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Meet Animation Mentor’s New Studio-Quality Character Rigs, Aia and Hatch!

by | Oct 8, 2014

The Crew is Launching into a New Universe

Landing soon to a Maya scene near you – character rigs Aia and Hatch have officially been launched to Animation Mentor students! These two rigs are robust, dynamic, and built for the needs of the storyteller inside every animator. Aia and Hatch also mark the launch of The Crew, a futuristic band of characters built for the sci-fi universe of feature film.

Last year saw the completion of the Tribe, a series of 10 great new rigs (Stewart, Stan, Stella, Squirrels, Monster Ball, Bird Ball, Sloan, Rock, Pinky, and Twig) designed for animators of all levels to practice and hone their craft. This year, we asked ourselves and our students what are the next stories to be told? The answer is The Crew, our newest series of rigs built to star in your upcoming adventures. Read on to find out more about Aia and Hatch and how they were created.

Early concept art for the female lead character of The Crew. When the designs were presented to the creative team, they were immediately drawn to pose #7 and the team knew they had found their Aia.

Aia’s facial GUI picker gives the animator precise control over Aia’s lips, nose, eyes, eyelids, brows, teeth, mouth, and tongue.

Rigs for Stories Waiting to be Told

Aia and Hatch were built with your stories in mind. One of the most popular requests from students has been to have a dynamic female rig that takes their animation to the next level. We responded with Aia, a full-featured female character rig ready to walk, talk, and kick some serious butt. She has superior controls, comes with animation and VFX-level textures, and has a detailed GUI picker for her body, face, hands, and both of her hairstyles. Aia was envisioned as the pilot of the ship and looks capable of tackling any alien or otherworldly nemesis that comes her way, but she is flexible enough to be put in any situation: whether it be dauntless or dainty.

Hatch’s GUI picker gives the animator easy access to his body, the detail controls (including the cockpit’s seat and joystick), hands, and feet.

Hatch, on the other hand, is a rigid-body mechanical creature; rigged and ready to charge up your sci-fi scene. While he may look like a machine, he is built to be animated with character. Rigger Carlo Sansonetti added special details, like a leg press, a foot press and toe compression to give the illusion of squash and stretch on the mech. Hatch’s exhaust ports and extra canisters are also rigged (including a pre-built rumble feature), allowing the animator a lot of freedom and choices while working with Hatch. Features like this help give Hatch that extra element of detail that will really help to bring him to life in your story.

Preparing You For Feature Films

Aia and Hatch also reflect the types of characters that are appearing more and more in feature films. Characters like Anna and Elsa from Frozen, Merida in Brave, and Valka in How to Train Your Dragon 2 show that there is a growing presence of strong female characters in feature animation. Films like Transformers, The Lego Movie, and Pacific Rim prove that feature film is full of opportunities to bring mechanical creatures or rigid-body characters to life. Having experience with Aia and Hatch will show studios that you have the skills to animate production quality rigs similar to those used in today’s feature films.

Rigging facial notes for Aia

Developed With Professional Artists from Around the World

Canada, Spain, Turkey, and the United States share one thing in common: they are each home for the artists who helped to develop Aia and Hatch. These rigs were developed collaboratively across the globe, using our proprietary AMP pipeline to facilitate the rig production process. Cofounder and CEO Bobby Beck led the development of Aia, while Curriculum Designer Justin Owens led the development of Hatch. Bobby, Justin, and the artists on their teams used the AMP pipeline to easily check their files in and out and to provide feedback at each step of the development process.

The artists involved in the creation of the rigs are industry professionals, with experience in both cartoony and realistic styles of animation in feature film. They have brought their professional experience to the creation of these rigs to ensure that each rig measures up to studio-quality. Through countless rounds of testing, feedback, and improvements, Aia and Hatch have been developed to be the most robust rigs available to students today.

Designed to be Animator-Friendly

Each rig was developed from the animators’ perspective: What controls would an animator need? What can be added to improve the speed of the animator’s workflow? What details would the animator need to improve the storytelling capacity of the rig? These were the driving forces behind the development and the refinement of both Aia and Hatch. What resulted are rigs with fully developed GUI pickers, highly refined controls, and well-defined characteristics that are easy to use. Both rigs strike a delicate balance between simplicity and robustness; perfect for the intermediate animator.

Time to Tell Your Story

When asked “What are you most looking forward to in seeing the rigs in student work?”, both Bobby and Justin said they were excited to finally see these characters come to life! After working for tons of hours over many months to develop these rigs, Bobby and Justin are stoked to see their creations out in the world. So, now it’s your turn to tell the story. Will Aia and Hatch fight hordes of angry Squirrels on a distant desolate moon? Or perhaps Aia will meet Katniss Everdeen and Tris in a Crew/Hunger Games/Divergent mashup? Maybe Hatch will be Stan’s new puppy? The story possibilities are endless and we can’t wait to see them!

Aia and Hatch are exclusively available to Animation Mentor students. Aia is available for students in Classes 4-6; Hatch is available for students in Classes 4-6 plus our Creatures workshops. Animation Mentor students: if you have an Aia or Hatch animation, let us know on Twitter by tweeting @AnimationMentor and using the hashtag #AMaia or #AMhatch. Not a student yet? Join us for an Online Campus Tour to find out more about Animation Mentor!

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