Anzovin Rig Tools, or ART, is a new paradigm for character rigging, one that takes the drudgery out of the famously finicky and esoteric process of preparing a character for animation. Unlike auto-rig tools like The Setup Machine, which organizes existing Maya rig nodes to provide a pre-defined rig, ART provides its own nodes, letting you build characters from the ground up with powerful new bones and deformers.


Anzovin Rig Tools allows you long overdue control of your Maya rigging process.


Rotation-minimizing frames ensure that twisting the mesh along the spline is always smooth no matter how far you push it, and an “inherit twist” feature lets you keep unwanted twist out of problem areas like the shoulders. The ability to add “Bone CVs” at any point during the rigging or animation process ensures that you can always take advantage of ART’s spline-based nature.

ART’s bones may look like Maya’s joints, but they aren’t: each chain of ART bones is a spline, and the centerpiece of ART’s toolset is our spline deformation. Far from a simple wire deformer, ART’s unique Volume-Preserving Pipe-Space deformer (or VPPS) intelligently warps the space around the spline as it bends, producing excellent deformation for very little work.


The bulk of the work of creating character deformation using conventional rigging tools is weight painting. Because each limb, finger, or torso rigged using ART is deformed by a single spline, weight painting becomes much simpler — you only need to define which areas of the mesh are affected by which spline deformation.


The most perfect default deformation is no good if you can’t control it. ART provides high level tools for controlling the deformation at a joint, including the unique “mesh spread” that gives the VPPS deformer its smooth appearance, and an adjustable “inner smooth” that maintains volume in the joint.

When art-directable precision is called for, you can use ART’s built in pose-space deformer to sculpt the exact shape the mesh should assume in a given position. Our pose-space deformer can be driven by any rotation or translation inputs, but it can also be driven by the ART spline directly to ensure that the right sculpted pose is applied, even when the limb is being deformed by Bone CVs.


The VPPS deformer’s mesh spread doesn’t just help elbows look good — it also makes it easy to deform thick objects like a flour sack or a rotund character that are exceptionally difficult to weight paint with conventional rigging. The mesh spreading effect responds to the diameter of the deformation, removing ugly crimping effects and ensuring smooth curves.


Our included constraint lets you use the VPPS deformer to drive the position of a transform node, letting you use it’s powerful tools within a control rig.


The VPPS deformer is a lot more computationally intensive than conventional linear-blend or dual quaternion deformation. However, in practice most of the computation time in a conventional rig actually goes to node-graph evaluation of the potentially tens of thousands of nodes needed to create modern rig behavior. This graph evaluation isn’t easily multithreaded, so rig speed has stagnated even as the number of cores in a modern workstation has increased.

We’ve built VPPS to be easily parallelizable. What that means in practice is that the more hardware you throw at it, the faster it gets. With one core it may lag behind convention rigs with similar features, but with eight it easily overtakes them, and on the massively parallel hardware of the future it will be blazingly fast.

Also, while we do not currently plan on a GPU implementation for our initial release, VPPS is very appropriate for GPU implementation, opening up the possibility of scenes with dozens of characters all playing back in real time, or implementation into a game engine.


Auto-rig tools like TSM take some of the sting out of conventional rigging, but they’re also a “black box”--you put some information about joint locations in one end, and get a rig out the other, without much control over what happens in the middle. As a result, general-purpose auto-rig tools are often unsuitable for larger productions that require tightly controlled pipelines but ART isn’t an auto-rig tool--it’s a whole new set of nodes that can be called and connected through Python just like any other nodes in Maya. We’ve gone out of our way to make sure that the flow of information through ART nodes in the node graph is laid out in a clear and understandable way, with attributes to kick out useful information like the arc length of a bone or bone chain. It’s easy to integrate ART nodes into your existing rigging pipeline, whatever your size.


We’ve been working on ART for four years now, and we’re incredibly proud to be able to give you a first glimpse into the possibilities offered by ART’s unique toolset. The ART plug-in for Maya is currently being alpha tested.

Is ART only for Maya?

ART is a general-purpose approach to character rigging and could be implemented in other packages, or even into game engines. For the moment we are focused on developing it as a Maya plug-in, but we are certainly interested in other possibilities as well.

When will ART be available?

Right now ART is in alpha testing. From past experience, we prefer not to make any predictions about release date until we’re much closer to release, and there’s still a lot of work to be done before ART is production-ready.

What platforms and versions of Maya will ART be available for?

ART will be available for Maya 2011 and up, on Windows, OSX, and Linux.

Will you have a beta or alpha program?

Yes. We have a closed alpha program of limited scope. A larger closed beta program will follow.

How much will ART cost?

We currently plan to price the ART plug-in for Maya at $499.

Can I integrate it with existing rigs?

Yes, you can drive ART bones in all the same ways you can drive any other transform node in Maya, so rigging them up to an existing control rig shouldn’t be difficult.

Can it be used with a game engine?

At the moment, no. But with modern GPUs as fast as they are, it’s a real possibility for the future.