Day in the life
Marty Hon, rigger at Digital Domain, breaks down her day
After graduating from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in 3D Animation, Marty Hon has spent years honing her craft as a CG artist. Prior to joining Digital Domain, Hon created realistic renders and high-quality models for freelance clients, before moving into the realm of TV commercials where she contributed character and prop rigging, hard-surface modelling, texturing, animation, rendering and compositing. For the past five years Hon has been lending her talents to Digital Domain’s Vancouver studio.
08:00am After I get to the office, I start my day with a cup of tea, a light snack, and a look through my emails for updates or changes to any assets. I’ll go through each one to see if there are any notes, any new requests or schedule changes for any specific functionality for rigs that I’m assigned to.
09:30am Other than character, vehicle and prop rigs, facial transfers are also part of the rigging department’s job. Our integration department records facial mocap performance to track and generate facial masks for each shot. I’ll then create a specific facial deformation rig in Maya, using numerous inhouse plugins that can transfer the performance from the masks onto our character model. Once the rig is tested, the transfer process can be automated on our render farm. When it’s possible, I’ll send the new shots to the farm to transfer early in the morning so I can check and edit them later in the day.
11:00am Next, I usually start with the tasks that have quick turnaround, such as model updates. Digital Domain has an in-house rig builder system in Maya that uses editable Python templates to bring in models, skeleton, weights and other components to automatically construct the rig, allowing us to edit each portion separately. Models are constantly being updated. If it has the exact same topology and pose, it’s a simple re-run of our rig builder. If not, then I will have to re-pose and transfer weights.
13:00pm To start a character rig, the first step is to use our skeleton
template, which allows us to position the joints to the best of our anatomy knowledge. The template also allows me to add an extra limb (with a few lines of Python script) if we have to. Skinning weights is next. Skinning can be a timeconsuming and repetitive process that requires both the technical and artistic sides of the brain. This is usually when I turn on music and just roll with it. Then I run Rig Builder’s templates that will automatically bring in everything, orient joints, build controls and constraints.
15:00pm For prop rigs, there is no one template that fits all. It can be a cable rope, a plant, an escalator, a machine gun, etc, so it requires creativity. I also have to be in touch with animators to know specifics of what they need and what needs to be changed. We use Rig Builder to create every rig, which means everything we build is scripted out in Python. First, I would build a mock-up in Maya to prove the concept to myself, and the more complicated rigs also require approval from the animators. Then, line by line, I script out each step of the process in Python.
17:00pm In rigging, daily meetings aren’t as common as they are with other groups. At the beginning of a show, there will be a roundabout meeting. After that, the lead rigger has weekly meetings with animation and other supervisors, but as a rigger, we usually just have a quick daily check in with our lead and/or coordinator to make sure we are on task and to see if we need anything. And of course whenever we run into problems, we have our peers at Digital Domain to help out and discuss the matter.
17:30pm I am a bit of a workaholic and I love what I do, so I don’t tend to need much time to unwind. There were days I used to do many modelling, 3D sculpting, rigging and scripting projects at home past midnight every day. Sometimes, 40+ hours of 3D work is still not enough to satisfy my creativity needs. But since my family has grown over the last few years, time is becoming more and more precious. I transitioned to less timeconsuming art projects to continue my artistic creativity, such as watercolour painting, ink drawing and crafting felt toys for my daughter.