Here is a video animation completely done using Motionbuilder. Several techniques were incorporated into this animation including animation subtracks (both overrides and additive), poses, auxiliary effectors, slow motion tweening, and simple ragdoll/rigid body dynamics.

For storyboarding and resource gathering, I decided on a simple chase scene. I wanted to give it a bit of style so I went with a ‘Matrix’ theme and found a great model of Agent Smith on ‘TF3DM.’ Now Smith wasn’t rigged, so I decided to try Mixamo’s free auto-rigging service and was very pleased with the results. Not only was the character fully rigged, bound, and weighted in minutes, but the skeleton was already Motionbuilder ready with all the necessary joints and naming conventions. The other character I decided on using was one of Autodesk’s oldest iconic character, Mia.

Now Motionbuilder is primarily used to incorporate live action motion data (mocap) so it can be applied to 3d character animations. So the next step was to find the appropriate motion capture files. This took a bit of time because most of the files I wanted to use were in a BVH mocap format so they had to be properly cleaned up and plotted to a relevant skeleton for use in Motionbuilder.

Then I started to block out a basic scene in Maya and created simple proxy stand-ins so I can better animate in Motionbuilder. Once everything was in it’s general place, I exported the entire scene into Motionbuilder and started to animate.

This was definitely a bit different then traditional animation. I had to import and apply each mocap file to each character and adjust position and timing. Then each mocap file had to be blended  to seamlessly transition from one action to the next. Once that was done, I went through and added subtracks and auxiliary effectors to offset movement and to further refine everything. Some of the shots such as the ladder climbing and ending had to be animated the traditional way or with poses. Also certain shots were stretched out to give a slow motion effect when appropriate. As for the dynamics, ragdoll and rigid bodies were used with active and passive triggers keyed. Once everything was completed, the entire animation was plotted onto the original skeletons and everything was exported back into Maya for texturing and rendering.

A very basic lighting setup was created (basic IBL) and everything was textured using various techniques including some interesting video game UV layout techniques that helped to optimize available space. Everything was then rendered and exported into After Effects for post production.

Within After Effects, several effects were used. I started by applying an adjustment layer to give that greenish tint the Matrix is known for. Also a simple particle rain was added along with some fog to better incorporated things. As for the background, a dynamically generated particle system was made with custom particles to resemble the falling code of the Matrix and lightning was added using a solid overlay. Finally audio was synced to the scene for the final composition.

I still prefer the traditional way of animating, but I do find Motionbuilder as a very nice tool to start things off quickly and to get a rough idea on animation layout and timing.

Check out the gallery for some screenshots and view the final rendered animation below:

Software Utilized: Autodesk Motionbuilder, Autodesk Maya, Adobe After Effects, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Audition