I intend on using the Maya muscle system when I rig my character. I have invested quite a lot of time in becoming familiar with how it works and how it fits in to the character rigging pipeline.
Below I have some of many tests that I have done.
Obviously, Maya allows you to have a great degree of control over how the muscle deformation occurs, but there are two types of muscle deformers that are commonly used.
Maya has tools to create muscle shapes, but you can also do it manually like I did in the above pictures (Out of a nurbs sphere). The spline deformer seems to deform more naturally than stretch, although stretch is technically simpler and can be made to look better with some minor tweaking.
I wanted to take what I learned a little further and try using the muscle system in a situation that I’ll be running in to soon: Adding muscle to a leg. Here is a leg from a base mesh for my character that I’ve been working on:
I began by adding a normal/classical bone structure for the leg and then converting it to Maya muscle/bones. I then created a muscle shape (Out of a nurbs sphere, similar to the examples above) and put it inside the thigh. I added some parent constrants to the muscle shapes so it would deform with the movement of the joints.
At this point, it is still like classical bones in the sense that it needs to be bound to the mesh. After a lot of tweaking and processes that would be a little too wordy for a blog post, I bound the muscle system to the leg mesh and did weight painting, both for the actual joints in the leg and for the muscle shape’s control over the leg’s deformation.
After a lot more weight painting to get it just right, I then had a leg that had some decent looking muscle deformation! The images below are animated, check them out:
In this example, the effect is quite subtle. Obviously it can be made more apparent with a few parameter adjustments or the addition of more muscles, but I think I’m off to a really good start in making a character with a cool muscle system! Unfortunately, it seems like this process might take a while longer than doing the usual rigging/skinning. We’ll see….
Also, WordPress makes it impossible to properly align and place images.