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The Highway Rat and mGear


Hi. Marthinus, Character supervisor from Triggerfish here. I wanted to show the trailer of our film and briefly mention how mGear helped us get through animation.

We started on The Highway Rat with pretty much no rigging infrastructure coming over from the defunct Softimage. Because of the previous project’s schedule colliding with Highway Rat, we had little to no research and development time. Thankfully I stumbled onto mGear which was freshly compiled for Maya 2017. We adopted it and in a short space of time, we had our character pipeline up and running.

The Highway Rat was a complicated show to rig on because the characters had layers of clothing and lots of accessories. There was also a lot of displaced sculpted fur detail that was keeping us up at night not sure how it will hold up with the deformations.

What made it even more complicated is that the rigging schedule eventually collided with animation, so we were rigging and iterating rigs as people were animating and it became a perilous process of not changing things in a way that would break animation. The non-hierarchical approach of mGear where animation controllers are separate from deformers, allows you to change the underlying structure to a large degree without affecting the transforms where the keyframe data lives. In my opinion, this is a good way to rig, keeping parts of your rig in separate structures depending on the purpose instead of a tall hierarchy with everything in it.

The rat’s collar made use of the mGear rope system as a foundation on which we build the rigs functionality. Highway rat’s accessories created a lot of work in animation and mGear provided us with ways to build solutions for the animators under intense deadlines. The rat’s cape and feather had the mGear spring chain running on it and it saved us a lot of time.

The horse had a complicated setup and we combined mGear with our own specific rig parts using the post-script function that would execute at the end of the mGear build process.

I really think that if we didn’t have mGear we’d be in a lot of trouble process-wise. Automating the rigging process allows for consistency and helps remove human error. Getting Riggers to follow the same naming convention and way of setting things up isn’t always easy since everyone has their own way of doing things. mGear gave us a unified workflow.

This, in turn, made creating animation interfaces standardised. All the rigs were different but built with the same approach to structure, naming and attributes. It really showed when we built our own custom rig parts outside of the shifter framework. At the time we didn’t know how to make custom components that would work with the guide system and had to make use of post-scripts. We rigged under pressure and inconsistencies slipped in and made me appreciate the power of modular auto-rigging to unify the rigging methodology of the team.

Future plans would be to help expand the shifter component library as we build our own spines and limbs.


Woah! Mega post! Thank you so much for sharing your work here and the long “making of” post!!

and looking forward to check your components :wink:

Thanks again!


wow, very nice work…
this is the favorite book of my 2 year old son, and i have to read it every 2nd evening for him…

The Soulcage Department