By Michael Burns | on January 27, 2005
Price When Reviewed: 645 . 2725
Pros: Expanded keyframing features, enhanced character rigging, more control over character manipulation, posing and motion dynamics, improved Story Timeline and scene organization
Cons: cons With greater enhancements workflow has become more complicated in some areas; relatively expensive for both standard and especially Pro versions
MotionBuilder was recently acquired by Alias, and it’s been given a slight makeover to go with the new family name.
The basic interface is the same as in previous versions, but MotionBuilder 6 now features an extra palette in the form of the Dynamic Editor. Multiple function curves can be modified simultaneously here for dynamic animation editing on multiple objects, while velocity settings can alter the speed of animation without changing its trajectory. There are several new viewing controls and welcome workflow enhancements, too.
As before, you build your story in MotionBuilder around characters. When you import a character model – humanoid or otherwise – you have to add a template for it to have a structure and a presence. This is known as characterization.
It’s been motional
Once you have characterized your model, you can map a variety of data sources through its new template to your character. You can drive animation such as a control rig, for keyframing, and use Actor Input (only available in MotionBuilder Pro) for mapping on motion data.
Character Input allows you to animate a character based on the motion of another character in the scene. This is known as motion retargeting. Using the Stance Input, you can set the biped or quadruped model into the default stance pose for its template type.
New in MotionBuilder 6 are Auxiliary effectors and pivots, which add extra control through external forces – such as making a character’s feet stop sliding on the floor – or by adding more rotation points to create more natural movement in body parts. Keyframe animation has been improved with an AutoKey feature to set keyframes automatically when parameters are changed, while Smart Plot can dramatically reduce the number of keyframes required.
Motion trajectories can be viewed for any object in the scene, and it’s now possible to add triggered movements to rigged characters.
MotionBuilder has changed in version 5 to become much more of a previzualisation and storytelling tool for filmmakers or animators, and this legacy is continued in version 6. There are improvements to the Story Timeline, which now supports real-time camera and audio cross-fading, as well as audio volume and multiple clip scaling. Audio can be scrubbed to aid lip-syncing. There are new ‘sets’ (derived from MotionBuilder’s Groups feature) that cache animation data, allowing users to work with multiple characters simultaneously with no performance penalties.
Just knocking out an animated ‘take’ using stock or sketched characters can thus become a means for previsualizing a film scene. Or, when strung together many scenes could serve perfectly as an animatic. You might have some tough choices if you use CAT for 3DS Max, but if you’re on a Mac this is a no-brainer – MotionBuilder is still the best tool
for the Mac when it comes to character motion.