Installation

a. Requirement
- Maya 2011 or above
- Visual Studio 2010 (only if you need to rebuilld the solvers)
- PyQt and Qt Designer (only if you want to edit the synoptic view)

b. Do you have everything ?
Inside the mgear_beta1.zip archive you should 3 folders :
- plugins : The .mll compiled Maya Nodes (only available for windows 32 and 64) and the Python equivalents
- pythonlibs : The python libraries
- samples : The scene samples
- sources : The source of the the .mll

c. Installing the plugins
Inside the plugin folder there is two more folders
- mll
- python

It is because there is two versions of the nodes available one in Python and one in C++.
Those are the same nodes and you should NOT install both !

So how to choose your version ?
Well, unfortunately the C++ version is only available for win 32bits and 64bits (thanks to Cosku Ozdemir for the 64bits version). If you're a linux or a mac user, you can either compiled it yourself (sources are included) or use the Python version.
The C++ version is MUCH FASTER than the Python one. I only used the Python version for prototyping the solvers before translating them to C++. If you were to write your own node one day, I strongly recommand to write them in C++. There is no comparaison in term of performance.

On my poor laptop, the rig with Python solvers was running at 12fps when I was easily reaching 50fps with the C++ version.

So, to install the plugins just copy the content of the mll folder OR the python folder to your maya user script folder
ie on windows : C:\Users\YOUR_USER_NAME\Documents\maya\2011\scripts

d. Installing the Python libraries
You will need to install MGear’s Python libraries in order to be able to build rig or open the synoptic view.

There is many ways to do that but here is one that I think is the easiest. You add the path to your modules to the PYTHONPATH environment variable.

The following explanation is for Windows. I assume that Linux users have some sufficient technical knowledge to understand how to install Python Libraries.
On Windows, go the the System Properties panel, click the Environment Variables button and add to the variable PYTHONPATH (or create it if it doesn't exist yet), the path to the modules folder. Use semicolon ';' to separate the different paths if you have more than one.

Sometimes changing an environment variable might require to reboot your machine.

Then start Maya and type in a Python tab of the script editor the following code :

If you got no error and the log is showing the version of gear. You're good to go !

 

Opening the scene samples and building the rig

Inside the bungeMan_001.ma scene you should find 3 groups.
- bungeeMan_geo : obviously the character geometry
- bungeeMan_guide : The rig guide, useful to build another biped rig
- bungeeMan : The resulting rig

To build the rig again, just select the guide and run the code :

To open the synoptic view :

For those interested here is the Softimage scene with the same character. (of course you need to install Gear to open it)

 

Gear vs MGear

I didn't have time yet to create tutorial videos about MGear but because it's using the same algorithm as Gear you can have a look at the videos I did for the Softimage version. I would recommand watching the 'Gear quick overview' and 'Biped rig feature' videos.

Just a quick review of the difference between the two systems :

- Gear is not only a a rigging system but many tools to ease the rigging and animation process.
- MGear is just a rigging system with a synoptic view.

- Gear is based on open source rig solvers.
- MGear too ! but I only translated the solvers needed in the biped rig right now :)

- Gear is modular and you can build any type of character with it.
- MGear is modular too, except that I haven't implemented the tools to create new guide and connect modules together... so right now you can either do it manually (painfull and open to a lot of mistakes) or only build biped.

- Gear has rig components to build dog leg, fake dynamic chain and much more ...
- MGear only got the component used a the biped rig.

- Gear can reapply envelope (aka skinCluster) saved as xml.
- MGear cannot but I did some script to save the skinCluster weight values to xml. Not yet available though.

- Gear is production ready and has been tested and used by animators and riggers around the world.
- MGear is still in development and I don't recommend using it for professional work yet.

In term of performance, I haven't done so much testing and I have to admit I didn't take the time to properly optimize Gear in the first place. So I'm pretty sure we can get better and more accurate result but just for your notice :
The same biped rig in Softimage runs at 20fps when it easily reach 50fps in Maya. I'm not so happy with that but yes, Maya is clearly faster than Softimage with this rig. :-)

 

Aknowledgement

Many thanks to the people from TeamTo who let me work amoung them, use their computers and ask stupid questions. Special thanks to Caroline Souris, Guillaume Hellouin, Laurence, Julien and Christophe.