Where to go Next?

3D Animation

I need some help!

My initial intent was to learn how to make some animations for my grand kids that would tell some of my stories like the one about a bluebird and a fox, some kids that find lost pirate treasure, or even the more ambitious story entitled “The Mouse House Caper”! Perhaps I am naive but for certain I was uneducated about “computer based animation”. Nonetheless, I ventured out into the online world to find out what I didn’t know but needed to know about “animation”. So far, it has been a wonderful and exciting journey. At 69 years old I have finally discovered what I want to do when I grow up! However I still feel a bit lost and unsure how to move forward. That is what I would like to know – what is a viable pathway to travel down the road to 3D animation competence! To that end I’d like to ask for your advice and experience hoping that will help me map out my “animation travel plans”!

Perhaps a broad, but brief review, of where I have been so far may be helpful to considering a recommendation of where I should go next. I’ll also list a few constraints that impact my 3d animation travel plans. Hence, here are some points for context:

  1. I cannot afford expensive software platforms. That includes software such as any Adobe products (or any “subscription” type products for that matter), AutoDesk Maya, or anything that cost more than $1000.

  2. I will work on a laptop. My current plan is an HP Omen Laptop, (16.1” screen, I-7 Intel CPU, NVIDIA RTX 3060 GPU, 32 GB ram, 1 TB SSD).

  3. I am not inclined to pay for basic tutorials as they seem to be a “pig in a poke” situation. That said, however, I have kissed many, many YouTube “frogs” looking for the rare tutorial “prince”! It has been exceedingly tiresome and seemingly never ending search sometimes!

  4. I have studied the history of animation including the twelve principles, etc.

  5. I researched, done the tutorials, and worked on trial versions from a variety of different animation software platforms including the following:
    A. Reallusion Cartoon Animator (2D animation)
    B. Reallusion Character Creator 3 (3D Characters)
    C. Reallusion Iclone 7
    D. DAZ3D Studio
    E. Epic Games Unreal Engine

  6. I am currently “hip deep” in learning Unreal Engine and find it very powerful but I also find it ….
    A. Exceedingly complicated but viable
    B. Very, very game construction oriented,
    C. An unintuitive GUI arrangement – unobvious to me on how to insert a character into a scene!
    D. The tutorials are a strange mix of both very good and very bad teaching presentations,
    E. Epic Games has some excellent animator development initiatives such as metahumans (genuinely exquisite photo realistic characters), a 30 day “fellowship”, and a recent symposium for telling stories with unreal engine to name a few)!

At this stage of my 3d animation journey my simple mind finds that “computer based animation” has the following major production components!

  1. Character construction and development (modeling, rigging, texturizing)
  2. Environment and/or scene construction
  3. Integration of characters into an environment (movements, expressions, props, dialogue, sounds)
  4. Rendering
  5. Compositing
  6. Final touches

My simple mind also believes that the proverbial “pipeline” notion in 3D animation means that there is no one software that can handle all 6 components of the process. The trouble I have is that I do not know which software will easily fit together to make a strong “flow” of 3D product or even more importantly which software is best suited for which 3D production components.

Today I am frustrated, disheartened, and rudderless about what compass heading I should be sailing to get back on my 3D Animation proficiency journey. Any advice that may get me back on course?

1 Like

Blender sounds like a good option for you… it’s free, and is a place where you can create characters and basic environments, rig things, texture them, and animate them.

A good couple of terms to look for, with regards to Blender and tutorials (in order):

“Rigify” “CGDive” To get into the Rigging portion of the journey… Rigify is part of Blender and is an addon that just needs to be turned-on to use it. It’s not hard to use, and pretty forgiving… CGDive’s “Rig anything with Rigify” course is “partially” free… I went back and bought the follow-up parts of that course, just because of how useful the free part was.

“Game Ready Tools” (CGdive’s workflow was heavily involved with this addon, it’s free, or costs as much as you want to pay for it) if you intend to bring the project back to Unreal, this allows you to do a lot of tricks where you can animate with elaborate (or simple) rigs in Blender, and then “automatically” create a very basic “game” rig for export to Unreal that will carry your animations/characters to Unreal. The tutorials also demonstrate specific export to Unreal (using “send to UE” blender addon, created by Epic Games, and also how to do it manually).

My experience with this was pretty good, there’s not much info on doing it with multiple meshes on the same character, but if you hit “join” in Blender, suddenly it just all kinda works the way you’d expect it to in Unreal…

“Mixamo” is a website to visit for a bunch of free humanoid characters and Mocap animations,

Look up “Retargeting” to use a Mixamo (or other) animation and add it to a (rigify?) rig that you’ve made. (Again… CGDive has you covered with a great tutorial on “Rokoko” retargeting system)

Think of Blender as your basic creation system, and Unreal for final rendering, Compositing, and Final touches. Theoretically, you COULD do it all in Blender, but if possible, I’d advise against that route, unless you like hitting the render button and coming back the next day to see how badly the cloth animation tore itself apart.

Clothing export from Blender to UE is kind of “iffy” at best… it’s recommended that you use Maya or 3ds Max for that, but, MAYBE it’s just “iffy” to ME because I haven’t figured it out yet… “Apex Clothing” is a rabbit hole to avoid unless you’ve got Maya or 3dsMax, and yet, that’s apparently the best way to get simulated cloth into Unreal.

Honestly, I have no idea how to bring cloth sims over from Blender… so I just parent them to the rig as standard (non-cloth) meshes, and aside from capes/dresses and suchlike, it does well enough. I got pulled away from using cloth physics in Blender, so I honestly don’t know how well, if at all, they’ll import into Unreal.

Off topic slightly, but if you want to end-up in Unreal… look in the Unreal learning system for “my first hour in sequencer” it’s a lot of fun, and gives you (optionally) a hands-on idea of what to expect with regards to setting up a cinematic with animated characters in Unreal. I believe it’s an intermediate course, so you might need to go through some hoops to get there, but it’s totally worth it.

If you only want to make animations without any kind of programmed logic, Blender is probably your one stop shop. Unreal is a full service game engine - it goes way beyond just rendering animations.

I think animation is best in Maya, though I understand not wanting to pay especially if you are a hobbyist. However, do be aware that Maya does have an indie license which is only about $200 a year. Not saying you should use maya, but if reasons compel you to, dont shell out for the full license when the indie exist!

There is endless possibilities with computer work so it can be hard to stay focused on one thing. My advice is, try to keep it as simple as possible and see how far you can get with just one tool (like Blender).

Not an artist, but there is a Blender addon called Mr Mannequin Tools.
It’s free and is made for Unreal rigs.
Mr Mannequins Tools | BLENDERender

This was nice and all in unreal:

A bit complicated to do (you need follow some tutorials), but you have it all right there in unreal, so for making custom animations inside unreal that fit scene (you want to make animated movie) this is easiest.

I would suggest starting as simple as possible. You’ve dipped your toe into a number of different packages. You’ve seen 2D and full 3D packages. Sounds like some of your stories are based on animals and some may require people. Decide on what basic look you want and how far you want to get into it. You can create everything and do all hand key framing of characters if you want or you can try to focus on the storytelling and try to use as much off the shelf as possible.

If you’re just making animations Unreal is fairly easy because you can ignore all the game and program logic for your needs. Create a basic scene in Unreal and put in your characters>
Look in the Unreal Marketplace free tab in the Unreal Launcher. If you can get a free scene or at least free props all the better.
Select Sequencer in Unreal and start positioning at different frames in the timeline.
You can use a control rig but good complex animation can take time. The other option is to download or buy mocap motion that you can apply to your characters.

Amazing story, very inspiring :slight_smile:
I would say for your animation needs i think a combination of Blender and Unreal engine would be a good fit. Unreal has metahuman’s for your adult characters and control rig to create in engine animations with them. Quixel megascans are included so there are many materials, props, foliage you can drag and drop to fill your scenes.
There is ofcourse the marketplace for certain assets like animals etc. But they generally do not fit
in the range of asset you are looking for because they are not animated to move or speak in that style of animation. Good for background assets perhaps.
For the “Hero Assets” like a bluebird and a fox i would indeed suggest to model and rig them yourself. I would say blender is perfect for that, it is free and can compete and sometimes outperform some of the costly competition. Gimp is a free image editing software i use for some texture work.
You could then import your hero assets and make a custom control rig for them to be able to animate them in engine! A combination of all of this info could have you creating something like the “Meerkat demo” Hero asset’s in a quixel megascans world.
Hope this clip gives you some inspiration! :slight_smile: