How can we have a better Blender Character Animator userbase?

It’s great to see that blender is attracting lot of artists and developers from all corners; specially in the modeling segment, thanks to bMesh and bSurfaces (they have been for a while though, its getting lot of attention in recent time).

But in case of Character Animation, it’s not a vivid picture. There are several reasons that effecting us, but mainly it seems due to lack of quality and appealing character free rigs that so easily available for Maya alone (via Creative Crash). We have animation tools inside Blender that’s almost par with Maya or Softimage XSI and in some cases we have better options than others (ex: Quaternion to avoid Gimbal Lock, much better Graph Editor and Dopesheet) but very limited people to take advantage of it.

If I have to make points what’s holding us back, they would be

  1. Definitely, not enough quality generic rigs to practice with. (This may change a bit after Nathan’s awesome Humane Rigging series)

  2. Ignorant of the basic fundamentals and principals of animation. Not taking enough time to strengthen the foundation.

  3. Blender userbase (mostly who’ve started off as hobbyist) don’t care much about taking the LONG SHORT-CUT, hence improving their basic drawing and acting skills is a far away afterthought.

  4. A large chunk of Blender userbase, who’re interested in animation are into cool stuff; creating simulations and effects, would likely not interested or appreciate the art of CA.

  5. Time consuming and tedious work (so is a serious modeling session), but they forget how gratifying it is to a bring a LIFE to a character/props.

  6. Most institutes/universities/online schools are Maya based classes; and people accustomed with other 3D software packages will give millions reasons why Blender is not used in most popular studios or adopted in their pipeline as an animation tool and it would be foolish to pick Blender if one needs to make a living out of it.

  7. Few users might be dependent on using technology (read: Motion Capture and other automated plugins) to assist them on animation. If a mocap data is not cleaned enough, it looks flat and lifeless (there’s always an Uncanny Valley of death).

Why I am writing all these? A serious or professional animator could give a better answer.

I strongly feel, it’s high time to upgrade our userbase (i.e. Character Animator specifically, it’s a specialized skills which need to be nurture and brew for long time before we can deliver ‘feature-film quality’ animations). We have some great animators in Blender community, who are mostly self-taught or other seeking those raw knowledge and skills from masters and legends who have ruled animation industry for long time. So, I would request them to showcase their talents (outside their NDA; could be personal work but high quality) more often to encourage new enthusiasts. We need to have a talent pool of animators for future requirement in large productions environment, which I foresee that such skill-full artists will be in high demand, at the same time bringing Blender’s strengths to people and recognized by professionals in large.

Remember: With serious and more talented artist’s work, encourages more devs/coders to work for better tomorrow. ‘Requirements and necessities are the mother of all great inventions and innovation’.

I hope, I am not being overambitious on this. Would love to hear what our community have.

As an animator I understand your pain. I’ve struggled to find great rigs like you can for maya. In the end though it’s up to people like you and me to make appealing rigs. Perhaps we could start a rig thread and make a great community rig like the 11second rig, or perhaps porting those rigs? What do you think?

That’s actually we are all looking forward to, but alas not all animators are proficient riggers (that includes me). We would definitely love to have community rig (or thread to create one) like you mentioned, however, we have to make sure that too many cooks don’t spoil the broth. I’ve heard that the 11 rig for Maya is having few conflicting issues (specially naming convention among few others.)

Porting simple generic rigs would be much nicer and good starting point for building such quality rig repository. I have seen Kiopaa have already ported the ‘flour sack’ and ‘norman rig’, the controllers are lot more clean and intuitive, however, the flour sack have few less (and important ones) controllers than the Maya one have. Ivo’s version of Norman is broken in the latest releases, having several issues with the drivers driven shapekeys and difficult to interpolate using bezier/spline curves. Wayne Dixon have some good collection of rigs but I haven’t tried it to its extreme to comment much. Daniel Martinez Lara (of Pepeland) have some to play with too.

If one visits BlendSwap, you have numerous rig but mostly it’s unusable mainly due to its rig structure (lots of tweaks to be made and counter-animate), doesn’t make animator’s life easy. Another point to be made is about the Character Design, they severely lack that appealing thing. The only rig that I have found appealing enough is Cartoon Guy from Michael Edewaard, it even surpasses ManCandy in terms of appeal. So, there are few points to be noted before we start building quality and intuitive rigs for our animator community to study and practice with.

Other than the rigs, it would be young animator’s job to do the basic exercises to death, showcasing as much as possible, getting the required feedback and encouraging them to do even much better. It’s of equal importance and bringing a new culture to our community.
:rolleyes:

Hi Exzema,

Learning rigging, like learning any other part of Blender, looks far more daunting from the outside than from the inside. Once you know how rigs work, building a useable rig shouldn’t take much longer than producing a pleasing character mesh.

Gaining the knowledge may be time-consuming, but it’s worth it. It might take you a couple of months to learn rigging, but once you do, any but the most complex rigs will take no more than a day or two to produce.

And when you consider that it might take you a couple of months to understand all the deep dark secrets of someone else’s rig, your time would be better spent IMHO in learning to produce your own.

Another advantage of learning rigging is this: if you see a really cool feature in someone else’s rig, you can reverse-engineer and adapt it to any rig you’re using without waiting for someone else to do it for you.

In rigging, like in anything life has to offer, knowledge is power. I encourage you to grab that power with both hands!

How’s that for a pep talk? :slight_smile:

one cool rig is Daniel Martinez Lara’s orange rig, it’s as appealing as the Stu rig from animation mentor (even better in my opinion)…

I think more and more pros are turning to Blender, because of recent developments…

With Rigify in Blender there should be no reason for good animation to surface more regularly. The look of the character is unimportant if it’s a motion study.

~Glenn

I’m thinking it’s the other way around. I’m professionally trained in Maya. Yet the last rig I posted has had absolutely zero feedback from the community.

A lot of people tend to skip the fundamentals of animation, and jump straight into Blender specifics. They then get frustrated with the fact that their animation isn’t turning out well, and skip learning animation all together.

Creating appeal in the poses is another thing lacking, and I will say it takes a long time to grasp what “appealing” actually means.

With Rigify in Blender there should be no reason for good animation to surface more regularly. The look of the character is unimportant if it’s a motion study.

While I’m not saying Rigify is bad, most generated rigs aren’t good enough. A rig needs to be made specifically for a character, with controls for specific things of that character. (squash/stretch, face controls, jiggle controls etc.)

I have some 100’s of rigged blender characters collected from the community.
of which, 20% are really good rigs.
to say that there’s not much out there is not fair.
You need to look & hunt down things & you will find them.

Make a GPL .blend and let people download it, and add more RIG to the same .blend

Great thread. I also feel like animation is a bit under represented within the Blender community.

Reasons why I think the Blender animation community is under represented.

  1. Lack of character rigs and a lack of rigging convention across the rigs that do exist including the open movie rigs. The fact that BBB is more often animated in Maya over Blender says alot.

  2. Only recent implementation of Euler rotations. Top level animations require Euler rotations, this was only recently added so it is understandable that some animators may have given it a miss in blender.

  3. The Blender community as a whole does not react well to advanced level tutorials. Every tutorial must assume very little prior knowledge, this limits the scope of what can be covered. Animation is a skill rather than a technique, it cant be demonstrated in a 10 minute video.

  4. Animation across alot of applications is under represented not just Blender. Flash for example is one of the major animation packages used for 2D, yet it is impossible to find infomation about rigging and animation at that level in Flash.

  5. The community building tools needed to create an animation community are not centrally located. The forums on Blender Artists that an animator would need dont exist or are shared with other disciplines.

  6. Animation requires peer review, Blender artists has a “work in progress” forum but you are unlikely to get animation feedback posting an animation there. An “Animation Review” forum is required.

All that said, I am my self working on resolving some of these issues. I am working on a free Blender rig. I am also thinking of creating an animation community website to go with the rigs.

I have also been researching the possibility of creating a monthly animation challange. Unlike the 11 second club this community would focuse on body mechanics and it would also differ in whats provided each month.

Instead of receiving an 11 second sound clip you would instead download a pre created scene with a rigged character in Blender and each month would have a theme.

So you might download a scene that had a character with a ball and net, and the theme for that month would be basketball. The challange would then be to animate that scene as best you can to win a prize.

The idea would be to add a new character or rig each month untill a full libary was created. Some months might simply have a ball with a tail and the theme “chase”. Other months would have a bipedal character and a box with the theme “heavy”.

I think Character Animators will naturally increase as Blender gets more popular/attracts more artists over time. As in I don’t think it’s a character animation problem specifically, but just pulling in more 3D artists in general.

Here’s some animation stuff from me for a personal game project I’m doing. I need to quit being lazy and make a thread or two with my stuff probably. Model, Texture, Rig, Animation is all me. Gif speeds aren’t very accurate, blah blah, you get the idea.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/9287332/blenderartists/mytoss_walk.gif
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/9287332/blenderartists/idle.gif

I think its the fact that most blenderers are hobbyists, and typically animation is pretty late on the totem pole of 3D – I mean, you open blender for the first time, the first thing you learn is how to model – it could take years to become a good modeller of a quality character

then you learn how to texture, again it could be years

then if ambitious you learn how to rig – weight painting can be very difficult

Finally, you can begin animating your own character

granted, you can skip learning to model, texture rig and jump straight to animation, but does anyone?

Ask yourself this – how many animators can model (“Can” doesnt mean enjoy)
how many animators can texture
how many animators can rig

I would wager the answer to this is 80 to 100%

go the other direction –
how many modellers can texture? (prob about 80%)
of those how many can rig (prob about 50%)
of those how many can animate (prob about 80%)

school short-cuts this – I mean- if I went to a professional school and said I wanted to be an animator, they would throw me into animation classes quickly, and only give a basic overview of the other skills

point is – hobbyists dont’ generally have the time or effort to work thier way up the 3D ladder.

we need new features

One of the things to which I agree with is that all of the beautiful characters coming out of the open movie projects are not maintained and updated to recent versions of Blender. But animation is also a difficult beast to master, and it requires a lot of dedication and focus.

You are right, but I think for the wrong reason. The problem is “low animation representation within the Blender community” The fact that new users go straight for modeling over animation is causing the problem its not the actaul problem.

Why are new users following the ladder as you pointed out? Why are more new users not animating as thier first project? Why does the blender community expect a new user to start with modeling?

I think the reason for this is that modeling is more accessible to new users becuse thier are more tutorials, other users are more knowledgeable and help is alot easier to find. The community expects a new user to start with modeling something, alot of the projects for beginners are modeling projects. A new user is more likely to get feedback and comments if they post a model rather than an animation.

Animation is harder to get into for a new user because thier is no straight foward place to get a character rig “simple ball or bipedal character”, the character rigs that do exist are often unmaintained out of date and they are all diffrent. Thier are very few tutorials that cover the basics of animation compared to other disciplines and even fewer that cover it from a new users perspective.

Thier is also no unified blender support or community for character animation in Blender. Posting an animation in the the BA WIP forum will not get the feedback that is needed to improve an animation.

Thier is no reason why a new user should choose to learn how to model before learning to animate, but as things are now it is easier to learn modeling first and that is why most do. What we need to work out is how to make it easier for new users to start animating!

This is a major problem, and is one of the reasons that you see more BBB animated in Maya than you do from Blender.

The BBB rigs all used python constraints and they dont work in 2.5x so the rigs are totally useless, it is such a shame/waste. another problem with the open movie rigs is that they are rough around the edges. they are just good enough to do what was needed in the story board but they lack the flexability and polish that you find in alot of the free rigs and animation school rigs.

If we want to get more blenderheads animating we need to have a selection of easliy accessible rigs that share a common control ideology and are maintained at the same pace as blender.

I attended Animation Mentor and I had a few class mates who had never used a 3D application before let alone created a 3d model. It was very insightful for me as they picked up animation at a similar pace to what I did even though I had been using a 3D app for years. What was most intresting was that they found modeling more difficult than animating, one of my friends thought that modeling was at least twice as complex as animation becuse with animation you are creating poses which is a normal everyday thing that everyone already knows about.

But with modeling you need to have a complex understanding of the technolgy behind the program for example you need to know about vertices, normals and how to use them. You also have a much larger tool repository when it comes to modeling and it takes time to learn what all of them do and how to use them.

So I would conclude that animation is just as complex as modeling. Its just how accessible each discipline is to learn.

delete post

while your points are valid, they are more to do with rigging rather than animating. But maybe your on to something, the lack of good rigs may be due to lack of rigging infomation?

@MCHammond:

I meant to say that I guess. Modularized tutorials explaining individual features. Allows users to be more creative.

I’d love to see separate tutorials focused on each feature (action constraints) (copy location ect) by themselves because sometimes I’ve had to backtrack while on a tutorial because of some assumed pre-requisite knowledge I didn’t have. I deleted my post, but that’s what I meant to say.

Poly modeling tutorials stand on their own, but animation tutorials suffer from the “non-stand-alone-ness” of their nature.

Users feel like there’s one more thing they’re supposed to know when looking at the tutorials that they don’t know. (you know like starting at calculus 3 when you don’t know what multiplying is)
-the tutorials need to be modularized and not require previous knowledge. (make learning feature “A” not require knowing about feature “B”)