How VTuber Rigging Is Done: The Ultimate Guide
The word “rigging” strikes fear into the hearts of anyone looking to become a VTuber. Those who are techy or familiar with animation will already know how complicated, fiddly and bewildering rigging can be. But it can be even more daunting for those without any experience.
Fortunately, some really clever people have developed various software over the years that can make this process a lot easier. We’re not saying that it’ll be a walk in the park. However, with our help and a little perseverance, you will be able to rig your VTuber avatar and create fluid motion for your stream!
What Is VTuber Rigging?
Rigging is the process of defining the movements that your VTuber avatar can perform. Although motion capture software takes care of most of this… to create realistic and fluid motion; joints, bones and physics must be applied to your avatar. The bones usually follow a standard humanoid skeletal structure but there are things such as furry avatars which require rigging on tails and ears. Because of this reason, non-humanoid rigs often require much more work and experience with the software as you will need to animate various different appendages.
Rigging is also responsible for defining VTuber expressions. The process is known as blendshapes and is notoriously tricky to master. It relies on deforming structures on the face of your avatar to create various different facial expressions. Your job of course will be dictating the level and direction of deformation in order to turn that frown into a smile.
One of the most important features of rigging in the realm of VTubing is lip syncing. Riggers are required to create mouth shapes consistent with the movements of saying vowels. The more accurately this is done the better lip syncing can be performed by the motion capture software.
Now, of course, rigging is a skill that talented animators practice a lot so don’t be too hard on yourself if this is your first attempt. We’re hoping to make this process a little less painful in this guide.
So, let’s get started!
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How To Rig 2D VTubers
Rigging VTubers is highly dependent on the type of avatar that you have. Depending on whether your avatar is 2D or 3D will determine the type of software that you use. The process for rigging 2D is thankfully more simple than 3D as you are only confined to movements on a two-dimensional plane. You can still get some rotation of the head and body but it is quite restricted.
Acquire A 2D Avatar For Rigging
In order to rig our avatar, we’ll need to get our hands on a VTuber avatar first. In the past, we’ve gone into detail on how to make a VTuber avatar, for those that are interested in doing it all themselves. However, if you’re not that artsy and would rather someone else take care of this hassle there’s always the option to have a VTuber model commission. This is when professional artists create your avatar based on the details and description you send them. This has become an extremely popular option over the years with many artists advertising their services on Twitter, Etsy and Fiverr.
If your 2D avatar is designed correctly it will come split up into layers of each individual moving part. The reason the avatar has to be assembled in layers is it makes it easier for big movements rather than relying on warp animations and deformers. Getting this part right is crucial as it forms the base of how your avatar can move.
Cutting up your avatar can be done in the very same software you use to design it such as Adobe Photoshop, GIMP or Clip Studio Paint. Your finished avatar design will need to be in the form of a .PSD file to import it into the rigging software.
Install Live2D Cubism
Live2D Cubism is one of the most popular 2D animation software for VTubers and is going to be the focus of today. There are other 2D rigging software available but it makes sense to cover the most optimised and most used program for VTubers. The software comes with a free version that has all of the tools you’ll need to bring your avatar to life. Once you build a bit of confidence working with avatars you can choose to opt for the paid versions.
Parameters, Textures, Physics and Deformers
Before we jump right into the rigging we need to familiarise ourselves with a few concepts. The first of which are parameters. Parameters are the values that will be assigned to each body part to make them move. Warping, deforming and moving the body parts come from inputting values on various axis to manipulate them. These values will be added to a folder and labelled as the respective moving body part for simplicity.
Secondly, we have textures. Textures just refer to the layers that your avatar is broken up into. An example of some of the layers that you might want to consider are the Head, hair front, hair back, torso, arms, clothing, iris, eyeshine, eye whites, lashes and mouthparts. If you’re doing a full-body model then you’ll need to consider splitting up the hands, waist and legs.
When we talk about physics in terms of rigging we are referring to the realistic effects that are applied to a body part when in motion. You’ve probably seen lots of VTubers with hair that sways and a chest that jiggles and this is all due to the physics that have been applied to those specific textures. We mentioned that layering is so important as physics have to be applied to each body part respectively such as the hair, torso and clothes. The more layers that it is broken up into, the wider variety of physics and movements we can apply.
Finally, we have deformers. Deformers are used to mould the different shapes on the body of your avatar in order to create different movements and expressions. The benefit of deformers is that we do not need to design a million different layers and phases. Deformers help to seamlessly transition the expressions we have, between one another.
Rigging Your 2D VTuber
It’s wise to make a list of animations you’d like your avatar to have before starting, so you don’t get confused or flustered. Take a look at this tutorial below to see the steps on how to rig your 2D VTuber using Live2D Cubism –
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How To Rig 3D VTubers
Rigging a 3D VTuber avatar follows many similar concepts to rigging a 2D VTuber. However, it tends to be a little more complex based on the freedom of movement in three-dimensional space. A 3D avatar can essentially be made to mimic any human movement so long as they have been given the correct bones and parameters. As always, non-humanoid rigs will require a different skeletal structure and function differently from a standard humanoid rig. Hence, this will have to be a tutorial for another day.
But for now, let’s see how to rig our 3D avatars.
Get Ahold of A 3D Avatar
Luckily, those who intend on becoming 3D VTubers have a plethora of options when it comes to getting their hands on an avatar they like. Just like 2D avatars, artists will advertise commissioning services on various social media platforms and freelancing websites. This is always a great choice if you want to bring one of your original ideas to life.
Alternatively, you could take matters into your own hands and create a 3D avatar yourself. This will require some experience with 3D modelling software such as Blender or Maya by Autodesk. Blender is a free and comprehensive, open-source solution to 3D modelling and is certainly more beginner friendly.
There are massive similarities in making a 3D VTuber and VRChat avatar as they are both essentially rigged 3D models. The major difference is the polygon count as VRChat has restrictions for uploads over a certain limit. If you’re interested in making a 3D model on your own you can check out our guide on how to make a VRChat avatar.
If you still want to have an influence over what your avatar looks like without learning any 3D modelling, there are plenty of avatar maker websites that allow you to create a custom avatar without any 3D modelling experience. Sites such as Ready Player Me and Tafi allow you to create a 3D avatar with various different customisation parameters. They even have the option to create an avatar based on a photo of you if you’re feeling super lazy.
Finally, for 3D avatars, you could always opt to buy one. There are plenty of online 3D model marketplaces like Sketchfab, Artstation and DeviantArt where you can buy a premade 3D avatar for around $30 – $200 depending on what the artists have listed it for. Many of these come pre-rigged and animated meaning they’re ready to go straight away. Just be sure to check the description to see what permissions the artist gives you as you don’t want to be infringing on copyright.
The Unity Asset Store offers a wide range of highly detailed pre-rigged 3D models that don’t break the bank. As they are made by Unity they are completely compatible with Unity if you’d like to make some edits of your own. The only downside to using these is their lack of originality. Most of the characters are generic and widely available to the public so won’t make great VTuber models as these tend to be unique avatars. Although, many artists like to use these characters as a base to design their own 3D avatars.
Download Your Preferred Rigging Software
When it comes to rigging a 3D VTuber the end goal is to have smooth movement of all of the various limbs in focus. But achieving this can look different depending on the rigging software that you choose. By far the three most common rigging software are Unity, which is a free rigging and animations software that also happens to be the same engine used to create the game VRChat. Unreal Engine, which is a free-to-use rigging and design software used to make various maps and video game characters. And finally, we have Blender which we mentioned earlier with regards to 3D modelling.
Rigging Your 3D Avatar
Once you have decided on which software you’d like to use to rig your VTuber it’s time to import it. Your 3D avatar should be in the form of a .FBX file which is the main file type used to exchange 3D geometry and animation data. Once imported you’re going to need to think about what bones you’d like to incorporate in relation to how you’d like your avatar to move.
Take a look at these tutorials below to help you with setting up your rig:
What Motion Capture Software Do I Use?
If you’re having trouble with your rigging and animation try not to beat yourself up about it. Glitches and jittery movement can also be the fault of the motion capture software the VTuber is using. Selecting the right motion capture software for your needs is vital in how your avatar will operate. Some software are more fine-tuned for full body and limb tracking while others pick up facial details and lip syncing better. Of course, there are also tracking software that are better for 3D motion capture versus 2D motion capture.
Here is a quick list of motion capture software you have at your disposal when deciding to become a VTuber:
Ready Player Me Avatars In VRChatPopular VTuber Agencies: Nijisanji, VShojo, Hololive, Prism Project and Tsunderia
What Else Can I Use My 3D Avatar For?
Unlike 2D VTuber models, the applications of a 3D avatar go beyond just VTubing. There are various games such as VRChat that allow you to edit, import and play as your existing avatar. Hence it’s not uncommon for VTubers to acquire a VRChat avatar commission in order to make interesting content within these games.
Furthermore, with the Metaverse revolution on the horizon, many people are investing in avatars to create their cyberspace identity. Many people who aren’t VTubers want to create and patent their own avatars in the form of NFTs to make their very own, one-of-a-kind, internet-self.
The First Male VTuber Baacharu
How Much Does It Cost To Rig A VTuber?
Many of you might be thinking “I don’t know how to become a VTuber because I cannot rig” But there’s no need to panic! Rigging and animation are specialist skills so it’s not uncommon to find artists who specialise in these services. You can find freelance animators who will rig your VTuber avatars whether they’re 2D or 3D and provide any of the toggle animations that you have in mind.
The average cost of a VTuber rigging service is around $100 – $250 depending on a few different factors. Is your model 2D or 3D? Do you require full-body rigging? Do you need lip-syncing and toggle animations? Incorporation of physics?
It’s obviously best to reach out to the artist to discuss the details of your commission to get an accurate quote.
Popular Hololive VTubers
Where To Go After My VTuber Is Rigged?
After you’ve finally completed the long-winded and complicated rigging and animation process, you’re ready to load up your stream. If you haven’t already got this sorted you’ll need to set up your streaming software. Streamlabs and OBS Studio are the two most common streaming software and are typically compatible with most VTuber software.
Streamlabs and OBS are both free to use and have little bearing on the quality of your stream; it’s simply down to personal preference. Simply set up a capture window of your VTuber software and adjust the overlays to your liking and BAM! You’re now officially a VTuber.
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