Hybrid aniMation

Quite some time ago I've written an article in the forum: aniMating in Carrara, which I thought was important because it can help us to get out of the trap of using Motion Capture data only for the motions it is titled to do (using it to create a motion according to its name). Well I've been using this same approach, but after gaining quite a bit of experience with it I've taken on new habits I'd like to let you all in on.

In that article I go through the process of importing aniBlocks on my figures in Carrara, delete certain keyframes, say the arms or head and neck or all of those, for example, and then create an NLA Clip from what's left. Then I'd import an entirely different aniBlock and delete everything except for those parts, so that I can blend those actions with what I've just done before. So these would also create an NLA clip.

Doing this requires a great deal of organization which is actually very easy to do, hence my writing the Custom Browser article.

In this article, I use aniMate 2 much more - especially since I'm using a legacy (genesis 1) figure.

My favorite MoCap vendors at Daz 3D

Let me know what your favorites are at the Carrara Forum. I'm always eager to try more motions! :)

GoFigure (makers of aniMate and the aniBlock packs and more)

PoserMoCap (amazing motions on filmmaker topics)

SKAmotion (fewer options, but very good motions)(more are also available at SKAmotion.com)

Bonetech3d (says "hand-made", but feels like MoCap. Fun either way)

Need to get Poser Formats out of Daz Studio?

Use DAZ Studio, Carrara and/or Poser in your creative process? Need to get poses and/or animations to Carrara or Poser, but the data is in DAZ Studio?

DUF files can take forever to load in Carrara and, sometimes they might not work at all, depending on what it is.

Solution?

Poser Format Exporter!!!

This script provides the ability to generate Poser format Pose (.pz2), Face/Expression (.fc2) and Hand (.hd2) files from directly within DAZ Studio. Use DAZ Studio to pose or animate your figures, then use this script to transfer that information to Carrara or Poser.

NOTE: PFE supports both DAZ Studio 3 and 4

Check out How to use the Poser Format Exporter by Mattymanx

What's Included and Features

Features

  • Create Poser format Pose(.pz2), Face(.fc2) and Hand(.hd2) files

  • Include the root node or selected nodes

  • Limit inclusion to only selected nodes or recursively include their children

  • Create poses of the Current Frame or of an Animated Range

  • Choose the starting and ending frame of an Animated Range

  • Include/Exclude Transforms (rotation, translation scale); per axis

  • Include/Exclude Morph Targets (targetGeom)

  • Include/Exclude Numeric Properties (valueParm)

  • Include/Exclude Node Visability state

  • Include/Exclude Node Bending state

Another great solution is to simply use the paid version of aniMate 2 to create aniBlocks from the timeline.

With the aniBlock Importer for Carrara, it's an easy and fast way to transfer the motion files to Carrara from Studio - and aniMate 2 in Daz Studio is really quite powerful. We can easily layer different motions with each other, determining which joints are used in each or crop them, stretch them loop them, join them together, etc., and aniMate 2 does an incredible job of interpolating them together seamlessly.

Further, if they don't end up seamless for some reason, it has the tools to let us make them so, like starting the next motion from the left foot of the previous one, for example.

We can also exaggerate our motions or simply change them specific to our needs using the Spline Editor in aniMate 2, and it's as easy as dragging around points of a path that we want to change!

Well with Hybrid Animation, I like to begin with all of these tools to work with my aniBlock collection to get the gist of my motion started - and get it as close to what I want as possible.

Then I double-click the aniBlock and deselect any of the body parts that I want to key frame by hand in the Timeline of Daz Studio - something that I actually enjoy doing with the improvements made in DS 4.14 to their Timeline.

It's still nowhere near as easy to key frame by hand in Studio compared to Carrara, but the improvements make a big difference - I think they're on the right track.

Watching through the very short videos by GoFigure (links on my aniMate 2 page) you'll discover a Lot more to aniMate than simply dropping aniBlocks onto a figure. If that's all it did, we could easily get by with BVH files, which I must say: Daz Studio applied BVH motions Very Well, in my experience.

Key framing by hand can seem very difficult and can even become so for certain projects. But in many situations it's fun and rewarding.

Carrara is a Lot easier for me when it comes to key frame animation for several reasons, ad one of the biggest is the power of having a multitude of tweeners available (compared to Daz Studios three), and every one of them can be adjusted in ways that one would expect a tweener to be able to be adjusted. Trust me when I say that this makes animating by hand a Much more enjoyable experience.

So if animating by hand interests you, I'd strongly suggest Carrara or even some other high-end animation tool, like Blender, LightWave, Modo or Maya, for example.

I went for Carrara for the main reason that it allows for us to add Poser runtime and Daz Studio libraries right into the browser, and enables us to load figures, props and poses as expected. None of the other software I mentioned just now have that capability. I've had someone tell me that we can also do this in Cinema 4D, but I'm not sure how true that is.

My Hybrid method uses both motion capture data as well as hand animation methods together. This makes a single animation pack worth many times its intended basic use because we can use any part of the animation we 'need' and throw away the rest (for that session) and then animated the rest by hand, or from parts of another motion data file.

After I got into doing this I almost never really use motion capture data on its own. In almost every situation, I'm taking control of some aspect of the motion and changing it for some other action that I intended from the start - and just saw that I could get close with 'this' file.

To do this takes a bit of practice in how we look at motion file results. For now, I'm going to refer to aniBlocks.

In Daz Studio we can hover over an aniBlock and see what it'll do to the character in the viewport. In most cases the aniBlock is Not doing what I want my character to be doing. So I'll hover over them in turn, ignoring, say for example, that arm movements and/or what the head's doing, and just look at what the legs and torso are doing, and whether it's moving through the scene or emoting in one spot.

It's amazing which aniBlock will win sometimes. It's actually nothing like what the animation is about to become, but the motion that I want to keep from it has the timing and movements of some part of the body that I was looking for as a base to key frame from.

This helps me to get real-world timing out of the motion data and into my key frames as well as giving me a massive head start on my overall motion.

Something that's incredible easy in both Carrara and Daz Studio is editing the global rotation of a certain part of the body from motion data - and there are a few ways to approach this.

First thing we can try are Pose Dials that are built into the figure. Hip Bend, Neck Bend, Arms Forward/Backward or Up/Down, etc., which can be really powerful if we can get away with just using these. Why? Because we can key frame changes in these dials over time while still getting the global results we need across the animation.

What do I mean by "Global Results"?

If we apply a motion to a figure but the arms are all out of whack, if we just rotate the arm on a single frame, the edit only takes place on that frame. If we use a Pose dial instead, the edit will take place (globally) across the entire timeline - unless we change it along the way. That's what I mean by Global.

Another method is to use select a specific property along the entire timeline (select all of the keys for that joint rotation) we can then move it up or down to alter the rotation, scale or translation of that selected property, again - Globally.

For that latter method, both Carrara and Daz Studio have Graph Editors that can help us achieve this.

In Daz Studio, the Graph Editor is the only way I know of to do this. Select the main property of what we want to change, and drill down the hierarchy until we break it down to the single, specific property that we need to change - say, the right should Bend rotation aspect, for example.

With that selected, hit the little pop-out tab in the center bottom of the timeline to open the graph editor. Many times we'll see all of our keys in front of us already. If not, hit the Target icon on the right to center on them. Select them all by dragging a selection, and now drag them up and down to get the desired change.

In Carrara, we can perform this simple task directly in the Timeline (Carrara's is called the Sequencer).

When we want to go the the Graph Editor in Carrara is when we want to do any of a whole lot of other options to it, like exaggerate the range of motion for that property or shrink it, smoothen it, sharpen it... there are literally endless options for editing key frames in Carrara!

Something that I haven't discovered yet in Studio:

In Carrara's Sequencer (timeline) we can drag a selection around any number of keys for any number of properties and:

  • Ctrl + Drag left/right to expand or shrink the timing of selected keys (use aniMate 2 in DS for this)

  • Alt + Drag left/right to copy the selected keys and paste them when we release

  • Key Frame Action for Selected Keys - Snap

  • Key Frame Action for Selected Keys - Reverse (use aniMate 2 in DS for this)

  • Key Frame Action for Selected Keys - Repeat (use aniMate 2 in DS for this)

  • Key Frame Action for Selected Keys - Mirror (use aniMate 2 in DS for this)

...and this is just things that I like to use and recall off the top of my head that, as far as I can tell are completely absent in Studio.

Again, as much fun as I've been having in Studio - especially since I own the paid version of aniMate 2, I can't help but to recommend Carrara for the key frame animator in you.

Still use Daz Studio and aniMate 2, but then have Carrara available to really get down!

Carrara also has a plethora of tweeners available:

  • Bezier

  • Discrete

  • Linear

  • Oscillate

  • Noise

  • Formula

are available with the default Carrara package - possibly more, I'll check. Some of the plugins available will add additional tweeners engineered to assist with specific tasks. Off the top of my head, I know that one of Fenric's plugin packs contains a Multi-Tweener that allows us to layer several tweeners together as one, and adjust the strength of each!

Now, even without the help of plugins, the only default Carrara tweener that might not have adjustable properties would be the Discrete tweener, because it is simple and On/Off tweener, where the property is held constant until it reached the next tweener, which is where it makes the abrupt change to the settings of the new tweener.

Daz Studio has this same tweener, and they call it "Constant"

Daz Studio's curve tweener (TCB?) is sort of like Carrara's (and Poser's) Bezier tweener, except that (as far as I can tell) cannot be adjusted. Carrara's can be adjusted for Tighten In, Tighten Out, Ease In and Ease Out.

Daz Studio's Linear tweener is a straight-line linear result, whereas Carrara's has Ease In and Ease Out adjustments available, which really make this a fine choice for a Lot of things. Turn Ease In to a really high value, like 90 (of 1-100) and the change will start very gradually and accelerate at the very end.

Well that's it for DS's tweeners.

Carrara's Oscillate tweener is perfect for key framing repetitions using only two keys! Furthermore, the results can be smooth (Sine), Linear Abrupt (Sawtooth), Accelerate/Decelerate (Bounce) and more!

Noise is just that - set up two extremes across two keys, and let Noise determine which value is chosen along time. This also has several great setting for making smooth transitions, like the changing wind or more abrupt changes like the light panel of a star ship.

Formula is driven by - you guessed it: a mathematical formula. Some folks need this for mechanical use but might also be incredibly beneficial for any other reason. Formulae can produce beautiful art, why not timing as well?!

I'm not trying to sway anyone away from Daz Studio - and I hope it doesn't come across that I am. Daz Studio is an excellent tool and the developers are working on it constantly - recently making some fine additions to the timeline editor. So I'm hopeful that we'll see some more wonders in the future - they never cease to amaze me!

And again, aniMate 2 is The Key to many advanced animation tricks for Daz Studio. In fact, after writing a majority of this article, it donned on me that some of these things Are possible easily in Daz Studio through the tools found in aniMate 2

So if you don't have Carrara yet want to do some of the more advanced animation methods I've brought up in this article so far, check out my aniMate 2 page and watch all of the videos linked to there. In fact, there are links to the playlists - watch those. They're all very (Very) short and contain the info needed to access the power that the tools provide.

aniMate 2 Rocks, and is incredible easy to use, offering Powerful results!

Animating In Carrara Video Series - by Phil Wilkes

This article/video will not be covering much at all about traditional animation techniques, but will often be referring to them. My friend, Phil Wilkes from Daz 3D has put together an amazing video course: Animating in Carrara which is available at Daz 3D. Here's the thing - he very much skims over what I'm doing here in favor of teaching traditional animation methods - including important animation principals.

Here's the Intro video from the course - check it out (he actually teaches more than what this says he will - he's Very Good - And Fun!!!)

I was already in my comfort zone with animation when it came out, but I bought it to see what I might be missing. PhilW does deep research when he makes his video courses and they've all taught me a lot more than I expected to learn from them.

I really enjoyed the course and, of course learned a lot of new things - that's Phil!!!

So the last thing I want to do is to step on his toes by including what I've learned from him, or even material that he covers in his series. Besides, that's not what I'm here to talk about anyway. So I strongly urge you all to check out Phil's course. It has an abundance of educational value toward animating - especially in Carrara and, as always Phil includes working files and helpful resources with the bundle.

The final chapter is dedicated to creating a full animation from start to finish, including building a robot from a bunch of 3D objects and setting it up for animation. It's really cool. If you don't want to build the robot, he has provided it in the working files.

He takes us through from writing the script, story boarding through designing the character, designing the set and animating it all, through post production and final thoughts - all with several steps and procedures in between.

This video is the result of the final (9th) chapter of the course - it's a 10 video chapter all on its own!

Animating in Carrara by Phil Wilkes at Daz 3D.com

(Under Construction until the Support Video is released)

Have a Question? Just Ask!

I love to help others as best I can. This is a rather broad topic: CG Filmmaking, so my articles on any particular topic may not answer your specific question.

Most of the questions directed to me are regarding Carrara or How did I do this?

For these sorts of things, post your question at the Carrara Discussion Forum (or another appropriate category) at Daz 3D.com forums, and if I don't see it right away, someone else might. They are such a friendly and helpful bunch! I've learned so much from that forum over the years!

For a more immediate question directed to me, log into those forums and Send me a PM!