Mar 22, 2012

ZV Radial Blend Shape

I wanted to tell you all about a wonderful tool I heard of, and used to rig our main character in Glued (our short).

It's called ZV Radial Blend Shape.
It's developed by Paolo Dominici, and you can find it here:

Anyone who's ever rigged a character in Maya knows how annoying it can be to make eyelid deformations, especially for an amateur rigger like myself...
There are problems with blendshapes transitioning in a linear way, making any non-linear deformations seem weird (eyelid motion is curved, it rotates around the eyeball. It's non-linear).

So Blendshapes are sometimes impossible to use in eyelids, since we need something that will slide around the eyeball in a nice way.

Painting weights is usually possible, but again, in some case (like our main character's rig), where the eyelid has to curve a very long way until it's bottom position, it's also very problematic.

This is where this awesome plug-in comes in. (a plug-in, not a script, big difference which I'll explain soon).
What it does is basically create a new, separate blendshape system in maya. This system works quite a bit like the standard Maya blendshape system, but with one big important difference. The transition between one shape and the other is not linear, it actually has a pivot around which it is rotating. This makes eyelid deformation as simple as hell.

I said earlier that it's a plug-in, and not a script, which is a big deal here. And here's why:
In order for any animator to work with any character you use radial blendshapes on, he will HAVE to have the plugin (the .mll file) placed in his plug-in directory (maya root/bin/plug-ins), and he'll have to make sure to load and auto load it from the Maya plugin manager.

Now here's where things got messy for us. Some of the computers we have to use to work on our project could not load the plug-in! The script editor gave out this message:

// Error: Unable to dynamically load : C:/Users/maya/Documents/maya/plug-ins/radialBlendShape.mll
The specified module could not be found.
// Error: The specified module could not be found.
// Error: The specified module could not be found.
 (radialBlendShape) // 

Only not in red, of course. :)

We've been at it for the past two days, until we finally solved it today. And since it was so hard to find a solution, we thought it was a good idea to post it here.

It's very simple - you just have to make sure you have Visual C++ 2010 installed on your computer. This is a pack of things which I don't really understand, but this pack helps fill your computers with goodies that are required by some programs you might stumble upon.
Get it here for 32bit systems
Get it here for 64bit systems

This should solve the problem, if you got here because of it.
This is an amazing plugin, which we should all know and love.
Thanks Paolo Dominici!

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