Like most people, I animate with a keyboard and mouse, rotating bones directly or using Auto-IK for limbs. But it’s a slow and painful process when making long animations, and I’m wondering if there are other ways too. I don’t have wearable sensors like the big animation studios, but I do have a pressure sensitive a tablet, a gamepad with two thumb sticks, as well as a standard (but high resolution) webcam. And maybe even the keyboard and mouse can be used with a different animation technique!
So I’m wondering if there are any addons or hidden features that offer alternate ways of animating, using standard PC hardware (drawing tablet, gamepad, webcam, etc). In other words, anything apart from rotating bones or dragging them with Auto-IK.
One way I had in mind is recording animations dynamically. As the timeline plays, you are able to drag a selected bone across the screen, keyframes automatically inserted when appropriate. For example, if I wanted to animate a walk cycle: I’d select the foot bone, click “play” in the timeline, then move the mouse back & forth - left & right to simulate the foot traveling through the air. Or using my joypad with its two thumbs, I could select both foot bones and animate walking for both at a time. Of course you can only animate in 2D with a standard sensor, but functionality could be extended to allow buttons that push / pull the bone in the third axis.
Another way is using a pressure sensitive tablet to paint the movement of bones; You can click and drag any bone with the pencil. Left - right and up - down move the bone in 2D view, while pressure pushes / pulls it toward the camera. Once you remove the pencil from the tablet, the new position is inserted X frames from last frame (where X is how many frames you want to paint the animation).
Here’s yet another way: Body tracking, and following the movement of a person from a video. It could use the same system as camera tracking, only that each track follows a limb and is translated to an armature bone. Obviously, the video has to be bright and clear, and the actor must prevent body parts disappearing from the camera’s view. To make it easier, people could wear bracelets / collars / belts of a distinctive bright color, which would act as tracking points.
There are likely even more ideas that can be thought of. Not only that this would make animation times easier, but it should also make it more realistic. Since being directly involved in the movement of the bone has a more natural and fluid result than programming bone positions at each frame. So does anything even related to those concepts exist for Blender yet?