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Lexie Linden

Mesh Avatars

37 posts in this topic

There have been so many threads about best practices in the old forum and I am really wondering why they didn't even made it to the new version. Shouldn't be that hard to move them from the archive to this part of the forum, tho.

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It's not just this topic, they did not carry along any posts from any category.  Doing selective threads from the entire old forums would have been too much work.  Best we can do is link back to the archive, like I did with the 3dsMax Best Practices.

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I have put an "Experimental Mesh Avatar" on the Marketplace for animators, skin creators, and anyone interested in trying a full body mesh.  Because mesh is still in beta, I cannot include the actual Mesh object in the marketplace delivery, just the UV maps.  I will deliver the full item on Aditi manually.  As far as I know this is the first full human avatar available, so feel free to direct questions to DanielRavenNest Ni (my merchant alt).  I will emphasize the "experimental" again.  I am more than willing to take feedback and make updates once I know what people want and need, but I wanted to get some version out there as a starting point.

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Thanks Daniel, I got my avatar mesh, although it has much to be done, I was very happy to see how we will be in the future. I hope it's as soon as possible.

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Wondering  how every one else is coming along with there mesh av, i myself have been playing  around with full body mesh av's, and it seems to me a full body mesh , how ever you lay out uv's a 1024 x 1024 texture doesnt  give enuff detail to cover a full body mesh, i know many are  useing the sl defult av to do your pratices on, others have used other full body  base meshs either self made of found bases to start with, .

id like to hear from others as there option on this as best pratices, on how best to set up your av mesh, full body or in  parts.

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linkin Slate wrote:

Wondering  how every one else is coming along with there mesh av, i myself have been playing  around with full body mesh av's, and it seems to me a full body mesh , how ever you lay out uv's a 1024 x 1024 texture doesnt  give enuff detail to cover a full body mesh,

I used one body geometry, and all 8 texture IDs, which become "sides" when imported, and UV maps ranging from 512x512 to 1024x1024 (for the face).  Part of the reason for so many maps was I wanted to have different map areas for left and right limbs.  More map sections also lets it be less distorted overall.  Getting the joints to animate smoothly has been the hardest part so far.

 

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Thats interesting , i didnt kow one could use seport textures, for seportated poly groups, im guessing your useing blender, myslef useing zbrush,  and  i can create poly groups or uv,islands, thus letting you apply different textures to each  ploy group, but each texture has the same uv layout, what your saying is each  poly group  you have for your full body  mesh has its own uv layout  and is a seprot texture ?

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Yes, you can use up to 8 textures/UV maps.  They correspond to the "sides" in a traditional prim as far as how many you can have.  As far as UV mapping, you can put any polygon on any map, that's up to the 3D program you are using.  Actually I am using 3ds Max, and polygons are assigned a "Material ID number" from 1 to 8, as well as UV coordinates.  I'm not sure what Blender calls it, but it's got a similar function.

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You guys are most likely getting sick of my pestering, fear not, vacation is almost over =P

I have been trying w/ immense frustration to get a rigged avatar mesh to work in SL...

You guys seem to be way ahead of the game, and I was wondering if you could explain the process to have a model become an SL rigged avatar, from start to finish, going VERY slow for those of us who may still be having trouble...

My biggest problem so far w/ this whole mesh/rigging thing is that everyone seems to be using Blender, which I do NOT =/

I think the ability to import custom meshes/objects/models is going to be far bigger than the Blender community, other (not necessarily better, I do NOT want to start a 3D application war) programs are sure to want in on the fun. 3D Studio Max, Maya, LightWave, ZBrush are just a few, the list goes on and on, BECAUSE you're giving -everyone and their grandmother- the opportunity to bring in their custom designed content. But it feels like SL just wants everyone to learn Blender, sadly, I have no interest in it, and "you" can't expect everyone else will either, even though it is free.So is Daz Studio, so is Wings3D so is Sculptris (I can go on and on about freeware). No, they don't do the same, but you can dig where I'm going.....

But back to the topic in hand, what does it take to make the custom modeled mesh workable for SL purposes?!?

How'd they do >> this << ?!? I immed who I believe is the creator, but its only been a little while, they haven't responded as yet. It explains how to put one on, but not how to create one. Understand it's not the "modeling" I need to learn, it's the process of getting the rigging to work in SL...

Is the process/practice the same for making custom modeled clothes for avatars?!?

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It would help if you stated what specific program you want to use to make your rigged avatar in. The process is different for different programs. Also, the process has been discussed for a long time for more than just Blender. You can find discussions on Max in the Mesh Best Practices-3ds Max thread and Maya on the Mesh Best Practices-Maya thread. As for Zbrush, you can't make a rigged avatar for SL in Zbrush. Although, you can export out a static collada file now using a plugin that can be found on Zbrush Central. You could make your avatar or clothing in Zbrush then rig/skin it in another program, such as Max, Blender, etc. Also, Wiz Daxter sales a product on the marketplace that assists with the process for Blender, Max and Maya.

Some programs just aren't able to save out the skeleton information that the SL importer needs. The program needs to be able to save the bone data out in the collada 1.4 format. And even then, it needs to be compatible. Some programs export out collada but don't support all the parameters like skeletons, animation, vertex colors, etc.  The known programs that work are Max, Blender and Maya. However, there might be others like Cinema 4D and Softimage. I know that Dazstudio and Poser Pro 2010 export collada with skeletal information. However, I haven't personally tried to import them into SL. Maybe someone who has can let's us know if they work as well.

 

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I use 3dsMax 2010.  The process is first import a bone set matching the SL default bone set in names and positions.  There are several versions floating around for different 3D programs.  Then make your new avatar mesh to fit around the bone structure.  In Max then I apply the skin modifier and add the bones to the list in the modifier.  To have it animate properly, you need to "weight" the mesh vertexes.  That means assign what percentage of influence each bone has on that vertex.  In the middle of a limb it's 100% to the underlying bone.  At joints it shades from one bone to the next.  Then when the mesh is worn, the SL software will know how much to move the vertex when the underlying bones move.  Weighting is not easy for a human avatar (at least not for me), since people tend to notice flaws.

Then you export the object (mesh, UV mapping, and bone set) via the Autdesk Collada exporter.  This results in a .dae format file.  That gets imported to the beta grid (Aditi) one one of the Mesh-enabled sandbox regions, using a recent version of the Mesh viewer.  In the Upload Model window, you go to the Modifiers tab, and select Include:Skin Weight.  It has to actually have that set of data for the checkbox to work.  Once it finishes uploading, wear it like a clothing item, and it goes onto your body.  If it's a full body avatar, hide the default avatar using an alpha layer or a 100% transparent skin.

Here is my experimental avatar example with a skin applied (caution, naked), using 8 skin UV mapped skin textures

Mesh Avatar

It still needs tweaking at the joints, and some animations will cause the body to deform badly.  The bone list is not really adequate, and we don't have morph targets or other ways to make the skin move more realistically.  For doing this kind of avatar, I think you need a combination of 3d modeling, skin art, and animation to get a really good result.  I'm only good at the first part.

If whatever program you like to model in does not export a proper Collada format file, then you will have to find one that does, and do your final export to SL from that.  If that program accepts your preferred software as input, then you can make a pipeline or workflow to get your stuff done.  That's not ideal, but that's the state of 3D modeling today, lots of program with lots of different file formats.  Even COLLADA is not a rigid standard.  It is an XML schema for how you put 3D data in a file, but the organization or presence of some data depends on which exporter or importer is used.  I have two COLLADA exporters in 3ds Max.  One only works for Second Life, the other one (OpenCollada) only works for the Blue Mars world and *not* for SL.

Clothing will work the exact same way as avatar bodies in every step above.  The SL software only knows it's "a rigged model that you wear", not what it looks like.  Note that only the SL appearance settings that affect bone length and position will affect a worn mesh.  The rest affect the SL default avatar mesh only, which in this case is hidden.

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Well, you make some good points, that I am finding out as we "speak" on this...

It really doesnt matter what program the model is made in, the meat and potatos is where you do the rigging, and as you say, it is then dependant on a program that does rigging, exports the collada fomat, AND exports all the joint/skeletal information that SL needs. That's a 3 part combo, and a hard one to come by, Collada itself is still pretty experimental...

You're correct, both Poser and Daz Studio export in the collada format, however, I have not had any success w/ these programs. Carrara also exports in the .dae file format, but again, no success... You would think it would be easy, as there are already preset characters, but it hasn't worked with those, nor my own custom modeled figures rigged in those programs...

To better explain my end, I use Carrara, Hexagon, 3D Coat and ZBrush to model in, but that pretty much means nothing. Mostly, I use the Poser/Daz Studio system for rigging. I can rig meshes in these programs, but as I render w/i that "family", I generally don't have issues w/ crossing into other sibling softwares, using the Poser standard .cr2 format. I can, and have rigged meshes in Carrara, which does support weight maps (I think?!?), so i will continue to try there.

Admittedly, I have not looked into the Max/Maya best practices, simply because I do not own those applications. However there seems to be "general" info in there that requires "extraction" for my sakes and purposes...

You gus are really awesome, thanks so much =)

When this is all finalized and we are NOT in beta, I really hope to condense all this info into simple and easy to use resources for "my" community. It's a "fun" transition =P

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Well, this won't help you at the moment. But, the rumor is that the next generation of Daz figures will use traditional weight maps/skeletons instead of the old Poser joint system. This may make it easier to export out something useable to SL since I'm sure Dazstudio 4/Carrara or beyond will support the new tech. I'm hoping that Daz will extend their Figure Setup tools to support making figures with weight maps once the figures are out.

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Yes, I am aware of that. All of these advancements are making HUGE waves for 3D GraFX people, it's going to get VERY exciting and REAL soon =D

But what brings me back here are a few related questions...

Someone mentioned the "other" resource files available. I assume you mean the avatar.blend file and the simplebot.dae and .dae files... If from what I now understand these are the files that supply the joints/rigging, I am screwed unless I learn Blender... Now I understand why importing these files results in blank or static files in my other programs. Simply put, the .dae export option, w/ regards to communicating w/ other programs, is pretty broke. No ones "fault", just the fact of the matter. I can not access the joints or bones in my other programs in order to effectively interact w/ them to export a viable .dae myself. Blender, Max, Maya and what else works for the rigging of the avatar? I need more options, I can't stress enough how much I dislike Blender =(

Does the "naming" of the bones matter at all?!? In Poser, Rshldr and rShldr are two completely different things, one will work, the other will not. If I were to "rename/work" the bones of a custom modeled Poser rigged figure, would that work? Problem w/ that is, I need a list of the SL avatar bones...

Will all future custom avatars be limited to the generic SL avatar figure? That means, no tails, elongated necks, quadrapeds, etc... Is this true due to the nature of the SL system? That's ok, but I'd like to know. Is everything dependant on the joint files provided.

I know, more to learn =)

Again, thanks for the help/advice...

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Yea, the only resource files that I know of for this area are for Blender, Max and Maya. I don't know of any for Daz products at the moment. Since I use Blender a great deal, I never tried this process with the Daz family myself. If I get some spare time tomorrow, I'll experiment with it a little. The problem is I don't know if the Daz products export a dae file compatible with the dae files SL wants.

 

Yes, names matter. The weight groups need to match the avatar's. However, if you have a shirt, you don't need to include bones not interacting with it, such as toes, shins, etc. Just note that if you want to upload joint positions, you do have to include a specific set of joints/weight groups. 

List of all joints/weight groups: http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Mesh/Joint-names/td-p/810861

Must have joints for joint offset position changes: https://jira.secondlife.com/browse/CTS-472

(read the 22/Feb/11 comment by Prep Linden)

 

As for avatars, you will be able to do some of that with the current system in the since that you can model an avatar and wear it as a rigged attachment along with an alpha texture that hides the SL avatar beneath. You could have an elongated neck using joint offsets. However, you'd have to wait until they add custom bones to add realistic bones for a tail extension.

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You are very helpful, it is truly appreciated...

I could use some help in the experimenting dept, it's driving me nuts. The resource files provided are great, if you use Blender (I haven't seen any Max or Maya files), and the simplebot .dae works great, but I havent a clue where it came from (I like the anonymity of .dae files =P).

From what I have seen so far, you can import files via the .dae format from Studio and Carrara, but I have not been able to bring anything in rigged. Note that I haven't been using the correct practice. One would need a rigged figure set to SL avatars features/joint for that to work, and it won't, the Poser crew uses a different naming system for joints. You won't be able to simply export Mike or Vicky and import them into SL (least not yet anyways). The joint names don't match... On a good note, meters in Carrara translate to meters in in-world SL, so for architectural type stuff, thats a HUGE plus =)

(With the news of weight painting, I wouldn't be surprised if Daz was in cahoots w/ the SL team, even further, Daz could easily provide a "standardized platform" for content creation for SL)

We shouldn't exclude Poser from the equation, it too exports in the .dae format...

Like we already said though, it's a 3 point combo system, the Collada export itself, the program the end user would be exporting from, and then SL's ability to handle that .dae file. This is a VERY early stage in this process, but by next year, things will be d i f f e r e n t for sure...

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Poser is also a possibility. However, Poser 8 doesn't export skeletal information in its dae files. Poser Pro 2010 does though.

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I hope that what I am doing is "ok", if not, please delete this post and I will surely delete the file =/ It's just for testing/practicing sake, not making money (or even Lindens =P) w/ the file... I've made no public announcement of the file, but hope it will serve all our sakes and purposes during this beta process.

What I did for Poser users is I took the simplebot.dae, extracted the geometry, and rigged a full figure for it in Poser making a complete .cr2. This .cr2 can be opened, used and further edited in Poser, Daz Studio and even Carrara. The figure was set using the SL joint naming system, however I did not add the eyes or the toes, seriously hoping it's not the problem. It shouldnt be, if someone designs socks, in theory they shoulnt need to save the head or arms w/ the figure file, so I think it's best to get it to work under that premise (not to mention I'm a lazy as hell capricorn)...

I "tried" exporting a collada file from the .cr2 from all 3 programs, no luck at all =/ Sometimes it would cause an instant crash of the viewer. Sometimes it would load and you can see the geometry, apply joint and weights, but see no movement of the mesh. If you simply rezz the object (hope I said that right, being the noob =P), it will load in-world at a descent proportion to the avatar. I'm sure you've seen the actual file floating about in the sandboxes, and it is HUGE. I wonder if size/scaling of the geometry has anything to do w/ it. I've seen avatar sized meshes in the sandbox that when worn work correctly, so I wowuld "assume" not, but............

Anyways, a .cr2 for Poser users to test is a great thing, I hope we can get a Collada file for figures w/ rigging to work, would be awesome. If it's an issue in the rigging, an issue w/ how the .dae exports, or w/ how the Viewer likes Poser, Studio or Carrara files, the world may never know =P

>>> simplebot Poser .cr2 file <<<

That said, I can't stress how much I loathe Blender. I have been avoiding it for about 10 years (yeah, I'm old, shut up) and surely don't plan to incorporate it into my workflow now...

In all fairness, and out of serious desperation to try to get things going w/ regards to custom avatars, I spent 1 day with it... Half of the day went into trying to get the stable version, and all python/scripts/plugins working. Even still, I don't know for certain if I have it installed correctly, that's another variable/obstable in this whole mess I don't need. Took a few more hours watching and practicing w/ various online tutorials and made "some" progress... Spent an hour trying to figure out how to pan in the view mode, FRUSTRATING to say the least =/ spent a few more hours trying to follow the mesh overview tutorial at MachiniMatrix... I tried doing the arm piece, coulnt manuever thru the UI and jumped off a cliff. Tried testing the dress in the same fashion, and then was unable to select the dress after having "rigged" it. It would move w/ the bones, but was unselectable, so I couldnt export it to SL =/ Blender just is NOT going to work for me, I need other options.....

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Hmm, I'm not sure why you had such issues with the Blender install. I always use the zip installers, which are bundled with the needed Python. You just unzip to any place you want it and done. However, the latest stable release 2.5 actually has an incomplete collada implementation. You'd need a copy of 2.49 to make an SL compatible rigged mesh in Blender. If you do change your mind about Blender, I'm sure I could find you a proper copy. It's interesting that you mention trying it 10 years ago. When I first tried it not long before that time, I hated it with a passion. But now, I love it. Truly, the key to Blender is finding good tutorial sites like Blender Cookie and Blender 3D Design Course, which is a free video course taught by a professor.

 

That being said, I'll give the cr2 file a go. I can test it in Poser Pro 2010, Daz Advanced and the latest non-pro version of Carrara. Off the top of my head, I think the FBX exporter for Daz might be the most obvious route. It was designed to convert Poser models for use in programs that have weight mapping. The only problem then is converting the fbx file to a dae file SL understands.

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I honestly, really did try, but just can not get around the interface. I have not gone ballistic and uninstalled just yet =P Trying to be patient... I am going to try to customize the ui, maybe that will help. I'm not the only one who has this dislike fr Blender, I think just as many people like it as people who dont...

I'm hoping Carrara to be my best option, but I think for Carrara to transfer weight map jointing, the bones need to be native Carrara joints, and then, supposedly, the Collada export should work. Should, being the operative word, lol...

All that means is that I wasted my efforts rigging the Poser figure =P Only took a "few" minutes, just copied a pre-existing rig and used some scripts to change the names of the bones.

Does the Mesh View upload reduce the density of meshes?!? Does it alter the geometry in any way?!? Did the people at SL actually provide a joint rig, or are "we" expected to make the community standard?!? Are the avatar.blend and simplebot.dae the official files for this workflow?!?

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"Does the Mesh View upload reduce the density of meshes?!?"

What do you mean exactly? Are you asking if it reduces the polycount for you? No, it doesn't do that. Now, you can let it make auto-generated LODs for you. But, I wouldn't recommend it. The LODs look pretty horrid. It would be better to just make your own in your 3D modeler.

 

"Did the people at SL actually provide a joint rig, or are "we" expected to make the community standard?!?"

No, LL didn't provide any official files. The information has always been there in XML format apparently. The avatar.blend file existed before the mesh program. Wiz Daxter's system lets you change the appearance XML file, that you can export from SL yourself, into a rigged avatar in Blender, Max and Maya.

And actually, it just occured to me that another problem with the Poser/Daz route is that you'd need the actual weighting of the joints to match up to the SL avatar if you are making clothing for it. This isn't an issue if you are making your own avatar replacement though instead of clothing.

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I have seen especially w/ regards to the simplebot.dae that it will reduce the polycount. This is w/o the use of LOD, it just imports at varying amounts of polys. Maybe I'm doing someyhing to the export, will double check, but your response alerts me that I am the culprit.

I too figured out that for clothing items to work, they will have to be based on the rig of the actual avatar. The simplebot .cr2 however is based on the relative "shape" of SL avatar. If that were to work, it "should" work for clothes... Should, being the operative word =P

I went to the page you linked me too to get the joint names and saw that we can access the files, but that code type stuff is way over my head. I would love to have the actual, official files from Linden, but I didn't follow their instructions on extracting them from the site...

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