Final Remarks

Lets recap a bit. Until now we have taken the Skeleton structure as granted (well, this is dictated by the capabilities of the SL virtual world). We also have not yet given much attention to the animations, except from quickly creating something like a basic walk cycle to test our mesh. We have taken the Mesh Topology as a given thing as well (at least for the most part of this tutorial). And all we have done by now is:

We added weights to the mesh until it works as expected without thinking much about why things are as they are.

So you probably now are eager to understand in more detail what we are doing here and why we do it.

The 4 aspects of animation

While we where stepping over this tutorial, we have actually met 4 areas which take part in our animation:
  1. The Skeleton structure (The hierarchical structure of the bones)
  2. The Skeleton Animation (How the Bones are moving)
  3. The Mesh topology (How we organize the mesh in faces)
  4. The Mesh weighting (How the mesh deforms with bone movement)

These aspects depended on each other, So you must account for all of them if you want the best results. But …

  1. The skeleton structure (topology) can not be changed. Especially we can not add our own bones or rearrange the skeletal hierarchy to optimize our models and attachments.
  2. The animations are often given as well (users typically buy their animations from various sources for various purposes). And the mesh attachment maker often has no idea what the users actually do with the weighted attachment.

So all we can do is to optimize the mesh topology and optimize the weights. And here are a few tips how you can do this in a meaningful way:

  • Get the topology to work for you, not you trying to force the meshes into something they are not made for
  • Keep the weighting simple and clean (use as few weights per vertex as possible and never more than 4)
  • Use reasonable limits (let the meshes animate as natural as possible to increase their credibility)
  • Test with the SL default animations (you can import them into Avastar/Blender)
  • Improve by experience

At the end …

You have chosen a very demanding hobby. So keep patient and give yourself enough time to become more experienced over time. And when you just can’t get it right, do not give up, but start over again or step back to a simpler project first. It is as simple as that: Don’t give up.

Restart — Skinning Basics