Character Animation, Motion Studio, Keyframes, and Ragdoll effects

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Character Animation, Motion Studio, Keyframes, and Ragdoll effects // SDK, Plug-in & 3rd Party Area

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Post by RonHiler // Mar 3, 2009, 11:25am

RonHiler
Total Posts: 30
Long title for the post, I know :)


I have a whole laundry list of questions and concerns, so bear with me...


I've reached the point on the milestone list that I need to think about our pipeline from tools->engine->game for characters and the animations they will need.


I looked around, and I really like the workflow of Motion Studio. I'm pretty sure I want to use that plugin for doing our animations, at least for creating the poses (keyframes). I've been reading through the tutorials and watching the videos (not quite through those yet), and I'm really impressed. It looks like a great package.


However, we need two types of animation, the standard keyframe stuff, but also ragdoll animation (we'll be using ragdoll states for death, but also for all sorts of other effects, it's going to be a feature in the game).


Now, I know for keyframing, Motion Studio is a good tool (that's what it was designed for), but it's not so suited for ragdoll stuff. Primarily, I think, because it has no concept of joint limits (at least not without a lot of complex internal skeleton stuff). So that brings up some questions. I'll try to start from the beginning and work through them more or less in order.


1) I do all my modelling (such as it is) in WorkSpace, but the plugin (as far as I'm aware) can only be used through ModelSpace. This means I have to bring my model across the bridge. I haven't done this before at all, heh. Should I expect any difficulties there?


2) If I were any good at modelling and animation, I'd be able to fully complete each step before moving on to the next. But I am terrible at this :) I fully expect to be doing a lot of "to-and-fro". This means I'll probably be taking a rigged character and going back to add vertices and geometry to it later (which means pulling it BACK across the bridge into WorkSpace). Is this going to cause me problems, going back and forth across the bridge and into and out of Motion Studio?


2a) Also, most likely I'm even going to have to pull the models out of tS for other work (say into UU3D for UV mapping), and that's a process that in all likelyhood is going to happen throughout the life of the model at any point. Am I really going to be pushing tS's ability to keep all my rigging and poses intact through all these back-and-forth manuvuers?


3) Now to the issue with joint limits. Since I can't do them in Motion Studio, can I take the results of what I do in Motion Studio (in terms of having a fully rigged model) into the native tS animation tools and set limits on the joints there (so that the model can go into ragdoll state in my engine)? And can I then take that BACK into Studio for further work with poses without losing my joint limits?


4) Ideally, I don't want to have to pose every biped we end up making. If I create a "walk" animation for one biped, can I apply that animation to other bipeds? I presume this requires a consistent bone naming convention, which is fine. This would be *really* helpful in terms of saving time with posing a lot of very similar models.


5) Has anyone had any experience with the tS collada exporter with regards to animation? I know I can export models via Collada (which is how I need them for my engine [C4]), but I have not yet tried with a *rigged* model, nor have I tried to export just the animation part. What I'm really going to need is each animation in it's own seperate file so that they can be applied to various rigged models. Anyone have any experience?


I know, it's a lot of questions. I'll be doing some prototyping after I get a handle on the videos a bit more. But I'd also like to hear y'alls opinions and experiences, since you are all far more proficient with these things than I am, heh. I'd appreciate any advice you have.


Ron

Post by TomG // Mar 3, 2009, 12:30pm

TomG
Total Posts: 3397
The best workflow would be to create the geometry and texturing prior to rigging and animating, this would negate the need to move things across the bridge.


Not overly familiar with Motion Studio in terms of using it seriously, so I don't know if you can create animations with it then separate skeleton from mesh. If so, you could create your animations using a "test mesh" and only apply the skeleton to the final mesh.


Note once the old tS bones are attached (and Motion Studio uses those), you most likely won't be able to model in the workspace side. You'd need to unattach skeletons before doing that. This would lose weight painting (if Motion Studio has such a thing, not sure).


So for back and forth, you'd have to keep attaching and detaching the skeleton, BUT doing so will lose any weight painting, so you'd be best not weight painting until the end when you know nothing else will change with the geometry.


Same goes with exporting, you won't be able to go to an external package and back and keep the bones - you'll need to unattach them and then export the model, and again you'd lose weight painting. So again, don't do weight painting until everything else is final :)



For point 3, you won't be able to move bones from Motion Studio to workspace - they are totally different and incompatible bones systems. So you will need to be using one, or the other. You won't be able to use both, or move back and forth between them, in any way.


Working on an object in the Model side would likely destroy weight painting and joint limit info on a rigged mesh - the Model side has no concept of that data, since it is all part of the new tS, and so it would likely lose or corrupt it. So if rigged workspace side, same rules of detaching before working on the other side will apply - same rules of loss of weight painting as a result apply too.



For point 4, with either system I think this is possible, for Motion Studio someone more familiar with it will need to say. At worst, you can just keep the same skeleton with animations already made, and attach a new skin to it, to have that new skin follow the animations.



For point 5, COLLADA export only exists on the workspace side, so you might find exporting from Model side Motion Studio somewhat tricky. You might be able to bake the motions into vertex animations, which would move them to the workspace, but they would no longer be skeletal animations of course. This might not be a problem, depending on your game engine and how it plans to play the animations back.


You would not be able to rig with Motion Studio and export that rig via COLLADA, as the old bones do not move over the bridge to the workspace. The new bones are totally re-written and share no common data structures or code with the old bones system (which Motion Studio is built on top of), so perhaps working with the new bones is a better bet if this is the end objective.


HTH!

Tom

Post by jayr // Mar 3, 2009, 12:32pm

jayr
Total Posts: 1074
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hi Ron,


First thing i'd say is try the skeleton system in workspace, you can set limits and use the physics to make rag doll type effects. Don't use the bones on model side, they're horrible


Second, i'd export your models to your mapping apps and finish the textureing before you start to apply your rigs. i know how it feels to be rearing to go and get animating but it's just easier to have a finished model to rig.

Post by jayr // Mar 3, 2009, 12:33pm

jayr
Total Posts: 1074
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looks like tom beat me while i was typing :D

Post by robert // Mar 3, 2009, 12:34pm

robert
Total Posts: 609
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Same here.

Post by RonHiler // Mar 3, 2009, 1:04pm

RonHiler
Total Posts: 30
Ah, so it seems like using Motion Studio is not going to work, then, as the lack of joint limits is a show-stopper. Too bad, it looked like a good package.


Can you guys point me at a tutorial that goes over rigging and animation on the WorkSpace side of things? Everything that exists seems to be model side.


And Tom, I have (somehow) managed to export collada files out of the workspace side of things. I've never taken my models to model-side (I fear the bridge!), and I have a couple of them in my engine (which is C4, which imports collada only). So I must have done it somehow. Although, to be honest, I tried a fair number of things, and the exact methodology I finally came up with escapes me at the moment (I may have gone to X file and then into UU3D to get out a collada file, that kind of sounds right).

Post by robert // Mar 3, 2009, 1:07pm

robert
Total Posts: 609
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There is no real tutorial, you have to look through the videos in the manual.
That gives you a quick rundown of the stuff.

Post by RAYMAN // Mar 3, 2009, 1:20pm

RAYMAN
Total Posts: 1496
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Try to set up your skeletons and only use workspace side bones so that you can transfer the motions(ie like they are set up for motion capture)

Thats transferable mostly from application to application.

Maybe you can find some free motion captures that you can use like a falling

body etc. some people make them in endorphin...... mabe there are some that you can use so take a standard biped setup.......:) because bvh transfer nicely...

http://forums1.caligari.com/truespace/showthread.php?t=4201&highlight=endorphin

plus theres some information here...

http://forums1.caligari.com/truespace/showthread.php?t=5540

Post by TomG // Mar 4, 2009, 2:12am

TomG
Total Posts: 3397
"And Tom, I have (somehow) managed to export collada files out of the workspace side of things."


Yes, COLLADA only exports from the workspace side. It is the Model side you can't export from, and Model side bones that will not appear in COLLADA as a result.


You could save to X format from both sides, though I seem to recall that the Model side did not do so good on that count, but your mileage may vary depending on your destination application. The direct export from tS to DAE though only happens from the workspace side of things.


For tutorials, the manual has quite a few videos in it on the subject of rigging, setting joint limits, weight painting etc. Be sure to download the videos though, they are a separate download and not included directly with the download of tS or the manual itself.


There's no separate video tutorial or course on the subject at the moment, but the manual videos are fairly comprehensive.


HTH!

Tom

Post by RonHiler // Mar 4, 2009, 4:57am

RonHiler
Total Posts: 30
"And Tom, I have (somehow) managed to export collada files out of the workspace side of things."


Yes, COLLADA only exports from the workspace side. It is the Model side you can't export from, and Model side bones that will not appear in COLLADA as a result.

Ah, gotcha. Yes, you are right, Collada and X file formats are right there in the dropdown when you save. Sorry, I've got so many different packages going on (C4, UU3D, L3DT, Photoshop, MSVC, etc) that sometimes I lose track of what software does what, hehe. There's a lot to know when you are running a project :)


For tutorials, the manual has quite a few videos in it on the subject of rigging, setting joint limits, weight painting etc. Be sure to download the videos though, they are a separate download and not included directly with the download of tS or the manual itself.


There's no separate video tutorial or course on the subject at the moment, but the manual videos are fairly comprehensive.


Cool, thanks. I'm going to check those out today.

Post by Igor K Handel // Mar 4, 2009, 8:27am

Igor K Handel
Total Posts: 411
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Re tutorial vids for rigging etc in Workspace side.


GOING AS FAST AS I CAN! :rolleyes:


I am in the process of making a vid tutorial series (with audio) . Have just finished recording part 7 of a series exclusively on workspace rigging including joint limits, fk/IK, workflow tips etc. Not yet covered weightpainting, as I keep having to go to work which slows down the process of getting more tuts recorded:mad:


Might not be on the same timescale as you need, but I currently estimate the "basic" core tuts will be finished in approx 4 weeks time ish, maybe, possibly etc. With a bit of luck if the tuts are followed in sequence they should have most would be riggers starting from scratch up and running fairly sharpish! (thats the plan anyway)


HTH

IK Handel

Post by RonHiler // Mar 4, 2009, 9:04am

RonHiler
Total Posts: 30
Awesome man, I'm really looking forward to that. No worries on the timeframe (for me at least). I have plenty of time before I'm ready to do any heavy duty animation work, heh. Right now I'm just looking for "proof of pipeline" to make sure we have a viable method for getting rigged models and animation files over to the engine from tS. At the most I'm probably just going to be doing some quick and dirty test rigs and animations and make sure they run in the engine okay.


I just went through the tS manual and attached vids for rigging and animation. Very nice, actually. The workflow is not unlike that of Motion Studio at all, so that's very encouraging.


I think I should still be able to avoid the Model Side completely, since I can use the native animation tools and export collada right out of WorkSpace. Very cool.


Now I just have to get started on that character....

Post by RichLevy // Mar 4, 2009, 9:11am

RichLevy
Total Posts: 1140
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Hey Ron

If you use bvh motions in WS side and animation blending that is a very powerful combination. It eliminates some of the problems that the WS side rigging introduces. You can than mix the physics with it ti get your ragdoll.
I never really spent much time with the motion studio plugin for the model side, so I have no opinion there.

WS is pretty powerful though. MrBones and (darn I forgot his handle :D) have tons of videos and tutorials around here and on YouTube about this.
JHowel :D I had to do a quick search

Rich
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