Anima is not limited to the built in characters. You can download and use any Metropoly rigged model to expand your library or even import any character you like. This makes Anima extremely flexible and able to cope with nearly any project, whether that’s photo-real arch viz or a crowd of cartoon characters.
To use your own characters in Anima they will need to use the rig conventions required by the importer. At the end of this page you will find the specification required. If you’re a 3ds Max user you can easily create this rig using biped. You’ll also find ready-built rigs on our website that can be adapted to skin your own characters.
Creating a compatible FBX from a Metropoly Rigged character
When you purchase a Metropoly Rigged character you have the option to download it in several different formats. To work with Anima we need to convert it to FBX format. To do this you need to just open it in 3ds Max or Cinema 4d and export it to FBX format by following these simple steps (for 3ds Max):
- Open the Character you wish to use in Anima in 3ds Max. If there are versions available for different renderers, use the Standard materials as the others can cause problems exporting to FBX format.
- Open the Material Editor and pick the material off of the model. You will see the character uses a Multi/Sub-object material with 5 slots.
- You’ll notice that there are DirectX Shaders used in each material slot. We need to remove these by opening each sub-material and dragging the material in the Software Render Style slot to the Change Shader/Map Type button. Do this for all of the DirectX Shaders.
- Rename the sub-materials using the 5 following options:1 – Hair
2 – Head
3 – Eyes&Mouth
4 – Skin
5- Cloths&StuffThis is so that the 3ds Max and Cinema 4d plugins can detect and convert the materials for different renderers. The final material setup should look like this.
NOTE Ensure that there no materials using Falloff maps, otherwise texture maps will not be exported and the mesh will be shown “fucsia” inside ANIMA 2 viewport.
- You’re now ready to Export the asset. Go to the Jewel Menu and select Export
- Change the Filetype to FBX and enter a name for your file. This name will also be used for the asset in Anima but it can be changed later if you prefer.
- Click Save.
- The FBX Options will open. Select the Autodesk Media & Entertainment preset.
- Open the Animation > Bake Animation rollout and use the following settings.
- Click Save. Your file is exported to FBX format ready to use in Anima!
NOTE Metropoly Ready-Rigged characters will soon be made available in FBX format to use with Anima 2 without needing conversion.
Using Biped to Create a compatible animation rig
If you have your own character or you’ve download a model that needs to be rigged, the easiest way to create the correct skeleton structure is to use 3ds Max’s Biped tool. To create a rig that is compatible with Anima, just follow these steps.
- Start with new scene in 3ds Max.
- Create a new Biped object in the scene.
- Go to Biped setting and turn on Figure mode
- Change the structure to the following settings. This is important, Anima will only accept rigs with this structure. For more information see the specification at the bottom of this page.
- This will give you 67 bones (including nubs). You can now match your character pose and Skin it in the usual way. To export the fbx follow the procedure in the previous procedure,
NOTE It is beyond the scope of this manual to go into Biped and Skin in detail. To learn more about these tools check out the links below for Autodesk;s comprehensive documentation.
Importing a character into Anima
To import one or more character into Anima, follow these steps:
- Open the Project for new Characters and change the Anima UI Mode to Editing.
- In the Actors Library click the + button to start adding a new character.
- The Import Model menu will open. Click on the Input File Picker and select and FBX file containing a correctly rigged character.NOTE It is possible to batch import multiple FBX files at once. Just select them in the picker and click Open to continue
- Set the File Units, in most cases you can leave this set to Auto, but if you find the character’s scale is incorrect this can be set manually.
- Add a Description if necessary.
- Click Save to Import the file.
NOTE If your bones do not follow the naming conventions accepted by Anima, a dialog will open asking you to manually map the bones. Just drag each of the bones on your rig to its counterpart in Anima’s internal rig and click Save to continue.
- Your new character will now be available in the Actors Library.
- New characters don’t have a thumbnail. To generate one, go to the Actor Information panel and click to create a snapshot. You can also add a Description or edit the Name from this panel. Click Save when you’re done to commit your changes. You’re new character is ready to use for any scene in the project.
The Standard Actor Rig
The rig used by Anima has a total of 67 bones as shown in the sections below. For convenience we’ve broken this description down into body parts so you can see clearly the bones used and the naming conventions.
Anima supports four naming conventions for bones including those used by our Metropoly rigged characters, Biped, and Mixamo rigs. If these are used, then import is much simpler because the character can be automatically mapped to Anima’s internal rig. If you use different naming conventions an interface will appear when you import a character asking you to manually map your rig to Anima’s internal skeleton. The names shown in the images below are the suffixes used by biped. Below this is a table showing the equivalent Metropoly versions: please feel free to additional naming elements before these labels.
Starting from the feet and moving up the body, the bone structure is as follows:
Legs and Feet
Hips, Spine, Head and Neck
|Left Hand||Right Hand|
|L Hand||LeftHand||R Hand||RightHand|
|L Finger0||LeftHandThumb1||R Finger0||RightHandThumb1|
|L Finger01||LeftHandThumb2||R Finger01||RightHandThumb2|
|L Finger02||LeftHandThumb3||R Finger02||RightHandThumb3|
|L Finger0Nub||LeftHandThumbNub||R Finger0Nub||RightHandThumbNub|
|L Finger1||LeftHandIndex1||R Finger1||RightHandIndex1|
|L Finger12||LeftHandIndex2||R Finger12||RightHandIndex2|
|L Finger11||LeftHandIndex3||R Finger11||RightHandIndex3|
|L Finger1Nub||LeftHandIndexNub||R Finger1Nub||RightHandIndexNub|
|L Finger2||LeftHandMiddle1||R Finger2||RightHandMiddle1|
|L Finger21||LeftHandMiddle2||R Finger21||RightHandMiddle2|
|L Finger22||LeftHandMiddle3||R Finger22||RightHandMiddle3|
|L Finger2Nub||LeftHandMiddleNub||R Finger2Nub||RightHandMiddleNub|
|L Finger31||LeftHandRing1||R Finger31||RightHandRing1|
|L Finger3||LeftHandRing2||R Finger3||RightHandRing2|
|L Finger32||LeftHandRing3||R Finger32||RightHandRing3|
|L Finger3Nub||LeftHandRingNub||R Finger3Nub||RightHandRingNub|
|L Finger42||LeftHandPinky1||R Finger42||RightHandPinky1|
|L Finger41||LeftHandPinky2||R Finger41||RightHandPinky2|
|L Finger4||LeftHandPinky3||R Finger4||RightHandPinky3|
|L Finger4Nub||LeftHandPinkyNub||R Finger4Nub||RightHandPinkyNub|
Anima does not support importing characters that use multiple meshes, the skin must be composed of a single object (it doesn’t need to be watertight). If you have a character with multiple parts you will need to combine them into a single mesh or poly object and re-skin it before exporting to Anima.
Character should use a single Multi/Sub-object material but there’s no limit on the number of sub-materials. Anima will automatically detect the materials and their diffuse maps and make them available in Anima to create color variations. See the previous article for more information about this process.
Because we’re using the FBX file format, standard materials must be used. The plugins for 3ds Max and Cinema 4d have a converter that will port these to the selected renderer. The convertor works by checking the names of the sub-materials and comparing them to those saved in a material library. When the names match, then the library is used as a template to convert the materials. The default material names that are used by the plugin are:
Any character imported with sub-materials that use these names will have their standard materials automatically converted to shaders that are appropriate for the active renderer.
You can add additional material presets by opening the material libraries found in [max installation director]\scripts\aXYZ\MaterialLibrary . The templates are saved in the the material library file with the renderer name and the Multi suffix. If you open this in your 3d application you will see two materials (names vary depending on the renderer):
- aXYZV-RaySingle Used for characters that use only a single material.
- aXYZV-RayMulti Used for characters that use Multi/Sub-object materials.
To see how this works, let’s imagine that we want to add a new V-Ray preset to the multi-material for a character that has a different shader for his hands (maybe he’s wearing gloves!). To do this:
- Open the Material Editor and load the Material Library called V-Ray_multi.mat saved at [Max Installation Path]\scripts\aXYZ\MaterialLibrary\
- Drag the aXYZV-RayMulti material to an empty slot so it can be edited.
- Add an additional sub-material, the order is not important because the convertor uses names not the IDs.
- Click on the empty slot and create a new material for the hands. You can create any setup you like, but to determine how the original textures are used you must name them based on the map slot names of a Standard material. For example.
- In this way the textures can be easily and automatically reassigned in the new V-Ray material preset. Any other map types can be used, as long as the texture inputs use this naming convention the convertor will know where they should be placed.
- The Multi/Sub object material now has a sixth entry called Hands. We can save this to the library and when a character is imported that uses a material with the same name, it will be converted to a V-Ray
compatible material using this shader tree as a template.
NOTE If a texture is missing then all the maps for the input slot are also removed.
Anima supports importing Characters and Motion clips using the FBX and native AXYZ .Y file formats.