6. Minifig generator

5. Actors | | 7. Animation

The previous chapter showed that it's reasonably simple to create an actor, but there is one actor that you probably will use a lot in a vast array of variations. I am off course talking about the good old minifig. All minifig parts are present in the connection information database, but it still becomes a drag creating all those minifig actors by hand using the part and actor editors. This is why there is a Minifig generator available. With it you can generate minifig actors on the fly including the needed parts.

You open the minifig generator from the 'actors' object. It's represented as the briefly mentioned "minifig head" button.

minifig ben button

Clicking on this button opens a dialog like the one below.

Minifig dialog

Designing a minifig actor

First thing to do is select all the wanted minifig parts, like the head, torso and hips. When newly opened the minifig generator shows a very 'standard' minifig, but you can change any of its body parts by clicking on its representation in the bullet list or by clicking body parts in the preview rendering.

Below the bullet list you'll find the options for the currently selected body part. By default the 'torso' is active. Therefore you'll see an extensive list of available LDraw torso parts in the option section. There should be over 140 with the latest LDraw library installed. Currently 973.dat is active, but by clicking any other item in the list the part will be changed and the result displayed in the preview. For finding a specific body part there is the filter box, if you e.g. type "space" in it the part list will only show parts with the word "space" in their description.

After choosing a LDraw part you can also change its basic color. This is done with the color bar above the LDraw part list. You can assign any of the main sixteen colors by clicking its button. You can also decide to make it transparent by checking the 'transparent' checkbox. If you want a non basic color you gain access to the full color list by clicking the 'other' button.

Be careful while choosing a color. Some LDraw parts don't 'like' certain colors, because of their own color theme. Using such colors may result in the disappearance of a pattern. For example if you make a minifig head black, its face design will not be visible on most LDraw minifig head parts.

It may be a burden to set the same color to multiple body parts. For this reason there is a clone functionality. You gain access to it with the right mouse menu. Open the menu by clicking anywhere with the right mouse button. In the pop up you'll find the item 'Apply color to'. This will open a sub menu listing a number of logical 'part groups'. If you choose any of them, the color of the current part will be applied to all body parts in that group.

The groups and their members are:

GroupBody parts
EverythingHead, Torso, Hips, Head accessory, Head clipon, Neck accessory, Left arm, Right arm, Left hand, Right hand, Left Leg, Right Leg
ClothesTorso, Hips, Left arm, Right arm, Left Leg, Right Leg
SkinHead, Left hand, Right hand
Everything except skinTorso, Hips, Head accessory, Head clipon, Neck accessory, Left arm, Right arm, Left Leg, Right Leg
TrousersHips, Left Leg, Right Leg
ArmsLeft arm, Right arm
LegsLeft Leg, Right Leg
Head and neck accessoriesHead accessory, Head clipon, Neck accessory

The right click menu also controls the preview's spinning. You can toggle it on , off or reset it to front view. When it's disabled you can rotate the preview manually by holding the left mouse button down and moving to left or right.

Using templates

If you plan to animate a lot of minifigs it might be a good idea to create a selection of templates. A template is nothing more then a storage device for your minifig designs as used in the generator. This way you can generate the same model in the future or create variations of it without having to recreate the 'basic model' every time.

You'll find template control on the top of the generator dialog. First in this bar there is a drop down field whom let you choose a 'current' template. By default the template list is empty so there will be no value in it.

You save your current model by clicking the 'save' button. This will prompt you for a name. The chosen name will appear in the drop down field. Please note changes to the model will not be applied to the active template unless you press save again.

Pressing save will always overwrite the current template unless there was none present. If you want to save your current model to a new template use the 'Save as' button instead. Templates are stored globally, which means that it does not matter in which package or project your working - the available templates will always be the same.

If you want to start with a new model from 'scratch' press the 'new' button. This will create a new template using the same model as appears on first opening the generator dialog.

Of course you can also delete or rename the current template by using the corresponding buttons.

Generating the actor

After setting up the desired minifig model, it's time to actually generate an actor for it. But before you do this you should check the naming scheme.

Like discussed in the previous pages any actor exists like a collection of 'normal' LDraw parts. It is no different for these minifig actors, except that the needed parts will be created automatically. For this to work those parts must be named.

In the options panel you probably have noticed the tabs. Up till now we discussed the 'minifig' tab. But there are two more, namely: parts and actor. Click the parts tab. This will display a list of edit fields. With them you can tune the names to use for needed parts in your actor. By default the names will be set to global minifig body part names in the language you used while opening the minigfig generator for the first time, but you may change them at will as long they stay unique among themselves.

Now let's inspect the 'actor' tab. Here you can edit the name of the actor you are about to generate. Do note the name you choose will also be prefixed to the part names you set on the previous tab. This way you can generate multiple actors in the same package without having conflicting part names.

Below the actor name you'll find the names to be used for the joints in the actor. Like the part names these will be set to the default according the used language. Again you may change them at will, but be aware it is these names you will be working with during animation, so it's a good good idea to use the same names for all your minifigs. The reason will become clear in the animation pages, but in short it will help you 'reuse' animations.

In real life you will probably only change the 'actor name' on the actor tab for newly generated minifig actors. If you don't change this name the generator will prompt you before generating.

Let's chose a name and start generating already. You generate the actor by clicking the 'Ok' button. When you do this a file save dialog will appear. The generator has created a MPD file for your design, so this has to be saved. Be sure to place it somewhere practical in respect to your current package.

After you have saved the MPD, multiple parts and an actor will be added to the object tree of the package. You are done creating a minifig actor, so save your changes and play with it in its actor editor or read on to learn how to animate it.

5. Actors | | 7. Animation
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