Game development tips: Animating characters with Mixamo
Staff Writer By: Sergio Rosa (nemirc)
I recently wrote an article about Adobe Fuse CC (formerly known as Mixamo Fuse), a software you can use to create human characters for your projects. This time, I am going to tell you about Mixamo.com, the "online component" of Adobe Fuse CC, and how you can use it to get your animations done easier and faster. Right now, Mixamo is on "preview" mode, so you can use all the services for free. I am not sure for how long preview mode will run, and how much it will cost later (or if it will have any cost at all).
Mixamo.com consists of a series of online services aimed to offer humanoid characters, automated rigging, and animating. You can upload characters created in Adobe Fuse CC, apply animations to them, and download the animated characters to use them in your projects. The most obvious question (the one asked by one of my workmates when he saw me using the Mixamo website) is "what about using my own characters?"
To answer that question, yes. You can also use custom characters. In some cases, characters created in Adobe Fuse, or characters available on the Mixamo website can fit the needs for your game just fine. However, in some cases, you need the adventurer or bounty hunter with that specific look, or in the case of our current game, the alien girl with very specific facial and body features. Mixamo's automatic rigging tools come into play in these specific scenarios.
To use the automatic rigging, you log into your Mixamo account and then upload in T-pose, facing forward. The system will guide you through a very simple wizard, asking you to mark specific points of your character (chin, wrists, elbows, knees and hip), and a couple of minutes later your character is fully rigged and added to your online character library. Using traditional methods, rigging a character can take from one day to a complete week, while Mixamo's automatic rigging takes under 5 minutes and produces excellent results.
In a previous "Game Development Tips" article, I mentioned that I am using Daz characters for Nightmare; on the other hand, for another project I am using the Poser cartoon characters. When you export those characters, they are already rigged, so it was very cool to learn that Mixamo's auto-rigging detected the skeleton and simply converted it to a Mixamo skeleton.
Mixamo also offers a large library of animations that you can use for your characters. When you pick an animation, you can change the speed and also trim the animation in case you just need part of it. You can then download the animation applied to the character of your choice. This is a really neat feature since you can apply the animations to the character you uploaded for automatic rigging, and then use that animation in your game, with your custom character.
All of your assets will be ready to use since you can download them the industry-standard .FBX file format, so you can import them directly into your engine without doing anything else. In my opinion, Mixamo is one of those gems that can be really helpful when it comes to game development since it can save you a lot of work, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your game.