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Rigging Dojo guide to getting started and understanding Motion Capture and Motion Editing for Animators.

THE starting guide for animators wanting to learn about Motion Editing! from Rigging Dojo. Understanding Motion Capture and Motion Editing as an Animator is important for many jobs, even if you never use mocap.

THE starting guide for animators wanting to learn about Motion Editing! From AAA games to VFX features to pure hand keyframed Feature Animation. As an animator it is important to be comfortable with the techniques and tools used, yes even when hand animating.

Main ideas on editing and capture

One thing that always comes up is how much the animator should change or mess with the motion from the source capture when first learning. The better the capture the less you will but there are several great resources in the videos that show this. Here is a common question though and our answer from twitter that might help you frame your thoughts about it.

I remember hearing that you’re not allowed to delete keys unless its planting feet. otherwise its scaling down keys or using anim layers to counter animate

Andrew Perez

It isn’t so much about not being allowed to delete keys, it is more about not losing what all the $$$ and time and work went into getting that performance. Think of it as deforming movement and art restoration vs. creating new things. Make it feel right and true on character.

Rigging Dojo

Okay let’s get started with some recommended reading and watching.

While the entire clip is a bit long, for this blog and many in the industry still including a large amount of students interested in becoming animators in games, you should watch the video. We linked it starting at the time so you can find out how some of the top studios and artists have gone from hating mocap to embracing it.

From iAnimate GDC Event – 2013 on Vimeo  with Colin Graham, David Lam, Darryl Purdy, Michael Carr

Animators, Motion Editors and all students interested in mocap should listen to this talk from Richard from his time at WETA on Avatar. Any time someone brings that long dead argument about mocap vs. keyframe, send them this force them to listen to it.
Podcast: Avatar with Richard Baneham! ? Speaking of Animation


Maya Custom Rigs and HIK, Max (Biped/CAT), MotionBuilder, Blender, Houdini and C4D and others all have some level of tools to work with mocap from basic retargeting and simple editing to the most powerful of the group, MotionBuilder and Houdini that allow the most control and speed when working with hundreds of files or big shots with many characters and long captures.

Bonus if you need to work back and forth between Max and Maya you are going to be using FBX, here are some guides to FBX workflow in Max.

If you have to use Maya, there are some tools that are must haves to be efficient.
Maya red9 tools are the only real set of animation tools built with Motion Capture in Mind.
Time Editor, you can do some clip editing and it is the closest thing to having a set of Motions and clips to work with in Maya.

Animation layers are your friend and so is not being worried about baking everything down.
A good pose tool to work with poses is important and if not red9 then find a pose script that works for you.
Maya butterworth filters for fixing curves but not losing the shape or performance

Custom rigs not using HIK mGear rig and MRS rigging systems have tools to take motion capture and retarget it to their rigs for the most control vs. HIK.


HIK (Human Inverse Kinematics) is the same solver and rig that is in MotionBuilder but it is buggy in Maya and missing features but works well enough. Understanding how to use it is hard as there aren’t Maya based resources that know it well, Most of understanding it is from MotionBuilder but I am not going to focus on it in these links. A great resource (almost all of it is free) on the foundation ideas of mocap from planing the shoot to step by step understanding the HIK Maya and MotionBuilder control rig  is ( Very good and respected resource doing it as long as I have)

MotionBuilder Tips of the day from our friend Bryan Brewer

Techniques for editing motion

PDF tips and tricks: While for MotionBuilder, most of it is valid in Maya and or general motion capture work.

(My MotionBuilder version of the GDC tricks of the trade video (that also has people share my training tips but in Maya)

Great talk full of motion editing tips and tricks from industry pro animators.

Animation Bootcamp: Tricks of the Trade
Speaker(s): Amy Drobeck, Jean-Denis Haas, Billy Harper, Jay Hosfelt, Alex M. Lehmann, Simon Unger
Company Name(s): 5th Cell Media, ILM, Sucker Punch, Epic, Riot Games, Phoenix Labs

Simon Unger did a great talk while showing Maya gives you a strong foundation on editing and animating while also working with mapping human to creature movement.

This set of videos is in Max but the “what is done to the mocap” at least for the time and the general concepts are right in understanding what is changed and why

Technique and having a good grasp of animation layers and settings and using them can take some of these examples and remove a good deal of the extra work and some of that is shown in the GDC tips and tricks video. These are a little older but are still of value.

All of these ideas work in just about any software but how well that software works ( MotionBuilder is still best for this at the moment, though Houdini is getting some great tools as well ). Check out our collection of Houdini motion edit resources.

Another great resource is our friend Matt Courtois covering some great getting started in MotionBuilder videos

and last but not least Jonathan Colin , Game animator at Guerrilla Games

And our popular Blender motion edit series on retargeting, editing and using the NLA for clip based work along with other tips and tricks with Unreal rigs and Maya compatiblity.

If you want personal training or more advanced courses we have options available to continue your journey.

Keyframe only??

We said at the top it can help you when creating animation by hand using keyframe techniques right? Richard Lico has made an art form out of applying motion capture type work to not only creating keyframe animation but making the computer work for him and simulate and animate faster than ever. Give this a watch and see if you don’t find that all the information you learned about Motion Editing above, doesn’t show up in this pure animation workflow.

MotionBuilder Tech Art Python Scripting

While this falls under both rigging and programing, Motionbuilder can be made even more powerful through scripting.

Alex does a great job going from the start to end basics of scripting in MotionBuilder with one of the best voices you will find.

Vic has a blog full of quick tips and helpful scripts to disect.

Dan MobuCore contains the code for the basic tool for his talk “The Animate Button”

Maya Time Editor – Learning Series

We don’t love the Maya Time Editor but it is the best Maya has and closest to the MotionBuilder Story tool. It has the idea of Takes, layers and clip editing. This is a very clear ramp up on using the Time Editor to create, blend, edit and time warp animations in a non-destructive and non-linear animation editing tool. Must watch for animators in Maya created by our friend Steven Roselle.

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