Blenders Character Animation Limits

If you are wondering why I’m asking so many questions about the Blender character animation process, wonder no more. I’m working on a Blender community aided Animation project and some personal company products at the same time. I am not merely interested in producing an animation setup for use a hobby project. So I’m putting my best effort into this work.

First I want to gather as many tips and guidelines for the Blender animation process. I need to lock down my knowledge of the Blender rigging process, constraint process, NLA process, IPO editing process and compositing processes for these projects. When I’m done, I will see exactly what I will need to work with and omit anything that doesn’t work for me.

So far, I’ve made good progress. Most of the info that I need is available through quick searches here. And I have been translating to the best of my ability, some other character animation info.

As I’m going along I’m wondering if I am aware of some of the basic limits of Blenders animation system. In essence when I look at other tutorials for 3d Character animation, I’m often comparing these setups with Blenders own style of rigging. Here is some new info that I ran across on CGtalk-

It is a pretty comprehensive resource on advanced 3d character rigging. It includes lot’s of pictures and videos.

One thing that really is on my mind as I look at this information is the rigs control system. Basic rigging structures such as a “reversefoot” setup seem to allow for really dynamic control. Not only is the control centered at the foot region, it also controls the roll axis of the hip joint. Whoa! That’s some control. In fact, this is the first time that I have ever seen this kind of rig setup. If you look further into the website, you will see that all of the other extremities of the characters body have similar control point “goals” or controllers.

I was thinking, what combination of rigging layout and constraint setup would give me a 10th of this kind of control in Blender? I was even wondering if it is at all possible to “combine” rigging and ik constraint methods in Blender to pull at least something like this off. I know that trial and error is not going to cut out something like this, no way.
Hopefully we can get a little topic going here so that we can figure out how to break down some techniques that will give us a clearer look into what we can really do with Blenders character animation system. I know that other Blender users like Landis are also working on their own projects that involve animated characters. I plan to release my test rig with a walk cycle and all when I get it all locked down. Any ideas that you want to add?


My idea about the subject is quite simple:

If you really love Disney or Pixar animations, if you really want to
became a “pro”, working for those studios or similar ones, forget
Buy or… find :slight_smile: 3D MAX and Character Studio and practice a lot

If you only want to do some “imaginative works”, probably Blender can do it.

Norman Maclaren was an animation genius, with some celluloid and inks and stuff

I think that good drawing skill, a grasp of traditional animation, anatomy etc. are assets to 3d animation. But I want to focus more on the technical process of the setup of the 3d animation structure methods. The tutorial that I linked to gives you a good look at someone who understands the technical 3d character animation process thoroughly. If this same person could get a grip on Blenders animation methods, or 3ds Max, etc. his results would be as advanced as any of those apps allow. As I said before, if we could really get a grip on the Blender "method of character animation structure beyond a simple understanding of how Blenders animation tools work, we can apply more complex methods to our own character animations in Blender.

I think that one area of weakness that one could have when they approach using Blender is a failure to realize it’s potential. I joined this forum because I began to realize that part of the power of Blender is in our willingness to reach out and put our heads together as Blender users and discuss our common goals and problems.

I am new to the Blender character animation process but I can see its hidden power at times. Blender is young and doesn’t have many experienced 3d users who have practiced their 3d skill with it and captured its strong points in their workflow. But that could change as more serious Blender character animators tackle any issues that may come up as they work with Blender.

I almost gave up on using Blender for character animation. The instructional resources for complex Blender character animation are limited or unavailable. This could change with our efforts. If we want better character animation in Blender we have to understand what tools are needed for complex animation and work on applying those in our own animations. We can also trade our knowledge and experiences. Then we can request more features based on this knowledge and experience and build the kind of tools that best suit our own ideas for working with 3d character animation. If we want to use the Maya, Max, Lightwave, XSI, etc. process of character animation we can. But my goal is to work with the Blender process of character animation and improve that structure and its resources. That’s where I’m heading with this.

Hello JA-forreal

You seems to be a methodic and serious man :slight_smile:
This it’ll be good for the Blender comunity ( a “broken fingers gang” me, being the number one)

First things first, I don’t like Disney or Pixar 3d movies.
Thecnically they’re fabulous, but they let me cold.
To aproach a 1/100 of that thecnical quality you need some sophisticated tools
And in the animation field, Blender is quite basic
Have you ever tried Character Studio??

You can do nice animations with Blender, but you must be a ZEN MASTER
Anyway, you’re wright, Blender needs that people explore his capacities
Maye you??? :slight_smile:

Ja forreal

You know, you can try to “lock it all down” and then get feedback but trial and error is quite a bit more practical. See there’s lots of ways to go about things in blender, it all depends on what your aim is. I think it would work better if you posted a particular issue and got feedback on that. And if it’s a solution that you think no one came up with before and it works well… well write a tutorial :wink:

It doesn’t really work to say… what can you do with blender character animation… there’s too much involved.

I think to a degree one can blame their tools, but not all the time.

Sure, no one would contemplate doing “Final Fantasy” in blender, but I have been having fantastic results with the project I am working on.

In terms of having “fun” one would have more of it pulling on advanced rigs and watching them realistically move about. If you are dedicated enough, you can achieve as realistic movement with blender’s armature after correct keying.

Sure, the manual method is not as “nice” and takes work to achieve similar results, but from past experience, I hardly ever use a “realistic” rig anyway. These rigs are limiting when it comes to cartooning. Its kinda like driving an automatic, its easier, but you will never be able to drive a stick-shift. Not only that, but anyone else who uses the same automatic rig, will probably have similar characteristics / movements to their animations as yours.

Blender takes work and dedication, just the qualities required of an animator. :wink:

If you are trying to do “realism” then sure, Blender probably wouldnt be the right tool, but it is PERFECT for anything else.


Ones striving for 3d realism is a personal matter of taste and dedication. 3d realism is not a requirement for all professional character animations. As far as Blender having more advanced character control, that is around the corner. But unlike the “other” apps, with Blender we are not limited to sitting back and waiting to see what character animation tools come out. We can suggest these features and test out the current Blender animation system to find areas of improvement. We can only do this by pushing the current system to its limits. Then maybe we can influence the Blender coders to tryout some of our ideas. And if one is a Blender coder who is an animator also, all the better.

Blend on!

JA-forreal, I´m also triyng to figure out and maximize Blender´s strength on character animation. I´m trying my best to pull out my next anim project with it. If I can be of any help, tell me.
I´m used to see advanced rigs made in Maya and would love to see some of those capabilities in Blender.

Alexandre Rangel

I hope to offer a project report that details my efforts with Blender animation. I figure if more of us get involved in this way we can clear up some of the misconceptions that new users may have in this area of Blender character animation.

Blend on.

i’ve been trying to get a working rig (one you don’t have to fight with) since 222, with some success i might add. the one thing that always annoyed me was the lack of speed with more complex rigs. i don’t know how this issue has been adressed in recent builds, but it seems that alot needs to be done yet. anyway i was able to produce two short clips using a basic, but working rig for a biped. it’s completely IK and has independent knee and elbow controls. it uses two armatures, one for deformation and one which controls it. i actually don’t know if this is agood idea in terms of speed, but i like the fact that i can put the deformation armature on a different layer and hide it. if anyone is interested i can email the .blend file.



You could probably have done the same thing by hiding the bones directly. Just click the Hide button next to the bone’s name in the Edit window (F9) when it is selected in edit mode.


… hide bones - absolutely! must have overseen that button.


yesterday i started with a rig similar to those in XSI - except for some weird deformation problems with an libloaded mesh the armature is very responosive and quite handy. i’ll share it with everyone interested as soon as it’s ready.

best regards


Honestly, I don’t understand what all you complaining about. If you understand the Blender’s ways there is nothing that you can’t do with it, at least when it comes to rigging.

I’ve been working with Blender character animation tools even before Armatures arrived into blender, and I can honestly say that so far I have yet to see a rigging setup done in another app that I couldn’t replicate on Blender… and that is considering that I know 0 when it comes to python.

However, I’m one of those persons who likes to spend weeks polishing the small details. Theeth is my witness that I once spent 2 month polishing a 80 bones rigg for a biped.

What do you use your animations for? Your work sounds interesting and I don’t know too many Blender animators who use Blender in place of character animation software like XSI or Maya. I plan to do so in my work. But until I understand all of Blenders pitfalls and powers as you stated I will not master Blenders character animation tools. You have to know apps limits before you really take on a serious project. If it is just a hobby to you then such things don’t really matter for most hobbyists.

I had considered purchasing Maya and taking some advanced Maya animation classes in 2004. But it looks like I won’t need to worry about this for now. The cloth tools and other dynamic animation tools in Maya are cool for animation. But I really don’t need all that right now to get my stuff up and running.

Yeah, some of the amination setups that you see Theeth presenting really show the power of python scripting in Blender.

Blend on!

CG is a hobby for me, however, if you bring out more details about the animation you are working on and the characters I would be able to give more valuable advise.

Honestly, I don’t think that there is a golden set-up that will solve all your problems. For example, when I desing a character rigg I need to know beforehand what type of actions he will perform.

If you want general pointers, I guess this would do:
Allways set your rigs in a half relaxed fashion… totally relax your hand for a few minutes and see the position of the palm and fingers, that is position you should model and rig-them on the 3D world. Same goes for mouth, legs, arms, etc. etc. etc

When in doubt over IK or FK allways choose IK, since it is quite easy to swicth a IK rig into FK when needed and then back to IK.

Bone’s axis orientation can’t be an afterthought!! It is no coincidence that every self-respecting rigging tutorial for blender mention it… And don’t trust blindly on the automatic axis orientation fix comand (Ctrl-N), since it can intruduce some odd solutions on complex armatures. Always check each bone by hand, even if Blender says they are fixed.

Ultimate rig design is not the in-and-all of character animation. Sometimes I would spent crazy amounts of time preparing a rig for a special squence, and in the end realize that if I had used a simple FK rig tricked by hand during animation I would get the same results in half of the time and half the frustration. Not because it can be done means that it must be done.

Thanks for the tips Apollux. I have settled with the setup that I will use for my Blender character animations for now. Now I’m in the practice and production mode. Anything that works for me now will be used for my projects. If something doesn’t work right I will file it away for the future.

Appolux: I had no idea you were such a guru on Character Animation. Maybe you’ll do the rigging for the cook on the muffin project now ;)?

I have a question tho: Do bones have ‘roll handles’ that could be used to…well… roll the bone? Like this:

 <- roll
   X     <--------bone from the front

roll ->

thanks man


Just rotate the bone on its local axis.


Yea, they do… just like theeth said, you only need to constraint the rotation to the bone’s axis and that does the trick.

One related feature is the ¨Aling View¨ command (numpad *) that puts you perpendicullar to the Y axis of the selected object and that works also with bones… I believe that there are other ¨align view¨ options, but I don’t know/forgot the hotkeys for those.

Boy, that’d be great if this worked with bones and not just the armature, especially in pose mode, but preferably in both pose and edit. It doesn’t however, or at least I couldn’t get it to work in current CVS builds nor 2.28c.