Greetings! I developed an in-editor tool for baking skeletal mesh animation into textures, allowing for instanced static meshes to be animated through the material shader.
Update, Now available on the UE 4 Marketplace: https://www.unrealengine.com/marketp…x-anim-toolset
Here is a video showing 10 000 Mannequins animated as a single Hierarchical Instanced Static Mesh Component.
Models are colored depending on their LOD.
Here is another video of 2500 Mannequin Instances of a single HISMC showing multiple animations. Each individual instance can be on a different state: Idle in place, Running from the sphere or walking back to their original position.
Here is the video showing the process for baking and aplying the animation using the Toolset
This is the same but for older versions (Pre-UE-4.24)
-Take the vertex deformation from a skeletal mesh animation (both bone and morph target) and bake it into two textures (one for positions and another for normals).
-Vertex positions and normals are encoded to allow for different LODs of the same model to use the same texture (on the videos only one texture is used for all LODs).
-Multiple animations can be packed into one texture, and animation can be interpolated, only needing to bake a few frames of animation.
-Create static mesh asset from skeletal mesh with the additional UV-Set needed for fast animation texture lookup. Can also stack multiple rows to acomodate models with more vertices than UE’s texture resolution limit.
You can check out the Documentation here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ijeva2sifk…ation.pdf?dl=0