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Bonus Feature: Can Animation Layering Alleviate Problems With Traditional Rigging?

In the first in a series of discipline-targeted articles, Valve veteran Steve Theodore's article "The Death of Rigging?" looks at an alternative to the traditional methods use
In the first in a series of discipline-targeted articles, Valve veteran Steve Theodore's article "The Death of Rigging?", originally printed in Game Developer magazine last year, looks at an alternative to the traditional methods used in character animation. The feature, which covers the concept of animation layering -- a process akin to Photoshop layers that helps animators sort out the volumes of key data generated by motion capture sessions. Says Theodore, "Animation is the absentminded professor of the game art disciplines: highly technical, but rather stuck in its ways. Certainly, nothing has come along to revolutionize animation in the way subdivision sculpting has changed modeling, or Shader Model 3.0 has changed texturing and effects." "Animators are still keyframing away with only incremental improvements to the tools that debuted with 3ds Max and Maya, back when the Dreamcast was the hot gaming machine and gas cost $1.27 a gallon." However, he notes: "Animation layering is a workflow that builds animations up out of layers in much the same way Photoshop assembles a bitmap image out of bits and pieces." "Instead of forcing you to plan ahead for every possible contingency in the design of an omni-competent do-everything rig, layering lets you slap together whatever techniques make sense for a given shot. It can be a very compelling alternative to the standard way of doing things." In the full Gamasutra-reprinted feature, available now, you can read Theodore's further ruminations on the pluses and minuses of animation layering, alongside a detailed example image prepared by the author.

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