What is a Rigger? Everything You Need To Know

A rigger works with a stage performance of ropes, booms, lifts, and hoists, among other things, in a stage performance, film, or television program.

The term was initially used for a person who looked after a sailing ship’s rigging. Trading followed seasonal patterns throughout the age of sail, with ships departing from the port at specific periods of the year taking advantage of the winds. When they were not at sea, seamen looked for work on the land. Their expertise with ropes and booms was put to good use in the theater.

The original canvas backdrops of the theater were manipulated by ropes and pulleys, which were derived from sail-making skills. Modern fly systems arose from these foundations. British theaters have a reputation for never whistling on stage because the riggers used the exact whistled directions on stage as they did aboard ships. The riggers could interpret a misplaced whistle as a command to adjust the settings.

Just as stage players changed their techniques to the new medium, so did those behind the scenes. In addition, the new environment’s complexity has opened doors for new job profiles, such as those in the film industry who rig scaffolding for film sets and camera rigs; they are also known as standby riggers if they are always on-site and ‘on-call.’

Career of a Rigger

Definition of a Rigger

Onset, a Rigger is in charge of assembling and disassembling equipment such as scaffolding, cables, and ropes. In this article, we will go through the responsibilities of a Rigger and the abilities you will need to work as one.

Riggers collaborate with various departments in film, television, and commercial productions, including SFX and stunts. They will collaborate with these departments to create rigging that meets the production’s needs. This frequently necessitates the creation of custom structures based on lighting schemes and other considerations.

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Wire Rigger

A wire rigger is a special effects/stunts film crew member who “flies” performers in the theater and film industries. They rig specific harnesses to attached wires, which are then routed via a series of “blocks” (pulleys) to a control area, where a wire rigger elevates, lowers, or traverses an actor wearing the harness. Wire riggers also set up rails and a “skate” with the wire-connected moves. This strategy is used in many plays and feature films (e.g., Peter Pan, Harry Potter, and Superman).

Wire Riggers in Film Industry

Riggers in Animation Industry

Riggers produce 3D computer-generated (CG) characters’ digital skeletons. These skeletons, also known as rigs, are puppets that describe a character’s or creature’s movements, such as how a big cat runs, how a person’s face and mouth move when singing, or how someone raises an eyebrow. Animators use them as the foundation for their character’s movements.

Riggers begin with 3D models in a static stance, which the modelers have developed. They then construct the character’s mobility network. Finally, they develop rigs for the mouth, tongue, eyes, ears, arms, and belly and how these components move together for a singing character.

Animators evaluate rigs and then comment on riggers who fix or improve them as needed. The procedure will be repeated until the riggers and animators are satisfied with the rigged models (the 3D puppets).

Riggers are most commonly associated with characters, but they can also construct rigs for any object that moves in an animation. They can work as freelancers or as employees of an animation firm.

Skills Required to Become a Rigger in Animation

Knowledge about Animation

Grasp the fundamentals of animation, anatomy, physics, and how objects move.


Be able to draw and have an excellent aesthetic and form sense.


Identify solutions to animators’ problems, and learn new techniques to enhance your rigs regularly.


Collaborate with other parts of the 3D animation pipeline, particularly modelers and animators, to make the most of each other’s resources and to work more efficiently.

Knowledge of 3D animation Software

Be comfortable with Adobe After Effects, Blender, Cinema 4D, Maya, MotionBuilder, RenderMan, XSI, ZBrush, and 3ds Max.


Use coding languages such as Python to automate the rigging process.


Creating a character’s skeleton is a time-consuming and challenging process involving trial and error.

Knowledge of Human Anatomy

Riggers must understand how the human body moves and why it does so, especially when working with real-like characters.

An Example of the Rigger in the Animation Industry

Equipment Needed to Become a Rigger in the Animation Industry

Of course, Riggers require access to a computer to perform their duties. The more realism the figure they’re dealing with has, the more computing power these machines will require. A Linux PC is the industry standard for riggers working on TV shows and movies; a Windows PC is the most prevalent tool for video games.

Autodesk Maya, a modeling and animation software, is the most popular tool among riggers. It’s a premium program, but if you’re just getting started in the realm of rigging, don’t worry: there’s a free student edition you can use to get started.

How to Be a Rigger in the Animation Industry?

The most popular path is to study animation first, understand the entire creative and technical process involved in character creation, and then specialize in the rigging.

Rigging is a career that has developed in the animation and special effects industries, with the most relevant schools.

Skills, Qualifications, and Training Requiring for Rigger Jobs

Riggers need an accredited qualification, such as the JIGS Advanced Rigging/Scaffolding qualifications or NVQs/ SVQs, followed by at least two or three years of experience and training with a good scaffolding firm.

JIGS has different competency ratings; you must have a basic or advanced scaffolding ticket and two years of experience to join the scheme. You find the following job titles to classify riggers:

  • Trainee, Basic or Advanced Riggers
  • Standby Riggers
  • Electrical Riggers
  • Flying Riggers
  • Special Effect Riggers

Although no special degree is necessary for the position of rigger, experience in architecture, production design, mechanics, lighting, and engineering is advantageous.

Working Hours and Salary of a Rigger

A rigger’s pay varies depending on their level of experience and region. According to BECTU, an Advanced Rigger can earn up to $520 for a ten-hour day, a Master Rigger (supervisor) can earn up to $650, and a Wire Supervisor can make up to $870.

Many riggers will be freelancers, although some permanent positions are available in theatres and locations with consistent production schedules.

You can advance from being a general rigger to a Chargehand Rigger, where you will manage a small team, to a Supervising Rigger, supervising many teams. Finally, you become a Head of Rigging or HoD Rigger, overseeing the entire rigging operation for a production.

This is a physically strenuous job that requires stamina, coordination, and operating at heights. You must also be willing to work for long hours, often unsociable hours. Adrenaline enthusiasts will love this role.


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Due to the job’s ‘high risk’ nature, you will be under a lot of stress as a rigger. It needs good attention to detail and a lot of responsibility. This is mainly owing to the danger it poses to your safety and well-being if your harness is improperly suited or the equipment you have set up is unsafe. You are also in control of the cast and crew, so you will have to be capable of keeping the set safe. Take risk assessments frequently to improve your production. You will also report to a Chargehand, Supervising, or HOD Riggers and receive instructions from them.