View Full Version : Working with MotionBuilder - any gurus out there?

08-20-2007, 11:42 AM
I'm on a brain-picking expedition. I want to get animated people in to my arch viz scenes and I'm trying to find the simplest way.

Having heard MotionBuilder's name being bandied around, am I right in assuming I can model a character in Lightwave (or purchase pre-made T-Pose characters, say from A-XYZ), import the basic textured mesh into MotionBuilder 7.5, apply a rig and either animate or import mocap data in that package, then export the whole lot in to Lightwave? I really don't want to start to learn how to rig in LightWave and would prefer a reasonable quick and dirty way of animating.

Does anyone have any experience in this?

08-20-2007, 12:43 PM
You can do the same thing with Poser as well. Im using a plugin that can import poser motions into LW. Theres also another by greenbriar. Its pretty easy to drop mocap files onto poser characters.

08-20-2007, 12:54 PM
am I right in assuming I can model a character in Lightwave (or purchase pre-made T-Pose characters, say from A-XYZ), import the basic textured mesh into MotionBuilder 7.5, apply a rig and either animate or import mocap data in that package, then export the whole lot in to Lightwave?

Absolutely, it really is quite easy to do.
A coolab project I worked on (currently in haitus) used this technique for pretty much all character work.

08-20-2007, 02:51 PM
I think I may have to test-drive both packages to see if they can do what I'm after. I just want to drop x-xyz T-pose models into one of them, apply some basic cyclic animations, then export the whole kaboodle into Lightwave. Let's hope the demos let me play that far :thumbsup:

Cheers guys!

08-20-2007, 07:30 PM
You don't move an unrigged character into MB... you move a fully rigged character into MB...

There are several places to go... one is get the skeleton from LW_Dave... and go to 3dbuzz.com and get and watch the videos about MB 5.0... it will help.

Any questions... I'll see what I can do.

08-21-2007, 03:13 AM
Done it so many times now, I don't even think about it.
As Will says, set up your character in LW, drop into MB, animate, plot, drop back into LW - total doddle once you've done it once.

08-21-2007, 08:02 AM
Thanks guys :)

08-21-2007, 01:13 PM
I've downloaded the trial of MB 7.5 - managed to get LWDave's rig into LW and matched to a T-Pose character I have, then when I output from LW to MB as an FBX file, is it just the skeleton I want to see, rather than the skeleton *and* polygonal model?

If I bring the model in as well (using 'File > Open') the mesh is all distorted, but if I bring the skeleton only in (using File > Import') then I can successfully merge an existing walk cycle from within MB to that skeleton. Unfortunately I can't then export the finished animation back into Lightwave as the demo version won't export anything other than FBL formats :/

I guess I'm asking, should I be able to see the polygonal model as well as Dave's skeleton in MB or just the skeleton. Then is it just a question of applying an animation to it, exporting it back out of MB as an FBX, then merging it with the original model/skeleton in LW using FBX_Merge?

08-21-2007, 02:17 PM
You should be able to see both.
My workflow, using LW and MB5.5 is as follows.
Drop Daves skeleton over a mesh in modeller and tweak to fit, have both mesh and rig in same layer, (don't need to, if you don't make sure to use 'bones from object' in layout.
Go into layout, create a 'Reference' Null (5.5 'wants' this, dunno about later versions).
Ensure Parent in place is on.
Parent my Mesh (& thus rig) to the Reference null.
Cvt skelegons.
Parent the left_leg_link to the hips, ditto for right leg link.
(I normally add a hold bone to the head and also have a weight map to isolate it, though there may be better methods.)
if you are using eye bones, parent them both to the head bone.

I normally do a quick 'bend test' of limbs to make sure my bones are not doing anything too funky. I also drag the hips back and forth to make sure my mesh follows it.
Once I reset any twists or moves with CTRL+Z, I then simply export to an FBX file.

Within MB, I drag the 'character' icon from the assets onto my reference null which auto-characterises my model.
I then save this as 'modelname_chr.fbx' in MB to distinguish it from the base mesh I pulled in.
This then can have any motion clip applied via the story editor.
Once I'm done mucking about, I plot all properties to the skeleton, if it asks to plot to the control rig, do that, then do another plot, which should go to the skeleton. During this whole process, the mesh follows the skeleton properly.

I then save this as an FBX, which imports nicely back into LW.
As an additional step, you can remove the mesh from the FBX prior to export to save filespace, but that's isn't really required.

Once back in LW, I load up my base character scene, choose 'merge FBX' (note merge, *not* import), this usually throws off the rotation of the reference null, so I simply zero this out at frame zero.

The only thing then is you have to expand the end frame as the merge of FBX doesn't automatically adjust that for you. So if the final plotted action in MB was 356 frames, ensure your LW scene end frame matches that.

Then save the LW scene under a unique name, which I normally use the FBX filename for such as .. 'genmale_fbx_walktest.lws'

Hope this helps. :)

08-21-2007, 02:28 PM
Oh thanks Colkai - I'll have a play with all that tomorrow :D Much appreciative of the time it took to type all that up - thanks again!

08-21-2007, 03:52 PM
Weehaa :D

I have the ropiest bit of rigging in the world but my character is in MB7.5 demo and doing the things I'm asking of it! I guess the next step would be to buy MB, export the file as a FBX file and carry on with your suggestions to get it back in to LW!

If you're ever in the Derby district just buzz me - I owe you a drink (beer, coffee, whatever you prefer) :thumbsup: Same goes for everyone else who helped - longer journey so I'l make it at least two beers/coffees ;)

08-21-2007, 04:08 PM
If you downloaded the PL version of MB from their website, remember it saves as FBL (their proprietary format for PL versions), not FBX - so you won't be able to get the stuff back to LW. I understand AutoDesk does give out a trial version that does save to FBX, but you'll have to ask for it.

Edit: sorry, just saw your happy post - didn't mean to burst the bubble...just bad timing on my part!

08-21-2007, 05:31 PM
Hehe - I realise that, but I figure as long as I've got it in there and there are people on here getting it back out then I'm happy to buy it.

Only thing is I've seen prices from 179 to 2300 for the software - version 7.5! Are there a few versions of this software out there?

08-22-2007, 02:57 AM
Glad you got it going, MB is superb for CA, after all, it's the only thing it was designed for.
I managed to get a really ropey walk cycle out of it is short order, my first ever, when I started with it.
I have a few VTM's I did for the Shirow project guys when I was learning it but I don't have the server space to put them up as I only have a small webspace area.

There are a few things to be aware of, but by the same token, there are also things you can do to utilise a lot of free mocap out there if you spend a it of time. Once you have a data-centric rig for the particular library, it becomes relatively quick to convert the motions to "pure" FBX clips.

As to prices - ahem, yeah, well, the whole debacle of pricing and support when it was accquired by Alias then Autodesk stopped me from upgrading. Kaydara made it easy to get onto the MB ladder and upgrade, the same cannot be said for the might (greed) of Autodesk.

It's unlikley, as people tend to keep it, but I'd see if you can get a 5.5 version and see if the license can be transferred, even then, I'm sure I recall that it wasn't allowed.

As I say, Autodesk == greed is good.

Though with a valid serial number for 5.5, I would think you should be able to activate for your install as I've had a few PC problems, (like boom), and the re-activation only requires your serial no, though not sure if they validate any email address against their database.

Even so, well worth looking into, for me .. 2,000 to upgrade - I don't think so, the wife would kill me! :D

08-22-2007, 03:10 AM
Hehe - so would mine ;) I couldn't justify 2,000 to get a few rigged characters in to arch viz scenes - I'll look into getting a 5.5 licence if possible, though in web trawl last night it does seem it's awkward to use prior to Autodesk taking over :( Sounds like you users of -5.5 really got done over by Autodesk, I'd have been livid!

If all that fails, then I'll look at Poser as SplineGod suggested - more my kind of budget. I mean, for 2k I could buy Max and have Character Studio bundled - a route I would never take but it's the level of character animation I'm after.

08-22-2007, 05:12 AM
Also take a look at the XSI Mod tool - that has Character stuff in it and it's free! Seems to have gained a godo rep, to be honest, I can see why.

Can't compare to MB though, but finding a 5.5 may well be a mite tricky.

08-22-2007, 07:53 AM
Aye - Cresshead suggested the XSI Mod tool too...another avenue to look at. It's so annoying that you can get max rigged characters from a-xyz but nothing LW based :/

08-22-2007, 08:06 AM
Yup - at least for hobbyists, there is more choice now, all good in the end. :)

One could also argue that there is no shortage of 'examples' for people to compare what they are doing with when developing software too! ;)