Animator Looking To Become A Technical Animator

Hello everyone! I’ve been working as a gameplay animator for a few months now but I find myself enjoying hooking up animations in engine, rigging models and talking tech with the programmers a lot more then I want to sit there and animate.

I’ve learned a few different rigging tools, ART, MRS, mGear, Advanced skeleton, etc, and know my way around UE4 and Unity in terms of setting up basic animation blueprints/ animation controllers, I just lack direction at the minute, I’ve read some posts here and it seems the role varies a lot, I’ve also googled and it does just seem all over the place.

My two biggest questions would be:

What are the base skills I need to be a technical animator? I.e. what should I teach myself to get my first tech anim job
What would I include in a demo reel?

I’d also be interested in any tips or advice from animators turned tech animators.

Thank you for any replies to my topic, have a nice day.

I tread the same path of animator to Technical animator.

skin weighting, rigging, python, and Maya.

Skinning: understanding how to paint skin weights efficiently and realistically, knowing what edge flow does to deformations, and understanding how to control the number of influences on a vertex.

Rigging: Understanding how joints/bones/deformers work. Knowing the best joint placement within a mesh for optimal deformation. In Maya, understanding the joint orient attribute and how it relates to flipping and gimbal lock. IK , spline IK, and ribbon IK setups. For games, understanding how to separate the exportable hierarchy form the control rig.

Python: Plan for doing the same tasks over and over again. Rigs are never ‘one and done’ they will be constantly rebuilt and iterated on. Changes in the mesh will come at a moments notice, animators will request new features, so consider your rigs a “live” thing that will be constantly rebuilt. Scripting python will help you build tools to quickly iterate: saving/ transferring skin weights, modular procedural rigging systems, and utilities to speed up common tasks.

My general learning process was : figure out how to rig a thing, then figure out how to script that rigging.

Some Tech Anim jobs seek people to handle the engine side of things. So understanding animations are connected to skinned mesh assets is important, and animation trees like Unity’s Mecanim or Unreal’s State Machine and how they blend between animations. Invest some time learning how animation is processed in the real time code. See if you can script a peek at the curve data. See if you can pass custom attributes from Maya into the engine. See what happens with joint scaling. A general understanding of linear algebra (vector and matrix math) is also useful.

For demo reel stuff it’s good to describe the specific problem you are solving and show the final in-game result: Rigging Demo: Doctor Octopus - YouTube

It’s a job of constant learning, so stay curious.

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:point_up_2: This is sound advice right there.

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Thank you for taking the time to reply to me, I value everything you’ve said and will refer back to your reply a lot to keep me on track.

My general learning process was : figure out how to rig a thing, then figure out how to script that rigging.

This really intrigues me, I am following tutorials at the minute to learn rigging from scratch in Maya and was thinking the whole time I can’t wait to learn to automate this. I will stick to your motto of learning to rig it and then learning to do it via code like glue!

Edit: Your rigs and the tools you’ve created are really interesting, I’m a long way off but just seeing what is possible inspires me to no end.

Thanks!

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