly when the knee is brought above the waist.
Update/Bug Fix
July 13th, 2008 Fixed rt_thumb_grpLoc default skeleton proxy positioning.
Update/Bug Fix
August 5th, 2008 Added djx's fix to GroupFreeze procs.  Character names must now be unique before a proxy can be skeletonized.
Update/Bug Fix
October 14th, 2008 Changed min value on armStretch and legStretch attributes to -9.9 (arms and legs can now stretch negatively).  Improved default finger joint LRA orientation.
Update/Bug Fix
October 16th, 2008 Added "Align Control Curves to Spine" button on the Spine tab.  If enabled the mid and high spine controls will align to their respective joints; otherwise they'll lie on the XZ plane (the previous default).
Update/Bug Fix
December 2nd, 2008 rt_thumb_a_loc is now properly parented in proxy (to rt_thumb_grpLoc).  Added "Quick Create Character Set" to tools menu.  Select a control curve on your rig and then run it.
Update/Bug Fix
December 22nd, 2008 Added "Change Rotation Order Tool" to tools menu.  With it you can change the rotation order of any selected control curves and maintain their orientation across one or many keyframes.
Update/Bug Fix
January 16th, 2009 Simplified the spine and made it much more robust.  Note that although the spineRot control curve no longer holds spine twist attributes, it's still used as an attribute holder for the arm, leg and hand setups.  So don't delete it.
Update/Bug Fix
January 23rd, 2009 Fixed an issue with IK/FK arm snapping.
Update/Bug Fix
February 9th, 2009 Soft selection is now disabled before creating a rig.  It can cause an issue on 2009 and up (thanks bm jo).
Update/Bug Fix
February 11th, 2009 Fixed issue with limbs flipping when sliding IK/FK Blend attribute values (finally!!).
Update/Bug Fix
February 20th, 2009 Big enhancements to the twist joint setup in this version.  There are now two types of split joints: inline, the previous type which are parented one to another, and branched, which are all parented to the up joint.  Use inline for upArm and upLeg joints (where twist is read from the upJnt) and branched for foreArm and knee split joints (where twist is read from downJnt).  The forearm and knee twist is read from an aim constraint, which avoids a lot of gimbal lock problems with the wrist.  The idea is Adam Mechtley's, not mine, so a huge thanks to him for sharing his knowledge.  You can find his videos regarding the aim constraint setup at his site, www.6ixsetstudios.com.

Other new stuff: the "Add Split Joint" tool to the Tools menu, "Refresh UI" to the Options menu, knee split joints, and the addition of COG space to the hand IK controls.  Also, the leg and arm hierarchies are now checked before rigging to make sure that the joints are zeroed out.

Note: If you have issues with a knee or elbow shifting slightly after it's rigged, check to make sure that the preferred angle on your joints is set to 0 0 0.

Update/Bug Fix
April 7th, 2009 Adjusted proxy skeleton finger joints so that they're now aligned with their parent grpLocs.
Update/Bug Fix
April 23rd, 2009 Arm IK/FK snap should now work with referenced characters.
Update/Bug Fix
April 29th, 2009 Added more softmod warnings.
Update/Bug Fix
May 26th, 2009 UpLeg and upLeg split joints now rotate as they should when the knee is brought above the waist (forgot to remove an old fix -- that's why this one reappeared).  Improved stretchy spline maker; control curves can now be parented to a root transform or to the curve below them in the hierarchy; spline IK now rotates properly in a rig setting; added the ability to select the spline's parent object in the UI (leave it empty and a new control curve will be created at the base of the curve).
Update/Bug Fix
July 30th, 2009 Added "Weight Joint Selector" to "Tools" Menu.  Use it to quickly select joints for weighting.  Hold the shift and control keys when clicking to add or subtract from the current selection.  Also added "Make abxPicker Character Sheet" which will create a character UI node for use with abxPicker.mel (http://www.highend3d.com/maya/downloads/mel_scripts/animation/4216.html).  Please, someone, make a better UI and send it to me -- I'll incorporate it into the script.
Update/Bug Fix
July 31st, 2009 Improved abxPicker UI.
Update/Bug Fix
September 1st, 2009 Fixed issues with non-mirroring pinky and ring cup joints.  Added "Make IK/FK Snap UI Shelf Button" to the "Tools" menu (create a snap IK/FK shelf button for existing characters) and "Auto Build IK/FK Snap UI Button" to "Options" (uncheck it if you get the error "Object Not Found: Toolbutton 1" on rigging arms or legs).
Update/Bug Fix
September 24th, 2009 Improved "Make IK/FK Snap UI Shelf Button".
Update/Bug Fix
December 9th, 2009 Fixed issue with "Make IK/FK Snap UI Shelf Button".
Update/Bug Fix
March 4th, 2010 Check Character names for and remove "lf" and "rt" strings (can cause issues).  Added popup menu to charName field to quickly select existing characters.  Fixed issue with mirrorObj function and objects with shared names.  Improved heelLoc positioning method (esp. when ball and toe don't share the same Y translation) and foot IK control positioning when there are rotations on the proxy skeleton's foot_grpLoc.
Version 3.11
March 16th, 2011 Added abRTWireReplaceUI fix for Maya 2011 from Highend user cutjules1 (thanks Julien!).
Version 3.2
June 14th, 2011 Shelf will be now enabled if off.  Adjusted UI sizes for 2011 and up.  Added "Mirror From To" to Wire Replace UI (select a source curve then a destination curve and click).
Version 3.3
June 23rd, 2011 Removed redundant function "abRTGetCtrlCrvs" (replaced instances with "abRTGetRigGrpCtrlCurves").  "Save Wires To Shelf" now works on rigs other than the just the original they were saved from.  Hold the Control key when clicking a wire restore shelf button to replace only the selected curves.

"abAutoRig" was posted on June 6th, 2007 under Mel Scripts.  It was created using Maya.  It is tagged with Autorig, Character and Rig.

This entry was last updated on June 23rd, 2011.

Subscribe to the Comments Feed or Updates Feed for this entry.

Share |


May 10th, 2008 said:

Jose:  Thanks, that helps.  The script currently only works when linear  units are set to centimeters (Preferences > Settings).  It sounds like yours might be set to something else.  Does that fix it?

edit: I just uploaded a small update to 2.1.  The new version requires that your linear working unit is set to centimeter before you can create the rig.

gzavye:  Are you having the scale issue even with new saves (those created with 2.1)?  It should be restoring the scale correctly -- I can't think of a reason why it wouldn't.  If you send me the contents of your shelf button, I'll take a look at it.  Also, I'm not sure what you mean by "messy proxy pack".  Is this an issue after you create the skeleton from the proxy?  If so, you might want to check that your joint size (Display > Animation > Joint Size...) is set correctly.

As for the footroll, I can't get that to break either.  If you send me your file I'll take a look at it and make any fixes necessary.

May 11th, 2008 said:

OK; I tested a new proxy from shelf with a all new character using 2.1.X and it's works now...Tanks again for your time.

May 12th, 2008 said:

I''ve just uploaded a new version (2.1.1) of the script that fixes an issue with the weightSpine group that occurs when you try to rig multiple characters in the same scene.

gzavye:  The ball joints on your character were flipped 180 degrees around their object space X axis from where they should have been (Z should be aiming towards the world X+).  I sent you an email with a few lines of Mel that will flip them to where they should be.

Mr. Man
May 12th, 2008 said:

Jumping COGs Batman! I just noticed something odd. If I build your rig from scratch, (leaving everything default, including proxy placement), turn .stretchyArm to 1 (or any limb), then try to move the COG around (not on a single axis, but in-camera with MMB, or from the center of the manipulator) the COG jumps around in strange ways after it finishes calculating stretch. If no limbs are stretchy, no problem. It is pretty consistent, although some moves will not cause the problem, probably when there is no new stretch value to calculate?

May 13th, 2008 said:

Hmmm, I've tried the default rig as well as several variations (different combinations of split joints, enabling stretch on single and multiple limbs, finger IK on and off, etc) and I can't recreate the issue.  The COG is behaving fine for me.

Do you have any extra scriptJobs or expressions running?

Mr. Man
May 13th, 2008 said:

Hmm, no, no extra scriptJobs or expressions. Do you run on Maya 2008? I'm able to get it to happen most if I MMB move the COG (or any spine controllers) up and down, when I let go of the MMB I see it spin the cursor for a second while it calculates something, and then POP! it jumps the controller to a new spot. It's not a snap modifier or anything like that (which was my first thought when I saw the problem).

Mr. Man
May 13th, 2008 said:

Also, noticed that it only occurs within the stretchy range of the limb. Once the leg, say, reaches its maximum stretch length and the COG translation can pull the foot away from its controller, things behave as expected.

May 13th, 2008 said:

I tried it again and still nothing.  It's working fine for me.

I'm using 2008 on a PC.

May 15th, 2008 said:

I was wondering. If its possible to modify the script, so it can handle leg and arms that are not aligned in a straight line (eg legs along X)? On the proxy skeleton, Im trying to rotate eg. "lf_leg_grpLoc" on Z, and translating "lf_knee_loc" on X. But they are as you know locked.

May 15th, 2008 said:

Hey Tom,

If you want, you can just unlock those attributes.  You can also disable Options > Lock Proxy Control Axes in the SkeletonMaker UI before creating or recalling a proxy and it will be fully adjustable.

The problem (and the reason that I locked those atts) is that the Pole Vector constraint gets flaky when the IK joint chain is created on other than a world plane, which in turn breaks the knee/elbow snap to PV functionality.  You can still rig such a skeleton, and it should work fine except for snap to PV ("should" being the operative word).

I've tried to find several ways around this limitation; so far I've had no luck.  If anyone knows of a workaround, I'd be happy to incorporate it into the script.

May 15th, 2008 said:

Thanks for the quick reply ( and for a great script, sometimes the positive things goes without saying ;)

I have now unchecked the lock function and rotated the "lf_leg_grpLoc" 10 on Z. But to get the IK ctrls to stay level, I then need to get the heel locators to be level also. ( The process required me to adjust the "charName_lf_heel_loc_frzGrp" also?) Correct me if Im wrong. Manged it and it seems to work. But would be nice if this could be automated somehow.

May 16th, 2008 said:

I just built a skeleton with the same rotations on lf_leg_grpLoc  as yours and found that I had to adjust the ankle and ball joints before it would rig correctly.  You might want to check your joints and make sure that they're aligned correctly (attributes like footroll will break if they're not).

Right now, the best way to determine the proper joint orientations for your skeleton is to build one using the default proxy (make sure to use a name other than your current character name) and refer to it.  I'm sure that the way in which joints are oriented in the proxy to skeleton creation process can be improved.  I'll take a look at it and see what I can do.

edit: Ok, that was easier than I thought.  Version 2.2.1 should improve the default orientation on the leg, ankle and ball joints.

May 16th, 2008 said:

hey crumbly,

i thought that i had left a comment, but when i rig the face, and test the eyes, the bones deform the face.  how can i fix this?

May 19th, 2008 said:

Hey Jose,

It sounds like you need to adjust the weighting of the influences on your mesh.

Meysam Abotaleb
May 19th, 2008 said:

hi crumbly please add pivot joint for better skinning for example :          \/ | < foot ankle            \  < pivot  joint

Meysam Abotaleb
May 19th, 2008 said:

hi again please add stretch and squash body  for example put one controller to upper head for stretch and squash

Meysam Abotaleb
May 20th, 2008 said:

i forget this , please add Jaw joint

May 20th, 2008 said:

Hey Meysam,

Just to make sure that we're on the same page, the pivot joint would travel with the ankle joint but be parented to the knee, right?  I think It might be easiest to implement this as a tool that allows you to customize the placement of this joint between any two other joints.

As for squash and stretch, are you looking for me to add it to just the head?  I can do that.  For the rest of the body, S&S it can be implemented using blendshapes driven by spine and limb stretch values.  Personally I think this is a more flexible (and less complicated) solution than scaling the joints.

I'll add the option for a jaw joint in the next update.  Actually two jaw joints, a and b.

May 21st, 2008 said:

Thanks for the feet fix. I found another thing. If I move the "lf_knee_loc" on X, then the "*_lf_knee_pv_ctrl" are not created in front of the knee, but more in a 45 degree angle to the side. I can see why, but it would be nice if you had an option to get it in front.

May 21st, 2008 said:

Hey Tom,

The leg PV control lies on the same plane as the upLeg, knee and ankle joints -- it wouldn't really make sense if it didn't.   Basically you'd have the knees pointing off to the side of the PV control regardless of where you moved it.

May 30th, 2008 said:

Another thing. An easier way of selecting the skin joints. Maybe a button for selecting legs, arms, fingers, spine...or all together?

May 30th, 2008 said:

That's a good idea.  I'll put it in the next update.

Josh Yoder
May 30th, 2008 said:

Wow! I'm behind the times! Nice to see your rig has come a long way! I think I was still using 1.5 or something like that. Can't wait to load 2.2.2 and re-rig my characters! (which I've done numerous times because I found some flaw in the geometry that I wanted to fix :-D)

I see more than one person has asked if it can handle quads. Maybe you should teach someone who can rig quads how to make the script? (not me, I'm a modeler...why else would I use your script? haha)

May 31st, 2008 said:

Is there any way to get the stretchy ik setup with nodes to scale properly with the world ctrl?

May 31st, 2008 said:

Nevermind I figured it out...XD

Josh Yoder
June 4th, 2008 said:

Hmmm, made a tail for a character (using the stretchy IK from curve tool, which is awesome!) but I'm having trouble connecting it to the character. No matter where I set the parent it either causes weird transforms or won't rotate properly (particularly in the YZ axis) I did parent the curve and the script created hierarchy under the main rig node, I'll check if that was a problem.

I rerigged one character and made two more using the script. Funny thing is, the two new ones have IK flipping issues in the legs when rotated greater than 180 degrees in Y. But the rerigged character doesn't and I didn't change anything. Go figure.

June 5th, 2008 said:

Hey Josh,

Are you rotating the rootCon 180 degrees in Y to make the legs flip or are you rotating the foot IK control (or something else)?  I'll see if I can reproduce the problem.  I'll bet that it has to do with the way the leg joints are now oriented by default.  If you uncheck "Mirror Leg Behavior" in the SkeletonMaker Option menu before you create your skeleton you should end up with same orientation on your leg joints as your earlier character.

edit: I'm getting the flip on only the right leg (when the rootCon is rotated exactly 180 degrees) and the joint mirror type doesn't make a difference.  I'm not sure why it's not happening on your other character.

A simple workaround (that I just discovered) is to rotate the rootCon to something like 180.00001 and the flipping should go away.  

As for the incorporating Stretchy IK into your rig, it's something that I never (amazingly) thought about.  I created the tool for another purpose entirely and put it in because I thought it was useful.  The twist and the actual IK controls are kind of rudimentary at the moment.  When I get some time I'll take a look at what I can do to make it more useful in relation to the rig.

June 5th, 2008 said:

Maybe a big project, but could it be possible to modify the script , so you could specify the numbers of arms and legs in the rig (more than two).

dave Paul
June 5th, 2008 said:

thanx for your rig dude. it's pretty cool to animate with. just one thing I wonder : would it be hard to make a mirror pose stuff  on such a rig ? it would be very helpful. (especially for walkcycles) :D

Josh Yoder
June 5th, 2008 said:

Well, here's one for ya: went back and tested the rigs again after posting...and they didn't flip...weird random bug thingy, maybe?

Did find another interesting thing though: when the character is put in a seated or knees-to-chest position (either by translating the feet or moving the upper body controls down, happens when the knee joint gets higher than the hips) the split joints in the upper legs tend to twist, causing the geometry to collapse. It can be fixed by going into the weight control (that spineSplitRot_ctrl) and setting both leg joints to 0.

June 7th, 2008 said:

Tom:  That would be a big project -- maybe not as difficult as it seems, though.  I'll have to think about it.

dave:  A specialized mirror pose tool would probably be pretty easy to implement.  I'll put it on the list.

Josh:  I found and fixed the problem with the leg split joints in version 2.2.3.  Try it out and let me know if you're able to break it.

By the way, you want to make sure the the values for the split joint rotations on the legs and arms add up to one for each limb.  If you set them to zero they won't rotate at all.

June 11th, 2008 said:

Awesome! The split rotations work fine without any adjustments.

June 26th, 2008 said:


can you pleas tell me how to load this script in maya for Mac........I tried many time but it doesn't wok.

June 26th, 2008 said:

yes I forget to tell you that I used to load script from the script editor but it gave me error that file not found.

June 27th, 2008 said:

Hi crumbly. Awesome work on this script

I have a few questions though. When we do the rig spine/rig arm/etc, it makes some control curves and some extra joints and they turn magenta but if we don't click on the control curves and click the join directly, it is green. I'm not sure how to do the bind smooth skin with what seems to be two sets of joints...I guess I don't understand maya as well as everyone else. Thanks in advance.

June 30th, 2008 said:

Sorry for the late reply; I was out of town last week.

Marwa:  It should load like any other script.  Make sure it's in your scripts directory before you start Maya (or rehash) and then enter "source abAutoRig.mel;abAutoRig;".

Karlen:  You're only seeing one set of joints.  They turn magenta when you select the control curves because they have incoming connections from those curves.  It's a Maya convention that lets you know when you're dealing with upstream/downstream nodes.

You'll find all of the joints to which you can bind your skin under the charName_Skeleton_grp transform.  The only joints in that group that you won't want to use are the spine_low, spine_mid, and spine_hi joints.  For those you'll substitute the joints under the weightSpine_grp instead (which are created the first time you rig your character's spine).

I hope that helps.

July 3rd, 2008 said:

WoaW !!!! A long time since i've been there, i've just discover this script ! Just a word : WoaW ! You are a furious guy !!!! I've try it quickly, it seems work perfectly ! I've come back if i find some problems, thanks a lot ! (Hey tell me the truth, you didn't sleep the night ? you spend your time on Maya ? :p)

August 5th, 2008 said:

crumbly, I've been trying out this amazing script, v2.2.4 on 2008 sp1, and I encountered an error, which I tracked down to a couple of the listRelatives commands missing the -fullPath flag (in abRTGroupFreeze() and abRTGroupFreezeReturnObj()). Very nice rig. Thanks for sharing.

August 5th, 2008 said:

DarkFuryo:  Thanks, man!  I'm glad you like the script.  And you're right, I've spent too many late nights with Maya.  I'm trying to do better in that regard.

BTW, sorry about the late reply, but I just saw your comment.  I think I've got some spam filters to adjust.

djx:  Thanks for troubleshooting the script and, even better, providing me with the solution!.  Could you make it any easier for me?

I'll post an updated version of the script once I run it through a couple of quick tests.

BTW, I'm curious what you did to break the script?

Thanks again.

August 5th, 2008 said:

I've updated the current version to 2.2.5.

I made djx's suggested changes and also added a check to ensure that the current character name is unique before a proxy can be skeletonized.

August 6th, 2008 said:

What did I do to break the script? Um... not really sure. Its the first time I had used it, since trying a much earlier version a while back. I wasn't doing anything fancy. Just building the default skeleton and rig. One day I hope to be able to make my own rigging scripts, so studying yours is both inspirational and educational.

August 6th, 2008 said:

Thanks djx.

bug finder
August 16th, 2008 said:

new script have bug my character separate rig my character close maya and open charachter strech and break rig

August 24th, 2008 said:

hey i was wondering is it possible to add squash to the rig? I notice how cool it is taht the character can strecth but doesnt really squash,. If you add that i will be forever greatfuL!!!

August 26th, 2008 said:

bug finder:  Sorry, but I'm not sure I completely understand you.  You created a rig, saved it, closed Maya, and when you reopened it the rig would break when stretched?  I tried and it worked fine for me.  Maybe there's something that I'm missing?

Tim:  I never thought about it but you're right, the limbs should squash as well as stretch.  Fortunately it's easy to fix.  All you have to do is remove the minimum from the armStretch and legStretch attributes (located on the hand and foot controls, respectively).

To remove the minimum you have to select the foot or hand control curve, open the "Edit Attribute" UI (Modify > Edit Attribute...), select the stretch attribute (legStretch or armStretch) in the Attributes scrollList, and uncheck "Has Minimum".  You should now be able to set the stretch to a negative value.

I'll update the script so that these stretch attributes have no minimum on new rigs.

September 5th, 2008 said:

Oh great this is cool! I suppose the only thing is when it stretches I would think it should get skinner and when it squashes it would grow bigger in the minimum amount of space its compacted to. Is that possible too?

September 11th, 2008 said:

Hey Tim,

I'd love to have the actual weight joints squash and stretch, too.  Unfortunately the only ways I can think of doing this would add another level of complexity to the rig.  

What you can do (if you want) is use the spine and limbs' stretchAmount attribute to drive squash and stretch blendshapes.  I think this method gives you a lot more flexibility in determining the way the mesh deforms, and (as long as your mesh isn't super complex) I doubt you'll notice any slowdown at all.

Josh Yoder
October 1st, 2008 said:

Ahhh! Quit updating it!

Only kidding of course, but each time you add some cool new feature I feel the need to re-rig some of my characters (since I'm trying to keep them uniform for later use in some major-production-that-is-still-only-on-paper), hehe.

Fortunately this is a great opportunity to try out that rig-remover feature. But I'm guessing it won't save skin weights as well as curves. any tips in that department?

October 7th, 2008 said:

Hey Josh,

Sorry for the late reply.  The script includes a feature that will save all of your (script created) curves to a shelf button for later restoration.  

As for the skin weights, you might not even need to detach your skin from the skeleton, depending on which version of the script you're coming from.  If the version that you're using right now has the weight spine joints in the rig hierarchy then you shouldn't have a problem.  

If you want to start with a new skeleton (or you want to detach your mesh before rigging) there are a bunch of scripts on Highend that will export your weights to a file. You can then import them once you've created the new rig.  (Maya 2008 might have this functionality built in, I'm not sure.)

October 14th, 2008 said:

Hi again.

Have stumbled upon a few things. If you make a spine like a "hunchback" (not straight) then I can't get the spine controlers to aim other than at worldspace (both the axis, but also the controler curve itself). They should aim along the spine joints.

Regarding the finger control. It seems that the eg. index finger joints doesnt curl in a straight line if you do the following. Rotate the "lf_index_grpLoc" on Y and translate the "lf_index_b_loc" and "lf_index_c_loc" up on Y. Then the curl attribute rotates them weird.

Hope the explanation makes sense.

Regards Tom

just say it


Related Posts