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This video shows a visualization of Giulia’s rig. A rig describes both how Giulia’s knee bends and how the skin around her knee stretches and folds.

Digital rigs make movement possible

What is a rig?

Digital rigs are the virtual bones, joints, and muscles that allow models to move. It’s kind of like the strings on a marionette. A good rig has just the right amount of flexibility. Without the right controls, the animators can’t create the poses they need. Too much flexibility makes posing the model too time consuming.

What does a rigger do?

Riggers start with a virtual 3D model for a character. They study how a character needs to move based on the story. For example, Randall in Monsters, Inc. moves like a chameleon, but he also walks on two legs. Riggers break down those motions into individual elements and create the hundreds of control points that animators will use to create poses.

Riggers start with a wireframe model (on the left) and add the virtual bones (on the right) so Sulley can be posed.

Riggers start with a wireframe model (on the left) and add the virtual bones (on the right) so Sulley from Monsters, Inc. can be posed.

Videos and Activities

Pixar’s Rigging Challenge

Deforming surfaces to create believable motion

Pixar’s Rigging Challenge

Jason Bickerstaff

Character Rigger

Jason Bickerstaff

Arm Rigging Workstation

Select an rig to define arm motion

Select one of three Pixar characters and choose among four arm rigs to determine which will produce the desired motions.


Pixar in a Box

Continue to explore using Pixar in a Box, a set of lessons developed by Pixar and Khan Academy. Follow the link for a lesson on Rigging.

Ask a Pixar Scientist

  • I was able to check out The science behind Pixar, and it was amazing. The only thing that I was hoping to see in the rigging section is making the characters walk. I'm going to take the exibit's advice and try to use a rig for my character. But I want to ask this while I do this. How long did it take to make a human character walk and what helped you to make them walk?
    — Floyd
    We animate a human walk by walking ourselves, finding key poses and using the computer to capture the pose using our animation software. A key pose might be when the foot contacts the ground, is fully planted or lifts off. Tweening then captures the in-between motion. This can be done in a day. The hard part is giving the walk attitude. That is acting and can take much longer depending on what performance we are trying to capture. Linguini, from Ratatouille, was particularly fun to do walks as he was so “animated".
    — Brian Green; Lead Technical Trainer + Content Specialist, Pixar