Animating an ISO Character in Poser

[kml_flashembed publishmethod=”static” fversion=”10.0.0″ useexpressinstall=”true” movie=”wp-content/uploads/2010/05/FFCharacters_ryan.swf” width=”400″ height=”400″ targetclass=”flashmovie” align=”left” play=”true” loop=”true” menu=”false” quality=”best” scale=”showall”]Get Adobe Flash player

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Click a character and use the buttons to test it. This one is incomplete and has errors in it.

Since my last post on this topic I came up with several ways to streamline the production process, and learned some features of Poser that helped this along. I also got the latest version: Poser Professional 2010.

[DDET Why Document This? ]

Streamlining a process with as many steps and dependencies as this one has requires some documentation because some of the techniques are subtle. For instance, not following a generic naming scheme when animating from Poser won’t matter until you realize you can’t automate bitmap replacements in the Flash library after spending a day rendering. Then you will have to decide if you want to re-render or run a batch rename process.

Another reason to document the process occurred to me after production got interrupted several times. I had trouble remembering every little detail that I had accumulated gradually while producing the first few angles of the character.

It helps to have a well-documented process if there is enough demand to warrant scripting some of the production, too. Poser is scriptable with Python, and it would be great to be able to automate motions, morphs and rendering to get a functional base character sequence. By the way, Poser uses Flex and AIR and includes a swc for the GUI. Haven’t looked at it yet, though.

[/DDET] [DDET Plan Your Character]

In ffilmation, and probably any other 2.5D iso setup, there are some design decisions that should be made prior to production:

  • How many angles can the character move in?
  • How many frames per second will the character display in?
  • What kind of motions will every character have to make (walk, run, stand…)?
  • How big will the character need to be (pixels)?

ffilmation and practical constraints dictated the answer to the first two questions. 8 Angles of motion are pretty standard in ISO characters since you can use key combinations of the cardinal directions to get diagonals, and without diagonal motion your ISO world will be lame. ffilmation is made to work in 30fps, so I went with that because the motion looked very fluid. I tried doubling frames in the timeline to get 15fps and it looked surprisingly good – I could see this being a viable low-bandwidth hack.

For motions, I decided I needed to have every character stand, walk, run, jump and land. I can tack on other motions at the end of the timeline.

Eventually I created a test rig to analyze the character as I replaced Poncho with Poser renders:

[/DDET] [DDET Starting Production]

I picked a stock character that came with Poser and used the pose library and walk designer to do most of the animating. The Walk Designer allows you to come up with a repeatable motion that can be applied to the character mulltiple times. It also blends between a starting pose (standing) and a walk, and can make loops for walking and running. The output can look very convincing without a lot of fussing, but there are some gotchas – more on those later.

Before rendering out the animations for all 8 angles, I recommend getting one angle worked out first, then applying it to the other angles. Make sure the transitions and loops are smooth, the character is the right size, and that it is registered properly to cast convincing shadows. I started out substituting bitmaps in a copy of Poncho, but it is better to work with a character with the right number of frames in each angle, if you have one.

I created a standing pose and made a copy of the Poser file to make the transitions to walking and running. The walk and running cycles were in two other files.  Compared to doing all animations in a single Poser file, this allowed me to tweak each file separately and render sequences named after their contents, which proved very important later on.

My settings for Ryan are all saved in the pwk file

Once I was satisfied with the animations I saved out the motion settings for each from the Walk Designer as a.pwk file, naming them for the sequence they defined.

Creating all 8 angles of standing was trivial: I set this up in the original Poser file.

[/DDET] [DDET Rendering Efficiently]

Here’s a gotcha: if you scale down the character in poser and then animate it, the motion will be all Captain Kirk – motions appear to be designed to work on 100% scale characters. The answer is to scale the rendered output instead.

Anyway, The steps I used to render a complete character to use in ffilmation/Flash:

Open one of the sequence animation files in Poser used in the Starting Production phase.

Remove all but the first frame.

Open Walk Designer and load the .pwk file for the frame

standing-to-walk transition

Adjust sticky settings (a bug IMHO that this is necessary every time)

Frame Rate Gotcha: If your loop cycle needs to cover more or less than 30 frames you will need to retime your animation in Poser. This is found in the Animation->Retime Animation…

Another Gotcha: How do you correlate a walk or run cycle with the distance traveled covered by the character in the environment? I followed the frame-count and rate already set in ffilmation. If you want to change it you should test in the Starting Production phase with a single character angle animation. Retiming can help here too.

Movie Settings

Render Settings

Animation-> Make Movie

Create folders to hold each angle of each animation and pose. I named them after the character, pose or loop, and angle:

[/DDET]

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