Working with MotionBuilder in 3ds Max - Part 4 - CAT Rigs
In this tutorial,learn how to export a CAT skeleton, for rigging and animation in MotionBuilder. You will also learn how to create a special MotionBuilder template, as a CAT rig skeleton does not follow a naming convention recognized by MotionBuilder.
- Recorded in: Motionbuilder 2011, 3ds Max 2011
- This tutorial is intended for use with 3ds Max version 2011 or higher.
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CAT is a very powerful character animation tool but its interoperability
with Motionbuilder requires a bit more work than what you have seen so far.
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First, the bones in a CAT rig are named differently between
one skeleton type and another.
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This is because CAT offers many more rig types than a Character Studio
Biped, where all the bones are always named the same way.
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You could rename your CAT bones on a project basis, or you could ultimately
edit the .rig files to change the bone names globally.
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These are text files that can be found in the user's Appdata folder under
\AppData\Local\Autodesk\3dsMax\2011 - 64bit\enu\plugcfg\CAT\CATRigs
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If you are using the 32-bit version of 3ds Max, substitute 64 for 32
in the path.
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An example is given here where the Ape2 rig is named similarly
to the Base Human rig, while the Ape rig is more generic.
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The problem with some CAT rigs like Ape, is that
some of the bone names are duplicated.
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The legs and the arms have the same names.
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This is not a problem for 3ds Max where name duplication is tolerated,
but it is a problem for Motionbuilder.
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Motionbuilder would have to rename bones with the same names,
breaking your workflow in the process.
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Secondly, the process of bringing back a Motionbuilder animation
onto a CAT rig in 3ds Max is slightly more complex.
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In this movie, you will concentrate on the export process,
and how to make a CAT skeleton compatible with Motionbuilder.
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The scene you will use shows a superhero character skinned
to a CAT skeleton.
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The CAT skeleton is based on the Base Human CAT Parent rig
and was edited to match the topology of the mesh.
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However, the individual bone names do not follow the naming convention
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nor do they follow the same names as a biped skeleton
which would let you use the Motionbuilder 3ds Max Biped template.
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It is actually very close to the biped template but not exactly the same.
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Therefore, you need to create your own template, one that fits
the CAT skeleton you have created.
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Select the CAT reference and verify its name. It reads "Base Human".
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This initial name repeats itself as a prefix for every bone in the skeleton.
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If you were to create a Motionbuilder template based on this skeleton,
it would be hard coded for a skeleton named "Base Human".
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This means that if you were to create an additional skeleton for this scene,
you would not be able to use the same template again.
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Make a copy of this skeleton by using Shift + Move.
Notice that the new skeleton's base name is "Base Human001".
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A template created for the first skeleton would not work for this new one.
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This is where the magic of the colon ( : ) comes into play.
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The colon is a special character that Motionbuilder reads as a separator.
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Internally, Motionbuilder considers only the bone names that come
after the colon, while the prefix prevents any name duplication.
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Select the character reference on the left and rename it: "ALICE:".
Don't forget the colon after the name.
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Rename the one on the right: "BOB:"
This is to differentiate characters A & B.
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Export the FBX file as you have learned before.
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Open the fbx file in Motionbuilder.
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If you tried characterizing one of the skeletons, say Alice,
you would get an error.
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Motionbuilder is looking for a set of required bones and cannot find them,
since the CAT bones are named differently.
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In the Navigator, expand Characters and rename the new entry:
"CAT Base Human".
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Double-click it to view its parameters
and then click the Character Definition tab.
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Expand the Base (required) option. This is mostly what needs to be defined.
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In the viewer, select the pelvis bone. It's a small bone named Alice:Pelvis.
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Press Alt and drag this bone into the Hips channel in the Navigator.
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Do the same with the other required bones.
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ALICE:LThigh becomes LeftUpLeg, ALICE:LCalf becomes LeftLeg, and so on…
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You may find it easier to use the Schematic View (Ctrl+W)
to do this kind of work.
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Remember to always hold Alt when you drag a bone into a channel.
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For the Spine, use ALICE:Spine1 as a requirement, you'll fill
the other spine bones in a moment.
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For the arms, do not worry about the collarbones at this time.
Again, you will deal with those in a second.
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The head is already in place as its name matches Motionbuilder's
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Once you have the 13 required bones, you can start filling in the rest.
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Expand the Spine list. You need to make some corrections there as Spine1
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Remap the spine so that it starts with Spine1 and ends with Ribcage.
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Expand the Auxiliary list and use the collarbones in the shoulder channels.
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Use ALICE:Neck1 in the Neck channel.
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At the bottom of the Navigator, in the Neck List, correct the Neck entry
so that only the Neck and Neck1 channels are populated.
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You can cancel a channel by double-clicking and deleting its contents.
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Now that you have filled your channels, required and auxiliary alike,
you can go ahead with the characterization process.
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However, this would work only on Alice and you would have to redo
all this work on Bob.
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Instead, you will extract a template from Alice that would also work on Bob.
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Click the Extract Naming Template button and notice how the bone names
get translated into the template.
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Everything to the left and including the colon gets discarded, and the
template would work equally well on any CAT rig
based on the Base Human CAT Parent.
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To save this template to disk so you can reuse it, first click the
Clear Mapping List to get rid of any reference to Alice.
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Select the CAT Base Human entry in the Navigator and then choose
File > Save Selection.
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Give your Template a name, for example: "CAT_BaseHuman_Template".
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You can choose what to store in this file to reduce file size;
in this case, you only need the Character Element.
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For this example however, just accept the defaults.
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You can use this technique to create a template for any 2 or 4-legged
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From this point on, the process of rigging any CAT character
based on the Base Human skeleton becomes much easier.
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To prove this point, reopen the Alice/Bob file.
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Adjust your view and place it in X-Ray mode.
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To characterize either of your CAT skeletons, merge in the template file.
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Double-click its entry in the navigator to see
the Character Definition window.
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Only this time, you won't need any manual labor
as the template is already in place.
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Using region select, select all the bones that make up Alice.
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Alt-drag the bones from the viewer into any of the channels
in the navigator.
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All the Alice bones fall into place.
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If you wish, you can rename the character entry as ALICE,
to differentiate it from any other.
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This done, you can enable the Characterize option to get
into familiar territory.
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To rig Bob, merge the template once again into this scene.
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In the Navigator, rename the new entry BOB.
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Region select an area around Bob. Because you are in X-Ray mode,
only the skeleton is selected.
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Alt-drag into the navigator, all of Bob's bones fall into place.
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It is usually a good idea to add a topmost reference to the character.
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We didn't do it with Alice but let's do it properly with Bob.
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Using the Schematic view, Alt+drag the BOB: red node
into the Reference channel.
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Characterize the Biped. Use it in conjunction with a Control Rig,
or retarget it to follow an animation, like the Punch sequence
in the Tutorials folder.
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Plot the animation to the skeleton as you learned to do.
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Save the animated file to disk for use in 3ds Max.
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In the next movie, you will import the punch sequence into 3ds Max
to use on your existing CAT rig.