Animschool instructor Jean-Luc Delhougne gives us a key tip – give yourself time & space to explore & play with a new character rig before jumping into the animation portion



It’s finally the day – you have worked hard for this. You cannot hold back your excitement. You. Are. Ready! It’s your first time working with an advanced feature-level 3D character rig, which can be both exciting and intimidating.


One mistake students and even professionals make when working with a new rig is to believe that an advanced rig will make anything you animate look feature film ready. But animation is not about the rig, it’s about the animator.


What is the biggest difference between a simple rig & an advanced rig?


An advanced rig functions much like a simple rig but with a few more detailed controllers. All the most important features and mechanics of an advanced rig can be found in a simple rig. If you look at the Animschool catalog of characters and rigs, one of the most popular simple rigs is a little fellow we call “Blocky.” Blocky has been used in shots as simple as taking a step, to scenes as complicated as dentists extracting a tooth from a patient. He is emotive, flexible, appealing, and most importantly easy to use. So what is it about blocky that makes him so much more approachable to start with than our Marina rig? It really boils down to one word, overthinking.


Here is a screenshot of Blocky’s picker and next to it a screenshot of Marina’s picker:

AnimSchool Pickers


At first glance, Marina’s picker looks way more complicated than Blocky’s, but when you look closer you can see that the foundations, they are not that different. Both radiate from a central body node, both have three major spine controllers, both have IK/FK arms and legs and both have one central head controller. When students see an advanced rig for the first time they often think that they need to use EVERY SINGLE CONTROL. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. All the additional controls that are added from a simple rig to an advanced rig are mostly for finesse work and facial emotion. The basic mechanics are the same.


AnimSchool’s Simple Rig “Blocky” & Advanced Rig “Marina”

At Animschool you are placed in a curriculum that strategically prepares you to animate with more advanced rigs. By the time you interact with an advanced rig, it is because you have proven that you are able to demonstrate the 12 principles of animation with a simple rig. Only then will you be granted access to the advanced rigs. This isn’t because you are suddenly expected to use every new controller, but rather because you have proven that you know how to utilize the major controls. These major controls will be in almost every rig you interact with for the rest of your career, and if all else fails – remember the bouncing ball. If you can animate a fully thought out, entertaining scene with just a bouncing ball, how many controllers do you really need to animate a compelling scene with an advanced rig? The answer is not many, so start simple and don’t overthink.


Remember when interacting with a new rig, simple or advanced, to give yourself a break, and have some fun with it. Instead of jumping into your shot and believing it will be a masterpiece from the beginning, spend a day and play around. Set up a few pushed poses or do a facial study. Treat learning a new rig like an improv class. Put a few ideas in a bowl, pull one out and give yourself 15 minutes to set your new rig up according to whatever it says on the piece of paper. This is a great way for you to get to know your rig. It enables you to gain a certain level of familiarity and comfort between you and the computer. As you do this exercise, remember, this isn’t for a shot, and it isn’t for an assignment, it’s just for you. So take the opportunity and have fun!


If you and a friend are learning a new rig together you can challenge each other to create the most ridiculous scenarios and then compete. Only after you have spent some time getting to know your rig should you then jump into actually animating for real.


Download AnimSchool’s Feature Level Rig for Free and start animating today!


Start your 3D Animation Journey in our next 11-week term at