Face Robot workflow tips for combining heads with bodies

Courtesy of Mr Jeff Wilson, some tips on attaching Face Robot heads to characters:

“There are a few ways to go about it, depending on the pipeline that you are in.

If you just want to get the end result from Face Robot onto your character and are rendering frames, then the simplest way is to cache the face meshes from FR and bring those caches into your scene file containing the skeleton. This is the most accurate method for getting the animation across. FR ships with Point Oven, but we always used the KP_PointCache plugins from Kai Wolter in production. Kai’s tools write to the PC2 format which both Max and Maya understand. And they are free.

The general workflow for caching FR meshes is one of the following:

  • Head Separated from Body If the head is a separate mesh from the body in the character rig, then it’s very simple. Just use that same head mesh as the base mesh in FR (be sure to leave it in the same position in world space as it was in the rig file). When you have finished the animation, use the cache tools to write out the cache file from FR.

    Back in your animation scene file, load that cache file onto the head mesh. You will just need to make sure that the cache operator is applied under the envelope operator and everything will work fine. Once you set this up it acts as a referencing system since anytime the cache file is updated, the changes are automatically seen in the animation scene file.

  • Seamless Head and Body If the head and body are all one mesh, then it may take an extra step. You could just bring the entire body mesh into FR and work as usual (being sure that you don’t let FR affect any points below the neck).

    Then cache the entire body mesh and use the same workflow as above. This can make for quite large cache files, however, and may not be the most efficient way to work.

    Instead, you can create a copy of the geometry needed for the head and send that mesh to FR to use for the solved head. Animate and write caches from FR same as above. In the character’s rig, use the copy of the head as a point driver for the points on the full-body mesh (Cage Deform in Softimage). Load the FR caches onto the head copy and it should then drive the points on the full-body mesh via the binding operator.

If you want to attach the FR head to the skeleton for editing, then you can:

  • Bring the Skeleton to FR If you are working in Softimage, then you can simply import the character model into FR and then link the FR rig to the head control via a pose constraint. You will need to constrain both the main head control and the bottom neck control in most cases. We set up a simple tool to automatically link/unlink the FR head from the body.
  • Take the FR Rig to the SkeletonIf importing the rig is not practical (complex rigs from Maya, etc.), then you can use the Shape Export or Game Export tools to get the rig (or an approximation of the rig) out of FR. You would then constrain the rig as above. Of course, the shape rig will only work in Softimage and Maya. Max users would need to use the bone rig, which is not as friendly for editing. The bone rig is the best choice for game projects, of course.

1 thought on “Face Robot workflow tips for combining heads with bodies

  1. I would prefer a little more precision in this description. For example for taking the FR Rig to the Skeleton.

    When would I use the Game Export tool or the Shape Export (aka animation export) tool? Which of them gives the best oportunity for which case?

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