What do you need to become a successful Rigger? Is Python an essential part or just a nice have?
Depending on who you ask the answer will be between:
"Yes, maybe ... it depends!"
Python for Rigging
As you probably know: You can produce most rigs manually without scripting. Of course they can be very special or repetitive rigs like chains, tentacles etc. where scripting would be beneficial but most of the time it is not essential. Which means to become a professional Rigger on the highest level is all about anatomy, joints, bones, skinning, etc. Scripting plays a helpful but not required role.
Python for Production Rigging
Of course most Riggers use their skills as part of a production. They are a crucial piece in a pipeline creating the bridge between modeling (assets) and animation (shots). Looking at a typical day of a rigging department you will notice two things:
A lot of iterations and rig updates
The constant use of (pipeline) scripts
When it comes to the production Rigging is not just about the skill of making a great rig but also to keep up with the production deadlines, feedback, model updates and constant requests from the animators. This can lead to hundreds of rig iterations and revisions. Doing that for dozens of characters big and small, hundreds of props can easily add up:
(256 props + 13 characters) * 26 typical iterations = 6994 versions
The best way to counter this inhuman amount of work is to automate certain repetitive steps to make sure that your main focus is on an the key parts of the work instead of constantly working through the pile.
A video describing the work of an artist in the 21. century:
I reached out on LinkedIn to ask if Python is an essential part of Rigging. 119 professionals voted and 72% of them said "Yes" while only 7% disagreed with that statement. 21% think that the need for Python depends on the specific rigging tasks. A clear indicator that Python is essential indeed for Rigging.
Python makes productions happen and helps to automate the recurring and boring tasks so the Rigger can focus on the complex and more challenging elements of his trade. If you like to learn Python as a beginner check out Python for Maya.
Thanks for reading,
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Sabine Heller (Head of Characters, Blue Sky Studios) answering the question how essential scripting is for Riggers: