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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Computer Science

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Evangelos Kalogerakis

Subject Categories

Other Computer Engineering


With the emergence of 3D virtual worlds, 3D social media, and massive online games, the need for diverse, high-quality, animation-ready characters and avatars is greater than ever. To animate characters, artists hand-craft articulation structures, such as animation skeletons and part deformers, which require significant amount of manual and laborious interaction with 2D/3D modeling interfaces. This thesis presents deep learning methods that are able to significantly automate the process of character rigging.

First, the thesis introduces RigNet, a method capable of predicting an animation skeleton for an input static 3D shape in the form of a polygon mesh. The predicted skeletons match the animator expectations in joint placement and topology. RigNet also estimates surface skin weights which determine how the mesh is animated given the different skeletal poses. In contrast to prior work that fits pre-defined skeletal templates with hand-tuned objectives, RigNet is able to automatically rig diverse characters, such as humanoids, quadrupeds, toys, birds, with varying articulation structure and geometry. RigNet is based on a deep neural architecture that directly operates on the mesh representation. The architecture is trained on a diverse dataset of rigged models that we mined online and curated. The dataset includes 2.7K polygon meshes, along with their associated skeletons and corresponding skin weights.

Second, the thesis introduces Morig, a method that automatically rigs character meshes driven by single-view point cloud streams capturing the motion of performing characters. Compared to RigNet, MoRig's rigging is \emph{motion-aware}: its neural network encodes motion cues from the point clouds into compact feature representations that are informative about the articulated parts of the performing character. These motion-aware features guide the inference of an appropriate skeletal rig for the input mesh. Furthermore, Morig is able to animate the rig according to the captured point cloud motion. Morig can handle diverse characters with different morphologies (e.g., humanoids, quadrupeds, toy characters). It also accounts for occluded regions in the point clouds and mismatches in the part proportions between the input mesh and captured character.

Third, the thesis introduces APES, a method that takes as input 2D raster images depicting a small set of poses of a character shown in a sprite sheet, and identifies articulated parts useful for rigging the character. APES uses a combination of neural network inference and integer linear programming to identify a compact set of articulated body parts, e.g. head, torso and limbs, that best reconstruct the input poses. Compared to Morig and RigNet that require a large collection of training models with associated skeletons and skinning weights, APES' neural architecture relies on less effortful supervision from (i) pixel correspondences readily available in existing large cartoon image datasets (e.g., Creative Flow), (ii) a relatively small dataset of 57 cartoon characters segmented into moving parts.

Finally, the thesis discusses future research directions related to combining neural rigging with 3D and 4D reconstruction of characters from point cloud data and 2D video as well as automating the process of motion synthesis for 3D characters.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.