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Technical Paper:
Maxwell

Maxwell was created for Autodesk for the release of Max 8 as a demo character to test character rig speed and complexity. Unfortunitly I have never had time to take this character any further then this set up but at some point it would be fun to animate it and see it moving. For now he just hangs out in the archies of Autodesk waiting to be beaten up any time a character needs testing.

Maxwell was rigged using standard Max bones and tools except for many scripted utilities and one scripted plugin for controlling animation on the hands and feet.

The muscle system is again standard Max tools using stretchy bones and modeling the bones into the form that was needed.

Modeling on this character was done by Erin Nicholson and character rigging by Paul Neale.


Multiple layers of character rig were used to achieve the end result. IK/FK arms and legs with a spline IK spine were used to drive a muscle system rig. The characters mesh is skinned to the bone system and skin wrapped to the muscle system so that dynamics could be applied to the muscles to help add movement to the body and add realism.

Dynamics are handled via flex and springs that are ramped on and off as muscles relax or flex, also they are ramped up and down based on velocity of the character so that over shoot one the dynamics could be kept to a minimum.


Here is one of the innitial muscle setups, I droped several of the muscles out of the final as they just were not needed for the deformation to look right and have the right amount of flex in it.

The controls can also be seen here with both the IK and FK showing in the arms, this usualy gets hidden when switching from one to the other but can be shown always if the animator deceides they want to see both while doing the switch.


Dispite the amount of muscle the rig is fast even when the muscles are visable in the viewport, just like any complex setup like this the deformation of the final skin takes some time to update in the viewport and it really isn't practical to animate with the full resolution character on screen.

Further tests that I want to do with this character are more dynamics simulations on the skin of the character using Cloth or Softbodies to see if I can get the kind of deformations that would result if the character were to be hit hard or run into something. I'll post tests if I ever get to it.


Using PEN Attribute Holder 2 for the hands and feet the animation can be controlled with a series of sliders and spinners. The PEN Attribute Holder allows for poses to be saved and reused as well as shared between characters with like sets of attributes. Here is a reduced set of controls for the fingers of the characters.


A custom UI for controlling the whole character was added, this controls stores all the nodes of the character rig as weak references so that name changes on the character will not break the tool set.

This UI includes tools like mirroring of poses for each limb and torso, selections and keying of controls and the ability to reset limbs and torso of the character.

Resolution control has also been added so that different levels of deformation can be turned on for render time or just for animation tests. Low Res hides all but a cut up mesh that is super fast to animate with.


Here is the characters cut up Low Res mesh that the animator can work with, it was updated in the image below with colours that represented that of the final mesh.


This is just a comp of the Low resolution mesh over some of the control panels that were used for controlling the character. Extensive use of Max script was used in creating the character to automate the creation of the character rig and the UI and controls for the character. No external plugins are used except for the scripted PEN Attribute Holder plugin.

This character is exceptionaly fast in the viewports when in the low res mode making it quick to key and work with. It uses all of the latest tools in Max 8 to achieve the control and speed of the character rig.