Foundational knowledge that's often neglected?

I am about two months into my journey of going from casual artist/animator to a technical animator. I love rigging dojos resource list as well as Cult of the Rigs archives, and their focus on understanding how the process works.

Are there any agreed upon foundations for technical animation? What do you wish you saw more out jr tech art?

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I’d say for junior TA’s in general (not totally specific to tech anim) would be a few code specific things

  • Code commenting
    Do it. There isn’t a good reason to not comment your code. It helps yourself and anyone else that might have to come and look at it in the future.

  • Good handle on python.
    Doesn’t mean you have to be a master, but knowing how to use it effectively and are willing to learn, ask questions to others and just generally look online for answers is extremely important.

I don’t have things specific to rigs atm as I don’t really touch rigs/anim stuff that much haha.

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Linear Algebra, Geometry, matrix math and an understanding of what quaternions are and how to use them (Not what they do mathematically or how, that’s magic, I just mean the concept of a quaternion and how to make it and use it)

Rigs are made up of a lot of math. The better you understand the math behind it, the easier you can use properties of the math to help your rig instead of fighting against it.

It also often seems from my experience that technical animators sometimes jump into animation graphs to troubleshoot or fix issues, where math is gonna be hanging out doing math things.


If you’re planning on doing rigging, painting weights should not be an afterthought.

In my experience, rigging at a junior level is 20% (or less) automating/coding stuff and 80% tweaking helper joints, sculpting fixes, and painting weights on all your characters.

That 20% is difficult, deep, and technical. And IMO it’s required to really progress in your job.
But people so often neglect that other 80% because they’re so worried about the first 20.
It’s the “Art” part of being in tech art. Making that elbow come to a pleasing point. Getting that pec to raise up and meld with the clavicle and fold in by the neck on an arm raise. Having the ribcage keep structure and behave realistically on a back-bend.

You have to actually do something with the structure that your rig-builder builds.

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It might go without saying, but …

… learn to do production art

You really need to understand the ups and downs of trying to bend a DCC tool or a game engine to your will. You have to appreciate the suffering of the non-technical artist who is overwhelmed by the complexity of UI or the opacity of documentation, or the number of stupid hurdles needed to jump through to accomplish basic tasks.

You won’t likely be top-tier as a content creator but you should aim to be at least moderately competent in at least 2 of the main areas (modeling, texturing, shading, lighting, rigging, animation) . Ideally, you should be capable of at least pushing the right buttons in all of them – but for a couple you should really be able to tell good from bad, not just working from non-working. Get some feedback from artists and art-director types, learn how to talk about color and composition and form or silhouettes and timing and camera framing.

A big part of your future will be acting as a translator between different disciplines that talk past each other – it’s important to be able to speak both the technical and the artistic dialects. Likewise, a big part of your job will be knowing when to quit – when the problem is technical, when it’s creative, and when it’s just a screwy workflow or bad direction. You need to be enough of a practicing content creator to have some opinions on that before you get too buried in technical detail.


I would also add a good understanding of your main dcc in what might cause problem when you update a rig which is already animated. You should understand how to add or modify stuff to a rig without breaking anything that is already in use.