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Domarius

Value of Layers in Animating

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@oDDity - the rest of the world has caught up (3DS Max, Motion Builder etc.) and Maya is the only one still left behind, and you can find posts on the net supporting this. Maya has Trax to try and alleviate this but it's needlessly complex. All the guys at work animate in 3DS.

 

Your example tells me you aren't sure what I'm talking about. If you want to quickly animate smaller movements also making a larger movement over time, (eg a shaky old man standing up), you need layers, end of story.

 

A single timeline might be fine for mechanical motions like a walk cycle - but organic, expressive actions are are layered movements. When someone shakes their fist violently, it's not just their fist that shakes - their whole body shakes in response. So that's keyframes on at least the shoulder bone, upper torso bone, and waist bone. But they don't stand rigid on the spot while this happens - the whole body moves over time - their weight is still shifting to keep balance, as they are still moving forward slightly from the lean in they gave for dramatic effect. That's a new layer, with keyframes on at least the hips and upper torso.

 

 

 

Anyway, if you guys end up cleaning up the export process, I'd be willing to try out this plugin they made for Maya, to hack in layers. Lets you save them too, which is nice... as for compatibility - if you have the plugin you see the layers, otherwise you don't. And of course you flatten them to one layer before exporting.

http://en.9jcg.com/comm_pages/blog_content-art-71.htm

I just want to know that I can still access useful Keyframe controls, like select a bunch, pan them about, and compress the amount of time they take. Apparently it still uses the main Maya timeline, so if maya has good keyframe editing controls, it should all be good... time will tell.

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There's no point me doing any new animations till you guys sort this out.

 

And before we "cut motion builder out of the pipeline", I'd like to see anyone try to do something with as many layers of movement as the warm hands anim and get something looking just as natural.

 

Complicated organic motions are just easier with layered movement, without it some things are practically impossible. I won't animate in Maya if I can't layer the movement keyframes.

 

Consider the angry shaking fist example - the fist shakes violently back and forth on all axiis, using several keyframes to go back and forth.

 

Now you want the fist to slowly move up or side to side over time, because nothing stays perfectly the same over time.

 

Do you go and slightly adjust every single "shake fist" keyframe till it moves slowly in one direction? No fucking way - that's going back to the days of stop motion animation, will take just as long to do, and you'll never get a smooth organic result.

 

Instead, make a new layer with a few side to side keyframes, that gently sway the whole fist (shaking and all) smoothly side to side over time. Done.

 

welcome to the world of animation ;) Patience and a clean setup of keys solves a lot of editing.

I've worked with an animator before who almost created keys on all frames. Making changes that way is very difficult. I try to work as clean as possible with only setting the necessary keys for poses and inbetweens and work from there.

 

With character sets you can seperate bodyparts. You'll only see the keys for a certain bodypart and with anim clips you can fearly easy adjust the timing and placing of a motion.

 

So far i've only animated with animation rigs which had no animations layer at all and i don't feel like i'm missing something. Sure it could make editing sometimes easier but i think it's part of planning and organizing your animation.

 

Can anyone of you recommend a good tutorial of how to animate in Maya? I'm aware that I can use google and find probably a million tutorials, but maybe you know of a particularly useful one?

 

Can you be more specific? I would recommend to learn how the curve editor works.

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I've worked with an animator before who almost created keys on all frames. Making changes that way is very difficult.
This is only a relevant example if you think I'm using "too many keyframes", and that layers are just for "keeping track of all your keyframes" which they're not.

 

So far i've only animated with animation rigs which had no animations layer at all and i don't feel like i'm missing something. Sure it could make editing sometimes easier but i think it's part of planning and organizing your animation.

Yeah but your major animations here have all been movement cycles. You should really be replying to my recent post, you missed it.

 

I'd love to take this discussion out to a place with reputable animators and have them tell you both exactly what I've been saying in the previous posts, but it doesn't matter as long as this Maya plugin works...

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Ha, listen to this guy would you. He didn't even know what motionbuilder was until I told him and made some tutorials on how to work it, and now he's trying to tell me how it is.

You do not need layers to do overlap and secondary motion. Layers are just the the easy lazy noob way of doing it. Real animators do not need layers because they keep complete control of each specific channel of their animation and do all their work with curves.

When you use curves properly you do not need many keys, just the main pose keys.

You're way out of your depth here, so don't bother arguing any more.


Civillisation will not attain perfection until the last stone, from the last church, falls on the last priest.

- Emil Zola

 

character models site

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This is only a relevant example if you think I'm using "too many keyframes", and that layers are just for "keeping track of all your keyframes" which they're not.

I understand you're talking about the blending features and editing advantages of these layers but you make it sound like certain animations are impossible/take a lot of time to do without a layer system on which i don't agree.

 

I'm sure it could make animation and especially blending animations easier but it's not the only way to get the same done. In animation rigs you could for example have controls which could lock or add another motion to the overall movement in the same way you use layers.

 

Yeah but your major animations here have all been movement cycles. You should really be replying to my recent post, you missed it.

 

Most of the in-game animations are cycles. I use the same approach for animated scenes where characters are talking for example, but i don't nessecarily need layers to achieve the overlapping motions of arms, legs etc. for a character's expression. But again i agree a layer system would make it easier. The link you provided certainly is something to look at.

 

At this point i wouldn't say totally ditch MB. If it's possible for someone to intergrate the rig the same way i did before without to much work i would say give it a go. The only disadvantage would be having 2 rigs again and probably sharing animations between the 2.

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@oDDity - when I discovered the layers feature of MotionBuilder and asked you about it, you didn't know what it was really for, which is why I made the annendium to your video in the Wiki. It's been a year since then and I've learned a lot.

http://wiki.thedarkmod.com/index.php/...uilder_tutorial

 

You could explain how I can achieve the same effect with curves, that would be more helpful than your usual mysterious and patronising comments.

 

Until then - @squill & oDDity - If you want to layer on an overall motion that happens to use existing axiis as the many smaller motions, without layers you won't be able to easily adjust that overall motion, you'll have to edit all the keyframes of the individual smaller motions - takes longer, harder to get a smooth result, end of story.

 

It's like once upon a time they didn't "need" splines, or even tweening, but things called innovation happened along the way and let us to better work, in shorter amounts of time.

 

 

In animation rigs you could for example have controls which could lock or add another motion to the overall movement in the same way you use layers.
I'd like to believe you, but where are these controls and how are they used to get the same effect?

 

Most of the in-game animations are cycles.
I said movement cycles - walk, run, search, even with varieties, don't make up of most of the animations. And even they can benefit from using layers, I used them to make adjustments to the overall pose of the search cycle without editing every single keyframe...

 

At this point i wouldn't say totally ditch MB. If it's possible for someone to intergrate the rig the same way i did before without to much work i would say give it a go. The only disadvantage would be having 2 rigs again and probably sharing animations between the 2.

 

I'm going to give the Maya layers plugin a fiddle this weekend hopefully. I would certainly like to see the workflow optimised, and if this layers plugin is everything the web page says it is, then it is the only reason I've been using MotionBuilder and if it was ditched it would drastically cut down development time and possible complications with changing the rig.

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You could explain how I can achieve the same effect with curves, that would be more helpful than your usual mysterious and patronising comments.

 

Until then - @squill & oDDity - If you want to layer on an overall motion that happens to use existing axiis as the many smaller motions, without layers you won't be able to easily adjust that overall motion, you'll have to edit all the keyframes of the individual smaller motions - takes longer, harder to get a smooth result, end of story.

To take your earlier example of a shaking fist, you should be using FK and not IK for that.

You would animate the main shaking fist from the elbow and hand and the secondary overall arm movement you wanted to add, you would do from the shoulder.

Your problem is you only know how to use IK so you have to do everything by moving the fist.

The arm is a three piece system of overlapping movement, with delay and followthrough, and IK is useless for that.


Civillisation will not attain perfection until the last stone, from the last church, falls on the last priest.

- Emil Zola

 

character models site

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But - using the same shaking fist example - when someone shakes their fist vigirously, their whole body shakes in response. That's keyframes on the hips and upper torso.

 

Now I want to have the guy gradually leaning into the pose while shaking, because he stepped in and of course, doesn't suddenly stop. This is an overlayed motion of the hips and shoulders moving over a distance while shaking.

 

How do you do this without layers and keep the overlayed motion seperate from the shaking?

 

With layers I just add that motion on a new layer with a couple of key frames. If I decide he's moving too fast, too slow, not curvy enough, etc. I just have to tweak a couple of key frames.

 

With only one layer, you'd have to shift each and every shake keyframe to create that overlayed motion, and it'd never be as smooth, and making changes would take forever. No doubt this affects the quality of your work as you'd spend too much time on doing this sort of change and lose time to make more important changes. It's just old fashioned.

 

IK and FK has nothing to do with it, and I use both when I animate, depending on what I need.

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This is where you need to learn to keep control of you channels and not all the bad habits you've picked up in MB of keying the crap out of everything.

When I shake my fist vigorously, all I get is some y rotation on my hips. This leaves x, y and z translations free for larger movements, and you still have x and z rotation free.

You have 6 channels to work with for each bone/ik control, and professional animators use them wisely and separately, and use each channel for the appropriate movement, setting as few keys as possible and using weighted curves to get from one position tot he next.

Your assertion that most animation, even the simple noob sort of animation you've done, cannot be done without layers, is borne out of pure ignorance of professional animation techniques.

I agree layers are a quick fix, they can let you be sloppy and lazy and get away with it, but they're in no way essential for good complex animation.


Civillisation will not attain perfection until the last stone, from the last church, falls on the last priest.

- Emil Zola

 

character models site

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How do you do this without layers and keep the overlayed motion seperate from the shaking?

 

By using animation clips in the trax editor. For instance first you animate the shake and make an animation clip. Then you animate the body and make another anim clip. After this you import the clips in the trax editor and blend the two. If you need to edit individual keyframes you select a clip which you activate to display on the timeline and you make your changes. If you need more movements on top you animate and create another clip etc.

 

These clips are easy to exchange between characters like i did for the builder priest. So you have a libary of animations which can be combined to create a various of motions like a walk with shaking hands or combat actions with a run/idle etc.

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@squill - that page mentioned Trax and said it was difficult to use, which is why he made the plugin. The plugin seems pretty straight forward to me, I'll happily use it if it works the way it says on the web page.

 

@oDDity - I find your example hard to believe - lots of small movements can occupy all axiis, leaving none free for the larger ones. I was exaggerating when I said layers are essential - what I mean is, they avoid you getting trapped in "stop motion animation" where you're modifying several key frames to achieve some larger movement.

 

So basically there's a hard way and an easier and much quicker way of getting the same result.

 

n true oDDity fashion - the hard way is the 'elite' way, and the easy way is the 'noob' way, for no other reason than the principal of "harder is better". I don't agree :) I think easier and quicker is called "innovation". But suit yourself. Fortunately I don't need to convince you, if this plugin does what it says it should.

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Now you've reduced your argument down to something reasonable like 'layers are helpful and make things easier' rather than 'it's virtually impossible to do some animations without layers', I agree.


Civillisation will not attain perfection until the last stone, from the last church, falls on the last priest.

- Emil Zola

 

character models site

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Well, using layers to stay away from that time-consuming "stop motion animation" situation is essential (now that the option exists), which was really my main point from the beginning - possibly not worded very explicitly.

 

The animators where I work feel the same - we say "you can't do without layers" in the same way one might say "you can't do without a phone" - there was a time when people got along without them, but to avoid them now would mean being left behind.

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It all depends how effectively they're being used.

They can be used effectively by animators who already know how to animate properly - that is, in a disciplined fashion where they keep control of every channel on every control - but they are also open to abuse by lesser animators who think layers are the be all and end all and just use them to key the crap out of everything and toss more layers on top as a quick fix.

What those animators are literally doing is constantly using layers to correct the sloppy animation they did on previous layers, because the previous layer is now fucked and messed up with lots of redundant keys and channels which shouldn't even be there.

To me, that's not easier, because now you have tons of layers with tons of keys and channels crapped all over them, instead of just one layer with nice neat keys on the specific channels you need.

Animators should have to learn to animate properly first, without layers, and then learn how to use layers only to compliment real sklills.


Civillisation will not attain perfection until the last stone, from the last church, falls on the last priest.

- Emil Zola

 

character models site

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Well nice to know I was assumed to be the former... :) I assure you I'm the latter. The whole reason I like them is because it reduces the number of keys I use in total. Such as tweaking the pose for the dureation of the entire animation simply by placing keyframes on the first frame on a new layer.

 

Layers let you split up movements into what they are - layers of movement.

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Well here's the thing you don't understand about keyframe animation - it's not about copying reality. If you wanted that, then just use mo cap.

Animation is about filtering out and keeping only what's essential to making things seem real, and then exaggerating or diminishing and cleaning it up.

That's why it can be done cleanly and effectively on one layer using a small strategic number of controls and channels. It's more of an impression of movement than photorealism you should be after. That's where the real skill lies.

It's pointless trying to layer ever more subtle rotations and translations on top. If you do the main layer effectively, it's not needed.

It's like people in sculpture who think the details are the most important part, so you see these shit model with terrible proportions, no form, no rhythm, no weight, they've just spent 90% of the time intricately sculpting details of wrinkles and pores on a model that is never going to be any good..

A good sculpture looks good at every stage of development, even the earliest layout, and the same should be true of animation.


Civillisation will not attain perfection until the last stone, from the last church, falls on the last priest.

- Emil Zola

 

character models site

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Thanks for moving the topic :)

 

If you were to animate a shakey old man getting up, or a person convulsing and falling over - these are extreme examples but plainly show how you can occupy all axiis on any body part with the smaller movements which you will also want to layer on a larger smoother movement. If you do that by tediously tweaking the smaller movements its not as easy to control the larger and takes a hundred times longer.

 

I've been drawing for years and I apply the same principal to animating - rough out the basic form till it looks right, and then add details. So I don't need instruction on that.

 

I think it's gone as far as it can go. I mainly wanted to make sure people are aware of this and don't discard an important innovation in animating when we optimise our export process.

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