What the heck is HIK anyway?

By - - Maya , MotionBuilder
46 mins
Last modification: 16 Sep, 2017

UPDATE:  Breaking news :) As of Maya 2012 FBIK will be officially retired. All of the keyframing functionality that worked with FBIK has been integrated into the HIK rig.  So the marking menus for setting key and pose modes, as well as the key/curve filtering in the graphEditor and timeline now work with HIK.

Additionally, going forward HIK will be unified between Maya, MotionBuilder and HIK middleware. The same solver and the same UI are used for both in the 2012 releases.

So everything in this post below refers to pre-2012 releases.


Most of you by now have probably heard of HIK.  But what is HIK exactly?   Frankly, there has been quite a bit of confusion about this because there are actually a few different incarnations out there.  So I figured I'd take a stab at trying to clear things up (as best as they can be cleared up anway).  Ugh... do I really want to open up this can of worms?  OK, what the heck :)

So, in general, when people are talking about HIK they are referrring to a character rigging and animation system.  But... there are actually four implementations (or you might even say versions) of HIK out there.  This can be very confusing to say the least.  It all breaks down as follows...

1. There is the original implementation of HIK (aka FBIK) that exists in MotionBuilder.  This is the core character rigging and animation system inside of MotionBuilder.  It can be used for hand animation (i.e. keyframing), mocap editing, retargeting, clip creation, non-linear animation editing and any number of other things that you can do within MotionBuilder.

2. There is something call FBIK in Maya which is based on HIK. This was the first incarnation of the MotionBuilder rig in Maya. It has been around since version 7.0.  It is essentially an automated full body IK/FK rigging and animation system for characters.  It does not have any associated retargetting or non-linear editing capabilites, and is primarily used for key frame animation.  Here is a demo that I did a while back which shows the basic key framing workflow for the FBIK rig in Maya...

(Quick credit: Thanks to Insomniac studios for the character from the game Resistance: Fall of Man)

It is also interchangable (via FBX) with the rig in MBr and can be transferred back and forth between Maya and MBr.  I did a blog post on this topic last year which you can check out here in you're interested  ->  FBIK interop

Then, to give you an idea of the kinds of things that you can do with the rig in MotionBuilder that you can not do with the rig in Maya, here is a quick demo that I put together of the Story tool in MotionBuilder.  Again this is just one example.


(Quick credit:  Thanks to HighMoon studios for the character from the game DarkWatch)

3. There is the new HIK rig in Maya 2011 which has only been available for a few months. It is intended for retargeting purposes and currently does not replace the keyframing (hand animation) functionality that you have with FBIK in Maya... although as with any feature it will evolve over time.  FBIK and HIK currently co-exist in Maya.  Additionally... HIK in Maya is not intended to replace MotionBuilder...  anyone that is doing large amounts of retargetting and/or mocap editing, or anyone that needs to do non-linear clip editing will still want to use MotionBuilder for these and a variety of other reasons.  However HIK in Maya does provide an option for users who need to do some basic retargetting and don't want to leave Maya.  Here is a general overview of HIK in Maya.

4. There is the middleware component of HIK which has an associated plugin for Maya. This is independent of the standard Maya feature set and is not the same as the HIK retargetting system that is shown above.  HumanIK middleware has become quite popular in the games industry and has been used on a wide array of titles including Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed and the upcoming EA title MMA .  Check out this movie to get an overview of what it is and how it can be used on the engine side

As I mentioned there is a Maya authoring component to this, as well as integration with Unreal.  You can see these in action in a demo from -> GDC

So there you have it... clear as mud right?  Well hopefully it's at least a little less murky than it was before :)

Now, if you've made it this far then you will likely be interested in checking out an upcoming webinar on HumanIK.  At 10 am PST on September 9th Autodesk is sponsoring a webcast with Gamasutra focused on Middleware. Here is a description of the session:

Autodesk and EA Sports present the Game Developer Webcast, featuring a discussion with Simon Sherr, Animation Director for Electronic Arts Tiburon, moderated by Mary Beth Haggarty.

EA Sports MMA heavily leveraged Autodesk® HumanIK® in their production of complex character interaction. In this session we discuss implementation of Human IK features for EA’s Mixed Martial Arts fighting game including: dynamic Footplanting, Non-Uniform Player Scaling, Interaction-based player scale compensation, and partial body “Relative IK” interactions.

Register for the webcast here ->   www.autodesk.com/gamasutrawebcast

Note:  There will also be second Middleware webcast on September 29 featuring Kynapse and Beast.  I will post details for this when they become available.

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| 8 years ago
LSchock - thanks for the feedback. you are right in that not everything has been ported... the "sticky handles" would be nice but are not in Maya yet.
| 8 years ago
blade33ru - I prefer to animate hands with a set driven key or a pose workflow that is independent from HIK. You do not have to use the finger effectors that are part of HIK as they can be very hard to work with.
| 8 years ago
Thanks a lot for your reply!
| 8 years ago
@ADL3: in Motionbuilder I would know how to do it, but I don't think they've ported all goodies from Motionbuilder over, but you can try: in general there are two ways - you can add auxPivots to the AnkleEffector and place them onto the heel, ball. Then add another to the FootEffector and place it to the toe - but this way you always need to watch out which effector is turned on and which reach-settings you have. The slicker way to do it is using Motionbuilder's sticky handles (which they probably haven't ported into Maya yet, but you might be able to do the same thing in Maya a bit differently): you add a dummy object to the heel, ball and toe tip. Then you add sticky-handles to these dummies. In the handle settings, set them to manipulate around handle and in the manipulate-object field add: on the toe: AnkleEffector + FootEffector (Ball) on the ball: Ankle Effector (while setting the Pinning in the FootEffector to TR so the toes stay in place when you turn the ball dummy) on the heel: same as on the ball --- it depends on your workflow - if you want perfect control in the Graph Editor you might want to use effectors, because then e.g. you can say the heel is the active driving Effector and your inbetween will be interpolated between keys on the heel e.g. to stay on the spot and really rotate around the heel - the disadvantage is that you need to make sure you have turned off the reach on the other effectors and that you have linear or stepped tangents on the reach, etc... I started with above method, having perfect Graphs, but now I just do pose to pose and fix the foot jitter frame by frame - it's faster this way for me. probably best is to use a combination - e.g. you could use AuxEffectors on heel and ball and sticky handle on the toe.... good luck :) if you figure out how to do this with Maya handles please post it here - thanks :)
Edited by hi57l1lU 8 years ago
| 8 years ago
HI! The Great post ever! I have a little problem: i try to add a footrool setup to HumanIK skeleton but with bad results...does anyone know the exact procedure? Thanks!!!
| 8 years ago
great vids...im interested Steve, what is the process for hand animation or hand poses in fbik or HIK...im still using 2009 and have been using set driven keys on the fk skeleton which seems proabbly a bad idea, but i tend to get weird behaviour when i ´solve fingers´...is there a preferrd workflow for creatin and reusing hand poses? could i trigger TRAX hand poses from set drivern key maybe?
| 9 years ago
Hi Steven! yes, I saw the GDC demos. Can't wait for the 1 click interopt with HIK rig. I'm using mo-cap with motionbuilder at the momment and with 2011 the HIK rig looses its functionality when I import back to maya from MB. Thanks for getting back to me :) 2012 releases ftw.
| 9 years ago
vfxforge - honestly FBIK was never really designed to work with anim layers :( Aside from that... the news that I was referring to in an earlier comment is out now. As of Maya 2012 FBIK will be officially retired. All of the keyframing functionality that worked with FBIK has been integrated into the HIK rig. So the marking menus for setting key and pose modes, as well as the key/curve filtering in the graphEditor and timeline now work with HIK. Going forward HIK will be unified between Maya and MotionBuilder. The same solver and the same UI are used for both in the 2012 releases. This is true with middleware as well in terms of the solvers. So everything in this post refers to pre-2012 releases.
Edited by XRJvVZHQ 9 years ago
| 9 years ago
The problem I am having when adding the effectors to a new overide animation layer is my main skeleton doesnt seem to follow the FBIK skeleton.
| 9 years ago
Hi Steven, sorry to bother you but I'm having problems with using fbik with animation layers. What nodes specifically should I be adding to a animation layer ( overide ) ?
| 9 years ago
Looks like Santa is coming to town! can't wait to see what you guys come up with.
| 9 years ago
Hi Steven, awesome, thanks :D Looking forward to the GDC2011 lectures and announcements. Cheers, Leander.
| 9 years ago
Hi LSchock - Stay tuned... I will have a lot more to say about this in a few days.
| 9 years ago
Hi, thanks for the greeat demo videos. I've been using Maya, HIK and Motionbuilder and here some questions about the MB workflow within Maya 2011: Does the new HIK (or even fbik) have the abilty to plot forth and back between skeleton (the bones which are skinned) and FK/IK-rig (as in MB - because this is the best way to align different IK Pivots to what the actual animation on the skeleton is doing), or would I need to make my own script? What can FBIK do which HIK can't in Maya, meaning why would I ever want to even use fbik again - the HIK looks much more excactly like MB and therefore better? If you are allowed to say - Is the strategy to morph MB into Maya completely? Thasnks, Leander.
| 9 years ago
Sorry for the late reply, I use abAutoRig its free and extremely customisable http://www.supercrumbly.com/archives.php?sid=173 it offers a modular approach and provides seamless IK / FK switching via embedded Mel. Highly recommended for those on a budget (free) On another topic, I've just recently begun to study the use of mo-cap (vicon) , MotionBuilder and how to use these tools in a Maya Pipeline, will be watching through these videos again. Could you put the link up for the webcast you mentioned with 'Kynapse and Beast' ? Thank you so much for these
| 9 years ago
Thanks for following up steve! We mostly use the setup machine here, along with implementing the animation friendly rigging type of personal workflow. Other than that, I've looked at "advanced rig, "zootoolbox" and "autorig", but the one which seemed the easiest to use and modular was the setup-machine. Oh, this one looks really amazing... http://vimeo.com/13505144 -a autorig link http://www.creativecrash.com/maya/downloads/scripts-plugins/character/c/abautorig/description#tabs zootoolbox link http://code.google.com/p/zootoolbox/
| 9 years ago
For the record I agree with you guys about this. Just out of curiosity... other than SetupMachine which scripts and plugins have you guys used (and do you like) for modular rigging?
| 9 years ago
@andyfedak I agree with you, if Autodesk included a rigging wizard it would definitely attract more users and put it on top of its game in Animation platforms. There are plenty of scripts and plugins out there, but I would really like to see one been acquired & developed by Autodesk.
| 9 years ago
The HIK, FBIK and other options are great, but I've got to be honest, it would be really nice to have a rigging option which allows for more non-human objects, along with non-uniform deformations. Something like the setup-machine, or other modular methods which don't lock us in to a particular character. I mean what's a character if it doesn't have an arm coming out of it's head?
| 9 years ago
Great post Steven, I am glad you did it as it was long overdue:)
| 9 years ago
hmm I didnt know about the FBIK rig in maya. sweet!
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