Autodesk’s MotionBuilder 7.5

Autodesk’s new MotionBuilder 7.5 is the first software release since the company completed the acquisition of Alias last January. Not a general 3D program that handles modeling, dynamics, animation or texturing, this substantial program is

for character animation’period.

And because the product’s objective is clear, there is focus on tools which address the specific problems encountered by character animators and riggers.

In general, the advanced toolset consists of rapid skeleton creation for bipeds and quadrapeds, support for inverted joints for characters like birds and dogs, as well as animation mapping skeletons brought in from 3D programs that support the FBX format. Wide motion-capture support is well integrated and substantial retargeting between complex characters is made easier and more automatic.

The MotionBuilder solver is a hybrid Forward and Inverse Kinematic system, so you can animate in both modes at the same time. If you are animating the hand with IK, the rest of the arm follows and tries to resolve the position, extending the end effector beyond the reach of the character which causes the arm to straighten as it tries to reach the goal. If you pull the effector beyond the character’s reach with the body solver on, the entire biped skeleton will adjust the spine, hips and legs as well. This gives a lot of control for rapidly setting up performances because there is no need to manually adjust each body part.

An advancement in 7.5 takes the functionality of the built in skeleton structure and propagates it to character extensions, which are items not naturally found on a human’wings, tails, antennae, guns, etc. In previous versions, extensions were not taken into consideration. Now, all the control and flexibility available to the root skeleton can be applied to the extensions, including saving out poses for easy retrieval of often used positions of both the full body and the individual body parts.

The most impressive addition, in my mind, is called Double Solving. The function is used when you have a situation where two characters are dependent on one other’fighting, dancing, shaking hands. The problem with this situation is that a dependency loop is created. One character is moving one way, pulling the other character, but the other character is being affected by the first’so where does the solver begin? Without getting too far into it, MotionBuilder uses this Double Solving to place a buffer between the interdependent characters, allowing for the animation to be calculated correctly’and it does the job quite speedily.

Overall, Motion Builder contributes a significant number of character animation tools which allow a small animation crew to create large amounts of character animation. It may seem a bit expensive (around $4,200 node-locked or $4,800 floating) considering that a great deal of the animation can be done in the 3D program of choice. But these days it doesn’t come down to what can be accomplished anymore’it’s all about how efficiently the job can be accomplished. I believe, from what I’ve seen, that the tools can greatly increase the efficiency of any character animation pipeline.

Web address: www.autodesk.com

Price: $4,195 (node-locked); $4,795 (floating)

Todd Sheridan Perry reviews the latest animation and vfx-related software releases and gizmos for Animation Magazine. He is the co-owner and vfx supervisor for Max Ink Caf’ and Max Ink Productions. If you have review suggestions for him, you can email him at [email protected]