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"Baking" animation?


Kira Zobel
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It's hard to explain what I would like to do but I'm going to try.

I'm working on a creature avatar head. I made the lower jaw and ears a part of this head as an experiment to see if there's a way to do this.  

I put a couple joints into the open jaw and closed it.  Now, I'd like to upload the closed mouth shape into SL.  Is there a way to do something like this?  Thanks!

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Before you export, delete construction history.  The skeleton will poof out of existence, and the deformation effects will be baked into the geometry.

 

Now that you have the how, here's the why.  Skeletons are deformers.  Like all deformers, their effects are non-destructive, as they happen after everything else in the construction history.  This is is the very basis upon which animation works. 

When you export geometry, you're exporting from a point in the history before the deformer effects are applied.  Deformation effects, therefore, are not "real" in this context.  In the case of skeletal animations, the model ends up in the bind pose, because that's its actual "real" state. 

To make the effects of any deformer permanent, skeletal effects included, simply delete history from the mesh.  At that point, Maya will have no record of how the model came to be in the shape that it is.  As far as the program will know, the state the model currently is in is the state that it always was in.  The shape is now "real".  Hence, it will be preserved in the export.

Any time you use a deformer as a modeling tool, you should always delete history immediately afterward, to make the new shape real.  Only keep deformers in place if you actually need them to remain adjustable.  For SL purposes, that will only be when you're making rigged clothing/body replacement items.

 

 

So you know, you should be deleting history regularly as you work.  Keeping history in place for too long invites stability problems with your model, since not every action you perform to edit the model is going to be directly compatible with every previous action.  Also, lengthy history slows down performance, since Maya basically has to re-follow the whole list of actions at every turn, reconstructing the model from scratch every time you change anything.  With history deleted, all those problems go away. 

Keep history in place only for as long as it's directly useful for you to have access to it, not a moment longer.  As soon as it's no longer needed, get rid of it.  Always delete history immediately before, and immediately after, performing any action that substantially changes the state of the model.

Even when you are keeping deformers in place, you stil should be deleting history regularly.  This is why Maya has the "Delete non-deformer history" command.  It's for cases in which you edit a model after a deformer has been applied, but you still want the deformer to be adjustable.

 

This history management principle applies in any program that utilizes construction history, by the way, not just Maya.  For example, this is why we use simple flat image formats like TGA and BMP for textures, rather than using full blown PSD's.  A working document like a PSD can include procedural effects, smart objects, etc., all of which have to be recalculated and re-applied every time the image is opened or edited.  Flat output formats simply have the visual results of all those things baked in.

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