A) GEOMETRY #1: CHARACTER POSE:
Mesh should stand upright with all parts spread to prevent skinning envelopes from grabbing the wrong parts: Arms out in T-pose with palms down, fingers somewhat spread, feet planted outward (so they are below the shoulders). Elements like tails, ponytail hair, or wings that will get their own rigging should stick straight out the back (wings can be at 45 degree angles).
B) GEOMETRY #2: MODEL STRUCTURE
Make sure all joints and the face have good Edge Loops, Quads, and Evenly Distributed Tessellation. If you intend Morpher facial animation, detach the head from the body: choose a natural place to hide the seam, like a collar, and extrude the head part (usually the neck) down to overlap the body geometry (usually the shirt collar) so any uneven skinning later will be less likely to show a gap.
Name the model parts, so that each part starts with a character name for clarity. For example, if the character has a separate head and body, as well as eye-spheres, and was named Brutus, use something like these names: brutus_body, brutus_head, brutus_eyeL, brutus_eyeR.
Open the Layer Manager and create a new layer. Name it "mesh," put the character into it, and move the checkmark back up to "0 Default" so the next things you create will appear in the original layer.
D) SCALING BEFORE RIGGING:
Size the mesh. If a scene or biped animation is already prepared, scale to fit that setting. Otherwise, treat the perspective grid as if it were a approximately a 20'x20' floor and size the character accordingly. Rotate the character to face the front view.
Apply Reset XForm and Right-click/Convert to Editable Poly to bake in these settings.
NOTE: Finished/rigged characters are painfully difficult to resize. Get the size correct before rigging!
E) POSITION IN SCENE:
Move the character so that:
If feet are too forward or back, the model is "unbalanced" and harder to rig.
- The feet are on the "ground" plane (0,0).
- The center line is on the front view Z-line.
- The side view Z-line matches up with the center of the torso side, the center of the shoulder, and the feet ankles.
F) MAKE TRANSPARENT AND FREEZE:
Hit [Alt]+[x] with the character selected to set it transparent. Set the "mesh" layer to frozen. This will make it easier to manage the biped skeleton setup inside the mesh.