Interview with

Tommaso Sanguigni Animation TD

Hello Tommaso and welcome in our community

Thank you a lot 🙂

1.  Tell us a little about you

I am passionate about visual and 3D arts with a natural inclination to mathematics and programming. I am lucky to live my passions working in the videogames industry.

2. Currently you are working at Ubisoft, one of the most famous game houses in the world. What is your main role?

I joined Ubisoft Milano when the Mario + Rabbids project was in its infancy.
I started as a Senior Rigger but slowly I went to work more and more on the development of the animation pipeline and more generally on technical management: rigging, pipeline development, problem solving (performance, development / optimization shaders) and leading of the various TD in Milan.
Formally I am therefore an Animation Technical Director.

Tommaso Sanguigni


3. Tell us about the Rigging process

Basicly rigging is the process that transforms a static mesh created by a modeler into something animatable for an animator, a sort of virtual character puppet of our character.
Actually a rig can be implemented not only for virtual characters, but also for creatures, vehicles, prop, light setup, vfx setup … everything that needs an interface of controls that allows animators to easily animate complex objects.
In general, a rig can be divided into two parts: a control rig, which establishes the interface in order to interact with the rig and the relations between the various components and a deformation rig consisting of a set of deformers (ex. virtual bones) that deform the geometry.

4. Rigging is a fundamental part of the animation, how do the two departments relate?

The animation department is the ‘customer’ of the rigging department – for example, in the case of a character, together with the animators discussing the actuation required for it (what actions should be performed, like facial expressions) and from there controls the rig will have to implement.
Having a constant dialogue between the two departments during the development of a rig is essential in order to have a great result.

5. Are there differences in doing Rigging for an advertisement, a movie or a video game?

The control rig, or the interface that uses the animator to interact with the character does not change much between the two domains. On the other hand, there are important differences in deformation rigs.
In the case of rigs for post production (feature film, tv commercials) we know that our finished product is a rendered frame: once the animation process is over the deformed mesh is saved in a cache and sent to the rendering. Once the cache is finished, the rig can in fact be removed from our scene. In addition, the deformation can be made in any way (for the most technical: joints, muscle systems, non-linear deformers, corrective poses, poses deformers ..) since in rendering we will still have a cache of the already deformed geometry.
In realtime it is different: the character’s mesh along with the deformation rig (the virtual skeleton) is the finished product. For example, when a character has to walk, the animation clip rotates and translates our virtual bones in real time.
Also for performance reasons a realtime engine implements a very limited set of deformers (in 1/30 of a second the game engine must read the player’s input, his state, apply the game logic, draw the character, the environment, audio and much more).
So, while a post rig allows you to make very complex deformations to achieve the highest quality in the deformation, in realtime rig the priority goes to the performance: if a certain console has a maximum budget of usable virtual bones you must ensure that the deformation functions with that number of bones.

In the last years the two worlds are converging more and more (fortunately!): many vfx pipelines are migrating on realtime rendering to reduce time and costs, while the quality required in the videogame world rises more and more to the point of being almost indistinguishable from rendering offline.

6.  Let’s talk about the creative process of a Rigger.

The work of a rigger is to make sure that the rig is able to achieve the required artistic performances in terms of deformations (for example facial expressions), which is intuitive to use for an animator. There are actually also more technical constraints, such as being solid and performing.

7.  What is the fundamental studies to become a Rigger?

Although my background of studies is strongly oriented to software development (computer engineering, specialization in computer networks), the passion for 3D has followed me at every step during this journey. After years divided between 3D disciplines (animation, rigging and modeling) and software development (web and mobile).