7. Animation

6. Minifig generator | | 8. Characters

The animation object

Before you can animate stuff you need to understand the animation object and it's sub branches. Let's create a new animation. Locate the 'animations' object in the Excavator package. Then use its right mouse button menu to create a new animation. It will be appended as 'animation 1'.

Select the new object and take a look at it's properties. The animation object has a reasable number of properties, so let's go over them one by one:

MainNameUnique name for the animation
 Default aspect ratioInitial aspect ratio to be used for new monitors.
PlaybackSequenceSequence to use for playback. All animation is the result of interpreting sequences of actions (animation actions). This property determents where to 'begin' the interpreting.
 Output cameraCamera to use for output.
 SimulateEnable/disable real time animation calculation while not in play mode. This is useful while testing dynamic animation actions.
 LoopEnable/disable looping.
 Frame rateSet the frame rate (the number of pictures per second)
 Current frameThis indicates the current frame. It will be updated during playback. You can also set it manually while not in playback mode.
IntervalEnabledEnable/disable interval containment. While enabled playback will be limited to the start and end frame region.
 Start frameIndicates the interval's start frame.
 End frameIndicates the interval's end frame.

Most of these properties will be explained in more detail in following chapters.

Animation window

Like most important objects an animation object has a window. Double click the object to open it. You will see something like the picture below:

animation player

The window represents a simple playback device. With it you can control most of the object's properties by point and click. For example you can control the 'loop', 'simulate' and 'interval enabled' properties by clicking the label for them on the window. You control the 'current frame' by dragging the red marker in the blue/white bar around. You can also set the current interval start and end frame by positioning the red marker (and so the current frame) in combination with the interval control buttons.

interval buttons

The first two set the interval start or end to the current frame. The last button clears the current interval. If an interval is present you can also expand or shrink it by clicking and holding one of it's borders.

Finally the window has a whole bunch of buttons at the bottom resembling a tape deck. From left to right they are:

interval buttons

First frameGo to the first frame in the animation. If an interval is enabled it will go to the start frame of the interval.
Fast backwardsPlay the animation backwards at multiple speeds. Multple clicks will increase the speed by factors of two. Clicking with the right mouse button decreases the speed again (also by factors of two).
BackwardsPlay the animation at normal speed backwards.
Slow backwardsPlay the animation backwards in slow motion. Multiple clicks will decrease the speed by factors of two. Clicking with the right mouse button increases the speed again (also by factors of two).
PausePause the animation.
StopStop the animation.
Slow forwardPlay the animation in slow motion. Multiple clicks will decrease the speed by factors of two. Just like slow backwards you can use the right mouse button to increase the speed again.
Forward / playPlay the animation at normal speed.
Fast forwardPlay the animation at multiple speeds. Multiple clicks will increase the speed by factors of two. Just like fast backwards you can use the right mouse button to decrease the speed again.
Last frameGo to the last frame in the animation. If an interval is enabled it will go to the last frame of the interval.

You may have noticed a couple of these animation play buttons are also present in the object inspector. These are for quick access, and have the same effect as the ones in the window.

The player also can show some statistics about the current playback environment. This can be done by clicking the vertical "Show statistics" text at the right of the window. It will open additional window space reporting things like frame interval time. This can be handy in diagnosing slow playback causes.

While playing with the animation window you undoubtedly noticed you see nothing besides a moving frame indicator. To actually see you're animation in action you need to set up a monitor. This is covered in a following chapter, but first you need to familiarize yourself with the animation basics and tools.

Animation elements

The main thing to grasp in LD4DStudio animation is the concept 'Animation element'. An animation element represents a single aspect of any movable object. During actor editing you learned about joints, and each of them had a X, Y and Z angle and a X, Y and Z move value. By manipulating the 'current' value of these six parameters you will be animating the joint in question. It is these six values that are represented by animation elements. In comparison: If you were doing a puppet show, the animation elements would be the strings attached to the limbs.

Joints are not the only objects whom have animation elements assigned to them. In the following chapters you will learn about other objects with animation elements. But before we go there lets first get more familiar with animation elements in general.

There are two kinds of animation elements: analog and binary ones. Analog elements are numeric and can have any value (e.g. 1, -5, -1000, 1424, 12.232, -1.32, etc). Binary elements are logical and can only have a value of 'true' or 'false'.

An single animation element contains more information then just it's current value. It also has an enabled state, a minimal value, a maximal value, a rangemode and a rest value.

The enabled state controls if the element is of any interest in your animation. If you set it to 'false' all changes will be blocked and it will not show up in selection lists. For example take a simple single joint, it has eight possible animation elements (six axes and two binary ones you learn about later). Taking in account an average actor has way more then a single joint the combined list of animation elements will grow huge for even the simplest animation. So by 'disabling' elements you don't need, you will limit the selection lists considerably and you'll be able to keep things in perspective.

The minimal and maximal value are only available for analog elements and are used to constrain the element's value during manipulations.

The rangemode (also only for analog elements) controls how the value is constrained to the minimal and maximal values. For more details on this see the actor chapter.

And finally there is the rest value. This is just that: a value for the animation element in rest. It can be used for initialization and resetting purposes.

6. Minifig generator | | 8. Characters
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