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1 Tutorials LightWave 3D Smart skinning in LightWave 7.5 em Qua Jan 26, 2011 4:04 am


by Michael

The bones system in Lightwave I've found to be
one of the fastest and most flexible bones
systems available in terms of deformations.
You have the options of controlling your bones
with weight maps, or letting Lightwave's own
bone falloffs calculate them for you, without
having to paint weight maps. It has muscle
bulging built into the bones, and this too
can give useful results. But what if you want
a little more control over how a joint deforms
as the bones rotate? What if you want the elbow
to come out a little as your wrist does a deep
bend? A technique called Smartskinning has
been developed in which you associate a morph
or a series of morphs with the rotation of
a bone, so you always get perfect deformations.
As your arm rotates to ninety degrees, it morphs
the polygons around the elbow into the perfect
shape for that amount of bend. It's possible
to set up such a system in Lightwave, and I'm
going to show you how.

First of all, this technique
is entirely produced in Lightwave's Layout, you
don't need to enter Modeler at all. This is useful for
the particular way I do this, as it means you
get to see the final result immediately, you
can use it in conjunction with some of the other
deformation tools in layout (including the bone
muscle bulge facility), and you don't need to
use weight maps on your object. As I very rarely
use weight maps, (I find them fiddly to set up
in comparison with the normal bones system in
Lightwave) this is useful to me, whereas other
smartskinning methods are Modeler and weight
map dependent. Anyway, onto the tutorial.

First of all, download these
two FREE plugins: FI's Minimo, which allows you
to animate in points in Layout(very useful in
itself, but handy here too); Morphdriver CF,
(which allows you to link a channel to an objects
rotation, even taking into account IK) OR Smartskin
(which is a displacement plugin which does a
similar thing).

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Add these plugins to Layout
by pressing alt-F11 to bring up the Plug-in panel.
Click the Add Plug-ins button and select the
plug-ins in the browser.

Press alt-F9 to bring up the
Keyboard shortcut editor, and click on FI's_Minimo
under the Plug-ins sub-tree on the left hand
side. Click a key on the right hand side and
then click Assign, or just drag the item onto
the key to assign it. I use shift-m which I can
remember easily.

Okay, now we're set.

Load your mesh (Under the menu
Items>Add>Objects>Load Object), and
add bones to it, either by converting some skelegons
(under the menu Items>Add>Bones>Covert
Skelegons) which you had previously set up in
Modeler or by just drawing them out in Layout
(Items>Add>Bones>Draw Child Bones).

Select your mesh object, and
open the Item properties panel (press p). Set
the Geometry>Subdivision order to 'last'.

Now we're going to set up the
arm. Drag the frame slider at the bottom to frame
10, bend the elbow to a good angle (press y and
click drag the rotation handle). Key it (press
enter), then at frame 11, Items>Tools>Reset
it, and key it when it's straight.

With Minimo, at frame 10 we'll
create a corrective deformation, and turn this
into a morph at frame 11, which won't have the
bone deformation saved in the morph.

I usually make the elbow bone
use 'joint compensation' / 'joint compensation
for parent' and 'muscle flexing for parent' (found
in the Item properties panel (press p)) as this
gives a reasonable deformation to start with.
You don't necessarily have to use this. Interestingly,
you can use negative values in these fields which
can give useful results. Experiment with your
own rig, you may not even have to use a corrective

Target your camera at the elbow
bone and move it into a position where you can
see the elbow easily. This makes it easier to
use minimo. Go to frame 10. Add 'FI's_MinimoDrv'
in the Deform>Add Displacement plugin list.

Open Minimo's generic plugin.
You should see the elbow in the preview window.
If not, try selecting the camera from the View
drop down (menu item 1 in the diagram below)
and the joint should appear. This is useful if
your view becomes unusable, as you can go back
to the original camera view to start again. Note,
because you can select any camera, you could
set up a camera for each joint, or for multiple
views for a single joint and easily switch between

Minimo is a non modal panel,
so you can switch between it and the main interface
with no problem. This means you can also adjust
the camera for a new position for the view if
desired, and Minimo will use the new position
in it's interface. However, you can use alt-LMB/
alt-RMB/ alt-ctrl-LMB/ alt-ctrl-RMB to rotate
around any points selected in minimo in various
directions. Use alt-shift-LMB to move the view,
and alt-shift-RMB to zoom the view. Note that
if you have no points selected, the view will
rotate around the pivot of your mesh.

Most of the options are self
explanatory, but here's a few interface tips:
LMB-drag transforms the selected points.
RMB-drag draws a selection box. Drawn over points,
it selects them. Drawn over empty space will
deselect them all.
Shift-RMB-drag adds to the selection.
Ctrl-RMB-drag subtracts from the selection.

2 allows you to switch between
multiple meshes, each of which must have the
minimo drv plugin applied.

3 allows you to put a Background
image in the view, say a photo of a joint, so
you can work more accurately.

4/6 allows you to hide everything
in the view apart from a vmap such as a selection
set, uvmap etc. If you have the bulk of the mesh
hidden, minimo will just rotate around the unhidden
points. This makes it much easier to edit the

5 allows you to choose between
moving, rotating and scaling the selected points.
Modifications are performed in real time, so
even though the view doesn't show the sub-divided
mesh, you can see the deformation in layout's
main window. All transformations are applied
in the plane of the viewport, so you may need
to rotate the view around your elbow to get the
points to move in the right way.

7 allows you to change the mesh's
display to unmodified by bones or deformed by
bones. REMEMBER to set 'Timing' to 'After bone'
to see the bone deformation of the joint.

8 deletes the keyframe for the
selected points.

9 creates a keyframe for the
selected points. The points aren't keyed till
you press 'Create', so remember to click this
if you're going to scrub the timeline, as the
points will reset positions!!

10 indicates the current frame.

11 also indicates the current
frame number, you can use this to change which
frame you are on though!

12 allows you to skip to the
next/previous keyframe.

13 allows you to clear any modifications
from the selected points.

Once you have achieved a good
deformation for your elbow joint using minimo,
(remembering to keyframe your modified points!)
select your mesh, and go on to frame 11, the
unbent arm. The Minimo deformation will remain.
Select your object and go to File>Save>Save
Endomorph and give it a name like 'Joint.Elbow100P'
(for 100 degrees around the Pitch). Save your
object to keep the endomorph!

Deactivate the MinimoDrv plugin
by clicking the tick next to it in the Deformation
plugin list. Add the Deform>Add Deformation>MorphMixer
Plugin. Open it and go to the Joint tab (this
is made because we put 'Joint.' at the beginning
of the Endomorph name).

Open the Graph editor, and select
the Joint.Elbow100d channel.

In the 'channel bin' on the
left hand side, make sure you have the morph
selected. Click the Modifiers tab, Add modifier
Morphdriver CF.

Open the panel and select the
Elbow bone in the Target drop down, and the channel
to use in the Channel drop down (all very easy!).
Enter the angles for the minimum 0% morph and
the 100% morph, or alternatively, move the time
slider back to frame 10 and click the Rec Item
button by the Max value, and got to frame 11
and click the Rec Item button next to the Min
value. The Mid value allows you to skew the morph
so that comes in quicker or slower as the joint

Close the panel and scrub the
timeline. You should see the morph applied as
the elbow bends. This will work with IK motion
too, so you should be able to set the rest of
your character up easily.

There you are, a morph specifically
designed for a particular joint on your mesh.
And you didn't need to go into Modeler to do
it! I hope this has proven useful to you and
that you find many more ways in which to use
this technique!

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