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    2023.01.16 The Originality

    Rigger, Technical Art, Taei Park

    <THE ORIGINALITY> is a series about NC’s new generation — they are immersed in their jobs where they find inspiration. They pave the way towards excellence and then aim even higher.

    People at NC freely express themselves and achieve growth by challenging themselves to new experiences.

    Rigging is not an area that is immediately visible when looking at a game. People may point out that ‘the animation is awesome,’ but you hardly hear them say ‘the rigging is done well.’ I hope that rigging becomes more widely known among people, and I also hope that more people will give it a try. A major advantage of being a rigger is that you will have the opportunity to grow into an expert with both technical and artistic skills. Me and my team are proud to call ourselves riggers.

    Rigger, Technical Art, Taei Park

    Rigging, Technical Art

    Rigging is the process of planting “skeletons” into characters of a video game. To bring these characters’ movement to life, we work in the sequence of modeling, rigging, and animating. Once a character model is created, it is the rigger’s job to “make it move,” with the animator animating the movement itself.

    During the rigging process, the rigger sets “bones,” or frames, within the joints of the model and aligns the axes with the direction it moves toward. Then it is on to “skinning,” which is the process of configuring which bone will be affected and to what extent. After that, the animation data can be uploaded.

    Character models with incorrect rigging will start moving in a rather strange way, and nothing would be more immersion breaking when playing a game than a character moving awkwardly. That is why it is the rigger’s job to properly set up the frames of a character model to ensure that it moves naturally within the game.

    Setting the Foundations of Movement

    The word “animation” originates from the Latin word “anima,” which basically means “life.” If an animator’s role is to breathe life into characters to make them appear alive, it is the rigger’s role to develop the overall pipeline of the animation. In other words, we as riggers map out how characters should move and what kind of skeletal structures they should have. Once the skeletal structure has been completed, we then create a control rig that makes it easier for animators to control the movement.

    Creating New Movement by Researching Human Movement

    A rigger determines the range within which each joint can move based on their understanding of the locations of the bones. One would need a knowledge of anatomy to understand the structure of muscles, joints, and bones. Since it is realistically difficult to place bones where they would be in real life, we need to utilize our knowledge of anatomy to optimize our work process. We must decide where to place the limited number of bones to mimic human movement as accurately as possible, and we also need to separate the parts that are important from the ones that are not.

    Riggers need to be good at analyzing and observing because we need to study the human body closely to create new movements. Our shoulders are composed of three bones, but let’s say we are allowed to place only a single bone for the shoulder. We would need to observe and analyze which location works best and find the optimal location and angle. We also observe how people's feet turn when they walk and make a habit of observing how we and others move.

    Optimizing Quality and Efficiency through Constant Practice

    Introduction to Rigging

    I was originally an animation major. I had enrolled in courses for all the animating processes ranging from modeling to rendering during my freshman year, and I was first introduced to rigging through an introductory class. One of my first assignments was to attach a control rig to a character model and try rigging it.

    For this assignment, I had to apply everything I had learned so far and carry out complex arithmetic. Most of my classmates made similar attempts and had given up when they couldn’t make much progress, and in the end, I was the only one who completed the assignment.

    This was when I got interested in rigging and chose it as my major. Only a couple of people, including myself, had chosen rigging as their major, and that is how I began my journey as a rigger.

    Learning about Games

    I started my career as a computer graphic artist for an advertisement company, and then I learned that NC was hiring for a rigging position. This was the first time that NC was hiring riggers as a separate position because previously they had been using a program which automatically carried out the rigging for most of the projects. However, NC’s new projects required better animation quality that could only be achieved with the help of specialized programs — that is how rigging became an independent process of game development.

    Initially I thought that rigging for games was going to be similar to rigging for videos. I was greatly mistaken. As I was unfamiliar with the process of developing games and the importance of rigging, I wasn’t putting out much work, the quality wasn’t great, and the work itself wasn’t much fun either.

    It is quite clear what a game sets out to be, and when I understood how it works, that was when I started finding my footing. I could see the importance of rigging in a game, how it affects a character’s movement, and how it is displayed during actual gameplay. When I realized how riggers could contribute to making game development more efficient and improving the art quality, I became more motivated and found ways to improve my work. That is when work started becoming more fun.

    Understanding Rigging

    As I was one of the first riggers at NC, I went through a lot of trial and error when communicating with other departments in my early days at the company — for instance, riggers work closely with animators, since rigging is required for animating character models.

    The first step to collaboration is to help the relevant parties such as modelers and animators understand the role of rigging by showing samples. For example, when I had to explain to a modeler why I wanted lines to be added, I drew the lines myself and showed previous work for comparison. Doing so helped improve our communication allowing for more accurate feedback.

    Optimizing Balance between Quality and Efficiency

    If someone asks me where rigging ends, my answer would be that it never ends, since there is no limit when it comes to improving quality. Even after working on the same project a dozen or hundreds of times, I always find something that could be improved.

    Scheduling is also just as important as quality. This is especially true for games with various content since one must achieve the highest quality within the designated deadline. Once I have reached an acceptable level of quality, I show my work to the rest of the team or other departments and receive their feedback. One can improve the quality much more efficiently by repeating the revision process from an objective point of view.

    Proud to be a Rigger

    Make Them Say “The Rigging is Done Well”

    Rigging is not an area that is immediately visible when looking at a game. People may point out that “the animation is awesome,” but you hardly hear them say “the rigging is done well.” Those who don’t work in a related field aren’t very aware about riggers. I hope that rigging becomes more widely known among people, and I also hope that more people will give it a try.

    At NC, rigging plays such a major role that it has become a separate process. A major advantage of being a rigger is that you will have the opportunity to grow into an expert with both technical and artistic skills. Me and my team are proud to call ourselves riggers.

    Creating Art through Technology

    Rigging is a technical art — it is the task of using the technology needed for game development and creating art with it.

    Rigging is quite time consuming, and that is why you need to automate the repeated processes to minimize the time spent and increase efficiency. If you need to apply the same pose to hundreds of different characters, a tool that can handle the task with a single click is a must.

    Our team pursues R&D, and the company spares no expense when it comes to development as well. Whenever we complete an urgent task or have spare time, we study new tools and functions. For the most part, rigging is done individually, but when it comes to R&D, we actively exchange new information.

    Surpassing the Industry Standard

    Game quality and visuals continue to improve with time and with new technologies, becoming better every day.

    I want to create something that surpasses the industry standard. Since rigging is mainly done manually, the more time you invest, the more skilled you become. I personally want to become a rigger who can deliver higher quality results by utilizing the time I have invested and the experience that I have accumulated over various projects. I also hope I can learn to handle any possible issues more calmly.

    As a rigger, I want to contribute to creating quality games that immerse the player in their unique worlds. I also wish to become someone who helps create a new game genre. I believe that by completing my current projects, I will be able to contribute to creating a new game genre at NC.

    * The content stated in this interview is the personal opinion of the interviewee and does not represent the official position of NCSOFT.