PDA

View Full Version : Character Animation in LW



DavidL
03-06-2006, 03:28 PM
As Lightwave is my first professional level 3d software (meaning I have nothing else to really compare it to) I have been wondering what the deal is with the way it handles character aniamtion. I've seen people on the boards talk about how it's behind other software and even Jay Roth talks about enhancing the CA system going forward.
So my question is, what are LW's CA deficiencies? What needs to be enhanced? Or what have other products done right that LW is missing and needs to emulate or borrow from to make it better for CA?

David

Wonderpup
03-07-2006, 04:15 PM
Definately worth doing a search on this one, both here and on CGTalk- you'll find a lot of interesting and usefull stuff on this topic.

Personaly I'm very much an 'occasional' character animator- meaning that on the rare occasion a CA job comes in I am expected to immediately transform into a character animator- so my take is going to be different from some of the real Pro's here.

At first sight CA in Lightwave looks really messy and confusing- there seem to be a lot of arcane rules about what bits of the system will work ok with other bits of the system.

But having said that there is a lot of elegance here too- the way bones work either alone or in relation to weight maps, the per channel IK system, the way endomorphs are stored in the model- all good stuff. And the motion mixer, while not perfect, is a good implementation.

So the opinion I have formed is that if you want to do straightforward character stuff, nothing too fancy, then Lightwave is great- but if you want to do the really clever stuff, things do get a bit akward compared to other apps.

But It's clear from posted comments that these issues have been recognised and plans are afoot to address them- so I'm really looking forward to seeing what Newtek come up with in the CA dept in the future.

TheDude
03-07-2006, 06:06 PM
So the opinion I have formed is that if you want to do straightforward character stuff, nothing too fancy, then Lightwave is great- but if you want to do the really clever stuff, things do get a bit akward compared to other apps.

I'd agree with this. If you use the basic LW Character tools you can fairly quickly get something done and it'll look good. But if you have to do complicated rigs with (dynamic) flesh, muscles, clothes, belts etc... then you'll struggle with LW.
To be fair that sort of thing isn't exactly "easy" to do in other software.

Wierd thing with CA tools is that it's often hard to pinpoint what makes them better or worse. I've used several apps and for me the most friendly and useable software is actually no longer available...Softimage 3D. However it did fall short in other areas.

I think the main things are talent and patience. Great character animation is created by animators, not software. Although great software can't hurt...

SplineGod
03-08-2006, 08:12 AM
The bottom line is that doing ANYTHING fancy with rigging gets complicated regardless of the application used. Thats why you might see a whole team of people working on one character in some productions.
Ive used LW alot for character work and for the most part is pretty stable and reliable. Most of the problems that have existed were due to the expression and constraints systems. Most of that should be gone in LW 9 due to the inclusion of Relativity. Ive use relativity in production and its rock solid with none of the deficiencies weve seen in the past. This is a very good thing and great improves what can be done. My Character course will be massively updated to take into account the new changes in LW9. Im also going to be working on a Rigging Book for Wordware. :)

hrgiger
03-08-2006, 12:55 PM
One of the big problems with LW character animation is that it's SLOW. Bone deformations as well as OGL currently is pretty bad. Multi-charcters scenes, can you do them? Sure? Would you want to? Probably not.
Some people will say here that you can turn off motion paths, use low poly proxy models, turn down your subpatch display, plus all these other tricks to speed animation up. These things help, but then what's the point of having all these features if we have to turn them off to animate efficiently.

Cloth simulation is poor. Well, actually the cloth in Lightwave is just fine. It's the collisions that are horrible. You can make flags and curtains and capes. But forget about cloth that a character wears on their limbs. That cloth will go through that body faster then Rush Limbaugh goes through Oxycotin.

LW is not so hot with non-destructive rigging. Meaning that if you decide in the middle of animating that your rig needs adjusting, you might as well scrap that animation, adjust, and then start your animation all over again.

Larry already mentioned the constraint and expression system.

Puguglybonehead
03-08-2006, 01:08 PM
Are there any plugins that actually make rigging and CA in LW any easier? I was looking at ACS4 and also the T4D Rigging Tools.

SplineGod
03-08-2006, 01:36 PM
The best way to make rigging easier is just to learn about rigging. Im not a big fan of autoriggers in general but they are there. If I were to suggest something that can autorig and more would be Maestro. It does far more then just autorig.

The problem people run into generally with things slowing down with characters or multiple characters is that they tend to mix animating with meshes deforming. Thats not a good thing. The scene will slow down and thats not a problem distinct to LW. EVERY app slows down and regardless of when it happens its NEVER at a good time. This is why you see animators using cut down or chopped up low rez versions of 3D characters while animating because they can get fast feedback. Later when the animator has finished his performance he will pass the rig along to a technical animator who will transfer the motions up to a denser rig to make the deformations work with the animation. What he does can might be sent upstream to another person who does, cloth, fur etc. At this stage theres no realtime feedback because things are too dense and complicated.
You can setup a similar pipeline in LW. Ive done it many times. Its easy to setup rigs so that you can quickly swap between high and low rez version fo the character. This allows you to setup an animation mode where you get fast feedback and a deformation mode where you might want to spot check deformations. Usually once I setup a rig this way Ill put it thru some exercises to check deformations and get that working as well as I can in advance and then fix more tweaky deformations later.
Its all about workflow really and LW has some good advantages when it comes to this type of workflow.

prospector
03-08-2006, 02:13 PM
I watch the ends of the DVDs that show how stuff was done in the movie, and all of the big film houses use low res ver of models and all the other tricks we mention here, don't know why that would be an issue, and they have MUCH better computers than I have, so if they do it then what's wrong with that?

And Spline god is right, that if you try to do everything in 1 shot it gets pretty slow.

I start with just doing the main skeleton anim with 1 poly from each extremity (all others are deleted),so I have the object there, all skeleton setup and major anims are done really quickly, then I get the low poly object (done with bandsaw without cutting, to select loops in various places of the body) to see if I have an arm or leg skin going thru something else that may be close, that's really fast, then I get an object that may have just the leg and check for morphing and if skin is moving correctly thru animation (can't have a knee bend and skin textures going towards hip) and this goes rather quickly, do the other extremities and that's done, grab just a head object and go thru facial animation same way, really fast, and when all is done and scene is saved, I just do an object replace, bring in full object, and because all my partials were this object to begin with and not another lopoly ver of this, all just goes together nicely, nothing needs to be rechecked, reset,renamed.

Hit render scene and go away for awhile.

So even tho I don't have big animation crews here, I find that if you take it in parts it's faster in the long run that having to sit and wait for screen refreshes after every mouse move.

So with LW animation tools I am very happy,

And yes, the collision engine needs some help.
And yes we could use a 'PARENT IN PLACE' button in modeler.

hrgiger
03-08-2006, 02:21 PM
EVERY app slows down and regardless of when it happens its NEVER at a good time. .

Yes, and Lightwave is especially slow. I've only animated in animation Master, Lightwave, and the demo of Messiah. And out of the three, Lightwave is way behind the other two in interactive speed while animating.

There's a reason that messiah is so popular with Lightwave users....

TheDude
03-08-2006, 07:00 PM
NewTek need to have a long hard look at Character animation, even tho [8] was supposed to be a major release in this respect, it fell way short.
Yes you can use the current incarnation and get things done, but try getting an animator to use it out of choice (even of the rigs are solid). It's fairly sluggish, unresponsive and not very intuative (compared to other solutions I've used anyway).

Messiah is a lot better for CA (in my opinion) and I always wondered if NT ever thought of buying PMG and dropping it into LW. That's one "NewTek buy plugin and add to core" upgrade I wouldn't mind paying for...probably wouldn't be so popular with folks that already have Messiah tho.

SplineGod
03-08-2006, 10:29 PM
DavidL,
Drop me a line when you get a chance. I can give you a live demo online of what Im talking about. Ive done it with a few others who were pleansantly surprised. If LW is your first professional 3D package then I would spend the time to REALLY see for yourself as well as push the software rather then start looking at other things before you can get your feet wet. I can show you a rig Ive setup using the process I described before :)

TomT
03-09-2006, 07:32 AM
Yes, and Lightwave is especially slow. I've only animated in animation Master, Lightwave, and the demo of Messiah. And out of the three, Lightwave is way behind the other two in interactive speed while animating.

There's a reason that messiah is so popular with Lightwave users....

I would agree. I don't us LW for much CA. It's doable in LW, but Messiah, is a much easier environment to work with for its interactivity and rigging.

If you are just using LW to learn about CA (not necessarily to handle a lot of jobs with it) then LW's tools are up to the task. A:M is also a tolerable learning tool, but you pretty much have to do things Hash's way when it comes to modeling.

hrgiger
03-09-2006, 11:48 AM
... A:M is also a tolerable learning tool, but you pretty much have to do things Hash's way when it comes to modeling.

Prett much the reason I ended up getting rid of Animation Master. I wanted to learn a polygon modeler, not "Hash" patches.

Cageman
03-09-2006, 12:00 PM
Im also going to be working on a Rigging Book for Wordware. :)

Wohoo!! That sounds great!!! Any details of when to expect this book? :)

Lex1342
03-10-2006, 05:24 AM
Donīt want to hijack this thread but I am to curious to resist...

Larry,
it is great to hear, that your character course will be updated and you will write a rigging book. :thumbsup: I like your tutorial videos and the depth you deliver.

I would definitely buy the book, but is there any chance that the character course will drop in price? Although I guess that your course is worth the money :agree: , I wont be able to spend 550$ for instructional videos right now.

Are there any release dates yet for your course and your book, that you may share?

Thanks

LX

SplineGod
03-10-2006, 05:58 AM
Cage,
As soon as possible! :)

Lex,
Thanks for the comments. :)
It might drop some but not much. The reason is because I put a lot of support time into it which is why its a course rather then just a set of video tutorials.The support time is unlimited and the course is self paced.Ive had several ppl who were sick or had to stop for various reasons. I let them restart from scratch even if they just want to and I still support it. Rigging is one of those things that no matter how good the books or videos are it still requires support. What I charge is also MUCH less then what other online character animation courses cost. My course right now is around 80 + hours of material. Thats a lot to update and redo. The nice thing about doing videos vs doing a book is that I can update things in parts. For example I was able to add in material on the bone tools and IKBoost. On the support forums I have its easy enough to post corrections when I see something thats different or when the question is brought up without the need to redo any videos. For example I used to use a tool called RT_Smooth Scale which I replaced with point normal move when that was added to LW.

People who sign up for the course within a certain time period get updates for free and students who've signed up further back can get the updates at a modest cost. The first updates to the character course will start to be available very soon and will be ongoing.

If $550 is a bit much for you Ive got the course broken down into 4 sections that can be purchased separately and the support is still the same. Ive also been known to allow some people to make payments or arrange something that works for both parties. I deal with that on a case by case basis. Drop me a line and let me know.

Emmanuel
03-12-2006, 09:11 AM
Larry:Looking forward to that book :)

All:I have to say, everytime I read people complain about LW's CA tools, I give it a try myself, and LW most of time is working as exspected.
just an exmaple of today: for my next school project (music video) I have been thinking about using Mocap files from the internet to animate my background characters, and also use the key-reduced mocaps for my main characters, as a base to start from.
In the past I always read LW and MoCap is more hassle than its worth, so go and get Motion Builder, Messiah, whatever.
Now, i tried it today, and guess what, I had a walking mocap character within 20 minutes.Not a single crash, everything worked as written in the manual, and the key reduction was a 5 second process.
Now, I thought, since some people say that adjusting rigs might be painful, I did a *very short* try and adjusted the knee joints of my mocap character with our cool tip/joint move tools, and GUESS WHAT: now my char was walking like an ostrich, just what I wanted and exspected.
I have not yet made the full program and worked with different mocap files in one scene, by using Motion Mixer and clips, but I can say that in the future for boring tasks like standard walk cycles, background animations and stuff like that, I will defnitly consider mocap files, because it was so easy to get those into LW, reduce them and adjust the rig for different kinds of characters.
With all its little shortcomings, today I had a "LightWave rocks so hard" experience.:D

Cageman
03-12-2006, 10:08 AM
I believe that bad experience with LW and CA is based on how the rig works. Saying that LW isn't capable is not true at all. I'm looking forward to Larrys book because I feel that I have to learn more of the technical stuff behind rigging in LightWave, and that is why I say that Maya works better for me, because it is easier to do advanced rigging. Once I get the chance to sit down and read a good LW-book on the subject, I bet I will like LW more for rigging, because I know it can do it, I just don't know how... yet. :)

Puguglybonehead
03-12-2006, 02:37 PM
I'm sure that LW is very capable when it comes to CA. There's certainly been enough work produced with it over the years. I've just come to realize, in my case, when it comes to understanding LW's CA tools, I need professional help :screwy: and so I've just ordered part one of Larry's CA course. :)

hrgiger
03-12-2006, 03:30 PM
Larry:Looking forward to that book :)

All:I have to say, everytime I read people complain about LW's CA tools, I give it a try myself, and LW most of time is working as exspected.
just an exmaple of today: for my next school project (music video) I have been thinking about using Mocap files from the internet to animate my background characters, and also use the key-reduced mocaps for my main characters, as a base to start from.
In the past I always read LW and MoCap is more hassle than its worth, so go and get Motion Builder, Messiah, whatever.
Now, i tried it today, and guess what, I had a walking mocap character within 20 minutes.Not a single crash, everything worked as written in the manual, and the key reduction was a 5 second process.
Now, I thought, since some people say that adjusting rigs might be painful, I did a *very short* try and adjusted the knee joints of my mocap character with our cool tip/joint move tools, and GUESS WHAT: now my char was walking like an ostrich, just what I wanted and exspected.
I have not yet made the full program and worked with different mocap files in one scene, by using Motion Mixer and clips, but I can say that in the future for boring tasks like standard walk cycles, background animations and stuff like that, I will defnitly consider mocap files, because it was so easy to get those into LW, reduce them and adjust the rig for different kinds of characters.
With all its little shortcomings, today I had a "LightWave rocks so hard" experience.:D

Ok, motion capture and character animation. Similar in output, not the same thing at all when it comes to process. Importing mocap data is quite a bit different from rigging and hand animating a character.

TheDude
03-13-2006, 02:41 PM
Once I get the chance to sit down and read a good LW-book on the subject, I bet I will like LW more for rigging, because I know it can do it, I just don't know how... yet. :)

Of course if NT did a decent job of the manual, people wouldn't be waiting around for books or videos on this subject (or any other).
However LW does have some pretty decent CA tools, but like a lot of LW, they are hard to get your head around and the workflow (when you do get it) is not great.

I also agree with the comment about Character Animation vs Mo Cap import, they're two very different things.

SplineGod
03-13-2006, 05:07 PM
I think the documention as such is fine. Theres a difference between good reference material and tuturials. Reference describes the basic functionality of tools and features. Tuturials are designed to show various ways to apply tools in different situations or contexts.

Character rigging requires the use of very desparate parts of LW and bringing them together into a particular context. First of all it would require that a person has a good understanding of what makes a good rig. These would be requirements that would be the same regardless of the 3d package used.
Next it would require a good knowledge of different aspects of LW such as:
Bones, Weight maps, IK, Expressions, Endomorphs and others. Each of these parts of LW arent just for character rigging which is why I make mention of bringing them all together into a particular context. Character rigging in any package is not simple task. Even with so called autorigging tools its very easy to come up with situations where they dont work.

As far as mocap and animation goes, they are more similar then dissimilar. Both still require a proper rig and both deal with keyframed data. Ive used both and even mocap can require a lot of massaging to make it work properly. :)

faulknermano
03-13-2006, 09:24 PM
I believe that bad experience with LW and CA is based on how the rig works.

which begs the question regarding the alleged difficulty of rigging in LW.

TheDude
03-14-2006, 10:05 AM
I think the documention as such is fine. Theres a difference between good reference material and tuturials. Reference describes the basic functionality of tools and features. Tuturials are designed to show various ways to apply tools in different situations or contexts.
:)

Yes, tutorials are different to documentation. It's a shame NT don't seem to realise that both are important when shipping a software product as complicated as LW...but then it does keep you guys in business so maybe that's why you're OK with the current state of the manuals :hey:

SplineGod
03-14-2006, 10:21 AM
I didnt say I was happy or unhappy with the current state of the manuals, just stating facts. Personally I think Newteks job to provide software that is flexible enough to be a solution to different peoples needs. They also need to provide some basic description of how tools work. They do have some basic tutorials as well but the fact is that the same tools can be used in so many different ways its impossible to cover every possible use. Thats up to the end user. Ive spent a great deal of time over a period of years figuring out what I know and then then making that experience accessible to others. Some of that is available commercially and much has been made available on the forums for free. I dont see a problem with that.
Its not any different then some people complaining about Lightwave not having every possible feature as opposed to Newtek providing a good SDK to allow others to develop plugins and tools to fill in the gap. Id rather have a tool or information I need from some source rather then not at all. :)

TheDude
03-15-2006, 06:22 PM
They also need to provide some basic description of how tools work. They do have some basic tutorials as well but the fact is that the same tools can be used in so many different ways its impossible to cover every possible use.

I expect, as a customer, for NT to provide more than just basic information. It's not good enough to do a (basic) step by step on how to do a specific thing. You also need to clearly explain why it will work. If you know why things work, you'll be able to apply that knowledge to other possible uses.

I don't have a problem with tutorial/instruction materials separate from LW, whether you choose to pay for them or not.
However I don't think it's unreasonable to expect LW to be fully explained and understandable straight out of the box without having to wait for/find/pay for additional materials. Other software developers do it, so why shouldn't NT?

That said, I've heard that LW 9 will have far better documentation and tutorial material, so perhaps NT have already addressed this issue. Time will tell I guess.

toonafish
03-16-2006, 03:42 PM
Larry, I'm sorry I have to say this but please fix the firelizard rig on your page before stating that rigging in Lightwave is just as good as in any other app.It's a terrible rig that proves exactly the opposite of what you're preaching.:cry:

SplineGod
03-16-2006, 04:45 PM
Toona,
LOL! You sure get worked up over nothing. Since when was that little lizard presented in any way as an example of Jurassic park level rigging? I put it up a very long time ago to show someone how I had setup the wings mainly. :)

toonafish
03-16-2006, 05:08 PM
mwaah, just something I noticed. And it doesn't make me wanna buy one of your training dvd's ;D

SplineGod
03-16-2006, 05:28 PM
Somehow I get the feeling that if I fix the little blue lizard to your specifications that it would prove that LW is the best rigging tool in the world or compel you to buy a DVD. :)

toonafish
03-17-2006, 12:17 AM
It probably won't, but it's not about "my standards" it's a matter of show and tell....you're telling me one thing but you're showing the opposite.:hey:

cresshead
03-17-2006, 02:54 AM
take a look at a dan dare dvd, roughnecks dvd, max steel dvd for charcter animation with lightwave...and remember many of these were created with lw5.7 or lw 6.0..............also have alook at captain scarlet for render, modeling and fx [character animaion mainly handled in maya but thrown back to lightwave for rendering out]
.:agree: :lwicon: :thumbsup:

now complain...!

just showing that lightwave is quite capable in the right hands...

i would agree that newtek would be praised if they re introduced a tutorial manual as well as a reference manual like hey did with inspire 3d back in 1998!

toonafish
03-17-2006, 08:39 AM
I'm not saying you can't do character animation in Lightwave, heck I've been wavin' for more then 10 years, have done my share of rigging, animation and banging my head against the wall, and I made a good living doing so.

I'm just agreeing that Lightwave is a great tool for relatively simple character animation with a short production time. In my opinion this is exactly what the examples you're giving are.

In Lightwave you can have a toony character ready for animation in no time, faster then in XSI or Maya and this gives me an advantage over a lot of competitors because I can accept jobs other artists have to decline because the budget is too low or the client needs it yesterday. So you won't see me ditching Lightwave for stuff like that.

But as soon as things start to become complicated rigging and animating simply works faster and better in an app like XSI. And it's much more fun then running into walls and figuring out workarounds all the time. Heck, the amount of time I've lost doing just that.....

It's good to know ones limitations, and that goes for ones tools too. I'm not going to hammer a nail with a screwdriver. It simply takes too long and my clients won't be happy.

But every time someone ventilates an opinion like this someone like Larry comes along and states that Lightwave is just as powerful in the character animation department as any other app. My personal experience is a different one, and I can't find any proof of the opposite on Larry's site nor anywhere else for that matter. So that's why I mentioned he should maybe fix his firelizard rig.

That's all, I suppose this has all been said before and you don't have to agree with me. We'll all just use whatever fits our needs and we'll be golden.

I did not say anything about the renderer or modeler