so far, I thought that NLA meta strips were good for sorting a whole scene's animation (and beyond). But I only found functionality on a per-oobject base.

What I mean: in my animation setup, several objects' animations are so closely linked together that it does not make any sense to edit them one by one. As the animation became more complex, I needed a way to efficiently tweak several objects' animations / timing. An example:

An armature is controlled by several IK target objects, which are part of a path animation. while the path is also animated. Over time, it becomes near-impossible to edit each object one by one in a timely manner.

I need a way to group these object's animations. So far, I thought that this can be done by meta strips. But it seems to be impossible. (if so: why? It's so basic...)

Is there a way (even if it's an addon) to do this efficiently (emphasis is on efficiency, as modelers are always on a time pressure...)


I think this add-on may help you to achieve what your are trying to do. Please see the link for a video download and an explanation by "coyhot" the author.

Animation Joiner

Description of the content (from the link above):

Join them all !

So, I'm proud to present my Animation Joiner. I designed it with dynamic simulation in mind, but I found it could be usefull for character animation, too. My goal was to merge animated objects into only one mesh, animated by a MeshCache modifier and a PC2 file.

Why a PC2 file ?

PC2 is a binary cache file format, wildly use in production. It can be nativaly streamed in 3DS Max and Blender, but can also be used in Maya, Lightwave, Houdini, and many others. Because Blender doesn't have Alembic support yet, PC2 is for me the best to way to interchange animated object between 3D packages.

But when I wrote this addon, I wasn't thinking of interchange format. I was thinking of dynamic simulation, and more precisly Rigid Bodies. I work a lot with rigid bodies in Blender. And the most difficult part of the job is to manage cache files, specialy when you have thousands of debris. I dreamed about a technic where you can manage multiple debris as easy as only one mesh. And that's the goal of my addon.

Reducing the complexity of the scene

Select your debris, set the path to the PC2 file and click on Join Animated Objects. After few seconds, on the next layer, you will find only one animated mesh using a MeshCache modifier, streaming a PC2 file. Now, you can duplicate (linked) the mesh and multiply the number of debris without rising the usage of the memory. And you can even offset the animation ! If you generate two PC2 files for the same debris, you can also crossfade from one Meshcache to another by using the Influence parameter.

Because you now have only one object, you can add any modifier on it, like a Bevel for instance. But you can also emit particles from all the debris really easily. You can even duplicate (linked) this object and add a Collision modifier on it. By this way, particles will be emitted by the debris, but they also bounce on them ! Try to do that when you have hundred of debris ... not so easy.

Same thing for the smoke : you can try to emit smoke from the debris, with a duplicated object set as a collider. With only two objects, you can see the smoke flowing through every holes in a falling wall !

Reshaping and retiming dynamic simulation

Because you have only one object, you can deform it during the animation by using a lattice of even shape keys. In the demonstration video bellow, you can see that I tweak the position of only one debris because it intersect with another one. You can also emit particles and use an Explode modifier, followed by a Solidify to generate more smaller debris.

MeshCache can be animated using different options. One of my favorite is the one named "Custom". Because, you can timeremap you simulation by only creating keyframes, slow it down (the position of each point will be interpolated !) if you want to create a slowmotion shot of a falling building, without the need to simulate it at an higher framerate !

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think it's easier for Blender to manage fewer objects with an high polygons number than a lot of objects with fewer polygons. I think it's because of the dependancy graph. So, if you take a look at the first image of this post, 4 millions polygons are used to generate debris of all the buildings. But I can run the animation at 3 FPS and it only take 500 Mb in RAM, because of the instances used in the scene. And last but not the least, Cycles start almost immediatly when I launch an interactive rendering !


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