Blender to Unreal character creation and animation

What is the right and straightforward process of creating a character in Blender, rigging, bringing to UE5 and animating inside the engine?

Should I bring UE5 character skeleton to Blender firstly? Or should I retarget it from some skeleton when I import a character to Unreal Engine 5?

I’m interested in a fast and fluent workflow with a new UE5 in mind

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It is recommended to create animations inside the 3D modelling software (not in Unreal), and also do rigging and weight painting there, you can implement cloth simulations and physics in Unreal.

With UE5 it doesn’t really matter if you use the epic skeleton or not, because the “Humanoid rig” option is no longer present and you have to select bone chains manually in order to retarget animations.

If you need to create animations in Blender you can use the default Blender Rigify meta-rig, or use the MrMannequinTools addon.

One thing I learned while experimenting with UE’s Control Rigs and Blender: if you export a skeletal mesh using *.fbx format, you should set Primary Bone Axis to X and Secondary Bone Axis to Z (in the exporter’sArmature rollout). Otherwise, the bones will have wrong orientations and some features such as inverse kinematics wont work properly

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I use these tools:

Once you get set up the iterations are really fast.

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Hi, thanks for links. And… could you clarify a bit here? So humanoid rig is not present and selection of bone chains. That’s interesting. So technically I could model any creature and set any bones in Blender. And after exporting to Unreal I should do… what? Select bone chains? Could you help here? How to proceed in that case?

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I’m making a tutorial to explain the new retargeting system because everything I found is kinda incomplete (or even wrong sometimes, especially in terms of root motion), I’ll link it here as soon as it’s ready because it’s quite complex to explain with words only…

It’s always better to use “standard skeletons” if you rig humans, but the new IK Retargeter allows you to obtain great results (and see the previews of the retargeted animation before exporting it).

With standard I mean:

  • The Rigify meta-rig for Blender
  • The UE4 or UE5 Mannequin for unreal
  • Any skeleton from Mixamo should work fine
  • HumanIK on Maya (Often used in motion tracking too)

They share common bone positions, bone names could vary, unfortunately the new IK chain setup is “very manual” so my suggestion is to use skeletons with bone names easily recognizable.

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You can start with the base character using the blender tools I point to above. If you want to just animate the unreal base skeleton, within unreal you can export the skelmesh and use the UE to rigify to set up the character for animation.

The videos and livestreams linked on the bottom of that page will outline the process. Also, the second and third videos outline using other types of characters. Kaye uses a deer from a free pack, re-rigs and animated then imports back into unreal. I highly recommend watching the short tutorials and at least the first 2 livestreams.

If you are reasonably comfortable in Blender and follow along you should be able to set up a pipeline pretty quickly, the longest hangup I had was aligning the export paths for different assets to the correct folders in Unreal… I make animation or model edits in Blender and 5 seconds later I am using those changed assets in Unreal.

You dont have to use the rigify stuff at all, nor are you pinned down to any specific skeleton or animations… starting with the standard mannequin stuff can help speed things up, but are not necessary. Totally up to you and your projects needs.

I would be very appreciated to go through your tutorial. Because information is kind of scattered. I try to understand basics and it’s tough. Honestly I try to focus 2 directions: creatures like bipedal robots, tentacles, cats, dogs and the second one - humans.

I’ve heard the usage of Blender Rigify meta-rig couldn’t be exported to Unreal and it’s not recommended.

I admit that I have no overall picture in mind, but I try to achieve it :slight_smile:

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I use send2unreal and it works, thanks :slight_smile:

The thing is how to create human character, assign rig to it, export to Unreal (I already know it, thanks to send2unreal plugin) and animate with a help of Control Rig in UE5. It seems I need to work with a bone chains assignment (new mechanism).

Let me try to formulate a question. Here I have modelled a simple animal model and added bones. I exported it to Unreal. Next, I need to somehow create a Control Rig. That’s where it’s hard to understand what to do next to create a new animation with it.

And it’s the same with a human.

Another thing that confuses me is the notion of “retargeting”. Do I need it or not?

My tutorial will be mainly about retargeting, because that’s the thing that changed in UE5, you need it only if you want to use animations made for other skeletons with your skeleton (I am not an animator, I’m a programmer and it often happens that I have to fix stuff in order to make it work)

The reason why I suggested to use Rigify or the MrMannequin tools is to speed up your animation process in Blender, unreal and blender use a different bone orientation so if you import the default mannequin in Blender the bones will be messed up (if you toggle the auto align bones option in the fbx importer it will align them correctly but the skeleton will have problems when you reimport it back in Unreal)

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Thanks for the explanation. You did it great! I do think it’s the complex area to dig into quickly :grin:

That’s clear. Thanks. What about creation of a new character, let’s say - human. I can sculpt/model it in Blender and make an armature with bones. I export it to Unreal. And… Control rig. Idk what to do on this step. Character is mine, skeleton is mine as well.

Here’s an example that I would use to quickly setup a human character:

IF YOU ARE GOING TO CREATE THE ANIMATIONS:

  1. Sculpt your character
  2. Rig it with whatever skeleton you like
  3. Create animations for it in Blender, or use motion tracking
  4. Import it in unreal.

IF YOU WANT TO USE BOUGHT ANIMATIONS FOR THE UE4 MANNEQUIN:

  1. Place an UE4/UE5 mannequin in blender and model your character on it, this will save you a lot of time posing it later, using the default skeleton really helps you a lot while retargeting animations (especially fingers could get really messed up and require a lot of tweaking)
  2. Rig your character to an UE compatible skeleton (you can use automatic weights and adjust it with weight painting)
  3. Import it in Unreal and select the default skeleton (do not create a new one), if you are using a UE5 template project you can find the UE4 and UE5 Skeletons respectively in:

/Content/Characters/Mannequin_UE4/Meshes/SK_Mannequin_Skeleton.uasset
/Content/Characters/Mannequins/Meshes/SK_Mannequin.uasset

  1. All the animations for the UE mannequin should work “out of the box” for your character

IF YOU WANT TO USE ANIMATIONS MADE FOR SKELETONS THAT DON’T SHARE THE SAME BONES :

  1. You need to set up retargeting, in UE5 you need to create an IK rig for each skeleton that you need to retarget:

  2. Right click the Pelvis bone and set it as retarget root, it’s not always called Pelvis (Like in this case, it’s Waist), so be careful:

  3. Now you need to crate chains between corresponding bones between the two characters, the fundamentals are: Spine, Head, LeftArm, RightArm, LeftLeg, RightLeg (you can skip fingers if you want the hand to always be open or closed, like when holding a sword).
    To create a chain select the bones and right click one of them, and select “New retarget chain from selected bones”, I remapped it to CTRL+R to speed up the repetitive process.

  4. Save the IK Rig and repeat the operation for the other skeleton

  5. Create an IK Retargeter and select the SOURCE IK rig (the one that has the animation that you want to retarget)

  6. Set the target IK Rig

  7. Check that the chain names match, Auto-Map Chains works really bad if the names are not IDENTICAL, so be careful, it is not smart at all (at least the old humanoid rig was recognizing several bones names).

  8. You can preview the retargeted animation in real time before exporting it, you can select multiple animations to export at the same time.

  9. Stuff like Root Motion, Posing, and other stuff will be covered in the video that I hope to complete as soon as possible (I’m trying to cover as many things as possible and it’s hard to avoid error, especially when you are not a native english speaker)

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You summarised methods very nicely! Thank you!

The thing is to move mannequin to Blender and it’s skeleton as well. I do think it should be possible with UE to Rigify plugin.

WIll try! Thanks once again! Looking forward to see your tutorial! Please post a link here in a discussion :wink:

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Hi @Ares9323 ,

One more question I couldn’t find an answer yet. How to export Mannequin from UE5 to Blender? :slight_smile:

And… I found it. Asset Actions->Export. It’s a problem with textures, but bones exported successfully.

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Yeah, the mannequin material is pretty complex, it’s not surprising that the export to .fbx is breaking it, if it matters to you, you can export the textures in the /Mannequins/Textures/Manny folder and use them in Blender to improve the preview (Same procedure: Asset Actions->Export)

You only need the materials ending with _D (Base Color) and _BN (Normal Map, be sure to set it to “Non-Color”) to display them correctly (if you want the metallic look you can also export the MSR_Mask and use a “Separate RGB” node to split the texture in Metallic, Specular and Roughness)

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Im using this currently and when i import it into unreal and set the manequinn all the arms and fingers are deformed, what could have happened ?

Hi @eswayah ,

In your case maybe you can check if you applied all transforms in Blender. CTRL+A → Apply Transform/Rotation/Scale.

I found the easiest method to animate a character without retargeting.

  1. Export a mannequin model from UE → Blender
  2. Attach mannequin skeleton to your character mesh
  3. Weightpaint (if needed) and export back to Unreal. When importing to Unreal you can select Manny skeleton from the list.
  4. Done. All accessible animations to Manny will be applied to your character as well

Worth mentioning - height of your character and proportions should be close to Manny. Otherwise you will need some fixes.

Good luck!