From a Static Image to a Walking Dinosaur

This document shows you how to create, mesh, rig and animate a dinosaur character easily. It is a great introduction into understanding the core concepts required for producing character animation. At the end of the document, you should have a character with basic walking leg motion used in typical walk cycles.

Video Tutorials(click on image to view):

Watch how to make a running dinosaur from start to finish:

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Watch how to make a walking fairy from start to finish:

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Animate a Running Fox Character

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This tutorial shows you how to very quickly animate a running Fox character in the Creature Animation Tool. This is done using the powerful procedural motor system of Creature in order to achieve fast, high-quality running + secondary motion.

Watch the video tutorial here

Bone Motors Overview

Watch this tutorial to learn about the most commonly used Bone Motors in Creature. This video is recommended for users starting out in Creature.

The character art is by - killyoverdrive . Artwork is published with CC-BY-SA 3.0.

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Rigging Tips & Tricks

This tutorial covers some additional Rigging Tips and Tricks for the Creature Animation Tool. It goes through shortcuts for the various modes ( Bone, Region and Weight ) as well as some discussion on Auto vs Manual Weighting for Bones.

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Character Pipeline

Below is a diagram showing the entire character creation to animation process:

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Step 0: Project Creation

All character projects are stored in directories. Click on Create Project in the starter screen. You will then provide a new Project Folder and a Character Atlas Image in PNG format to start the process:

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A Character Atlas Image is an image file where the body parts of your character have been laid out in a non intersecting fashion. We should also prefer square images for easy layout and loading. Here is an example of such an image:

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Click Create and the new project will be created.

Step 1: Meshing

We will need meshes for the character in order to animate them digitally on screen. Your character is automatically brought through a mesh creation process when a project is first initialized. The app will try its best to create separate meshes for each body part based on a starting grid resolution. You will notice in this case mesh regions have already been created for you and they are listed on the right of the window:

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There are a multitude of options available in meshing mode. If you encounter issues where you need to separate meshes(because the body images are too close), upres/downres the mesh resolutions for various purposes or would like to sculpt/remove additional triangles onto your mesh regions, please read the in depth documentation on Meshing in the other parts of this site. Before we move onto the next stage, we will like to mention that one tool you might find rather useful is the Boundary Remesh tool. This tool allows you to separate out mesh regions in instances where 2 separate body parts have merged meshes because they were laid out too closely in the atlas image.

##Step 2: Rigging

2.1 Mesh Region Creation

With the mesh regions created, we will switch to Rigging mode. In this mode, we will first toggle the Region submode. Click on the Add Region button to add our mesh regions into the rig:

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With the mesh regions that have been added, go in and use mouse dragging operations to move/rotate/scale the regions into place:

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Here is how the final character with laid out mesh regions looks like:

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2.2 Bone Creation

Toggle the Bone submode and start the process of bone creation. Toggle the Create mode in the Bone submode. Hold down and drag on screen to begin creating bones for the character:

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Bones are created in a hierarchy. Each newly created bone is a child of the previously created bone. If you want to create a bone that is of a different parent, switch to the Select submode, click on the desired parent, and then switch back to Create to create the new bone.

Here is how the final bone rig looks like:

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2.3 Bone Weighting

This is the final step in the rigging process. We need to assign point weight values between every bone and every mesh. These values determine how points on the meshes deform as the bones are transformed during animation.

The first thing we need to do is to determine which meshes are affected by which bones during weighting operations. We do this by toggling the Weight submode. Click on the Affected Regions button and select which meshes will be affected for the currently selected bone:

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By default, all meshes are selected. This should work for most body parts except places where you need a clear distinction between mesh regions(for example, you have 2 overlapping legs and you only want the weighting operation for the leg bone to affect the top leg but not the bottom leg).

There are 2 ways to assign weights: Manual and Auto. Auto Weighting is the fastest and easiest way to get nicely distributed weights assigned to your mesh regions:

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As a quickstart, you can max out the Iterations slider as well as the Influence slider to get some reasonable results. Next, click Apply All. This will run the Auto Weighting algorithm, assigning bone weights to all the relevant mesh regions.

2.4 Testing

Before moving into animation, it is always a good idea to test out our rig. Toggle the Test submode:

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This mode allows you to interactively transform the various bones in your rig and watch how the mesh reacts/deforms. It is a good way to debug any potential bone weighting issues or mesh layout problems you might have. Go ahead and drag on the bone handles to see how your rig behaves. Once you are happy with the results, you can move onto character animation.

Step 3: Animation

When you first enter Animation mode, the character rig will have already been setup to do basic FK animation. This means you can already go in and drag/rotate the bones around in a FK fashion and perform animation in the traditional sense just like in any other animation program:

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Of course, the real power of this software is unlocking the power of Motors using the built in Procedural Physics Engine. We will demonstrate how easy it is to deploy and animate with this concept by doing some leg animation.

Please note that the entire rig can already be animated manually. If you wanted to animate a walk cycle, the leg animation can be done rather tediously by setting bone keyframes throughout the entire animation. This is time consuming and not very efficient. Enter the world of Procedural Physics animation!

3.1 Leg Animation using the Procedural Physics Way

First, select the 3 bones of a leg. Then click on Install Motor:

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A leg motion throughout a walk cycle essentially involves the tip of the leg tracking some sort of semi circular arc. The rest of the bones of the leg should be posed automatically based on the target tip position. We have just the right motor for the job! Pick the Smooth IK Rotate Motor. This installs the Smooth IK Rotate Motor onto the 3 bones of the character.

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If you press play now, you will see the leg move in a walk cycle like fashion. This has been all done for us automatically without any real effort! Of course, the results are not perfect so we will start tweaking the attributes on the motor a bit to get the desired leg motion effect. Please note that the attributes on all motors can be keyed so you have the additional flexibility of animating/keyframing motor attributes over time.

The first thing we want to do is to change the arc of the motion. We want to simulate leg walking over a flat plane. This means the bottom of the circular arc should be flat. We will go in and set the scaleBottom attribute to 0. This makes the lower part of the arc flat. We will also set the height attribute to 3 to make the legs lift more when they are on top of our plane:

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With those attributes set, we get the following result:

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If you press play now, you will get a nice single leg walking motion. Cool! Notice how few keys were set in order to accomplish this rather complex animation! Trouble is, this is just a single walking leg. We need the other leg to walk as well!

Go ahead and install a Smooth IK Rotate Motor for the other 3 bones of the other leg. Apply the same attribute values we did in the previous case and we get the following:

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Oops! The 2 feet are moving but they are moving in unison! We do not want that. Walking legs should be moving opposite to each other. Such types of motion are termed out of phase with respect to one another. We can accomplish such a task by simply setting the phase attribute on the Smooth IK Rotate Motor of one of the legs to 1:

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Play the animation again and we get a walking dinosaur(!):

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This concludes the quickstart on how to begin the animation process. Remember the motors for walking are just the tip of the iceberg. You can install Bend Physics Motors to the tail of the creature to get floppy tail motion for free, put in Control Point Motors on the head of the creature to animate and deform blinking eyes and even Region Physics Motors to simulate some rather fancy muscle/flesh contraction effects! Please read the documents on Motors to get an in-depth explanation of what you can accomplish with this very powerful feature.