Yeah, I know I’ve said this before.
But guys, this time’s for real, guys, really! I even deleted the whole previous attempt of bones, got rid of all the landing gear constraints and custom locators and merged the whole plane (minus the inside cockpit, windshield and landing gear, because reasons) into a single mesh. The logic goes as follows:
In the two latest rigs I did, I learned that the model is a lot easier to handle and Blender has less issues calculating when it’s a single object, instead of a collection of objects, each one with its own rotation, scale and position values, linked to a certain bone of the same armature. Turns out, you can assign parts of the mesh to each bone using Vertex Groups – which also works to make the paint weights work when you have an organic character – and it wouldn’t be much of a difference with this one, because the parts, even though they are separated from each other, can be selected using Ctrl+L and then assigned to each bone. The bone then is the one that controls everything from the part. This saves file size, calculation power and it could even make the render process faster, since it’s a single object with more polygons, instead of a bunch of disconnected objects with their own pivot points, linked to a whole other bunch of bones with their own rotation and translation values. So I went ahead and merged the whole thing, and then I had to painstakingly separate it into a half again, deleting the right side of everything so I can merge it back together using the Mirror tool.
This wasn’t just because I wanted to start clean and make sure all the borders were exactly in the 0.0 X coordinate; but also because of another thing I learned: You can go way faster with assigning vertex groups if it’s a mirrored mesh. Blender will assign the other half of the mesh and any changes you do to the bones if you use the X-Axis Mirror option on the armature. So after doing the mirror, I started creating the first bones. I made a group of “origin bones” parented to each other on the same place, at 0,0,0. These bones will eventually become the flight controllers for the plane, to make sure the flight is accurate and easy to animate. Then I started going piece by piece, assigning a bone to control each part and getting into a bit of the hierarchy for the robot.
I eventually had to switch to “stick” view because they were already too many bones to see. I still have many small ones to create for the cockpit and the landing gear, but I’m still thinking if those ones should be part of the same armature or of a separate one, so I can find a way to hide the landing gear’s mesh when it’s retracted, thus saving memory. The naming conventions I used are simple, all of the left ones have a L at the end, right ones have a R, so Blender automatically uses the mirror criteria to assign the mesh to them, and the parents will have a “Parent” name so I can easily recognize them. They’ll all be probably hidden since I want the surfaces to be animated with a single control panel, which you can see above the plane.
Feels good to be back!