Rigging for 3D Computer Animation

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Curated list by Johannes DeYoung

The technical art of rigging for animation entails construction of puppetry armature to enable expressive movement and character performance.  Fundamental rigging concepts are transferable between methods of animation, whether 3D computer animation, 2D animation, stop-motion or cut-out animation.  The rigging system creates an articulable skeletal structure, enabling poseable controls to achieve effective movement and performance requirements for animation.  This list highlights a few available resources for rigging in 3D computer animation. While this list includes some introductory resources, it is primarily intended for artists and technical directors with a moderate technical background.

Getting Started

Character Rigging, Deformations, and Simulations in Film and Game Production Course

This 2011 SIGGRAPH course by Tim McLaughlin, Larry Cutler, and David Coleman explores rigging, deformations, dynamics, and production practices in animation, visual effects and game development. Topics included analysis of performance requirements, motion system set-up, procedural rigging for secondary animation, and efficient extension of techniques over a wide range of primary and secondary characters.


Skinning: Real-time Shape Deformation

This 2014 SIGGRAPH course by Alec Jacobson, Zhigang Deng, Ladislav Kavan, and J.P. Lewis, serves both as an implementation recipe for state-of-the-art deformation techniques as well as summary of the most recent research and unsolved challenges in real-time skinning shape deformation. Assuming a modest technical background (college-level linear algebra and geometry), we introduce the basics of real-time skinning and then dive into cutting-edge methods found in academic research and used in industry production.

Essential Reading

The following books address fundamentals of 3D computer animation rigging for film and game production.


  • Assaf, Eyal. Rigging for Games: A Primer for Technical Artists Using Maya and Python. CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, 2016. ISBN-13: 978-0415743051
  • O'Hailey, Tina. Rig It Right!: Maya Animation Rigging Concepts. Taylor & Francis, CRC Press, 2019. ISBN-13: 978-1138303164
  • Jones, Stewart. Digital Creature Rigging: Wings, Tails & Tentacles for Animation & VFX. CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, 2019. ISBN-13: 978-1138560697

Master Class Resources

At SIGGRAPH 2006, Jason Schleifer offered an Autodesk Maya Master Class, Animator Friendly Rigging, covering a spectrum of basic- to advanced rigging design concepts, tools, and software applications.  While the specific application of these concepts was demonstrated in Autodesk Maya software, the underlying principles and concepts are transferable to any software application.


Advanced Topics

Ephemeral Rigging.  At SIGGRAPH 2019, Raf Anzovin presented an alternative CG character animation methodology that eschews both keyframes and conventional hierarchical rigging. In his “Ephemeral Rigging” method, primary rig controls have no hierarchy or built-in behavior; instead, the animator calls for "ephemeral" rig behavior as needed. The system also facilitates "interpolationless" animation by removing keyframes as we know them, replacing them with discrete poses and inbetweening tools.



Cult of Rig.  Raffaele Fragapane offers a principles-first software-independent rigging pedagogy on his website, which features extensive step-by-step video instruction on the subject.  The software-independent approach advances principles that may be applied across a wide breadth of environments.



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