Class 2 - Week 5 - Hips & Spines

I know when I started with Armless Stewie, I had quite a bit of trouble
getting used to all the new controllers I had to animate. I made quite a
few mistakes and spent way too much time counter animating my work
instead of actually finessing my shot. So with these 4 tips I have for you,
I hope that you'll be able to avoid a few of the pitfalls I fell into.

Tip 1 - Head Align Follow

This first tip is one that I actually wish I had used in my armless Stewie
assignment. If you select Stewie's head controller and look through the
channels, you'll see one called "Align Follow". What this option does is
it changes the way Stewie's head follows the body. When it's set to 0, his
head will twist and turn with the torso, which can be handy, but causes
you to have to counter-animate the head through the entire shot, which can
be a nightmare if you have a lot of body twists and you want him to keep
looking in one direction. By turning "Align Follow" to 1, it locks his
head in place, so that no matter what kind of twist or rotation you give
his body, his head stays focused on wherever it's looking. This is great
because it gives you much better control over his head, allowing you to
animate it exactly how you want, and it also means that you won't spend
ages counter-animating once you get into splines.

Tip 2 - Hiding the Hip Controller

The second tip is another handy, albeit simple one that can really help
you out when you're animating the spine. Because of the way Stewie's hip
controller is overlayed on his lower spine controller, it can be extremely
difficult to select the spine at times. There are also times that you
don't realize you've accidentally selected the hips and rotate both
controls, which can lead to frustrating fixups later down the line. So
what you can do is simply select the hip controller, go to your Layers
panel and create a new layer with the selected hip controller inside it.
Now you can easily hide, lock off, and re-access your hips whenever you
need them, but never when you don't!

Tip 3 - Creating a Shelf Tool to Select the Spine Controls

Tip 3 is personally a life saver. I always found it a pain having to try
and select each spine controller, one at a time, every time I wanted to do
something with Stewie's body. Then I found out how to create a shelf tool
that will automatically select all 3 controllers with one simple click! It
made animating the spine so much easier for me. Here's how you can do it:

Go to Window > General Editors > Script Editor

With the script editor open, select each of the 3 body controllers.
You'll see that each time you do, the script editor's code updates.

Select and drag the 3 lines of code onto your shelf. It will ask you to
save the script as either MEL or Python. Choose MEL and Voila. You have a
brand new shelf icon!

Tip 4 - Basic Spine Tips

For this last one, I'll go over a few tips and tricks on how to control
the spine, and some things to avoid that should help make your animating

Rotate all the spine controllers at the same time. One of the worst
things you can do to yourself is start rotating the spine controllers one
at a time, each time compensating slightly for any twists and bends. What
you'll end up with is a spine that is constantly counter-animating itself,
which can be a real pain to fix. But by rotating all 3 controllers
together, what you get is a much smoother motion, and one that's also much
easier to keep in check. Of course you can always push one or two of them
individually now and again to really exaggerate a pose or bend.

Use the hip controller for accents only. It's very tempting to use the
hip controller to push the curve of the spine throughout your shots. But
the problem with doing that is the hips tend to look a bit wobbly after a
while. In general you should be able to pull off most of your shot using
only the spine and body controllers, and using the hips just to push poses
slightly, or get that little bit of extra bend where you need it. By not
using the hip controller as much in your shot, it also gives the added
bonus of making the rig easier to animate since you have 1 less control to
worry about, which is always nice!

And lastly, this tip is about the uppermost spine controller, or the
ribcage controller. If you take a moment to bend and twist your own body
around, you'll see that this part of your body is very inflexible. The
reason for this is because you have a very sturdy ribcage there. So when
you're animating Stewie, keep in mind that he should also have a ribcage
in there, so don't try to bend his upper body too harshly. If you do, it
will give him either an odd noodle body type look, or make his spine look
slightly broken. The human body bends mostly from the lower and middle
back, so use those controllers to get that extra bend you need.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post. I hope it's been helpful,
and as always, if you have any comments, questions or suggestions, you're
more than welcome to send either Beau or me a message on AM.


  1. Thanks Cameron. I'm glad I went through this at the right time!!

  2. This was really helpful, thanks Cameron

  3. Awesome Cameron, Thanks so much!

  4. Wow, this is really helpful. Glad I'm only on the blocking phase. I wished I had read this post earlier! But this is really a life saver. This rig is really overwhelming when working with it for the first time.

  5. Awesome tips. It's really a life saver. Luckily I'm only in blocking phase and the fixes will be quick.

  6. You two are the man! Thank you for all the tips you provide since class 1!