Austin 3D Users Group

From our meeting, 6:30 pm Wed. June 29, 2005 at ACC Highland Business Center, 5930 Middle Fiskville Rd., Austin, TX 78752, Room 411 (map).

This meeting is a continuation on our theme topic of workflow pipeline. We looked at Motion Capture, Character Rigging and how to tie the two together with Motion Builder.

Special thanks to Diane Tominaga for taking notes.  Check back for content updates!

       Tidbits of info:


       Game camp for kids is 10-24 July

       Austin Game Developer meeting is 12 July (no one said where)   for contacting local actors, voice over actors, etc.

       Gary Walker of TexFX for Combustion work and effects --

1st speaker was Matt Hinterlong from LocoMotion Studios; they work in conjunction with Animation Farm and are relocating from Wimberley to Ben White and Congress, same location as Animation Farm. Their motion capture studio will be about 30' X 70'.   He gave us an overview of how motion capture works.

The process of motion capture takes place by affixing markers that use the reflective material used on sneakers, onto key locations of the surface of the subject. Then, two video cameras (using red filters?) simultaneously record the motion, from different directions.  The resulting footage is used to triangulate the position of the markers, and software is used to eventually recreate them as points in a 3d model.  Alias' Motion Builder software is used for this. They use Vicon work station equipment and Body Builder.  The software is able to discern whether there are actually two points or one point if the points are overlapping.  The software later translates the surface points into skeletal points.  It takes 4 points to create a "Rigid Body" within the skeleton created, because at least 3 of the four will be a stable triangle.   Recently they motion captured a horse and its rider in motion. The horse had 53 or 54 markers affixed to it.  This was done using a hood and cape for the horse, and markers were directly affixed to its hooves. The rider had about 48 markers attached.  The motion capture was accomplished outside on a cloudy day, which was good for the cameras to actually see the markers. Some other studios use as many as 64 cameras at a time, in a large studio, to capture multiple targets with precision.

Main speaker: Brad Clark of The Animation Farm just finished a book on character rigging, "Inspired 3D Advanced Rigging and Deformations" and demonstrated for us how to rig characters.  As many of you know, Brad worked on Gollum in the second LOTR movie.  Brad (and several audience members) had also worked for the now defunct Acclaim on Red Star, a game (among others) that never shipped.  He emphasized the importance of learning max scripting (max's own script, which is an object-oriented language akin to Visual Basic and Java) in order to streamline and maximize the features in 3ds max in creating the models for the game.  The macro scripts  work by calling from text files on the hard drive. They developed many mini applications within max to do their bidding.   Brad then focused on telling of the importance of using "connectors" to connect attributes within max.  This is helpful in creating complicated models and animations.  The three main types of connectors are:

            1/  Reaction Manager (available on max 7 only)

            2/  Wire parameters

            3/  Copy and paste an instance using the Curve Editor

He demonstrated a really cool model of an elevator that had moving gears and cog-locks, which realistically moved the elevator up and down the elevator shaft.  He said that the crazy math approach he used wasn't really necessary, and that simply using the reaction manager is a great way to move props like the gears in the example.

3rd speaker: Steven Roselle, the Application Engineer from Alias,  showed how to use Motion Builder 6.0.  We learned that stock motion capture (some files can be obtained free from the MIT library, and some can be bought (Kaldera?))  First step is to "characterize the character", which means to associate the categories and spaces within Motion Builder with the corresponding information from the motion capture, and to create a character from the combination of the two.  Motion Builder is basically a game engine and works in real time.  There are camera switchers, and 4 cameras views of each frame can be used and changed at will to create many versions of the same events. Motion of the character can be modified by creating "offsets" in the timeline, and merging and fading these into the original motion to create a smooth motion.  Floor contacts are created on the foot or hands so that the character will remain above a plane.  Motion can be scaled to the size of the character to remain relative to the original motion, or can be altered.  Motion Builder is a powerful tool for creating Animatics.  A play can be created using it, or a dance, and we heard about a group of people who used real actors that created a play on a screen with a created background (I think).  Apparently there aren't any projects like this in the Austin area.

Thanks to everyone who attended, and especially to those who shared this great content with us.

Next month: more on pipeline and workflow: Rendering and Compositing.  We'll discuss special rendering techniques using backburner and the new mental ray network bucket rendering available in Max 7.5.  We'll also look at render elements and compositing in Combustion.  See you then!

The July 27 Users' Group meeting will be hosted by Zebra Imaging at their facility.  Check out their holographic displays.....very exciting!

The Austin 3D Users Group is sponsored by Austin Business Computers, Inc. Austin, TX
Contact: Jamie Crawford or Bill Bottorff Phone 512-328-4747



original announcement follows:

Brad Clark, a long time member of our group will show you the secrets of Character Rigging as detailed in his now book on the subject. Our original plan was to coordinate Brad's presentation with a motion capture how-to. We were to travel to Wimberley to the motion capture facility of Locomotion Studios but they are moving to Austin and will soon be set up here in town. When Locomotion is ready in their new Austin studio, we will visit (the August 31, meeting of the Austin 3D Users Group). 
Stephen Roselle of Alias will demo Motion Builder.


6:30 - Show and Tell

  1. Evan Gill and his students from TSTC will give a progress update on the Doom 3 Mod that his class have been working on. They would also like some critiques on their Demo Reel. They say it should be no more than 10 minutes

7:00 - Into to Mocap

Matt Hinterlong from Locomotion Studios, formerly in Wimberley, soon to be in Austin, will give us a quick introduction to the world of Motion Capture. These guys have been doing MoCap as long as anyone I know.

7:15 - Character Rigging - Brad Clark - Details Below

8:00 - Motion Builder - Demo by Steven Roselle, artist from Alias

Stephen Roselle is the Alias demo artist for our area. Motion Builder is the key piece of software in the pipeline between the Motion Capture studio and the rigged character in the Animation Software (Max, Maya, SoftImage etc.) Steven will give an overview of Motion Builder and then take us through the workflow of Sharing, Overlaping, Blending, Re-Targeting and Overlaying motion files. You guys need to know about this if you are going to animate!

Brad Clark - Details

Brad has just finished his new book on character rigging titled "Inspired 3D Advanced Rigging and Deformations" In addition to giving away a copy of his new book, Brad will show examples of Max rigging and the automated rig system that was developed at Acclaim and also present some basic ways to change Max to work better for artists. Knowledge of Scripting and Rigging will be helpful but not necessary to get something of use out of the talk. He will also give a short intro to the book and even though it is based around Maya as the application there are lots of Max references and links for how to do the equivalent tasks.

About Brad:
Author Brad Clark is an award-winning artist and animator whose experience ranges from modeling and rigging for television and video games to editing motion capture for Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers". He is currently an animator and Character TD at The Animation Farm in Austin, Texas. He has taught animation, character design, and setup at Full Sail, trained 2D animators on SOFTIMAGER in Manila, and has headed up internal training on motion capture, character rigging, and scripting for artists while with Acclaim Austin. His credits include the films "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" and "Major Damage", television series "Quest: Tales from the Ramayana", and the VEXX and NBA JAM '04 video games.

About "Inspired 3D Advanced Rigging and Deformations":
More than just a step-by-step tutorial on rigging, "Inspired 3D Advanced Rigging and Deformations" helps you develop the skills you need to successfully manage your rigging process from start to finish. You'll learn the reasons behind each step in developing a character rig and learn how that rig fits into the entire pipeline process The authors provide a unique glimpse at the real-world problems and choices that professional Character Technical Directors face, as well as the solutions they have developed for dealing with high-end digital characters. A follow-up to "Inspired 3D Character Setup", this book takes this difficult and sought-after skill and provides in-depth explanations and techniques.

ACC Highland Business Center, 5930 Middle Fiskville Rd., Austin, TX 78752, Room 411

The Austin 3D Users Group is sponsored by Austin Business Computers, Inc. Austin, TX
Contact: Jamie Crawford or Bill Bottorff Phone 512-328-4747