Willow Tree Process (Part 4) – Rigging and animating

A small amount of downtime over the past couple of days has given me the opportunity to move forward with my Animesh Willow experiment.

At this point, I have to mention that this is all it is – an experiment. In the course of playing with animating a tree, I ran in to a number of hurdles which I’ll have to consider whether I want to get around before any possible release. (I’ll go in to these a little later).

From the hint that animesh might be a thing, I’d been thinking about using it for more efficient modelling of animated vegetation. Willows are the most obvious candidate for me, since I’ve long avoided creating more.

Original solutions for willows have historically included flexiprims and while these may still prove useful, I wanted to see what I could come up with that wouldn’t be so taxing on the viewer. The opportunity to create something that isn’t so heavily dependant on SL wind is also promising.

My willow tree armature required  some significant modification of the default Bento avatar armature.

Willow Tree Process (Part 4) - Rigging and animating

Currently, Avastar allows a user to select and move bone joints for either the blue/purple SL armature or green Control Bones in edit mode, then to align them to their counterparts. This is what I did and (so far) I haven’t needed to adjust any of the parenting for this rig.

I opted not to make use of the lower limbs (for now) because doing so can present some orientation issues due to how bones are parented. If i need to in the future, I may put in more time to figure this out, but in this particular use case, I chose to just use the bones from torso up, arms, hands, wings, neck and head (no face), simply because these would handle the geometry sufficiently.

The result is, in a very general sense, positive.

Willow Tree Process (Part 4) - Rigging and animating

For the most part, the trunk was parented to bones which are logically closer to the middle of the skeleton. So it got torso, chest, collarbones, upper, lower arm, neck, head, etc. Most of the fingers got assigned to equidistant areas around the trunk for foliage.

In hindsight, I would probably rig and model concurrently. Because there was a significant amount of foliage geometry mixed together, selecting appropriate foliage and assigning it to its nearest bone was a bit tedious. Doing this a bit at a time to ensure proper movement would have been the better way to go.

Willow Tree Process (Part 4) - Rigging and animating

Fortunately, Avastar offers a means of checking for unweighted verts, so this process was made a bit easier as a result.

Weighting was undertaken mostly using the weight painting brush, but occasionally I would also hold down Ctrl while making my brush strokes to create a gradient of weights for my selected vertices.

Because there were so many vertices in relatively close proximity, I selected the bones I wanted in weight-painting mode, then hit ‘V’ to show vertices. I then selected the vertices I wanted to paint (rather than painting on everything)  and brushed on only the areas highlighted by the selected vertices.

Animating the tree:

Once all of the vertices in the geometry were assigned, it was time to try some basic animation. So far, I’ve just put together a basic sway animation as a test case, but I may continue to create a variety of other animations the tree can play on command.

Willow Tree Process (Part 4) - Rigging and animating

In order to create an animation, I split off a window pane in Blender and switch it to ‘Dope Sheet’ view. This gives me a frame-by-frame listing of bones for which location and/or rotation* has changed, over time (in frames). There are other more detailed and useful views you can use for animation, but this is the most basic view you’ll need right away.

(* Scale changes are ignored by SL, both on the armature and animation side.)

The Dopesheet operates mostly from left to right, although it does list off bones which have been weighted, on the left hand side as ‘channels’. When a bone is selected in 3D view, the appropriate channel will highlight in the Dopesheet view. On the flipside, you can also left-click the name of the bone in Dopesheet view to select the bone in 3D view.

To animate, we need to ‘keyframe’ a set of changes in rotation and/or location and have Blender interpolate these transitions from keyframe to keyframe. In this case, the chief translations we need to make will be rotational.

Willow Tree Process (Part 4) - Rigging and animating

To begin, I select every bone in the armature and keyframe the current rotation as a keyframe (Hotkey I, select ‘Rotation’). This will be my starting frame.

Next, we need to create the second position for the appropriate bones. Since I am only moving the hanging foliage, I select the appropriate bones (mostly just finger bones) and rotate them in the general direction I want.

Willow Tree Process (Part 4) - Rigging and animating

Then, since I just want to test and loop motion between these two keyframes, I select all of the points from the first keyframe, duplicate them and move them to where I want my end frame to go, allowing the animation to seamlessly move from the last frame to the first when it loops.

Willow Tree Process (Part 4) - Rigging and animating

 

Next, we need to define our export settings to convert these keyframes to a full blown animation that can be used in Second Life.

Willow Tree Process (Part 4) - Rigging and animating

Of note: Normally, frames per second (FPS) is set around 24. This particular animation has been slowed down significantly such that only two frames play per second, for a much more subtle effect. This can be played with depending on application – sometimes I will tinker with this to speed up or slow down walk-loops for avatars.

By default, I export .ANIM files instead of .BVH files – I don’t play much with the system morphs that come with .BVH and in this case, such morphs (system avatar-based facial expressions, hand gestures) are not applicable to this sort of content.

Once I have defined the start and end frame for the animation as well as the start and end frame for the loop (not always the same!), I click ‘Export: AvatarAction’ and save it with an appropriate file name.

In-world, I enable my willow as an ‘Animated Mesh’ object and drop the animation in to the mesh. Some additional scripts are needed to make use of this animation – some sample scripts to get you started can be found on the Animesh regions on ADITI grid currently. Hopefully we’ll see some more sample scripts on the wiki soon too.

The result:

Willow Tree Process (Part 4) - Rigging and animating

Current downsides:

  • Animesh currently can’t be resized. They make use of the armature, where the size is defined upon upload. It may be necessary to create several different sizes for variety and, depending on application, special attention to scaled animations may be necessary as well.
  • Transparent textures placed upon Animesh-enabled geometry currently do not cast a correct shadow.
  • Base 200LI – this is likely to change for the better. Vir Linden has always maintained that the current 200LI base is boilerplate and mainly intended to be more restrictive than the ultimate release. Once I have a better idea of base cost, I’ll have a better idea of whether I’d like to move ahead with further LOD optimization and more detailed animations.

So for now, this willow will be on my backburner until we have more info from the weekly content creation meetings (Thursdays at 1PM SLT, Animesh 4 region on ADITI grid).

In any case, I wish you all a very Happy New Year!

I’ve had the fortune of being able to pick up more work in the past year and also the opportunity to present my thoughts and new releases with you lately here on the blog – I’m really looking forward to keeping the ball rolling in the coming year and hope to have more to share with you soon!


If you found this or any other of my articles helpful, please consider becoming a Patron! Doing so supports further articles of this kind and my content creation in general.  Alternatively, if you like the sorts of things that I make for Second Life, drop by my Marketplace listing or my in-world stores and check out what I have to offer!

Unless otherwise noted, I (Aki Shichiroji) and this blog are not sponsored in any way. My thoughts are my own and not indicative of endorsement by any associated or discussed product/service/company.

 

New Azalea Bonsai at Organica

A new set of bonsai are now available at Organica!

 

These flowering trees will brighten up any household or garden. 8LI at packaged size, they have individually articulated flowers and foliage for great closeup detail, all the while maintaining efficient geometry to promote viewer performance. For best results, view with Advanced Lighting Model (Materials).

Eight varieties are available separately as well as a fatpack. Mod, copy, no transfer.

Each variety is available for purchase here at the Organica shop as well as here on Marketplace.

Home and Garden Expo 2017

Organica has a spot at this year’s Home and Garden Expo!

Home and Garden Expo 2017

This new 8 piece writing desk set includes corkboard, books, pencils, fountain pens, blotter, notebook and ink, along with a classic wood writing desk that’s great for any home!

Pieces range from 1-2 LI each and the set is mod, copy, no transfer.

 

Home and Garden Expo 2017 Home and Garden Expo 2017

Among many other RFL donation items, these two new hens and chick items are great for both indoor and outdoor use! 3-4LI each, they are mod, copy, no transfer and 100% of proceeds from the following items will go to the Relay for Life!

Visit Organica at Relay for Life at Hope 6!

Candy Fair 2016

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Organica will be participating in this year’s Candy Faire and brings a few new exclusives – as well as a new treat-themed racing car! Read on for more details…

 

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These parasols are non-rigged, materials-optimized and can either be worn as attachments (a Bento-ready animation is included) or rezzed on the ground for display. Each is 2LI and available individually or as part of the fatpack. 8 colours are offered in the fatpack and 2 mystery colours are offered as Trick or Treat gifts at the Faire. Mod, copy, no transfer.

candyswirl-halloween-vendor-768 candyswirl-table-vendor-768

These circular tables are 2 LI each and great for a shop or at home! Two packs are available (Classic and Halloween edition) and each pack includes four colour options. Mod, copy, no transfer, materials optimized.

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Lastly, drop by the Gacha Graveyard ( http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Destiny%20Dreams/122/116/25 ) for a chance to play Organica’s gacha machine, which features these cupcake racers! Made in collaboration with NeoBokrug Elytis of Desolate Studios, each racer comes with an optional bobble-head and use of the WoO racing system (full info here: http://www.akimeta.com/organica/?page_id=2043 ) Each car is 11LI and materials optimized. They are Transfer-only with option to exchange and will rez with one permanent trait, which effects driving in a unique way. Play the gacha machine or trade with friends to get a vehicle with the stats you want – there are six traits to collect!

Traits Acceleration Agility Speed
Scurry 4 3 2
Dart 4 2 3
Scamper 3 4 2
Hotfoot 2 4 3
Marathon 3 2 4
Hasty 2 3 4

 

Please note: Due to the nature of transfer-only items as well as the volatile nature of vehicles & region crossings, we highly recommend locking in your vehicle for a copy-only version once you are happy with what you’ve got. Your transfer-only vehicle may be exchanged for a copy-only vehicle at the main store. There is a special, separate exchanger for vehicles. Please check the note-card included with your purchase for the location, up to date as of Ocotober 16, 2016.

Organica can be found at Candy Faire at booth 29 – located here at: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Destiny%20Dreams/31/108/47 from October 17 thru 31st!

New tree, ground tiles, garden walls this week at Organica!

Three new items are available this week from Organica!

FicusAlcove1-vendor

This new Ficus tree is materials enabled, mod copy, 17LI and offers all original animations! It is the perfect centerpiece to your backyard or garden.

CobbleMossTile-vendor

This is a simple, tilable mesh built solely for flat surface use. It’s great for adding variety to a courtyard, creating pathways & more! 1 LI each, Mod, copy, no transfer, materials enabled.

GWS-Vendor-768

This wall set includes four pieces that’ll help you create your own private Asian-inspired garden! Ranges from 1-3 LI, mod, copy, no transfer, materials enabled.

All of these are now available at the main store (SLURL here)

New Releases from Organica for June 5

 

LavenderField-vendor-768

This new field item includes both scripted and unscripted versions of a mesh tile which can be used to create lavender fields! Great for small gardens or large fields. Mass texture change available by linking multiple copies together. Mod, copy, no transfer, with copy only scripts. Available In-store and on the Marketplace.

WoodenSunflower-vendor

This new wooden carving is now available for home decor! 5LI at packaged size, mod, copy, no transfer. Available in-store and on the Marketplace.

Additionally, now’s a good time for me to touch on Organica’s own Facebook page, which has been around for a bit but through which I’ve not really updated much lately. If you’d like to keep updated via Facebook, all further home & garden posts from this blog will also be linked over here: https://www.facebook.com/Organica-Specialty-Landscaping-and-Decor-1544111192469130/ 

 

Grass Tops, Hyacinth and Morning Glory now available!

Grass Tops

This newest offering from Organica has been a long time in development. Back a few years ago, I released a couple of Erosion sets, which serve to create transitions between higher and lower terrain, offering opportunities to create a terraced effect between land & land as well as land & water. At the time, the greatest aim was to create such items such that LI could be kept low. With those goals in mind, the erosion sets have gone on to do very well.

With that said, I’ve since received requests for similar items with grassy fringe, which would create a better blend between the top texture and the rock texture, so I’ve taken some time to create and test a new set of grassy top items, as follows:

GrassTop-vender

These pieces range from 1-9 LI at packaged size – This is a bit higher in some cases than the original erosion sets, however with the increased degree of geometry, it is unavoidable. (If LL offered the opportunity for content creators to apply an alpha mask to a material separate from a diffuse texture, we would be able to make further LI savings, however that appears to be outside the scope of potential tool development at this time). These items feature baked soil/rock texture and the usual leafy texture that is offered with the original erosion pieces by default. All pieces have a tapered edge for easier blending and placement. As with the erosion sets, you can also apply your own terrain texture if you wish. Six shapes are included to give you the most flexibility while landscaping. Check them out in-world here or on Marketplace here!

Additionally, two new types of flower are now available!

Hyacinths

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Each package offers both potted (3 plants per pot) and unpotted (individual plant) items and there are ten different colours to collect, mix and match, both separately as well as in a fatpack! 1 and 3 LI each, Mod, copy, no transfer, available both in-store here and on Marketplace here!

Morning Glory

MorningGlory-Vendor-LaVieEnRose MorningGlory-Vendor-Venice-768
MorningGlory-Vendor-MountFuji-768 MorningGlory-Vendor-GrandPaOtt-768

Featuring signature trumpet-like flowers, these vines grow around an intricate wrought-iron trellis and grow from a beautiful, ornate planter! Available in four varieties, materials optimized. 7 LI each, mod, copy, no transfer, available both in-store here and on the Marketplace here!

Organica at SL Home & Garden Expo – NOW thru March 6!

Organica is taking part in this year’s SL Home and Garden Expo at Hope 8 region!

There are a few new items that can only be picked up at the Expo for the duration of the event, so do drop by and check things out if you have a chance!

Orchid-Vendor-768

This Orchid pack includes three varieties of orchid! They’re 2LI each at packaged size and make great accent pieces in any household! Mod, copy, no transfer.

100% of proceeds from the following two items are donated to Relay For Life:
LifeDrawingSet-Vendor

This Life Drawing set includes easel horses in 5 colours (with retexturable paper fronts), a posing box, two posing stools, a can light, vertical shelving and wooden easel. Materials Optimized. All are mod/copy, with some copy-only scripts and animations.

OrchidTerrarium-Vendor-square

This terrarium is great for display anywhere in the home or greenhouse! 2LI as packaged. Materials Optimized, mod, copy, no transfer.

 

Visit Organica at http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Hope%208/79/140/23 from now until March 6!

Also, be sure to check out the Home & Garden Expo website for full expo event listings!

New Kitchen Items out Today!

This release focuses mainly on the kitchen; namely, two new appliances and a full kitchen cabinet set!RenfrewKitchenSet-vendor

This kitchen set includes ten cabinet pieces and an overhead lamp. Pictured appliances are sold seperately (see below). Pieces range from 1-4LI each and all are Materials Optimized. All cabinet doors will open/close on click. Mod, copy, no transfer, with some no-mod scripts.

SteelCompactRange-BLACK-vendor-SML SteelCompactRange-BLUE-vendor
SteelCompactRange-RED-vendor SteelCompactRange-WHITE-vendor-sml

These ranges (each sold separately) are 6LI each and have functional burners and oven door. Click the dials to turn burners & oven on and off. Click the oven door to open/close it! Materials Optimized, mod/copy/no transfer, with some no-mod scripts.

 

MetalUprightFridge-Vendor

This fridge is 5LI and has clickable doors and drawers which open and close. Materials optimized, mod, copy, no transfer, with some no-mod scripts.

 

Additionally,
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Not kitchen-related, but a new wooden pew is now available! These are 5LI to accomodate up to five seated avatars and include ten singles animations! Materials Optimized, mod, copy, no transfer, with some no-mod scripts.

New Juniper and Elven Bridge now available + Blogger applications open

There are a couple new releases this week at Organica!

JuniperBush1-vendorFirst is a brand new juniper bush that comes in at 2LI and comes with four foliage options! These are great ground-cover/mid-sized bushes that are great for filling in gaps between flowers & trees or just on their own! Mod, copy, no transfer. Check them out here!

ElvenBridge-Silver-Vendor ElvenBridge-Alpine-vendor ElvenBridge-Black-Vendor

Secondly, check out this beautiful fantasy-inspired Elven Bridge! Available separately in three colours! These large bridges are packaged at 34 by 20 by 8m in size and are 82LI. They fit in well on medium or large parcels that need a connecting structure of some kind. Materials optimized, mod, copy, no transfer. Check them out here!

Now Open for Blogger Applications

Finally, Organica Specialty Landscaping and Home Decor is seeking to establish a small group of established bloggers for all new landscaping and home decor products. Accepted applicants will be sent new releases periodically and expected to blog at least one item per month. Please drop me (Aki Shichiroji) a notecard in-world including the following info:

  • Your Av Name
  • Your Blog URL/Flickr page
  • How Long Blogging
  • Syndicated Feeds
  • A short blurb on why you think you’d be a good fit.

Applications will be evaluated based on quality of posts and degree of activity, with preference given to those who make the effort to post more than just an item listing. Lastly, while all applications will be read and kept on hand, only successful applicants will be contacted. Thanks for your interest!