First Person Character Rig

Today I’d like to share some insight about the creation of my first person rig inside Cinema 4D.

My initial thought was to use Unreal’s default mannequin skeleton for all my animations instead of creating a whole new rig from scratch to save some time. But I realized pretty early that I needed a very special bone hierarchy to create the animations that I have in mind. I always liked first person animations from games like “Mirror’s Edge” and “Dishonored” because they give you the feeling as if there’s an actual human being behind the camera instead of just a floating camera with attached arms.

To achieve this immersive feeling, I created a custom bone structure and the player’s camera is actually parented to one of those bones. This allows to control the ingame camera in two ways:

  • by player input
  • by animation asset

Here’s a quick example of a roughly blocked landing animation. The ingame camera is fully controlled by the animation asset:

 

I had to ignore some anatomical rules that you should normally follow if you are building a rig for a humanoid character but that’s sometimes necessary to get things look right from the first person perspective. It’s a little bit like Yoda said: “You must unlearn, what you have learned!” and you have to work against your intuition somehow. For example, it’s possible to completely delocate the limbs to create better compositions from the first person’s perspective or to stretch the arms and legs a few meters:

Red: default location of the limbs. Blue: exaggerated dislocation example

 

The default behaviour of the arms is to follow the camera’s movement but they can also stay in place if desired. The camera itself can also be moved seperately:

 

Another important aspect was to create a flexible rig that can be adjusted without too much effort at every time of the production. The first person rig is made up by about 250 single objects, that are interconnected with each other. The majority of those objects won’t be used ingame, but they’re necessary to animate the bones properly.

Adjusting all 250 parts on every anatomical update of the player character’s 3d model would take forever and so I had to find a flexible soulution for this issue. I decided to try out Cinema 4D’s built in “Character Tool” which allows to create rig templates that can be adjusted easily. The tool looks incredibly daunting at the first glance but it’s absolutely amazing and I really recommend learning it if you’re using Cinema 4D. You have to put some heavy work into the creation of your template and to setup all of the internal constraints by hand. This may – depending on the complexity of your rig – take a few days and there’s a constant back and forth between creating the adjustment rules and testing them.

But in my opinion it’s really worth it! Once you’ve finished the dark work under the hood, you can adjust your template with just a few clicks:

 

To save some time during the animation phase, I added a “Symmetry” feature. It’s pretty straight forward and mirrors every animation from the right side to the left side of the rig. My game project requires a lot of those symmetrical animations and doing only half of the work is really a relief:

 

The rig seems to work pretty solid so far and I will post some animation blockings in one of my next posts.

Thanks for your time and stay tuned for more!

Daniel

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