AniMating in Carrara
I began this thread back in the old forum, and am in the process of adding it to this manual.
After being asked for some tips regarding my usage of The AniBlock Importer for Carrara, I decided that the most appropriate way to help folks is to run a new thread on the subject and, as time permits, I can simply edit the original post to keep the information in one, handy article - while leaving the rest of the thread for asking/answering questions, additional tips, remarks or comments, and we’ll see from there where this whole thing takes us. The fact is; I love Carrara’s intuitive interface for everything - especially animating. In this, I have developed some insight into getting a lifetime of mileage from the AniBlocks from GoFigure, available here, at Daz3d, and I’m more than happy to share my experiences with anyone who might be interested in what I have to say about it - so here goes… Ready?
Never used the aniBlock Importer? Watch Jonny Bravo’s quick and simple video tutorial and watch your questions disappear!
One caveat that I do differently: Instead of copy/pasting the NLA clips, I drag in a fresh clip from the clips tab each time. When clips are copied and pasted, they actually create new clips in the clip tab - which steals resources. We don’t want that, now do we. The importer was brand new when Jonny made this splendid tutorial, and wasn’t yet aware of that. Here is a short video that Jonny made using aniBlocks in Carrara.
AniBlock Importer Fun
GoFigure has a whole slew of AniBlocks available at Daz. But doesn’t it seem that, there never seems to be the exact pose or, better yet, animated sequence for sale that will give me what I’m looking for? Happens to me all the time. Falling in love with the sequencer in Carrara was just the help that I needed to get some really great animations going for my project - with the help of GoFigure’s AniBlocks and Posermocap’s animations as well.
One trick that I’ve found to work beautifully is to increase my collections of AniBlocks and animations so that I have more starting points from which to choose. For example, I’m not planning to have any sport-related activities in my movie. But I bought “At the Park” AniBlocks for all of those exciting foot and arm movements that I can tweak later.
“Wait… did you say tweak?” Yup. That’s what I do. Here’s how:
I’m going to use my favorite TV show as an example here. Star Wars - The Clone Wars (No… I really am 47… I just love that show, though!!!!) has some really great animation work going on. I’m noticing how those Jedi run all around without their arms pumping like a train. Whenever I use a Walk Designer file or an AniBlock, the arms are always counter moving with the legs, which is the proper way to create an ‘All-Purpose’ walk animation file.
Simple fix. Import the AniBlock. Before saving out the NLA clip, I’m sure to remove the key frames from anything that I don’t want the NLA clip to LOCK into animation. CAUTION - Never delete the first key frame of a figure with rigging (like Genesis or V4, M4, etc.,) If the first frame (0) is the only place in the timeline that contains a key, that particular bone will NOT get LOCKED by the NLA - and you’ll have to animated it separately.
So, I scroll down the sequencer looking for the arms. Sometimes I leave the Collar animated to get a little sway, but otherwise, I select all of the key frames for all parts of the arms - including the hands and fingers - except for those that are in the zero (0) time frame. (It takes a little practice selecting all but the first keys - but it has to be done!)
If there are any other changes you want to make to the animation, you want to either fix them right now, or delete those key frames as well so that you can easily fix it while your NLA clip is in place.
Once this is all done, select your figure and create an NLA clip. If you notice, you have the option of using “Scene Range” instead of “All Key Frames” for your NLA. Sometimes I don’t want to loose the figure’s pose while doing all of this, so I set the scene time to start at 1 second. Then I have to make certain that the end of the scene ends on the last key frame - or I get an improper clip. The advantage of doing it this way is that you don’t have to get so close to the first frame to delete your unwanted key frames! In this case, you DO want to remove the keys for unwanted bones at the beginning (yellow start point) time frame.
Now that your NLA clip is done, load it onto your character. Now you can mess with using any poses you like for all of you non-animated parts! Wink
Using the Browser
Part of the Power of Carrara’s extraordinary interface belongs to its super incredible file organization system - better know as the Browser. Before firing up Carrara, I go into My Documents > DAZ 3D > Carrara 8 > My Presets > My Clips and create a folder structure to help keep my clips organized. I like to be specific with folder names so that I can keep the actual clip names brief.
My Clips > Walk > Complete
My Clips > Walk > Hip_Legs_Only
My Clips > Walk > Hip_Legs_Only > No_Neck_Head
My Clips > Torso_Arms_Only
My Clips > Expressions
You can also do this while Carrara is running, and then choose “Update Folder” from the File/Folder menu (just above the browser - far right side - small icon)
I should also mention that I go beyond the above example structure, and put that same structure type inside folders for Main Characters and general folders for M4, V4, also now Genesis Male and Genesis Female - and I even have an entirely different set for, what I call NPC’s (D&D term for Non-Player Characters - bystanders, and the like) So that I can save clips that offer different nuances and style to keep my animations from becoming too static-looking.
Now I have some fun-time importing all sorts of various AniBlocks, deleting everything except for parts that I want to keep for partial body animation helpers and save them off to my browser for use in later animations. Adding everything from the torso up from “Angry Hands” to a walk clip from the hip down makes the character walk around all peeved at the world, etc.,
This is where collecting ALL AniBlock sets makes the job of animating easier and much more fun - with much more realistic results. And once these AniMations are saved to NLA clips, they can be stretched and shortened to further enhance the realism of a scene. Example: Saving out just the Left Side Collar, Shoulder, Forearm and Hand of any of the “At the Park” AniBlocks (or any other set, for that matter) can add amazing differences to any animation. Granted, to make a habit of something this subtle, you’ll want to create other clips to finish off the rest of the body.
This is where you begin making an outline (I make my outlines using folders with descriptive names rather than writing them out on paper, etc.,) so that you can save off enough NLA clips to create entire ‘Construction Kits’ of clips that you simply drag onto your characters in the sequencer - and, voila!!! Instant cool animation made from professional motion capture!
AniBlocks and Genesis
As of this writing, I’m using Carrara 8.5 Pro beta, Build 72
The bone structure of Genesis’ new Triax Rigging, in my opinion, is superb. I am completely sold on this technology and am pushing my throttle full steam ahead for collecting products to help in my new Genesis endeavors.
Importing V4 and M4 AniBlocks into Genesis requires a bit of tweaking due to the differences in rigging structures. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s the feet that require the attention. The animation I’m rendering now is “Short Combo”, a roughly sixteen and a half second AniMation from the “Martial Arts Combos” set of AniBlocks by GoFigure and it took some time to tweak the feet, but the tweaks were painless using the tweak tactic that I explain next. Another important thing to note about this new Triax, is that it adds a new bone, the Pelvis, which is an incredible addition that creates a much needed buffer between the legs and the hip, allowing for additional bending without rotating the entire figure… Genius! What’s more is that, since Gen 4 models didn’t have this bone, nothing gets put there from Gen 4 AniBlocks. Now this doesn’t hinder the AniMation in the slightest because its zero position is null, for all intents and purposes, but, what it does do is that, it gives us a bone that is free from locking right from the start! Just something I’ve noticed - I haven’t done anything with it yet - but I’m sure I’ll find it to be most useful. By selecting the Pelvis and rotating it, you’re actually rotating both legs from the upper thigh(where the thigh joins the pelvis to be exact) on down - something I’ve wished that I could do in the past… Many Times - So I’m one Happy little Guy!!! Smile
Dartanbeck’s AniBlock Tweak Tactic
Be it known throughout the lands that, this tactic is useful for any model receiving an AniBlock import - not just Genesis. I also use this same method for Predatron’s Low Rez characters as well, who’s feet zero out differently than that of Daz3d’s Gen 4 models - much more similar to that found in Genesis - so it will be interesting to see how well Genesis AniBlocks work with P3DA’s LR figures! (Wow! while acquiring the above url, I noticed that Predatron just released another new LR figure! Very Happy )
Again, if you’re actually trying this stuff, I really don’t feel as if any screenshot are necessary. Let me know if you have any questions that would be better answered with an image - but please be specific, so that I know what exactly to capture. My time is quite limited.
Obviously AniBlocks, even if they disagree with the figure you’re using them on, contain useful movements related to the AniMation in question, so we don’t want to go in and delete all of the keyframes of a bone that we want animated, but something just isn’t quite right - like the feet, for instance. Speaking of feet, I’ll be using them throughout this tactic as further examples, but the same tactic applies to any bone you’d like to tweak, without actually removing the AniMation altogether. So, let’s just say that the morphs you’ve added to M4 make his arms clip where they shouldn’t - and you’d like to ‘fix’ the AniMation, rather than start over - this tactic will work very well for you… I promise!
To make the explanation easier, I’ll use the following scenario:
I’ve imported a walk loop to Genesis, and the feet are pointed wrong. Here’s how I’m going to fix this:
* STEP 1 - Since I know it’s both feet that need work, I’m going to select all of the keyframes (except for the first key at frame zero (0) ) for both feet - but don’t delete just yet.
* STEP 2 - I click the ‘Step Forward’ icon (single arrow pointing to the right in the playback console) watching the animation closely. Keep stepping forward and backward to get the feel for the most important parts of the animation for “key” foot angles - like when they should land squarely on the floor, or when they are at full height and should hang comfortably down due to gravity.
* STEP 3 - Once you get the feel for the animation in step two, stop the scrubber at one of those “Key” moments in time. While holding down the Shift key, deselect the keyframes for both feet where the scrubber line intersects. If you’re new to this, it takes a little practice getting the right one - clicking just to the right of the vertical line usually gets the key you want.
Now repeat this step at each ‘Key’ moment in time.
Special Note - As this is a “Looping” AniMation, we know that the motions at the last frame are specially designed to fit seamlessly with the first - so we need to deselect the last keyframe for both feet as well.
* STEP 4 - Delete the remaining keyframes. What we’ve just done is to remove most of the in-between keyframes that are less important to the AniMation giving us some room to work without having to try and adjust each and every keyframe. Whenever I’ve tried to correct each keyframe - even when using math to assist - there always seems to be a glitch in at least one spot - which I simply cannot have - It just throws off your eye as you try to watch.
* STEP 5 - (Brief explanation first) - When I import AniBlocks, I follow GoFigure’s advice by letting the AniBlock remove constraints where necessary. In Genesis, this throws off the rotation maiking it look like the character has a broken foot. Now is the time to fix that!
For Starters, Let’s go in and take some quick notes, shall we? Good.
Select a foot and set the time frame to the beginning.
Open the “Motion” tab on the right of the interface and locate the Rotation value for the “Y” axis (red) and write down the number. While you’re here, go ahead and select the values for “X” and the “Z” axis’ and set them each to 0.00 right away - Then do the same with the other foot.
Now we need to repeat the last step at the End frame of the AniMation. We are looking for the difference between the starting and ending “Y” axis angle before making any changes, so that our final AniMation loops together smoothly. I made the mistake of making the end frame identical to the first once… Once!!! Rolling Eyes
Once we have taken our notes, we simply go to each frame that we kept and adjust them to match the floor. I set each of the “X” and “Z” axis values to 0.00 as I work with the “Y” rotation with the Rotate tool by hand. Afterwards, if I feel that a bit of tweaking to either the “X” or “Z” axis’ would help make things look or work better, I do so, making sure that the first and last frames match up nicely.
Speaking of the first and last frames, let’s finish off this step by making sure that we include the differences that we noted down earlier. Simply use either the first frame, or the last to determine which to use as a reference, and then change the other accordingly.
* STEP 6 - Now we’re going to start at the End frame and, using the “Step Back” icon (single arrow pointing to the Left in the playback console), scrub backwards through the AniMation. We’re looking for problem areas in the foot angles. In this, we’re not tweaking both feet at the same time frame, but rather, each foot individually as needed.
Please remember to scrub all the way through problem areas BEFORE MAKING ANY CHANGES so that you can find the middle of the problem, and make your fix there. This will help to eliminate the need for making too many changes and let the tweeners do the bulk of the work for you. Sometimes during intricate animations, you may find that you need to make several keyframes in order to solve the issue. In these cases, treat the problem the same way; scrub through, frame-by-frame, the entire problem and begin the tweaks in the middle of the problem - unless you are certain that another method will work best for you.
That should fix the AniMation and you can now use it to make your new NLA Clip and move on to the next AniBlock.
Daz Studio 4 & AniMate 2
Let us not forget that these AniBlocks are, first and foremost, designed to be used with an incredibly powerful animation tool, AniMate 2 by GoFigure (pssssst - A FREE trial version is available HERE!!!), which works specifically within the interface of Daz Studio 4. Jonny Bravo and I have been thrilled with the possibilities since its inception, and have been pleased with it ever since. AniMate2 contains a wealth of amazing tools for joining, blending and even creating your own AniBlocks! I strongly recommend looking further into this technology if you’re at all interested in getting serious with animation. It’s great (and great Fun!) to develop and master the skills of hand-crafting your own animations. But in the end, these tools will save you enormous amounts of time - especially when used along with your own! Check it out!
Here is GoFigure’s YouTube channel for aniMate2:
GoFigure’s aniMate2 Video Tutorials Page
Side Note regarding building animations from scratch - I need to animate many things beyond bipedal human figures. So I need to get in and build by own animation sequences frequently, and I love doing it. Having tools like aniMate2 and the aniBlock Importer for Carrara actually helped me out in many ways, especially in timing out my animations and studying the natural flow of various human actions and reactions. By using aniBlocks, for example, I can study the timing used in the “Surprised” walk style to help see the timing between just walking and suddenly blocking.
When it comes to Daz Studio and aniMate2, I can take this far beyond that, by using the powerful tools (see the “New to AniMate” vids at GoFigure’s YouTube page and watch them all in sequence!) to turn my animation into an aniBlock, and then edit the file to my liking - before saving the final result to a new aniBlock that I can use in DS, or import into Carrara. Carrara is my actual filming studio, so that is the option I always use.
Here are some great tutorials available by GoFigure:
► New to AniMate Playlist This will play several short tutorials in a row that cover everything you need to set up aniMate 2 in Daz Studio.
► New Features in AniMate 2 Playlist This playlist likely shows feature that you didn’t know where there to use!
► Tutorials Playlist Five tutorials that demonstrate its use.
► Troubleshooting For those times when things just go wrong.
Not really a tutorial… but I like this one that demonstrates a short example of what the Martial Artist went through during his Martial Arts Motion Capture Session.
I truly hope this helps you all in all of your AniMating endeavors!