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The Wing Flex and Skinned Animations (Read 7889 times)
30th Mar, 2008 at 12:29pm

jonbouy   Offline
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Well this one seem overdue as it seems to be cloaked in mystery. Although there is a good example in the FSX SDK DC3 of a skinned animation, the flexing wing in the exterior model, there is little mention in the documentation. Having converted the DC3 for gMax it gave me a good opportunity to get to grips with the concept of skinned animations FSX SDK style.

I plan to complete this tutorial in easy stages with pictorial content in order to transcend as many language barriers as possible. I shall use the SDK DC3 example as reference as everyone should have access to it and will illustrate the difference in gMax where they differ from Max otherwise assume that the same procedures apply to both modelling tools. Bear in mind the process can be used to flex any other parts, e.g hydraulic brake pipes using the same principles providing it is tied in with a relevant animation.

I'd appreciate if comments regarding the thread are discussed elsewhere until the tutorial is completed. Thank You

Pre-requisites

gMax users can use the converted SDK model available here just place the files in a COPY of the SDK DC3 example folder and load them from there so that they have access to the correct materials. There is also a .dds texture which may cause gMax to complain on some setups if so just make a .tga or .bmp file of the GlobalEnv_AC_Chrome.dds file and point any reference to the newly converted file so that gMax can deal with it

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Please note that this file will be subject to the same EULA as the rest of the available SDK material.

Firstly after loading the SDK example you will need to set the display settings to show the bone objects in Max/gMax the easiest way is probably to check the display settings and make sure that  Bones will be visible/ not hidden. There is a check box in Max but you can remove bone objects from the hidden items box in gMax to ensure the bones appear.

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Note the Max screenie above shows the Bones check box and also lists them in the hidden items list. gMax users won't have the checkbox but removing bones from the list will do the same job

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Here we are in gMax notice the Bones are visible as Bones have now been removed from the 'Hide by Category' box

The next pre-requisite is to have a skinned mesh material setup this is an exact copy of of the 'FSX_DC3_base' material with one exception.

Here is the material list, again in gMax. Note the 'FSX_DC3_base' material at the top of the list and the 'FSX_DC3_skinned_mesh' material at the bottom.

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And the ONE exception is to be found in the advanced parameters for the FSX material. This one...

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So obviously the easiest way to make the skinned mesh material is just to copy your base material and make sure that li'l ol' checkbox is marked at the bottom.

So now we're set to flex our modelling skill.

« Last Edit: 6th Mar, 2011 at 7:33pm by Felix/FFDS »  

Jonbouy&&Pro. Loudmouth - Amateur Spline Bender&&&&Specs: AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 4000+, 1024Mb 667mhz DDR2, nVidia GeForce 6150se onboard nForce 430, 160mb SATA Total, XP Pro SP2
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Reply #1 - 30th Mar, 2008 at 1:40pm

jonbouy   Offline
Inspecteur des Polygonnes
Rye, England

Posts: 683
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A Lovely Bone Structure.

Having made our existing bones visible (we'll create some of our own later) and set up a material for our 'skinned' parts we can now get down to the business of animating our bone structure as with all animation a well structured hierarchy is vital...(yer knee bone's connected to yer thigh bone, yer shin bone's connected to yer knee bone... so the song goes) and Bone animations are no different to any other animated structure in that regard.

There are a couple of differences as far as I can tell though the Base node of a Skinned animation MUST be anchored or static if you like, otherwise your animation would be akin to something like a 'Snake in Space'.  The other glaring difference from standard animated parts is that skinned animations lie outside of the hierarchy of the main model, a situation that would cause all sorts of complaints with a standard animation.

Observe...

Well this one seem overdue as it seems to be cloaked in mystery. Although there is a good example in the FSX SDK DC3 of a skinned animation, the flexing wing in the exterior model, there is little mention in the documentation. Having converted the DC3 for gMax it gave me a good opportunity to get to grips with the concept of skinned animations FSX SDK style.

I plan to complete this tutorial in easy stages with pictorial content in order to transcend as many language barriers as possible. I shall use the SDK DC3 example as reference as everyone should have access to it and will illustrate the difference in gMax where they differ from Max otherwise assume that the same procedures apply to both modelling tools. Bear in mind the process can be used to flex any other parts, e.g hydraulic brake pipes using the same principles providing it is tied in with a relevant animation.

I'd appreciate if comments regarding the thread are discussed elsewhere until the tutorial is completed. Thank You

Pre-requisites

gMax users can use the converted SDK model available here just place the files in a COPY of the SDK DC3 example folder and load them from there so that they have access to the correct materials. There is also a .dds texture which may cause gMax to complain on some setups if so just make a .tga or .bmp file of the GlobalEnv_AC_Chrome.dds file and point any reference to the newly converted file so that gMax can deal with it

Multimedia File Viewing and Clickable Links are available for Registered Members only!!  You need to Login or Register

Please note that this file will be subject to the same EULA as the rest of the available SDK material.

Firstly after loading the SDK example you will need to set the display settings to show the bone objects in Max/gMax the easiest way is probably to check the display settings and make sure that  Bones will be visible/ not hidden. There is a check box in Max but you can remove bone objects from the hidden items box in gMax to ensure the bones appear.

Multimedia File Viewing and Clickable Links are available for Registered Members only!!  You need to Login or Register

Note the Max screenie above shows the Bones check box and also lists them in the hidden items list. gMax users won't have the checkbox but removing bones from the list will do the same job

Multimedia File Viewing and Clickable Links are available for Registered Members only!!  You need to Login or Register

Here we are in gMax notice the Bones are visible as Bones have now been removed from the 'Hide by Category' box

The next pre-requisite is to have a skinned mesh material setup this is an exact copy of of the 'FSX_DC3_base' material with one exception.

Here is the material list, again in gMax. Note the 'FSX_DC3_base' material at the top of the list and the 'FSX_DC3_skinned_mesh' material at the bottom.

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And the ONE exception is to be found in the advanced parameters for the FSX material. This one...

Multimedia File Viewing and Clickable Links are available for Registered Members only!!  You need to Login or Register

So obviously the easiest way to make the skinned mesh material is just to copy your base material and make sure that li'l ol' checkbox is marked at the bottom.

So now we're set to flex our modelling skill.

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Notice that the Bone structure lies outside and at the same level as the 'Douglas_DC3' base node. Maybe because that's how the compiler deals with skinned animations or perhaps to overcome the Snake in Space principal I don't know the technical reasons why (nor do I care that much!) the Skinned Animation lies outside of the scope of the rest of the model, but just make sure that it does otherwise it won't work in the sim.

A Little Bit About Bones.

There is plenty about creating bone structures in the Max/gMax documentation but as often the case in matters Flight Simulator it seems you only need a few basic concepts to get going, have a go at creating some Bones on a clean Max/gMax scene to get to grips with creating different lengths and size to familiarize yourself with controlling their production. All the
« Last Edit: 6th Mar, 2011 at 7:35pm by Felix/FFDS »  

Jonbouy&&Pro. Loudmouth - Amateur Spline Bender&&&&Specs: AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 4000+, 1024Mb 667mhz DDR2, nVidia GeForce 6150se onboard nForce 430, 160mb SATA Total, XP Pro SP2
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Reply #2 - 30th Mar, 2008 at 3:23pm

jonbouy   Offline
Inspecteur des Polygonnes
Rye, England

Posts: 683
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Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, I'm gonna take those Bones to Bend My Mesh!

How ever much I emphasise that Bones are great you'll still gonna say, "Yeah Jon, but they hardly make for a convincing model".

This is where the Skin Modifier comes in, to flesh out dem bones.

Unhide the part fuselage_1_400 which is the main Fuselage/Wing mesh of the DC3, if you were creating your own skinned animation here's where you'd assign the skinned mesh material. Have a good look around at this stage from the front top and sides and notice how the Bone structure has been designed to correspond with the mesh pay particular attention to the vertex loops on the wings. Also very important to make sure your animation slider is set to zero at this stage too.

Operating on our own model at this stage we would add a Skin modifier to the eMesh object which will bring the flesh and bone together. Of course this being the example it's already done so we'll have a look at the options on the Skin modifier as some of you won't be familiar with it yet.

Here's a screenie of the mesh with the Skin modifier applied.

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The first thing to do would be to add the bones that we want to influence this particular mesh. And you will see the Add button above the list box containing all eight bones corresponding the left and right wing flex bones that we would have prepared earlier.

Having added all the required bones open out the Skin modifier and click on the 'Envelope' item then try clicking on each Bone in the Skin modifiers list you will notice that each bone has what is called an Envelope which you can indivdually adjust the strength and sizes of which dictates which vertices (in the case of FSX) are being influenced (weighted) by each Bone. Test the animation by sliding the animation slowly gingerly and see if any vertexes that you want move are being not left behind returning the slider to zero and adjusting accordingly.

There are some important considerations here;

Every skinned mesh must have EVERY vertex weighted, that is EVERY vertex must be influenced by AT LEAST one of the bones envelopes, you will notice that that the Base Node of the Left wing is responsible for weighting most of the fuselage vertices (remember it doesn't move), with Base node of the right wing (which also doesn't move) taking care of the vertices on the fuselage at the wing root.

Envelopes can overlap leading to some undesirable (or cool  Cool ) effects.

Unlike native gMax/Max models where vertex weights can be fractional in FSX it seems that they are Boolean and it looks like a weight of less than 0.5 for a vertex means OFF.

gMax has fewer tools for weighting than Max which has the capability of setting absolute weights and although I had start from scratch and successfully converted the wing flex to the gMax model using the the settings to be found in that model and adjusting the size of the envelopes so although I have yet to find an elegant way of weighting the vertices a it appears that bit of trial and error will get you the desired result in the end.

Bear in mind if you do not Weight every vertex in a 15000 vertex mesh and you get 14750 'Vertex has no Weights' warning messages thrown at you by the compiler don't say I didn't warn ya!

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Using the various adjustment tools in the Skin modifier in order alter the Weighting scope of individual bones. Here a shot from gMax showing the scope of the left_inner bone.


« Last Edit: 30th Dec, 2008 at 5:32pm by Felix/FFDS »  

Jonbouy&&Pro. Loudmouth - Amateur Spline Bender&&&&Specs: AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 4000+, 1024Mb 667mhz DDR2, nVidia GeForce 6150se onboard nForce 430, 160mb SATA Total, XP Pro SP2
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Reply #3 - 30th Mar, 2008 at 4:52pm

jonbouy   Offline
Inspecteur des Polygonnes
Rye, England

Posts: 683
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Summary

Well that about sums up the process from start to finish I hope I have demonstrated the procedure and principles clearly enough. I don't know if this is the definitive method of Skinned animations in FSX but it is certainly my understanding of the SDK's example.

And I'm sure that different procedures will emerge over time. But I hope that helps some folk that I know that are having difficulties presently. I purposely didn't include the Flap and Aileron animations that lie within this structure but hopefully you will be able to fathom what is going on there as an exercise before I get blown away over the next few months with some breathtaking examples in the WIP forum... Cool

Regards

Jon
 

Jonbouy&&Pro. Loudmouth - Amateur Spline Bender&&&&Specs: AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 4000+, 1024Mb 667mhz DDR2, nVidia GeForce 6150se onboard nForce 430, 160mb SATA Total, XP Pro SP2
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Reply #4 - 30th Dec, 2008 at 6:11am

empeck   Offline
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Is it possible to bring the images back?
 

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Reply #5 - 30th Dec, 2008 at 8:43am

Felix/FFDS   Offline
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I'm trying - IF anyone knows any of jon's other e-mail addresses - please let him know we're looking for him!!!
 

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Reply #6 - 30th Dec, 2008 at 4:39pm

Mathias   Offline
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Maybe Felix can get them from my server and reinsert them into the original post?
I won't keep them online forever.  Wink

« Last Edit: 31st Dec, 2008 at 5:39am by Mathias »  

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Reply #7 - 30th Dec, 2008 at 5:33pm

Felix/FFDS   Offline
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THANKS!
 

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Reply #8 - 30th Dec, 2008 at 7:20pm

empeck   Offline
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Thanks Mathias!

I just did skinned leather stick base for my Orlik project Smiley
 

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Reply #9 - 31st Dec, 2008 at 3:44am

Mathias   Offline
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Like this?  Wink
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Reply #10 - 31st Dec, 2008 at 4:57am

empeck   Offline
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Exactly.  Smiley

I won't show mine in sim yet, because it's still untextured Smiley

But I did highpoly version to bake normalmaps from Smiley

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Reply #11 - 31st Dec, 2008 at 5:36am

Mathias   Offline
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WOW, now that's one impressive piece of leather you've got there! Shocked
 

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Reply #12 - 31st Dec, 2008 at 7:34am

Felix/FFDS   Offline
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!!!

IMpressive is right!

 

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Reply #13 - 31st Dec, 2008 at 7:39am

empeck   Offline
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Thanks Smiley
 

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