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Thread: Character Animation Tools in LightWave - Discussion

  1. #256
    Robert Ireland bobakabob's Avatar
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    Greenlaw, those FibreFX renders are wonderful, especially the second example - very subtle work.
    OT: I haven't yet started using FibreFX for character work (previously used Shave & Haircut in LW which was brilliant). Any advice / basic tips on where to start greatly appreciated.
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  2. #257
    Eat your peas. Greenlaw's Avatar
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    Thanks!

    One of these days I'd like to offer a training package for FiberFX. I tend to have too many projects going on at any given time and this year I've been making an focused effort to get a lot of stuff off the table, so hopefully I can make the training thing happen before too long.

    As for where to start--I find that creating my own project is the best way to learn. Pick a character or animal and just start 'furring' it up. If it's realistic, scrape up a bunch of reference images, study it, and try to replicate it.

    The native styling system is actually quite good now so I would start there. By 'now', I refer to 11.5--there's a slow OGL preview issue in 11.5.1, so you may want to avoid it. It's actually not a big deal though--if you want to speed up scrubbing the timeline in 11.6, you need to uncheck not just Preview but also the Active box. (Not to be confused with Activate, which will remove your FiberFX settings completely. Unchecking Active (the box with the checkmark) just disables the settings and doesn't remove them.) This feature worked correctly in 11.5 and has been fixed in 11.6. Using 11.6 is probably okay but keep in mind that it is still in public beta and subject to change. (In doing the test above, I think I found a 11.6 bug but I need to test it to be sure and report it if it is.)

    If you use guides (native or otherwise,) for FiberFX, the first thing you want to do is turn off all gravity effects--FiberFX gravity pulls fibers away from the guides (as it should) so turn it off. If you need dynamics on guide chains, use Bullet or SoftFX instead--but that's a whole other topic.

    FiberFX Edit Guides can give you a lot of control and it's fully animateable but it does have limits when it comes to certain tasks. If you need long hair, rail cloning is a good method--there's a great tutorial about this by Stu Aitkens on the Worley website. The process can seem tedious but it's a good way to get a very specific look quickly, and not that hard to do once you learn how it works.

    A more interactive approach to styling is ZBrush FiberMesh, and it works great for long hair. There's an excellent course on long hair styling at Digital Tutors. You'll need to learn the basics of ZB before you start with FM though but they have a good course for that too. This is what I used for Sister's hair--there are some frame grabs of Sister's hair in ZB here on this page. FM exports to LightWave and FiberFX reads the guides directly, but if you go down this path there are special rigging and shading issues consider which can get pretty advanced.

    Since your asking about where to start, I suggest staying with Edit Guides for now. With Edit Guides, you don't need to worry about transferring weight maps, UV maps or morph targets from the base mesh to the guides because the guides are physically bound to the vertices of the skin. This will be much easier to deal with unless you have a special requirement, like an extra fancy hair-do--but save the fancy stuff for later.

    Also, you'll want to set up few simple FiberFX scenes on-hand for running quick tests--a sphere, plane, curved plane, and a basic human head are good shapes to cover most proofing situations. Keeping test scene simple and focused helps me quickly understand specific features, shading and lighting, and other tasks. I refer to these basic test scenes often while working on more complicated setups.

    G.

  3. #258
    Eat your peas. Greenlaw's Avatar
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    BTW, FiberFX can now use spline curves for guides. The example above used a single curve from Modeler that was not converted into a 2-polygon chain. This may be useful if you use guides form other programs like ZBrush or Modo, which import to LightWave as curves.

    Naturally, you can convert curves to 2-point polygons at anytime using FiberFX Strand Maker in Modeler, and you will want to if you're using dynamics in LightWave. (Strand Maker not only converts the geometry but it also creates a weightmap and a root point. The root point not only makes it clear where the base is but it's also useful when using DrainBGVMaps to transfer the UV map from a character's skin surface--great if you need patterned textures like zebra or tiger fur applied to guides from ZB for example.) But if you're not using dynamics or otherwise deforming the guides, spline curves should be more RAM friendly. This last point is important to me because I don't actually have a lot of memory in my computer, not by today's standards anyway.

    If you do use curves for FiberFX guides, you'll want to apply the Show Curve custom object plugin to be able to see them in Layout. (As seen in this screen cap):

    Click image for larger version. 

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    G.

  4. #259
    Adapting Artist jasonwestmas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greenlaw View Post
    Getting back to the examples above, in animation you'll probably want to go with that last 'softer' look most of the time. The softer look is much faster to render (a good consideration when you're in production,) and most of the time, nobody is ever going to notice that level of detail in motion unless you're REALLY close up and the camera is locked off or otherwise lingering on the details. If that's the scene you're creating, I would consider that a special case.

    G.

    right, the context I'm thinking in right now is a special case that not many animators explore which is talking head and posturing stuff where you are often looking at the characters waist up or higher, with much more subtle motions. In such cases I find hair quality to be much more important.

    The examples I was showing were actually rendering in about 41 seconds (no AA for the other objects of course) which I think is lightning fast with a 1024 image and 4 cores. Trying to do the same with shave and a haircut and vray would be a miracle.
    All that is powerful or long standing is first conceived in the imagination; supported by the hope of possibility and then made manifest in our commitment of our current physical reality.

  5. #260
    I finally did a tutorial on: "Lightwave to MotionBuilder and Back again "
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eju1edD7k0A

    I hope it helps some of you
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  6. #261
    Robert Ireland bobakabob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greenlaw View Post
    BTW, FiberFX can now use spline curves for guides. The example above used a single curve from Modeler that was not converted into a 2-polygon chain. This may be useful if you use guides form other programs like ZBrush or Modo, which import to LightWave as curves.

    Naturally, you can convert curves to 2-point polygons at anytime using FiberFX Strand Maker in Modeler, and you will want to if you're using dynamics in LightWave. (Strand Maker not only converts the geometry but it also creates a weightmap and a root point. The root point not only makes it clear where the base is but it's also useful when using DrainBGVMaps to transfer the UV map from a character's skin surface--great if you need patterned textures like zebra or tiger fur applied to guides from ZB for example.) But if you're not using dynamics or otherwise deforming the guides, spline curves should be more RAM friendly. This last point is important to me because I don't actually have a lot of memory in my computer, not by today's standards anyway.

    If you do use curves for FiberFX guides, you'll want to apply the Show Curve custom object plugin to be able to see them in Layout. (As seen in this screen cap):

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	ShowCurve.jpg 
Views:	156 
Size:	114.5 KB 
ID:	116745

    G.
    Thanks for this, Greenlaw, you've explained the fundamentals so clearly.
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  7. #262
    Eat your peas. Greenlaw's Avatar
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    Glad to help. This summer I'm planning to take some time to finish 'B2'. When that happens, I'll start updating the B2 thread with my latest FiberFX notes.

    G.

  8. #263
    Often Banned Megalodon2.0's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Wizzard View Post
    I finally did a tutorial on: "Lightwave to MotionBuilder and Back again "
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eju1edD7k0A

    I hope it helps some of you
    Thanks for this.

    I haven't used Genoma yet with mocap, and this tute is a great start.

  9. #264
    Quote Originally Posted by Megalodon2.0 View Post
    Thanks for this.

    I haven't used Genoma yet with mocap, and this tute is a great start.
    Thanks, I'm uploading the next tutorial now. "Lightwave to MotionBuilder to ENDORPHIN and Back again"

    Link to follow, When it's uploaded
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  10. #265
    I've uploaded the next tutorial...
    "Lightwave to MotionBuilder to ENDORPHIN and Back again"

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSkDM-l38hM

    Enjoy
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  11. #266
    Just curious as to all in this forum.
    With the latest version of Lightwave 2015.1, did Newtek address some of your concerns.
    It would have been 1.7 years later since this conversation started.

    When I started this thread, I almost felt that I should go back to Project : Messiah for my Character Animation needs.

  12. #267
    A few of my favorite things in PMG was the ability to select motion channels via hotkeys:
    1 - x 2 - y 3 - z ; 4 h, 5 - p, 6 - b

    Is there anything close to that?

    You could also filter the item list (Le scene editor) to only show Animated Controllers, all of the other nulls, bones, objects that were for support or structure was invisible
    leaving a cleaner list.

  13. #268
    Super Member vncnt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Julez4001 View Post
    A few of my favorite things in PMG was the ability to select motion channels via hotkeys:
    1 - x 2 - y 3 - z ; 4 h, 5 - p, 6 - b

    Is there anything close to that?

    You could also filter the item list (Le scene editor) to only show Animated Controllers, all of the other nulls, bones, objects that were for support or structure was invisible
    leaving a cleaner list.
    Write a script.

  14. #269
    Quote Originally Posted by stevegraymusic View Post
    This thread has turned out to be intense and very informative.
    Early in this thread the above comment was made in response to my statement that you can't find any good examples of Lightwave character animation on the internet. Several people suggested "The Passenger". It is a very nice project but there really isn't much in the way of facial animation, lip sync etc. Would any of the Lightwave professionals who frequent this forum be willing to show us some of the character animation you've done as personal projects or side projects. I was hoping to see what users have been able to achieve using LW exclusively for humanoid characters. Anthropomorphic or even alien characters would be great too. I'm sure I'm not alone in my desire to see humanoid character animation done in well in LW that can stand up to work done in Maya, 3Ds, and Blender. Anyone?
    Unfortunately everything I've done was in Project:Messiah and Rendered in Lightwave (go to my old flash site->Theatre) 2002-2007.

    To Sum up this thread, the animation that you are looking can be done in Lightwave natively but not without more pain than other software suppresses.
    Starship Troopers was a complete cartoon series( in seasons )but it was mocap edit, but facial animation done with old Morph Gizmo. Great for its time.
    As you can see from the replies, more experienced actors have given Newtek the followup and direction to take those pains away.
    YOU CAN DO THOSE TYPE OF ANIMATION (Gentlemen's Duel and such) if you are willing to deal with the pain (who knows it may not be that tough for you) but you gotta put in the effort.
    It is something I am starting to get back into and I am trying to documrnt all of these notes to come up with simpler pipeline.
    Have no idea what the final stuff will look like but LW can do it.

  15. #270
    Eat your peas. Greenlaw's Avatar
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    Re: Character Animation improvements since this thread got started, yeah, in some ways I guess but not necessarily directly.

    Some important FiberFX fixes finally got made--it works with multisample lights now and motion vectors work again. I use Bullet for CA as well as general FX, so the new constraints are welcome. The new Parenter is useful for CA too.

    Genoma 2 is probably LW3DG's official answer to CA development in 2015.x but I haven't really used it yet to be able to comment.

    The main outstanding CA issue for me has not been addressed: the annoying offset weight map problem with joints which has been messed up since 9.6.x. (Man, why is this one so hard?) Oh, and the broken interactivity with morphs driven by modifiers like Cyclist--that's been broken for years I understand. You can make it work by switching on Live Studio but also switch on VPR and..............................................

    G.

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