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hairy_llama
01-12-2005, 12:40 PM
I've been doing all of my character animation in LW. I'd like to know what would be the best package/most used for character animation. Maya,motion builder, messiah...XSI... I'll still model and render in LW but I really am tired of its rigging and animation limitations/pains. Please can anyone from any studios give me some light?

ColinCohen
01-12-2005, 01:39 PM
I would suggest that, prior to investing a lot of money and time in a new package, you invest in some high-quality LW CA training, such as what SplineGod offers.

You'll most likely find that every package has its drawbacks. The ones that are third-party packages, such as MB and Messiah, can also cause many workflow difficulties for one-man operations.

Unfortunately, rigging really isn't explained in the documentation, and I haven't found any real good free tutorials on the subject. Larry, though, knows it cold and he's d*mn good at it; and I'm sure he'd provide you any support you'd need.

Once you figure out the rigging and have control over your character, you'll find CA in LW to be quite good.

Wonderpup
01-12-2005, 01:45 PM
Hi,

My limited experience with Character animation was using Max with Character Studio, which seems great at first because it automates things, but in the end I found myself spending as much time fighting the automation as I was animating.

I don't think any package is presently seen as the first choice for CA, though motionbuilder probably comes closest, being dedicated to this area.

If you still intend to model and render in Lightwave, then the ease with which you can get assets in and out your animation package should be a factor to take account of.

If cost is a factor then XSI foundation or Messiah are worth a look.

I'd be interested to hear what your issues are with CA in Lightwave- I'm in the process of trying to learn this aspect of the software at present, and I do find myself having to jump through a lot of seemingly unneccessary hoops to get things done, but this might just be a case of the grass looking greener- I just don't have the experience to know.

Hopefully someone with a lot more knowlege than me will be able to offer you some more usefull advice!

lunarcamel
01-12-2005, 02:02 PM
In my opinion almost anything is better then LW - MB is great for dealing with mocap but for keyframe work I'd go with either XSI or Maya. Very easy to port back and forth and the price of XSI isn't too bad.

But I agree - I'd look at some LW training to see if you are just stuck and need some help - if not you can demo almost any of those packages and get a feel of what CS tools they offer.

Chris S. (Fez)
01-12-2005, 03:17 PM
For character animation, Max 7 has come a long way (not counting the ever crappy Character Studio). They are all pretty good, though I think overall Lightwave is the weakest...the shoddy dope sheet in 8 clinched it for me.

However, I have not used Maya in two years and my foundation trial has long since expired...so I am basically speaking out of my butt.

Despite side ventures with other software, all my projects either begin with Modeler or end with Layout. Here's hoping 8.2 closes the gap and then some.

ericsmith
01-12-2005, 06:16 PM
Hey hairy_llama,

I sent you a private message. Just wanted to let you know to keep an eye out for it.

Eric

hairy_llama
01-12-2005, 06:18 PM
Its not that I don't know rigging inside and out in LW or the principles of animation. Its not the matter of creating high quality animation in LW, this is TOTALLY possible i've done it many times. The problem is how HARD it is EVERY TIME I have to setup a character. How many "workarounds" it takes to get any kind of a rig you are happy with. Dopesheet when opened slows layout to a crawl. Ik does not go straight. Gimbal lock is STILL a pain. Editing bones is STILL a pain. forget editing after you have some motion....

lunarcamel
01-12-2005, 06:26 PM
I hear you man :)

It's exactly why I don't do a lot of character work in LW - simply workflow and lack of some basic animation tools.

hairy_llama
01-12-2005, 08:07 PM
newtek needs to hire a goddan* pixar animator that wants squash and stretch, muscles, IK/FK blending, dopesheet that works and has KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS!
constraints that WORK. And probably a lot of tools I've never had the pleasure of using because all I use is LW. Half the tools don't work with half the other tools. Like match-goal... why the HELL does it not give a rotation output to expressions etc.
LW8 is going in the right direction but its still F'ed up. WTF is wrong with record pivot rotation. Half the time it does not work with other parts of LW/plugins. Or it F's up my rig when I reload my scene. Of course its mostly random so u can never pin the problem down. WHY do they even bother to include that nodal expression editor. If anone has ever tried to use it they will know what I am talking about. What about proxy pick, why can I not have it choose SETS of items?! Do we really need an old scene editor and a new one?! WHY are they not integrated? Why is it so friggen hard to arrange OBJECT ORDER. When I have 300 items in my scene I want to be able to arrange the order they are displayed in in all my lists etc. Its WAY TO HARD to make a simple foot setup with correctly working toe,ball,heal rotations. Deformations are still a pain in the *** to get to work right on the shoulder. It does not even have simple muscle bones, must be done with a plugin that is a pain to setup. Worst of all, it has NO native way to create a sqaush stretch rig. Its a time consuming pain in the arse to setup!
Maybe its like this with all programs but they sure make them look easier in the videos... Of course newtek made "IKboot" sound easy

Wonderpup
01-13-2005, 03:54 AM
As someone still at the bottom of the learning curve as far a CA in lightwave is concerned this thread makes depressing reading. The frustration for me is that Lightwave seems to be less than the sum of its parts- there is so much that is good about it, but there's that lack of coherence that your post exemplifies that seems to create problems.

I had thought IK Booster might be the tool that pulled Lightwave CA together, but all it seems to have done is add an additional layer of complexity.

Can I ask is there anyone at present using Lightwave for serious CA work who is finds it a comfortable and reliable tool, or is it always a case of fighting with it to get thejob done?

spec24
01-13-2005, 09:35 AM
Can I ask is there anyone at present using Lightwave for serious CA work who is finds it a comfortable and reliable tool, or is it always a case of fighting with it to get thejob done?

Yes - Timothy Albee for one.

Wonderpup
01-13-2005, 01:02 PM
Hi Spec24

You're right, Tim Albee does have a very positive take on Lightwave as a CA tool.

The trouble is I have a feeling that Albee could create great animation using just candle wax and rubber bands. My concern is not that Lightwave is not capable of great things, but how many hoops I need to navigate to produce acceptable results.

The enviroment I work in is not very forgiving- time is short, expectations are high.

So when guys like hairy_llama or Jonny Gorden tell me that tools like RPR are not to be trusted, it makes me nervous. My dilema is simply this- do I continue to invest time and money in mastering a tool that may betray me at a critical moment, or do I seek a safer solution?

spec24
01-13-2005, 01:23 PM
Oh I agree totally Wonderpup. I've b**ched about LW for years - hoping they'd sort all the problems out with each new release. But I have grown attached to it and do love the modeler over... well, at least 3DSMax. :) So I continue to wait for major improvements - and the new guy seems to be pretty positive about things and LW's outlook so I'm hopeful :) I am currently doing character animation within LW and mostly I use Albee's techniques. It seemed to me that Albee, at least as far as LW, was in the school of Keep It Simple Stupid. That's what I do and thus far most things have worked out. We'll see as I start to implement dynamics into the characters - who knows what headaches I'll have. But a lot of good points were made in this thread and on the forum itself about LW's poor character tools - or at least LW's poor implementation of these tools - and also the seemingly disconjointed way they're used.

lwaddict
01-13-2005, 02:06 PM
We're using LW here for some complex CA setups with full bodied werewolves and more.

I agree that the learning curve was often steep...
and sometimes you go down the wrong road using the wrong combination of tricks to get the job done...
what it comes down to is "keep it simple stupid" AND taking the time to learn how to do it the hard way.

I can't count how many times I've had to spend an evening undoing somebody's plugin using mess.

Don't get me wrong...all these "wonder" tools are great. But when the right combo comes into play, BAM. Then what?

Take the time to learn it oldschool and do it now.
It'll pay off no matter what program you're using.

Lightwave Rocks.
And I've used Maya, Max, and some others.

pat-lek
01-13-2005, 03:53 PM
There is some plugs like this (Commercial):
http://www.thomas4d.com/html/t4d_rigging_tools.html

to made animation easyer ( I can' t say anything about them, i have never trying them)

hairy_llama
01-13-2005, 03:54 PM
I don't like auto riggers, not enough user control.
This anim was done with native LW tools.
http://www.dv3productions.com/pub/zoidy-4-low.mov
I feel it was way to much work to get there.

palpal
01-13-2005, 04:19 PM
You say you do not like auto rigers, but the one from Thomas is really good, and he can also help you out, he has great service. I would say that his plugins and rigs are just amazing for that price tag, but also very good regarding ease. I would say that it is a shame that LW is so hard to get a hold on when animating characters....with thomas plugins it is much better.

yours pal

ChuckL
01-13-2005, 04:19 PM
I wondered if Poser was an answer to my CA concerns. But the replies to that question make it look like a big NO. I'm hoping that Tim Albee puts out a full course on the subject in the next year or so. Kaze might not have been hollywood but it was a fantastic one-man-show and proved to me that LW is worth investigating. And obviously LW has the capacity for CA and some good CA at that.
:)

Wonderpup
01-13-2005, 04:35 PM
Spec 24 & lwaddict

Thanks for the replys guys. Its good to hear positive stuff from people using the tool for real.

The thing is I really do want to stay with lightwave. I used Max for four years and its a good solid application, but I find I'm getting better results faster in Lightwave, despite only really using it seriously for about six months, which says a lot I think.

I agree the new lightwave team do seem a lot more professional in their approach. The original guys were obviosly very smart- but there was a dilettante mindset there that partly explains, I think, why Lightwave is so uneven- parts of it are brilliantly inspired, while other parts barely finished. Hopefully the new ethos will even out the bumps a bit.

spec24
01-13-2005, 06:55 PM
I wondered if Poser was an answer to my CA concerns. But the replies to that question make it look like a big NO. I'm hoping that Tim Albee puts out a full course on the subject in the next year or so. Kaze might not have been hollywood but it was a fantastic one-man-show and proved to me that LW is worth investigating. And obviously LW has the capacity for CA and some good CA at that.
:)

ChuckL - pick up Tim's book. I'd still be fighting with bones and goals and pulling my hair out without his help. It would be nice to see a video done by him about LW CA, maybe on Kurv some day. :)

SplineGod
01-13-2005, 09:45 PM
Thanks Colin!
First of all animation and rigging are two completely separate things. At some level they do relate but animation is about timing, acting etc while rigging is simply building a puppet. Ive lightwave for years for character work on large, fast production shows and larger longer time frame projects as well.
Ive also been teaching this for years as well.

EVERY application has issues when it comes to rigging at some level. Lightwave is more difficult in some areas and incredibly easy in others. Ive worked with people rigging in Maya and other apps and have been both horrified and amazed.
Basically a good workflow is using the strengths and downplaying and working around the weaknesses. Thats what has to be done to finish the job.
Once you the weaknesses are understood you plan for them ahead of time.

High quality animation is possbile with an experienced animator and a rig that is properly set up. There is no such thing as a universal rig. How a character is rigged depends on what the storyboards require and the type of controls individual animators prefer. Aside from that there are a few basic things that all good rigs are required to do. I feel that too many people focus on things like expressions and IK rather then the requirements that should drive what tools are used and when.

IKBooster is a great addition to the current toolset. It is poweful but like anything else has to be properly learned and used. The people who make the tools will never know it as well as end users hammering on it all the time. Thats why Newtek relies on feedback from users and beta testers to improve the product.

Im not a big fan of autoriggers either. I find them too limiting. Im more into the idea of easily reusing rigs. I also agree with Colin. Using 3rd party apps always solve a problem but also always inject some new problem in as well. That being the case I prefer to stick to a single app as much as I can or if I do use something else at least let it be something that really supports my main app.

There are so many types of rigs its mind boggling. Each has its strengths and weaknesses in different situations. Most of the time they all share one thing in common; setting up a good rig takes time. This is not just an issue in LW but in every 3D application. If you want to see what I mean read this: http://www.radgametools.com/cookbook/cookbook%20final.html
It'll give you a good headache. :)
Most of the rigging problems Ive encountered usually stem from not having enough time to make a rig do everything I want it to or what another animator wants. Lightwave is not perfect but its far from being useless for character work. Spending the time to REALLY learning it is a better way to go IMO especially since we all own it :)

Right now the character course I have covers all this in great detail. Just the rigging section is 15 hours of material or so.

lwaddict
01-14-2005, 06:28 AM
Good points there.

But another thing people trying to animate seem to forget.

You don't have to have the whole rig in one scene.

Traditionally, they never drew the whole character or scene for every clip of the old stuff. What I mean is, if you just saw the head in the shot, then they just drew the head.

Translated to 3d...

If you don't see the back of the building, why are you texturing it?

If the character doesn't spin around like a ballerina, why are you aiming for that?

If you only see the head in the shot...make a separate model that focuses on that.

If you only see the hand...ditto.

When the whole character has to run across the screen, which is what? a two second shot? Don't bother worrying about morph target for the face.

Keep it simple stupid...best rule of thumb.

I do a lot of animation, at my 9-5, freelancing, and as my hobby independant filmmaking and it's gotta be said...SPEED comes directly after ACCURACY.
So you've gotta be quick, and know when to walk away from the shot. It's done when it's done and no matter what it looks like, it'll never go down in history as a Mona Lisa...so move on to the next shot.

I've helped quite a few people with tips and tricks lately and the number one stumbling block that I keep seeing is that the newbies are trying to do it all with just the one character. OUCH. Why? Do you think you're saving time? Have you? I don't think so, but that's just my opinion...spend the two cents anyway you wanna.

I just hope that the thread starter doesn't get too depressed by all the downtrend moodiness of people who want the computer to "do it all" for them.

The PC and it's software are like a pencil.
The pencil is an amazing tool.
You can do some really incredible stuff with it but you have to practice and really get to know the pencil.
How many years was it before you could write your own name, legibly?
Took a few didn't it?
LW...is...another pencil.
Think of it this way and you might start thinking "outside of the box" as to how to use it and spend less time asking the pencil to dance for you. :cool:

chikega
01-14-2005, 07:28 AM
Yes, lwaddict, is correct.

Most effect houses will use several different rigs for the same character depending on what the script will call for. They will sometimes have different resolutions of the mesh and or textures depending on how close or far away the character is (LOD). This applies to other objects and buildings as well. They will use front projection mapping A LOT for backgrounds when applicable for the shot. Unfortunately, lot of newbies will try to create, in essence, a virtual world that is the end-all be-all with details that never make it to the final cut.

In essence, a good storyboard and script will drive the requirements mentioned above- not the other way around. :)

SplineGod
01-14-2005, 10:57 AM
What LWaddict and Chikega said is very true.
We used to cut off a head or arm, and then detail it up for closeups and really tweak the rig if need be. On some shows we had 'snap on' rigs that consisted of a jet pack or something that had its own complicated setup so thta whne loaded from scene it would simply snap to the charactet automatically. I t would be prerigged with its own controls to be easily animated. Sometimes there were scenes that had lots of polys so we would have proxy objects, proxy scenes or we would prerender parts and map them to polys, all to speed things up.

hairy_llama
01-14-2005, 12:11 PM
Proxy items.. thats something that should be more automatic with LW...
I had to write my own LScript for my dinosaur to replace a high poly mesh with a mesh system of hard parts parented to the bones for quick animation interaction... worked great but I'd rather not have to program to do stuff like that.

Steve McRae
01-16-2005, 06:14 AM
if you are looking for the industry standard for character animation - Maya is the package to learn

Dodgy
01-16-2005, 07:19 AM
Proxy items.. thats something that should be more automatic with LW...
I had to write my own LScript for my dinosaur to replace a high poly mesh with a mesh system of hard parts parented to the bones for quick animation interaction... worked great but I'd rather not have to program to do stuff like that.

What I do is use a box version or use quemloss to reduce the polys for a BONED proxy object, then cut the head/hands/feet from my high poly object and paste them into my low poly object. Animates a lot quicker and you can see the detailed bits as well.

faulknermano
01-16-2005, 12:19 PM
if you are looking for the industry standard for character animation - Maya is the package to learn

maya is a great CA package, and for other animations (e.g. mechanical). it is very stable, expressions are very flexible (multi-line, able to reference other procs) and fast, the trax editor (e.g. motion mixer) and dope sheet are easy to navigate, easy to move keys, easy to change useful attribs. graph editor, dope sheet, and timeline all seem to be connected together (e.g. when you select keys in the timeline, graph editor and dope sheet keys are selected to). timeline is awesome. one of my favorite features: timeDragger - hold down a hotkey and you get timeline scrub control immediately - no more going back and forth the timeline. :) maya's display scheme is such that feedback is fast when you switch off an object's display. lw has this weird thing that feedback will only improve if you use Bounding Box threshold. hiding an object in layout does nothing for the feedback speed. constraints are topnotch. spline ik. and CHARACTER SETS! an intrinsic set type which handles channels for unified modifications. i WISH lw had a set system. just give me a set system and i can script my way to neverland. :D

otoh, while maya has more deformers, i prefer lw's skinning methods better. it seems a bit more `mano-mano` which gives me the control i need without bloating my setup with so many nodes. :D


Proxy items.. thats something that should be more automatic with LW...
I had to write my own LScript for my dinosaur to replace a high poly mesh with a mesh system of hard parts parented to the bones for quick animation interaction... worked great but I'd rather not have to program to do stuff like that.

there's only so many things a program will do for you. while i dont disagree that lw's has alot of CA-related lacks, it should not be taken to mean that everything CA in LW is bad.

hrgiger
01-16-2005, 12:31 PM
Continue to use Lightwave and get the single license of Messiah:Animate. Done. Bing baddah boom. Finito. Lightwave with the Messiah Animate single license is cheaper then Maya, Max, XSI. Easy.

faulknermano
01-16-2005, 12:35 PM
Buy Lightwave and get the single license of Messiah:Animate.

hmm. i hadnt thought of that part actually... well, maya, if you have to know, doesnt have inbuilt support for lw, so getting info to and fro both apps will require certain software.. some are commercial, like beaver project (is that still around?) and some are free (maya2lw). (i myself plan to write a series of exporters / importers. i just dont know when i'll have the time.)