While AutoSolving in Retargeter does a good job of creating an initial animation pass, the subtleties and nuances of a facial performance can make or break an animation. For purposes of creating animation of the highest quality and for adding artistic decisions to the animation process, we have Retargeter Pro. With Retargeter Pro, the user has access to a number of features that are unavailable in the Lite version. In this tutorial, we're going to focus on adding poses to a scene to a scene to give the animator near-total control over the retargeted animation.
Opening A Performance
The first step in retargeting a shot is to load the scene and plugin:
- In your Autodesk application, load the Retargeter plugin.
- Open the Performance menu and select "Open..."
You will now be in the Open Performance dialog, shown below:
In the Open Performance dialog box, you will be asked to select several files:
- Performance File (.fwr) - In the Performance File field, select the .fwr performance file that you generated during parameterization in Analyzer that you wish to animate from. This file contains the tracking data that Retargeter uses.
- Character Setup File (.xml) - In the Character Setup field, select the character setup xml file that you created for this character during the Character Setup phase. For more information on Character Setup, please see the following article: Character Setup Walkthrough
- Shared Pose Database (Optional) (.fwsp) - The 'Shared Pose Database File' is an optional file that can be used to load "pre-made" poses for your character. This file is usually created by a supervisor and contains artistically approved poses for each of the character's 'Pose Groups' (mouth, eyes, brows). Please see Shared Poses for more information.
Once the desired files are selected, check the options that you wish to use:
- Import Video - Creates a plane in the scene that displays the image sequence of the video for reference. Note that you may have to look around in your scene to find it, as different rigs work on different scales.
- Import Audio - Loads the audio from the shot into the scene for reference.
- Set Playback Range - Changes the timeline to fit the total number of frames in the performance.
- Set Frame Rate - Changes the frame rate in the character scene to match that of the performance file.
- Generate AutoSolve - Creates AutoSolved animation immediately upon loading the performance. See AutoSolve Walkthrough for more information.
When your desired options are selected, hit "OK" to load your performance into the scene.
Posing the Character
In Retargeter, the first section at the top shows you your Pose Groups. Pose groups are containers that hold the poses for each respective group. For example, the eyebrow poses would be placed in the eyebrow pose group, the mouth poses in the mouth group, and so forth. These groups are based off of the 'Rig Groups' that have been defined for your character rig and each one has a number of the rig's controls in it. These groups are typically set to:
- Head (does not use poses, head animation is AutoSolve only)
You are not limited to these four groups, any number of different groups can be added. However, each additional group you create beyond these will be based off of one of the originals.
Poses are an essential part of animating with Retargeter Pro. Much like creating Training Frames in Analyzer, the user decides where the most extreme and distinct facial shapes are occurring and poses the character appropriately on the given frame. These poses are then used in Retargeter's calculation to apply animation to the entire shot, usually referred to as "retargeting." If you're unhappy with the results you can adjust your poses, add more, delete some, or make an infinite number of tweaks and check your updated results in near real-time by Retargeting/AutoSolving again.
With AutoSolve turned on, the information created by your poses will be incorporated into the AutoSolve. This lets the user correct shapes that the AutoSolve may not hit properly by itself while still keeping the number of poses that the user needs to create to a minimum. The result is a high quality animation with minimal effort.
The various ways to create poses are outlined below:
The first and most useful option for creating poses is using the Auto-Pose feature. This feature makes suggestions as to where the user should create poses on a given group based on the plugin examining the tracking data in the .fwr and figuring out where the most significant shapes are occurring. It acts as a guide, telling the user the ideal places to create poses.
*Note - Auto-Poses are also used with a Shared Pose Database. This will be discussed in the Shared Pose Database section below. These instructions are for using Auto-Pose without Shared Poses.
To generate poses using Auto-Pose:
- With a performance loaded, select one of the pose groups in the Pose Groups window.
- In the lower right of the plugin, there is a button called "Get Auto-Poses." Select or input a number of poses to start with. In most shots, starting with 5-10 is ideal, as more can be added whenever the user chooses.
- Hit the "Get Auto-Poses" button.
- In the Poses section, a number of poses will be added based on the number you chose in step 2.
- For each pose, double click on the video frame and the timeline will make that frame number the current frame.
- Using the video as a reference, pose your character to match the actor for the given group.
- When you are finished posing the character, make sure the pose is selected in the Poses tab in Retargeter and hit "Update" to the right. This finalizes your pose and adds the data to Retargeter for its calculations.
- Repeat this for each pose in the given pose group.
*Note - Much like in Analyzer, try to not make more than one pose for a certain shape in a shot. For example, find one "OO" shape that you want to use, make a pose for it, but do not make a pose on every subsequent "OO" shape. In creating the one pose, you have taught Retargeter how to generate that shape properly on the rig, so multiple instances of the same shape can cause issues with the resulting retargeted animation.
Using Auto-Poses with a Shared Pose Database
If you have loaded your performance with a Shared Pose Database, then Auto-Pose will not only suggest which frames poses should be created on, but also use the Shared Poses to create the poses within the scene based on the data in the Shared Pose Database. This is most useful if multiple artists are working on the same character. The lead animator can create the Shared Poses, then the other animators can generate their poses with from that data set, providing a high level of consistency between artists. To use a Shared Pose Database with Auto-Pose:
- Load the Shared Pose Database either when the performance is loaded or via the Advanced>Preferences menu option.
- In the Shared Poses tab in the Retargeter plugin, check on each pose you wish to use in your shot. Only poses that are checked on will be used in the calculations.
- Get Auto-Poses as outlined above.
- The Auto-Pose frames, instead of being empty, will have poses generated on them based on the Shared Poses.
*Note - For a more detailed explanation of how to create and use Shared Pose Databases, please see the following article: Shared Pose Database
You are also able to add poses wherever you want, regardless of the suggestions of Auto-Pose. If you are unhappy with a shape that Auto-Pose has selected or simply prefer to work manually, you can add poses at your discretion.
To add poses manually:
- Find a frame that you wish to add a pose on and navigate there on the timeline.
- On the right side of the Retargeter interface, click the "Add" button. This will create a pose in the list.
- Pose your character in the appropriate way for the selected pose group.
- Click the "Update" button to sync your pose into Retargeter.
- Optionally rename the pose by double clicking the name in the "Description" column.
- Repeat as desired.
Retargeting is the process through which animation is generated on your rig. It uses the data from any created poses and from the AutoSolve calculations (assuming AutoSolve is on) to create keyframes on the controls that were added in Character Setup. From there, the user can manually edit the keyframes like with any animation or they can add/modify poses and retarget again to improve the animation broadly.
To retarget animation onto the rig:
- Once you are satisfied with the poses you have created, select the pose group you wish to retarget in the Pose Group window.
- Click the "Retarget" button on the bottom of the Retargeter plugin. Retargeter will then work for a few moments to create the keyframes.
- Scrub through the timeline or play the animation to view the results.
*Note - If the AutoSolve check box is checked on, then Retargeter will use a combination of the AutoSolve data and any pose data to create the resulting animation. If the AutoSolve box is checked off, then only the poses will be used. In this case, more poses are generally required to get a good result and at least three are required to retarget at all.
- You can continue to add poses and retarget as many times as you like to get the desired animation.
- Using the Get Auto-Poses button multiple times will get the specified number of new poses with each button press. For example, if the value is set to 5, then the first press will yield 5 new poses. The second press will create 5 new poses, making 10 total. You can modify the value at any time so the next press will yield the desired number of new poses.
- Feel free to delete poses if they are not in an ideal position or are hurting your results. Simply select the pose and hit the Delete button on the right side of the Retargeter plugin.